Transitions in construction

Transitions in construction

Whatever you thought, think again.

Scrap the report

ReflectionsPosted by Dan Engström Sun, June 10, 2012 23:59:04

We’re on to something here. Images. Moving pictures. Let’s say I want to tell you about a new development in virtual reality that we’ve come up with. I could tell you about it. Or I could show you a film clip of what the technology can do, say … eh .. this one. Go ahead, check it out. It’s only twelve seconds long. Your paatience can deal with that.

Right. Have you seen it? That little clip is more likely to get you more interested in the technology involved than me sending you a pdf by email, am I right? It would be even better if you had the chance to fiddle about with it on your own. That’s why they’ve made an app for the iPhone,, thast’s why it’s free and that’s why it’s amazingly easy to use. By the way, the name of the app is ”Action Movie FX”. Apparently, even my old idols Marillion are using it.

I’ll switch to being a consumer. Bear with me. By now we’re basically hooked to this thing. We want to check it out. We want to make a car smash into us or an Indiana Jones-sized rock land in our back yard, and upload it to Youtube. The people behind the technology will get the most out of this effort if they hand it to us and let us try it. We don’t need the full version, we just need to be able to play around, and get kudos from our peers for the cool clips we make. I ahve become a prosumer; a consumer and producer in one. The people behind the technology no longer need to come up with the coolest clips, we’ll all do that for them. And this little app made it happen.

It’s working too. The Internet is full of people making these little clips and commenting on them. People probably are buying more special effects (power outage, jet crash, you name it) as you read this.

But. And this is the brilliant part.

As it turns out, the main aim of this app is not to sell the full version. The app is there for one reason, and one reason only: to build up market pull for the film Mission: Impossible 4. Ghost Protocol, released in December 2011. We get to play around with special effects – childhood dreams stuff –and even get egoboo from it. At the same time, the app connects the film to the pleasure the app gave us. So, the film becomes a good force in our universe. Better go see it. Better buy the DVD. And the mug.

It’s working.

Now back to construction research and development. As in-house researchers, we too have technology we want to share with our colleagues. We too have innovations that could change people’s way of working. What do we do? We send emails with pdf documents in the feeble hope that they will get downloaded, printed, collected, read and acted upon.

I see you waving at the back. You have a comment. Yes? No, that’s correct, our technology does nothing as fancy as blowing dogs up. That’s just because we do not think along those lines. Because they could. Maybe not blow dogs up, but connect the market and our offer through technology that makes our clients feel good. Let’s say we provide technology so users can build 3D-models from our product line and paste on to a real view, so that they can see their future housing options through the smartphone where in real life there is only a field. They should be able to upload that view as a clip to youtube.

That kind of thing. You get the general idea. But we usually (usually, mind you) don’t do that because it costs money. Our little group decided to do it anyway. We are learning from project to project how we can communicate our findings in a more attractive way. We have started to use webcasts to complement the written report. These clips capture the main ideas. There is always the report if you’re interested later.

Here are a few examples. They’re in Swedish because our stakeholders prefer it that way.

· Demo on modelling reinforcement in 3D

· Final results from our project on cost effective housing plans

· Reference group meeting presentation in the above project

· The results from a PhD thesis on how clients receive innovations

All our presentations are licensed creative commons, as are images and music. Feel free to use in any way you like. I know they are not really interactive. We’re learning as we go here, OK? Far to go still, but we're definitely on to something.

One last example. A friend of mine was a key player in the development of a robot for 6-axes material testing. This machine tests small specimen of any material, in any combination of stresses, dynamic or static, automatically. An awesome machine. In order to create interest in materials research groups, all they need to do is show this. Though I dare say, with a machine that can dance, the clip really should have had a musical soundtrack.

So scrap the report as primary carrier of information. Who needs words when they could get a rocket launcher.

Images, Flickr Creative Commons: Action movie by Horia Varlan and Camera Obscura by tonyhall.

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Posted by Dan Engström Mon, June 11, 2012 10:45:19

Thanks guys! As always, very inspiring and knowledgeable comments! And man, is bloody awesome, pardon my French. What a fantastic tool for parametric analyses. Anything that can be described by a mathematical function can be interactively manipulated, ie played with. Fabulous stuff.

Posted by Christina C-J Mon, June 11, 2012 08:24:14

This is so true. Last night I watched a program on the tele on Florence Nightingale. Not only was she a fantastic nure, she had also realize that the queen wouldn't read a long report so she made up this fantastic rose chart which not only showed the facts, it also showed a possible solution. This paid off and many lives were saved (and not only at the war front). So, yes, we need to disseminate our results in other ways than a report! Or if we do, it had better be a one with lots of figures!

Posted by Leantimber Mon, June 11, 2012 06:43:17

True. I've been ponding these reports my whole career, submitting to steering groups, board members and fellow workers. But the change just won't happen. It's insane to believe that change starts from PDFs or even reports. The times I've succeeded is when people start to do things themselves, testing, experimenting and failing. The failing part is so crucial (thanks Neil). When failing and when being aloud to fail people really start to think outside the box. And there's a movement towards change.

Posted by Neil Mon, June 11, 2012 00:56:30

I agree whole-heartedly, why do we put so much effort into creating exciting presentations and dynamic content just to then deliver reports where all the good stuff is hidden away? It’s insane…

I've been doing a lot of work lately trying to expand and share our research and teaching in a more interactive way at the University. One of the developments is a session for structural engineers; that teaches structural behaviour using real time physics where the students get to remove elements or add elements to create the perfect structure a little like the game Kerplunk. If they get it wrong, then it can be catastrophic and the structure fails in a believable way... the initial studies are really positive as the students are reporting that they 'get it' through watching the consequence of their decisions unfold immediately. We’re due to deliver an expanded session next semester and will start to share our models more widely for this too.

I've also been spending quite a bit of time over the past few months messing about with Mathematica which creates CDF (as opposed to PDF) files where the maths and the data is live and the reader can 'play' with the information... it has so many advantages over static documents and I'm using it extensively within my PhD. If you get chance it might be worth heading over to and check out one of their 8,000 available examples.

Finally the same team behind Mathematica have a problem for modelling called SystemModeller that I’ve literally just downloaded my 30 day trial licence this evening… it’s got potential, it depends on my ability to knuckle down and master it…