What is Perceptive Pixel (PPI) and what are the benefits?
In July 2012 Microsoft acquired Perceptive Pixel, a company specializing in large, multi-touch interfaces. Microsoft has announced two products based on this technology. One 82-inch and one 55-inch multi-touch device running Windows 8. Currently, Microsoft is running a pilot program with selected partners trialing these devices, before bringing them to the international market. When you see these devices in action you immediately want one, but in addition to being extremely cool and fun, as a business considering to purchase one, you, of course, need to consider cost and business value. The products aren’t available on the international market yet (only in the US), no price has been officially communicated, but if they manage to lower the price point the market can be large.
What is it?
You can think of the Perceptive Pixel devices as a huge tablet device hanging on the wall or mounted on a kiosk table. Just like Microsoft’s Surface Pro, you can interact with the Perceptive Pixel devices using your hands and you can write on the screen using a digital stylus (a type of pen). This adds an additional dimension compared to regular touchscreen displays. Think of a common situation in a meeting room. You have a whiteboard where you can draw and write and you have a projector or LCD screen that you connect your laptop to. In the future, you will replace these with one single device – a Perceptive Pixel Device. You’ll log in to a familiar Windows experience, and from there you can access all your documents. Instead of using the whiteboard with markers, you will use the stylus on the Perceptive Pixel device to write and draw. The benefit is that it’s all digital so you can easily save it, share it and re-use the information across multiple devices. Having it in one place will also help you become more structured and focused. To see it in action you can check out this YouTube video of Jefferson Han, the founder of Perceptive Pixel, demonstrate the device on Microsoft’s Partner conference in 2012.
Specialized industries already using Perceptive Pixel
The price point for these devices have been extremely high, so previously they have only made sense for specialized industries. One example is the broadcasting industry, where they use the Perceptive Pixel device to illustrate and visualize the news for their TV-audience. CNN, for example, used this technology back in 2008 (before the Microsoft acquisition) to better visualize the US primaries and general election. For the medical industry, this technology can potentially save lives, as multiple people can see, touch and collaborate on x-rays and 3-D illustrations of the human body. Other industries where this technology is already being used includes defense, geo-intelligence, energy exploration and industrial design.
Adding value to a typical information worker
Since Microsoft is all about the mass market, their ambition is to take the price point down of these devices so that they become affordable for all businesses and information workers. How might you ask, would Perceptive Pixel devices add value in day to day business for a typical information worker?
- Collaborative brainstorming
One of the scenarios that stand out is collaborative brainstorming. Whether you are working on a new product, an event, a customer support case, a presentation, or new design for your web site, you need to work together as a team to analyze information and come up with new ideas. Imagine that you and your team are working together to come up with a good slogan for your business. Some of the team members are in the meeting room with you, some are working from remote locations. Everyone is standing around the big display trying to come up with things that make you unique as a company to include in the slogan. As you are plotting down ideas on your Perceptive Pixel device running your shared OneNote notebook, everyone can see them in real time. The people in the room on the big screen and the people located in remote locations on their computers. Everyone can participate by adding images, writing text and drawing. Unlike on a whiteboard, you never run out of space and you can easily move things around and switch between different applications. After you are done, everyone has access to the notes via your shared OneNote notebook. If you want to share the notes with someone who wasn’t participating, you can easily invite them to share the OneNote notebook or send them the page via email. Your collaborative brainstorming is taken to a whole new level!
- Richer presentations
Another typical scenario in an information workers life is giving presentations. Imagine that you have invited an important customer to your office to pitch a solution to them. Using PowerPoint on your Perceptive Pixel device you can deliver an impactful presentation standing up in front of the display and easily navigating your slides by swiping the large screen, you can easily point things out by circling them with your hand, zoom in and out by moving your hands on the screen and if you need to explain something you can start drawing an illustrative picture right there using the pen and digital stylus in PowerPoint. If you need to pull up some additional information or show them a video online you can easily open up a browser with your hands. As Bill Gates famously said, the information is right there at your fingertips.
- Better visualizations
Whether you are in real estate, interior design, product design, software or hardware development, financial services or retail, being able to visualize products and services are key to better decisions. Maps and 3D graphics come to life when you can interact with them using your hands. But even day-to-day applications provide a lot richer visualization when presented on a large touch device. Imaging that you are showing the impact of a new web platform to your management team and you can show directly in Excel by pressing the slicers what the projected revenue would be for various project categories. Today using Excel 2013 and Power View you can create powerful data visualizations, these capabilities are bound to become even richer in future versions of Office.
New technology – new possibilities
A technology like this is bound to open up new possibilities that we haven’t even thought of today. I can only imagine what the impact this type of device will have on physicians, architects and designers when they are more frequently available. Even for typical information workers I can see so much added value with a more intuitive, fluent and flexible work style. Let’s just hope that the price point makes it affordable so that many of us can afford to equip our offices with them all over the world! (If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here).