I met up with Bob Leung from Woobius a couple of times last week (including at the launch of StickyWorld‘s Collaboration Cafe at London’s Building Centre – pwcom post), and he updated me on progress with Woobius Eye (see post). Now honoured with its own website, the latest stage of Woobius Eye’s development was the release five days ago of the public beta version (see Woobius’s blog posts).
Woobius Eye provides a web-based place for people who – in keeping with the Woobian mantra – want a tool that is “simply simple” and allows them to discuss a topic visually. Like a very simple whiteboard, it allows users to create and share an image online and annotate it in real time. A photograph, for example, can be uploaded and then scribbled on. This way, both sides of the conversation can literally see the points being made – rather than engaging in a long-winded conversation full of descriptions.
Better still, “It’s firewall friendly, platform friendly…, requires no setup, and you don’t need to register. Oh, and it’s free!”
However, the web-based product is only part of the story. Woobius’s longer-term plan is, of course, to take the product mobile (it was through the Vodafone Mobile Click competition last year that the prototype first gained publicity – and £23,000!). An iPhone app is already in development, with an Android version (hurray!) set to follow soon afterwards.
From a construction collaboration technology perspective, I am excited by Woobius Eye, not least for the possibilities if and when it is integrated with Woobius’s core collaboration platform (it could conceivably also be a technology that could be adopted by other collaboration vendors to offer simple visual collaboration within their own platforms).
However, it is the emergence of an application that will be delivered on a mobile device that is particularly interesting. Existing applications – webcams, screen-sharing, online meeting rooms or white-board tools – are OK if both parties to a conversation are sitting in front of a computer (and perhaps are also expecting to talk), but many discussions are often initiated when people are out and about. Currently, we tend to say something like “Let’s talk about it when I get back to my office,” but here is an application that would allow that conversation to take place anywhere so long as the roving recipient has a smartphone with Woobius Eye. Questions can be answered quickly, decisions can be made, and further, sometimes critical and damaging delays can be avoided.
(For example, just before Christmas last year, water started dripping through my dining room ceiling and I had to call out my friendly neighbourhood plumber – as always out on another job. Explaining the problem would have been much quicker if I’d had Woobius Eye to send him a quick explanatory image, which he could then have doodled on as we discussed where the water might be coming from.)
Integrate this step with a collaboration platform in a construction project environment, and other project team members will be able to see the visual record of the conversation (perhaps even play it back), and understand how and when decisions were made and by whom – with all details noted and recorded in the underlying audit trail.
[Disclosure: Woobius is a client of pwcom.co.uk]