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As a product manager, my most vital role is to help set the development direction for our product lines: the product roadmap. Many factors affect what will make a successful roadmap. The immediate needs of our users, requests from the field, as well as brand new innovative features making the product(s) more powerful. The factor that increasingly rises to the top of the list can be captured with one word: “Usability”.
The modern age of motion capture is three decades-old and the technology has evolved. The technical adeptness of the average user has also increased substantially. The term ‘Motion Capture” once only known to a small group of highly specialized users in entertainment, research and engineering is now familiar to almost everyone.
All technologies move through life cycles. Early technologies are taken up by enthusiastic early adopters who are excited by rapidly changing technologies and are accepting of more complex and often more challenging and changing interfaces. Over time the user base of successful systems shifts to a broader and more technically diverse group whose success measure is the ability of the system to get them to their end goal quickly and effortlessly; whether this is a clinical gait report, an animated games character, or driving the movements of a robotic drone. These users still demand powerful new innovations; however, in the age of tablet and smart phone, usability is no longer an optional extra. It’s not even a perk; it’s simply expected.
Leading companies like Apple and Google, with their strong usability focus, have increased expectations that technology can (and needs to) be powerful while still being immediately intuitive. It’s not enough to introduce a revolutionary new feature, it also needs to be effortless in its operation. I’ve always loved the Apple tag line “… you already know how to use it”. It’s a clever and concise concept that really defines what they do best (and it’s catchy marketing). Technology that’s powerful but complex and difficult to use struggles to succeed on today’s playing field. Powerful must be paired with usable.
Modern technology needs to be intelligent and to know what you want to do or which way is the best way to do it. Usable technology can be said to ‘sink into the background’, allowing the user to focus on their end goal and let the system take care of itself. It’s a tool that gets you to where you need to go and does it as automatically or as intuitively as possible.
Usability is what has been driving the Vicon roadmap over the past two years. Our Vantage and Vero cameras have increased usability, introducing on-board displays and accelerometers that allow ‘tap’ control. The entire system can be directly controlled via our phone and tablet applications – Vicon Control.
We’ve focused on usability in each of our major markets. In Life Science, the terms Automated, Accessible and Intelligence are what each new Nexus feature strives to achieve, and we’ve been building features that automate the required processing steps in an intelligent way, for example, starting and stopping captures automatically when the subject is recognized in the volume, or filling any data gaps intelligently with the most appropriate method.
Our engineering software platform can run ‘headlessly’ and truly sink into the background. Highly motivated users can build their own front end to meet a very specific function while Tracker supplies highly accurate, low-latency data.
One of the most exciting projects this year is the introduction of a completely new entertainment platform; project Katana. The goal is “Final quality skeletal data by day’s end”. The focus is on delivering high-quality data faster and more effortlessly. Live subject calibration that can be updated without a hiccup. A system that can monitor its own camera calibration health. Calibration repair tools that are seamless and have almost no impact on the actions of the performers, meaning the system just keeps working with little intervention.