Practical Tools and Wise Quotes on All Matters Creative
5.4.6. TRIZ Thinking: The No-whiteboard Whiteboard
Graham helped a company called Intralon, that makes whiteboards, to design and develop a future generation product using our inventive processes, including TRIZ. The whole process was completed in less than 8 months, from idea to manufactured product. This was in a time before the electronic whiteboards that came later.
What do we have now?
Whiteboards are a very common device in businesses for writing and sharing ideas. A problem with this is that you cannot take what you write with you. A fairly common solution to this is the electronic whiteboard, which will record and print off what you write on it. The downside of this innovation is that the board is fairly heavy and big to carry around and costs a lot to produce and buy, which means it is limited to professional markets where the cost can be justified by time savings from the board’s use. The results also need to be photocopied for others to receive copies.
What do we want?
The first thing for us to consider is ideality. The question to ask is what we really want from such as device, keeping only what gives us a benefit. The answer is that we want to see where the pen has been, as soon as it has been there, and to be able to capture and share the resulting lines.
So we need a pen, a display device and a recording device. The goal is to get the pen to tell the recording device directly where the pen is. We can say that the pen ‘knows’ where it is (this may need some thinking about but is essentially true). An ideal solution is to get the thing that knows things to do the work, not some other device.
Solutions and contradictions
When we considered this, we saw that the pen is always visible although our brains are not good enough to track its movements to see what has been written over any period of time. So we asked, ‘Why don’t we just watch the pen and record where it goes?’ We could thus watch the pen with a camera of some sort.
A Contradiction here is the person with the pen may get in the way of any device watching the pen. A TRIZ principle to resolve this might be use of ‘Another Dimension’. So we could watch the pen from one side or up high, where the writer does not block the field of view of the watching device.
Another Contradiction is visibility of the pen to the tracking device. How well does the pen stand out in any environment? We could ask people to write in the dark and use a luminescent pen but the customers may not like this. The simple TRIZ Principle of ‘Changing the Colour’ works here, although by ‘Colour’ we mean change to Infra-red. So now we put a little infra-red transmitter in the pen so that is the only thing we watch and record!
The eventual solution, after a number of further sessions of identifying and resolving contradictions, is that Intralon have replaced a big heavy board with a simple inexpensive camera which detects only the Infra-red signals from the pen and (with a smart bit of software) passes this to a computer which records where the pen is.
The computer can now print off everywhere the pen has been (so recording any writing) or if used with a projector can display in light what the person is writing. So now, any wall becomes a whiteboard of any size and you even can choose whatever colour you want with the same pen!
So we have reduced cost, reduced weight (to a small, very portable box), made a
system which will work any where, with almost any size of ‘whiteboard’, with
electronic results that can immediately be emailed to anyone else. Not bad for
just a few hours TRIZ-ing!
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