Designing Real World Collaboratories with Christopher Stapleton – Part 1

It is a great honour to present today the first article in a series written by our guest author Christopher Stapleton. Having a professional background in design and arts, Christopher taught the community to look from a different perspective at the subject Augmented Reality. After he was invited to give a keynote talk at ISMAR 2005, he organized ISMAR 2009 and augmented the conference with a second track called Arts, Media, and Humanities (ISMAR-AMH). ISMAR-AMH provides a unique platform for artists, designers, and architects experimenting with Mixed and Augmented Reality and has become an inherent and steadily growing part of the most important Augmented Reality conference. Beside this meeting platform he further designed collaborative and interdisciplinary working spaces supposed to push innovation while keeping applications in focus.  Here, Christopher will share his experiences with designing a „real world lab“ for Medical Augmented Reality applications. Enjoy reading!

Christopher Stapleton is a Creative Venture Catalyst for Simiosys Real World Collaboratory in Orlando Florida developing innovative solutions for experiential entertainment, education, training and marketing.  His professional development was as a designer, director, producer of experiential media for companies such as Universal Studios, Nickelodeon Recreation, Disney World and Sanrio. He is the founding director of the University of Central Florida’s Media Convergence Laboratory at the Institute for Simulation and Training. He also serves as an educator, researcher and civic leader for advancing the art and science of experiential entertainment and learning with funding from Canon Inc, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, National Aeronautic Space Administration, National Endowment for the Arts. He is currently launching Mission: LEAP (Learning Expedition for Astronaut Pioneers) to create futuristic off-world colonies as Experiential Learning Landscapes to teach transdiciplinary Space Exploration to life-long learners with the International Interplay Academy. His terminal degree is in Fine Arts from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

by Christopher Stapleton

1. Getting Started…

Innovating Innovation

I find it ironic that we look to the medical field to help provide new and novel technology to pull us from the edge of death, yet in designing thrill rides, the public comes to us for new and novel technology to push them to that same edge.   I was thinking about this when I found myself in a Poly-trauma emergency operating room in Munich Germany, not as a patient, but as a collaborator in applied research.  How does a theme park designer, trained on Broadway add to the landmark technological research being done at TUM, NARVIS lab, one of “Real World Collaboratories” that are a part of the Computer Aided Medical Procedure (CAMP) program at the Technical University of Munich?

A “Real World Collaboratory” is what I call an applied research laboratory that is placed within an operational field site that conducts daily interaction, dialogue and collaboration with the intended users of the future innovation.  It reaches across sectors of commercial, academic and civic institutions and individuals that have a vested interest in stimulating the process of transforming ideas into more robust innovations, better, cheaper and faster with the next generation of technology, techniques and talent.

I was asked the same question of my value when I, an experiential entertainment designer (and pacifist), would be a part of the US Department of Defense simulation and training research for dismounted infantry. I was exploring new and novel ways to have trainees face death with simulation only to save their own life in combat.  The point was not lost with visiting dignitaries from the International Haberman Education Foundation who were visiting my start-up laboratory at the UCF Institute for Simulation and Training.  They wanted us, as computer game developers, to help save the 3 million teachers across the nation from performing “behavioral suicide” on their first day of teaching.  Their focus was on how to promote gentle teaching in a violent society within urban classrooms.  They needed a tool for the first generation of Gamer-Teacher to practice how to engage and not control students in some of the most dangerous face-to-face traumatic moments in one’s lifetime, teaching or attending inner-city schools.

You may jump to the conclusion that the reason I was of value, is because I could make all this dry, technical research cool and sexy so more people will want to use it.  Even though that skill is useful, that skill is not for research, but for product development.  My most important value is that I thought differently. As a designer, I was a problem-solver, but more from the human experience perspective.  The reason they need a different and sometimes opposing view was that because the more specialized and expert we become, the more we find ourselves in a complex box that is difficult to think out of.  As the consequences for decisions become more on the scale of life and death, the less risk we are willing to take in our changing our thinking.  In a system, be it academic, commercial or civic, when “old school” automatically trumps “new school,”  innovation cannot happen.  Even in the entertainment industry, where the formula seems to be “repeat success for success,” it is actually a “kiss of death” in a new age where we are facing a need for a constant state of radical innovation.  Now our mantra is, “innovate or die” as a either an academic, commercial or civic institution.  Radical innovation is about thinking differently, as Apple Computer, Google and other innovation companies have proven by thriving in a downturned economy.  I was in the ER to look at the problem differently and find insightful clues to the process (not as much as the product) of innovation.

To handle a constant state of radical innovation, one needs to constantly experience paradigm shifts in how one does business.  “Radical innovation” versus sustaining innovation changes the way we do business for transformational improvement, not just small novel changes that improve incrementally. This is why radical innovation has become synonymous with “Disruptive Innovation.”  However, change is only disruptive to those who are not willing or prepared to change (aka. Old School).  However, can radical innovation be not so disruptive? The last century increased the speed of radical innovation to be generational (New School grows up to replace Old School after they retire). In this century, we cannot wait for the new school to grow up nor the old school to move on.

Moore’s law has fed the rapid increase of invention, but we need the ability for our institutions to absorb that same rate of radical innovation adoption.  We have in the past, relied on the next generation to “think differently” in order to spark and introduce innovation.  With this emergence of real-time innovation, we need an alternative to the next generation that can provide a constant counter-perspective to our innovation approach.  Collaborators from different disciplines and industries can be that catalyst to stimulate the speed of the innovation cycle. The value of the next generation was that they were NOT yet experts and their naive approach led to “out of the box” thinking.  Experts from other fields and disciplines offer that same unique perspective.  Their inexperience in the target application of the research made  made them novices. However, the were experts just the same with experience and insight to help each industry “think differently” and to articulate how to spark the necessary innovation and prerequisite paradigm shift.  As we apply radical changes to real world problems, we also need to the increase complexity of solutions, especially with the perspectives of other fields that share the same high-intensity, high-risk conditions with life and death consequences such as medical, military or municipal functions. This requires us to not just innovate, but to innovate innovation itself. This has led to the importance of transdisciplinary collaboration within real-time, real-world, in situ applied research laboratories.

Transdisciplinary Collaboration in Real-World Applied Research

Innovation traditionally has traditionally been practiced within one industry at a time.  However, true radical innovation transcends its intended target application.  The same diverse collaboration that can stimulate innovation within one application area, can also extend the market for that innovation beyond that industry sector.  This process allows for exponential market potential when we look at investing into solutions and research institutions.  Applying more intellectual diversity and funding sources to the innovation can provide more robust solutions to provide more return on investment (ROI) quicker.

In the many industry sectors that I have conducted applied research (education, entertainment, medical, military, marketing, etc.) there hasn’t been a single real-world problem that could be solved by one discipline.  Once there is a true innovation, that value can apply to all industry sectors. Yet, in the US, we school, fund and research by individual discipline.  As a result of these market and discipline silos, we have a lot of half-answers looking for application in a real world that needs full-solutions. Lives depend upon it.  True innovation transcends markets and disciplines, collaboration also needs to transcend disciplines, which create a need to rethink and extend the current practices of multi-, cross-, inter-disciplinary collaboration to transdisciplinary collaboration with both the applied research and product development.

Applying the next big innovation is not just packaging the next generation technology, but also rethinking the next generation techniques to leverage the new technological capabilities integrated with training the next generation talent to maximize new creative possibilities.  The applied research process needs to more than just refine and validate solutions, that only answer, “does it work?” (technology).  We also need to know, “does it solve a problem?”  (Techniques). This does not mean rationalizing the process of a solutions looking for problems.  Much of the applied research process is being in the field to measure and analyze the usefulness of new paradigm-shifting tools that will inevitably change existing tried and true procedures.  We need to adapt our research process by not using the new technology in the old ways, but how to more seamlessly introduce radically new ways of performance with less obstacles to adoptions. This leads to the most important research question of innovation and that “does it fit in?” an existing complex and functional system. Adoption of innovative solutions needs to avert the disruption of the on-going operational excellence of the system, especially with lives on the line.  Yet the operational excellence needs to mediate the risk of change. This is why applied research labs need to be placed within the actual facility as a Real World Laboratories to be used to conduct a daily assessment and conversations with users. This produces a rapid iterative experimental process to evolve more robust next generation technology, technique and talent with measured and demonstrated results.  These measured results may also be simultaneously utilized to feed parallel innovative cycle and assessment of other applications.

CAMP NARVIS @ TUM Redesign Initiative

In 2007, Dr. Nassir Navab asked me to Munich to explore how we could examine their innovation process within his new and thriving idea of a Real World Collaboratory within hospitals working adjacent to emergency operating rooms.  The interaction started, because we both started Applied Research Laboratories for the emerging art and science of Mixed Reality.  He was a scientist inventing new tools for the medical industry. I was a media artist creating new experiences for entertainment, education and training.  We both came from a commercial background of being successful innovators within billion dollar international corporations.  We both started applied research laboratories in Mixed Reality within large universities and we both experienced the same phenomenon.  The institutions that we look to for innovation (Academic Research) and those who need innovation the most (Civic applications, eg. Hospitial schools, museums, etc.) can be the biggest obstacle to innovation.  He asked me to come to Munich to see if I could help re-design his in-situ research lab within the downtown hospital Chirurgische Klinik und Poliklinik – Innenstadt to stimulate the process of transforming ideas into valuable innovations more effectively, efficiently, enjoyably.

I have been exploring this topic for ten years with my own research, but had not the cane to apply it to other situations. This provided me the opportunity to test and transfer some of my own theories of innovation, while also expanding my research explorations in the medical training field. The challenge was that he was already succeeding at stimulating innovation and collaborating across the commercial, civic and academic sectors.  The question is, can we create an environment to do this better?  This was neither a technical nor an aesthetic design challenge, this was a performance, process and philosophical design challenged, embedded within the design of their new laboratory.  This provided me the opportunity to dive into the professional lives of the many collaborators, surgeons, administrators, computer scientist, medical trainees, professional staff and facilities.  The results of my inquiry, would be to reveal unseen and unrealized opportunities.  Their investigations focused on examining the workflow of operating surgeons to see how Mixed Reality can improve operational performance.  My work then became to observe the innovation workflow of computer scientists observing the operational workflow of surgeons and how to optimize the redesign of their laboratory.

In exploring this topic of deigning an infrastructure to better stimulate the transformation of ideas into radical innovation and experimenting with ways to innovate innovation across sectors, disciplines, generations and cultures. This is the beginning of a series of those insights to allow for an open discussion and start a dialogue on inspiring the future development of other Real World Collaboratories.  Each installment will provide different insights to this exploration.

In this open discuss, I invite you to respond with your thoughts, insights and questions.  Please also respond to these questions to provide addition perspectives to the discussions:

  1. What are the major obstacles that stand in the way of adopting radical technological innovation in today’s hospitals or in the medical field in general?
  2. What are the most surprising and diverse collaborations that you have you experienced in the development of innovative real-world applied research for the medical industry?
  3. How can each sector (civic, academic and commercial) improve ways to more effectively and efficient transform ideas into innovations for the future of the medial field?

…to be continued

4 comments for “Designing Real World Collaboratories with Christopher Stapleton – Part 1

  1. Frank
    19. January 2012 at 18:52

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. 25. January 2012 at 11:37

    Thanks Frank, What are your experiences with adopting innovation in the Real World?
    Christopher Stapleton

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