The Science Behind the Technology – Part 2: An Interview with John Underkoffler, Oblong Industries

Those who have read my Disruptive Top 10 at InfoComm blog know that this year I selected Oblong Industries Mezzanine as my number one choice:

At InfoComm16, Oblong Industries demonstrated its ground-breaking immersive visual collaboration solution, Mezzanine™, featuring a dynamic and interactive experience across multiple devices, display surfaces, and locations.  Mezzanine is characterized by its fluid user interface that spans multiple screen surfaces to enable work groups to connect, contribute and control content and data from almost any computing device – laptop, tablet, smart phone – from any location.  With information present across displays surrounding a room – an incomparable Infopresence experience is achieved.  By connecting workspaces between rooms, with remote participants accessing the shared workspace via browser, Mezzanine provides the most valuable collaboration experience for teams tasked with solving the most pressing business issues.

John Underkoffler with Mezzanine

My guest on this part two of the series is John Underkoffler, CEO at Oblong Industries. In the image above Undekoffler demonstrates Oblong Mezzanine technology.

Well-known in the movie industry for his work in “Iron Man” as the Designer of Tony Stark’s signature inventions (including his personalized keyboard and homemade nuclear reactor) as well as the gestures Stark uses to command his self-assembling suit, Underkoffler is highlighted in the 2015 “Meet the Real-Life Tony Stark Whose Tech Is Changing the World.” Here is a passage from the article about Mezzanine:

Underkoffler’s goal for Mezzanine is to bring computing into space. “We’re experts at using the physical world,” he said. “Space is important because that’s where we live.” Yet we’re still using all the power of contemporary technology with the maximum capabilities of the early age of computers: a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a single device. Even our smartphones are a limitation — Underkoffler compares it to confining your creativity to a 3-inch-by-5-inch card. Our problems, he says, are room-sized and require collaboration. “We know how to get stuff done with other people when space is the medium,” he said.


John Underkoffler is also well-known as the Science Advisor for the 2002 science fiction action thriller “Minority Report” – above is an image from a 2010 TED conference where he demoed a real life version of the “spatial operating environment” interface. One of the first impressions of the Oblong Mezzanine technology involves the gesture-based user interface displayed in Minority Report.

I talk with John Underkoffler about the concept behind and the creation of Oblong Mezzanine, displays and mobile devices in terms of collaboration technology, the science behind Mezzanine technology, STEM, as well as future direction of the company. We also have some “Iron Man” discussion.


Mic.comMeet the Real-Life Tony Stark Whose Tech Is Changing the World

TED Talk overview: John Underkoffler Interface designer