Moments of magic

There are moments when everything seems to fall into place. Seeing a difficult project succeed beyond expectations after a long struggle is an amazing experience. It happened to us when working on a demo for Mobile Wold Congress in 2012.

We had promised the BlackBerry Events team that we would create a demo that was so addictive that people wouldn’t be able to keep their hands off it. By then, all we had was a bold idea, which actually felt a bit scary. It would require everybody in the team to solve problems that we had never dealt with before.

For a long time, we had dreamt about linking different screens into one, seamless experience. We imagined that it would be possible to stitch different screens together into an extended multi-user UI. This idea was inspired by MIT’s Junkyard Jumbotron, however we wanted to create something much more dynamic. What if linked devices could be moved without breaking the illusion of an extended space behind their screens?

As always, the basic concept and interactions had to be very simple. Technically, the demo idea was quite advanced and it would require a bunch of complementary skills to succeed. Still, it was such an amazing idea that we had to try it. We had a clear vision of the demo experience and we knew that there is magic in the space between devices.

I started working on the concept of a multi-screen collaboration tool for meetings. The main idea was to make it easy for participants to present and share content. The demo also needed a playful and visual hook to capture the audience’s attention. Eventually, we realized that the confetti particles could become the main element that linked devices, while also supporting both the useful and playful aspects of the demo.

This demo presented more challenges than ever. We wanted it to scale from just a few visitors to a big crowd. The device tracking had to be stable in a WiFi dense area with a lot of people interacting with it simultaneously. Karl-Anders solved this with a solid computer vision system that continuously kept track of several devices on a table. It worked when devices were moved or covered by people’s hands. Emil and Michael developed an advanced UI geometry for multiple screens, as well as a particle effect that would work between moving devices. Svante created animations and visuals that looked great across screens without interfering with the tracking system.

It was amazing to finally see how much our audience loved the Confetti demo at MWC. People couldn’t take their hands off it. They queued up to try it and many people came back several times. We had pushed our skills to their limits and managed to capture the magic that we had imagined for such a long time.