Using Tangible Interfaces for Predictive Knowledge Delivery #KMWorld

kmworld-socialSpeaker:  Lorin Petersen, Software Systems Engineer, The MITRE Corporation

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2014 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

Session Description: Thanks to Google, today much of what enterprise users interact with is a standard search box on a web page. Though simple in design, there is an explicit action that needs to be taken by the user to discover information and knowledge. In an effort to better integrate the physical workspace with backend knowledge systems, MITRE explored how implicit actions through everyday interfaces could aid in delivering information and knowledge to that same enterprise user. For example, it looked at how content from e-whiteboarding collaboration sessions can be scraped and parsed to obtain the context of the session, then at how the context could be automatically fed to the search mechanism on behalf of the user. The results were then delivered without any explicit action on the user’s part. MITRE also explored allowing the user to embed tags in their e-whiteboard drawings to perform implicit actions such as “<#find me an expert >” or “<#email this to xyx>”. This session highlights lessons learned on the effectiveness of using tangible interfaces to deliver predictive knowledge to the enterprise user.


  • Tangible Interfaces: These are things all around us such as whiteboards, flip charts, post-it notes., smartphones, badge readers, digital signage These materials contain a great deal of corporate knowledge, but it is not easily retrievable and shared. People will take photos and email them, but this is a sub-optimal pathway for knowledge. It does not allow people to build on top of the knowledge.
  • Pathways of Knowledge: capture; capture and tag; capture, tag and deliver; recall and deliver; sense and deliver.
  • Whiteboard Example:
    • Capture: ideation sessions often happen on a whiteboard surface, but there is nothing on that surface that makes that content portable. While they looked at some digital whiteboards, they found that they were more complicated than most users liked. There is a steep learning curve, there is no clear path for recalling digital artifacts and you need to use unnaturally large writing. Mitre created a Collaboration and Capture system (CoCap) using a standard whiteboard that they equipped with additional hardware so that it could send the content to email. a printer,  or an FTP site. From the FTP site, it can be delivered to a SharePoint site. (There is a SharePoint site for every whiteboard.)
    • Capture and Tag: The key issue tat there was no way to attribute the digital artifact to the creator. So they added a simple keypad so the creator could enter their employee ID. Next they used OCR technology to recognize special patters for identifying a user. The challenge was that the user had to remember to write their name on the board in a way that was findable. Finally, they designated a small portion of a board in which the user is supposed to write their username.
    • Capture, tag and deliver: As users are ideating, there may be topics or keywords they want to learn more about. Users can circles these keywords and when the board is scanned, a backend search is performed and additional knowledge is delivered to the user via email (and delivered to SharePoint).
    • Recall and deliver: Now that the digital artifact is tagged and attributed tot he creator, it can be easily printed without using a computer or a downloaded to a mobie devise. Each corporate printer has a QR code. The user can scan the QR code using their mobile device and this will trigger the printer to print a folder of content on the fly.
    • Sense and deliver: Schedule a meeting and then recommended participants based on the topics they have been brainstorming.
    • Future Possibility: Meeting connection assistance = the system senses that you are in the room, but haven’t yet connected to the meeting. The system then sends you a message asking if you need help connecting. If you reply “yes,” the system will provide the help.
    • Future Possibility: Sensing location = a user is traeling and enters a new office building. An ap prompts them for ehlp in finding an office to work in while they are visiting there. (This is their version of AirBnb for office space.)
    • Future Possibility: Sensing conversations = a sensor determines a group in a conference room is having difficulty coming to a consensus on a project and then offers assistance to facilitate the discussion (e.g., conflict management help or brainstorming facilitation help, etc.)