we-inspire is a spin-off of the Media Interaction Lab based at the University of Applied Sciences of Upper Austria and was established in 2013. Bene and we-inspire jointly developed and sell the Bene Idea Wall powered by we-inspire, a large interactive wall for creative media-supported teamwork. The system combines furniture components as well as IT hardware and software to create a unique overall package that has been perfectly created for innovative working. We spoke to Jakob Leitner, CEO of we-inspire, about the application options and the innovative strength of the Idea Wall.
Jakob Leitner, can you briefly explain to us the basic idea behind the Idea Wall?
The Idea Wall is an interactive wall which can be up to 8 metres long and is based on close range projectors. Up to 7 people can draw, present, brainstorm and interact with a wide range of software applications using the Idea Wall. The Wall is the centrepiece of a range of IT tools that facilitate and improve collaborative working methods with analogue and digital content. In addition to the interactive Wall, the overall system also offers, for example, seamless integration of traditional paper and personal devices such as laptops and smartphones. A wide range of working methods are supported by this combination of different technologies and matching room concepts. We also want to actively pursue this multi-functionality and extendibility of the system and of the room concepts in future, and to ensure that existing and new services and technologies such as a wide range of Cloud services can be integrated with ease. The objective is for digital cooperation to work as easily and naturally as possible.
How did the idea come about?
We-inspire was not established until the summer of 2013, but we’ve been working for 10 years on research and development in the area of interactive systems, furniture and rooms.
Our passion for this topic started with the projects and ideas of Professor Michael Haller during our bachelor’s degrees at the University of Applied Sciences of Upper Austria in Hagenberg. These ideas stayed with us throughout our master’s degrees and doctorates. The technological foundations for our solutions were laid at the University of Applied Sciences as part of several research projects at the Media Interaction Lab. Based on the highly positive feedback our research received as well as major interest from our partners in the business world, in 2011, we decided to create our own company in order to transform our ideas and research results into products.. However, it took almost 2 years until the company was actually established, during which time we prepared ourselves for the world of enterprise with the support of the tech2b Incubator Programme.
What challenges were there on the journey from the idea to the product?
The transition from research work to product development was certainly a big one, as the requirements related to simplicity and reliability are of course a lot lower for research prototypes than they are for a commercial product. We also had to learn to present in a new way: away from the technical jargon of the scientific community towards language that is generally more understandable - we’re still working on that today!
How did the cooperation with Bene come about?
The cooperation with Bene also started before the company was founded. We equipped a meeting room with our interactive wall for a research project in Hagenberg. Our experiences with the different prototypes have shown us that the success of an innovative area does not end with the integrated technology, but that the room concept and the furniture also play an essential role.
Professor Haller then came across Bene furniture at Orgatec 2010, and was so inspired by the concepts that he contacted Bene. It didn’t take long before we had Bene furniture in our meeting room. Cooperation became more intense over time and Bene is still an active partner on joint research projects. We were able to present the Nice Wall to a wider public at the Bene stand during Orgatec 2012, and the response from visitors was incredibly positive. And after every new room we complete, I’m still impressed time and time again at how well the Bene and we-inspire solutions complement each other.
Where (in which departments, companies, for which processes) do you see the Idea Wall being used with your special we-inspire knowledge and skills?
The range of applications is highly flexible and we are often surprised when customers tell us how they use our system.
I would even say that this system can improve and speed up processes wherever people communicate. A Idea Wall can be installed anywhere where whiteboards, flipcharts, pens and paper or any type of presentation technology are used.
So it’s an all-rounder?
Yes! This interactive wall transforms an office or a meeting room into a multi-functional innovative area, capable of a wide variety of tasks such as presentations, creative meetings and project meetings as well as project planning, technical agreement meetings, data visualization and sales and information events.
In line with this our customers also come from a wide variety of sectors. This system is used by all types of departments, from product development to marketing, and even accounting.
Why should an innovative company be interested in the Idea Wall?
The complexity of our daily tasks is increasing in many areas, requiring more and more communication between different experts. Yet we really need the overall complexity or our communication solutions to decrease so that we are able to concentrate on the essential content – otherwise we inevitably become overwhelmed and start to work inefficiently.
Our solutions provide innovative input devices and help users reduce complex content down to the essentials – that seems to me to be a first step in the right direction.
You talk about intuitiveness and of reducing complex content. Do your solutions also help those employees who are not so experienced in the digital world?
Of course. Ease of use was a major concern for us. Integrating normal paper is one example of this. If a new employee is able to write on a piece of paper then he or she is already a part of the digital we-inspire workflow. The notes are transmitted to the system from the digital pen in real time and can still be easily saved, processed further and sent. The medium of paper, which everyone knows from their school days, can therefore continue to be used as normal. It’s just that thanks to the Idea Wall digital copies are created and processed in real time during the interaction.
We have attempted to design all our applications in accordance with the principles of interaction which is as simple and intuitive as possible, so that our users are able to focus on the essential points, i.e. their work and their ideas.
The we-inspire product portfolio includes four different applications with w‘sketch, w’brainstorm, w’write and w’capture. Can you briefly explain what the function of these tools is?
w’sketch is our interpretation of the digital whiteboard which can be used for drawing and presenting. w’brainstorm can be compared to working with Post-Its and is perfect for brainstorming sessions or for creating mind maps. w’write allows paper notes to be integrated and w’capture enables content on laptops or mobile devices to be displayed.
What benefits does the use of the Bene Idea Wall powered by we-inspire offer compared to a traditional whiteboard? Have you invented the ‘whiteboard for advanced users’?
The system combines the ease of using a normal whiteboard with the storage and computing capacity of a PC, and extends the work surface to an enormous size. We also integrate paper, laptops and tablets. I think the term ‘Whiteboard for advanced users’ suits it perfectly.