Left brain, meet right brain

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

Three Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces on Table

When Louis Henry Sullivan said, “Form ever follows function,” he was talking about architecture of buildings. But today his 19th-century credo is cited in many other spheres where engineering and design interact, including technology and software.

The lines are blurring, though, so that in the future, engineering and design will be seamlessly integrated.

Good designers are engineers,” says Blade Kotelly, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and vice president of design and consumer experience at Jibo Inc., which makes a social robot for the home. At the same time, customers are no longer as wowed by raw technology and they expect an easy, and aesthetic, user experience.

Design runs to the core of things,” he adds. “Large companies realize they’re being outdone by smaller companies that are putting design at the center of their thinking.”

Brainstorming Brainstorm Business People Design ConceptsThis design-thinking approach can be hard for engineers to understand, Mr. Kotelly says: “The beginning of the design process looks like very little is happening, because the designers are trying to get their brains around the problem fully. Before that, they ask whether the problem is even a good one to solve. Then they figure out what’s going to make the solution successful, then they begin the typical design process of research, prototyping, testing, iterating.”

Modular structures or open-source components that can be swapped in or out in a modular way reduce the risk of change, so “you can iterate faster,” he says.

“It’s important to think architecturally about the system—how it breaks out at the top level and the smaller and smaller components—to be able to observe technology as the landscape is changing,” Mr. Kotelly says.

The Internet of Things is making it possible to create systems as never before. However, we’re likely to soon stop talking about the IoT as it becomes the norm.

“It’s like plastics in the 1960s,” says Dirk Knemeyer, a founder of Involution Studios, a Boston-area software design studio. “The distinction of things being plastic was super-important. A couple of decades passed, and plastic things are just things.”

In the same way, “in the future, everything that is digital and many things that are not will be in the Internet of Things,” he says.

Systems require holistic thinking. And that requires integrated teams. “Getting to a successful integrated model that puts design in an appropriate strategic place can be challenging,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “It requires overcoming the biases and preconceptions of stakeholders who are already in place and who often have a skeptical view of design and creative expression as part of business. They also have existing fiefdoms they control, and fear that order might be upset by redesign of people and processes.”

Tearing down management silos provides a new problem-solving methodology and mindset that can augment the traditional perspectives, whether financial, operational or technological.

The engineering perspective is raw capability: what is the range of possibilities technology can do,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “Design says, ‘from these technologies, here are the things that can be done specific to the needs of customers.’”

Addressing customer needs is at the core of high-impact design, or design that brings a meaningful change in increasing revenues and reducing costs, he adds.

Business People Team Teamwork Working Meeting ConceptAt the same time, design thinking doesn’t just create efficiencies, but new ideas, says Mathias Kirchmer, managing director of BPM-D, a West Chester, Pennsylvania, consultancy that helps companies increase performance through cross-functional business and information-technology initiatives.

In the classic approach, a company starts mapping the processes it needs to accomplish, then optimizing so the processes will be carried out efficiently, then writing the actual software, then implementing or installing it. “It’s very inside-out driven,” Dr. Kirchmer says. “In today’s world, that’s a huge problem. First, it’s too slow. We need a faster approach. Second, the inside-out view doesn’t deliver results to drive profitable growth. It doesn’t improve the customer experience sufficiently. It’s good to be more efficient, but that doesn’t make enough of a difference for the client and move the organization to the next performance level.”

Companies compete in just 15% of their processes, he says. The rest is commodity—that is, matching competitors rather than differentiating beyond them. That high-impact 15% requires innovation enabled through design thinking.

Dr. Kirchmer sees four aspects of design thinking:

• empathy to look at high-impact processes from a customer point of view;
• transfer of ideas from unrelated fields to introduce innovation;
• storytelling to communicate the customer journey and intended innovations in a way that will resonate with all the involved teams;
• rapid prototyping to quickly get to the visual design of user interfaces and software development.

The melding of disciplines means that in the future, designers will need to be more knowledgeable about core science or core engineering. “The way science is moving is going to pull all of us into a more quantified scientific environment,” Mr. Knemeyer says.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Never Blind in VR

By David N.
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In this video, we share our findings in building real-time 3D experiences with consumer headsets so as to go beyond the FPS gaming usage for which they are designed. The issue is that such experiences tend to isolate the user from his own body, have him lose contact with other people in the room and with the real world.

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Analyzing the usage of large cubic immersive rooms (CAVEs) in industries such as Automotive or Aerospace, we propose an experience that brings some elements of reality to the eyes of the user of an Oculus Rift, allowing him to see his own body, perceive the real surrounding world and interact with it, as well as have social interactions with other people in the room.

To achieve these results we use a fixed Kinect for Windows that generate a 3D point cloud of the user’s body and of his surroundings. Although not very dense, the point cloud is surprisingly present to the user when seen from his eyes through the headset.

The three features presented in this video are known to bring the following benefits:

  1. Seeing one’s own body
    • Reinforces the presence of virtuality and eliminates the odd feeling of not actually being there
    • Enables to perceive virtuality at a proper scale
    • Gives visual feedback when interacting with real objects
  2. Perceiving the real world
    • Removes the feeling of blindness
    • Provides a safer experience: prevents from dangers like hitting something, or falling
    • Enables interaction with real objects in the world
  3. Having social interactions
    • Reduces the claustrophobic effect of wearing an occluding headset
    • Brings non-verbal communication
    • Maintains equity amongst people thanks to a symmetrical relation.

Never blind in VR - Findings

About the iV Lab: at the heart of the Passion for Innovation Institute, the iV Lab explores the usage of emerging UX technologies by building and sharing original prototypes; it connects Dassault Systèmes with scientific and technology players in the Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and other domains where the body is highly coupled with the virtual.

David Nahon David Nahon is iV Lab Director, Passion for Innovation Institute at Dassault Systèmes. You can connect with David on Twitter @iVEvangelist or through LinkedIn.

Introducing Groundbreaking User Experience “IFWE Compass”

By Aurelien
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What we announced earlier today is truly a milestone in the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform journey!

As our President and CEO Bernard Charlès puts it:

Today’s announcement is a pivotal moment in Dassault Systèmes history and the result of our commitment to bring innovative business value to our clients.  It is, as well, a ‘cloud’ announcement, but the cloud is more than infrastructure and a delivery mechanism. The cloud is a way of working.  It is where consumers voice their needs, their ideas, their feedback.  It is where innovation is fostered and ideas take hold.  The 3DEXPERIENCE platform reveals and delivers that potential. It gives our customers a holistic, inclusive and unified view of their business and ecosystem to create better experiences for their end-consumers.

You can find there the complete list of the V6R2014 cloud offers, but let’s focus here on the brand new user experience, aka “IFWE Compass”. Watch this:

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As you saw in the video, “IFWE Compass” is much more than just a mere ‘app-switcher’. It’s a truly unified environment coming with many features such as cloud storage (3DSpace), live dashboarding capabilities (3DDashboard), online chat including 3D as a media (3DInstantMessaging), interactive 3D scenes sharing (3DPlay), unified search across all apps and data (3DSearch), and more.

Also, the “6W Tagging” is a pretty interesting feature allowing to qualify structured and unstructured (e.g. folksonomies) information in a very natural, intuitive way. Indeed ‘6W’ stands for the simple questions: Who, When, What, Where, Why, and hoW. Simple yet powerful questions!

More details about industry/user-focused scenarios will be coming as we move forward, but for now here are sneak previews from some of our Brands :)

So, do you like what you saw? Tell us what you think!