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Blog April 2, 2020

Transforming Presentations as We Know Them

Duy Nguyen Kiva Gayle Tony Mantoan Gin Zukas Jonathan Moody
Duy Nguyen, Kiva Gayle, Tony Mantoan, Gin Zukas, Jonathan Moody

What if you could ideate on a whiteboard with your audience while simultaneously guiding the discussion using other audio visual tools and presentations at the ready with the flick of your wrist or point of your finger. During dynamic discussions like this, your hands would be free to stay focused on audience engagement while still enabling a livelier discussion, ripe for collaboration and creativity. If a presenter were to use Human Interface Device (HID) technology, not only would they be able to showcase cutting-edge innovation, but they could create efficient and engaging presentations that capture the attention of the audience in face-to-face environments.

Using the technology around us today, we can create powerful tools for human connectivity. This is especially true when it comes to wearable technology, as it allows unprecedented control and synergy with IoT devices. In response to CapTech’s latest Innovation Challenge focused on “Awareable Technology,” we created a wearable solution that helps speakers send powerful messages to their audiences. Our HID can be used to amplify hand gestures and create a more dynamic and engaging way to deliver content.

Why does this matter? Research from 2018 shows that 79% of people agree or strongly agree that most presentations are boring. All of that hard work and all of that hope in achieving your goals for the presentation by and large can go out the window. Yikes!

How Does It Work?

Our wearable HID device uses minimal hardware to detect gestures and send messages to a small portal device connected over Bluetooth. The wearable HID recognizes motion patterns then translates those motions into simple keyboard shortcuts. Our prototype device pairs with a laptop to control a PowerPoint presentation. Wearing the device as a glove, the presenter could:

  • Raise their hand to enter presentation mode
  • Turn their hand to the right to go to the next slide
  • Turn their hand to the left to go back to the previous slide
  • Put their hand down to exit the presentation

Since the commands are typical keyboard inputs, it could work with any other application that accepted keyboard input, not just PowerPoint. Additional gestures/commands could be added as well. The HID could also emulate a mouse, providing more control for any device that can make standard Bluetooth connections.

Lessons learned

The wearables challenge taught us many things, both in the technical space and the management/logistics side of things.

On the technical end, one overarching theme was "working with new things can be difficult." We certainly ran into many hurdles since we weren't experienced with the technologies in play, but that made the learning process all the better. This is what innovation culture is all about!

When working with Bluetooth, for example, we found that device connectivity is very inconsistent between devices. We had different laptops across the team, and each had a different success rate. Sometimes, Bluetooth would stop connecting, and sometimes, it would silently fail after starting off well. In short, we found that one needs to account for connectivity issues when working with Bluetooth devices.

Accounting for all the 'noise' data that the sensors produced also required us to dig deeper into how this technology works and what aspects of one's motion were feasible to work with. Dealing with noise also made us realize just how much we needed to be cognizant of unintended gestures. That focus led us to include an on/off switch for gesture detection. Using a variety of sensors to help with dealing with some of these noise issues may have been helpful, but it was also beneficial to test the limits using minimal hardware.

Wearable HID technology can be applied to a wide range of use cases. These include controlling hardware devices such as a drone, smart home apps, or other IoT devices. Accessibility challenges could also be addressed with wearable HIDs, where a wearable could help someone with limited reach and motor skills control their devices. Wearables can also be placed on ankles, shoulders, or other body parts to maximize the number of inputs that can be generated for the abilities a person has. But however they are applied, whether presenting on stage or being put to use in one’s own home, they have limitless possibilities.