Early-stage collaborative way-finding is a messy good time. Teams dive head first into abject calamity, gobbled up in an avalanche of complexity and losing all sense of up or down, but soon identify patterns and relationships to help make sense of what they’re experiencing. These patterns then mature into models of causalities, agent incentives and other perceptual gravities, which can then be recycled or validated through iterative storytelling and prototyping.
Much of this exploratory process occurs as a conversation in a language that pre-dates verbal communication – visual association, dissociation and self-projection. Objects and concepts are clustered into categories and topics, possibilities are sketched, stories are developed and prototypes are built, all the while fueling a recursive reinterpretation of an emerging design opportunity.
The problem is that these methods go to hell when your team is scattered around the globe. Enter the idea. This concept was developed over coffee with Robert Fee, professor of Design Management at SCAD, while discussing something entirely unrelated (as is often the case).
This app is an augmented reality harness that synchronizes a canvas across all teammates’ devices, and projects that canvas into real space through the camera viewport. Ideally it will be able to inherit existing canvas-based applications like Adobe Illustrator.
Starting or joining a project requires a quick and easy calibration.
Rest the device face-down on the table (or flat against a wall) and press a large “calibration” button. The app calculates it’s location, elevation and orientation, which will all inform the projection until the project is re-calibrated in a new location.
Step back and look through the viewport. The canvas will remain mathematically true to the point of calibration. Rather than saving your project into a folder, you save it on your coffee table, or perhaps on the wall above your desk. As you glance around your office through your viewport you’ll see all of your active projects in constant flux as teammates sort, sketch and synthesize in a shared space.
I expect this app will require some heavy-lifting in the background, similar in nature to GitHub’s project forking and version management. Perhaps a “host-it-yourself” switchboard service (think Diaspora) would be an effective way to keep devices synced in real time. It will need to be fully plug-and-play with as little configuration or maintenance as possible, with uncontested and irrevocable content ownership to speed adoption by enterprise-level design research teams.
Would anyone like to make this happen? I welcome all comments, questions and suggestions.