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The Base Unit of Collaboration

We could bring the data into the collaborative environment but this leads to a multitude of import/exporting activities which break the will of all involved (it becomes easier not to have the conversation in this case), or we could take the collaboration to the data. This is the main difference between conferencing and collaborating.

The Radical SDK from Masters of Pie can be used to add the base unit of collaboration to existing software packages, connecting remote working teams in real time and allowing them to reclaim a level of productivity previously taken for granted before Covid-19 forced remote working to become the new normal. Radical can synchronise your software commands across a remote network to not only bring back collaborative efficiency but take it up to the next level. So how does it do this and why should you care?

Conferencing vs Collaboration

MS Teams, Webex, BlueJeans, Zoom and Skype have all seen huge increases in enterprise user numbers as a direct result of global Covid 19 lock down measures. Connecting people in real time is great of course but with this screen sharing approach you are essentially only discussing data happening elsewhere (in a spreadsheet or in a 3D modelling package) limiting your interaction capabilities and leading to a single ‘driver’ presenting information to a passive audience. This may not always be an issue in that sometimes the driver needs to control the flow of information, such as screen sharing a pitch deck or financial report, in which case this passive solution is adequate; but this is not collaboration, this is conferencing.

For effective collaboration you need a few basic elements in place. For example two designers could get together to discuss a product design change using a 2D rendered image of that product (a simplified representation of the actual data) and provided that you knew in advance exactly which angle to take that image from and what part to focus on, this could work. Much more effective however is to bring the data itself into that discussion (the 3D model or even the physical mock up), examine it from all sides, step back to take in the bigger picture or lean in to focus on the minutiae. Having not just a representation, but the data itself there means you need not consider in advance which particular aspect will be the focus of discussion as all aspect are available at your fingertips. Connecting the people as well as the data itself is the base unit of collaboration.

Radical Times

In practice these basic elements have traditionally been in place when collaborators were all sitting happily in a centralised location, a design studio, an office, a factory floor etc. If a designer wanted to discuss a design change then all that needed to happen was to beckon a colleague to huddle around your monitor and simply point and talk. These interactions were simple, quick and ad hoc, happening dozens of times a day almost unnoticed. The base unit of collaboration was taken for granted and not considered vital until Covid 19 took it all away.

Home Alone

This brings us back to Covid-19 enforced remote working. Now designers are unable to beckon over a colleague unless they do it via a meeting bridge invite. The chosen platform itself is likely to be Webex, Zoom or Teams which, as discussed are fine for conferencing but inadequate for collaboration. The resulting interactions can be described as an ‘explain to me’ interaction. i.e “You need to explain to me, the driver, exactly what element you want to see, and I will comply, if I can on my end”. A frustrating experience for both parties.

The Base Unit of Collaboration

So what then can be done to bring back those ‘office based’ ad hoc and simple interactions which form the base unit of collaboration? We need to connect not only the people but also the data. We could bring the data into the collaborative environment but this leads to a multitude of import/exporting activities which break the will of all involved (it becomes easier not to have the conversation in this case), or we could take the collaboration to the data. Now that sounds more promising!

“Show me” vs “Explain to me” interactions

Integrating collaboration directly into the various software packages which hold the original data means that not only do you have access to this live ‘data truth’ but can connect to it bidirectionally. The designer can now beckon (send invite link to) a colleague directly from their native design software (eg. CAD package) and the two parties can connect their respective software directly. Their data is now not just connected, but either side can ‘drive’ the conversation using their existing software interfaces with the native UI and the commands are synchronised across to the other application in real time. Click on a part in the CAD package and this is highlighted for the other user, the other user edits a part in the CAD file and that edit is made in the other CAD package automatically. Each time an edit or interaction happens by either party in the CAD package, the edited part is ‘dynamically loaded’ into the shared environment for all to see.

The framework is laid for concurrent design, a holy grail of the engineering world and now made possible via the Radical SDK. Radical interactions can be described as a “show me” interaction rather than a frustrating “explain to me” one.

Powered by Radical

The Radical SDK can upgrade existing enterprise software to cope with the demands of remote working by integrating the base unit of collaboration, but what about more specialised collaboration such as immersive collaboration using VR or AR devices? Radical has tool kits to create these advanced products (Siemens NX already have commercially available integrated VR collaboration capabilities, powered by Radical).

Building out from the Base Unit

Once the framework layer for native collaboration is in place, the true power of Radical becomes apparent as connections can be made with other data sources within ever complex enterprise environments, spanning on-premise or cloud deployments, Desktop, Mobile, VR & AR devices which move collaboration away from the constraints of the desk and out into the real world. Learn about the emerging Industry 4.0 ecosystem and how Radical becomes the Collaborative Thread which stitches the necessary elements together to power the future of the workplace.