Golfers do it, professional snowboarders do it: Why not business-process pros? We're talking about reviewing time and motion with video, and the TechSmith Loop seeks to make the video review a regular part of corporate life.
Dean Craven, TechSmith CTO, says that Loop is part of a larger wave of products involving video and the enterprise. "Video is becoming a first-class citizen in the office," he said. "Office 365 rolled out their video portal, where they have a YouTube at work, and it's all under Office security."
With Loop, an engineer, manager, or corporate trainer can capture video of a work process using almost any kind of camera (including the one in just about every smart phone), import it into the Loop system, and do simple mark-up, annotation, and video highlighting to show specific areas that work well or need improvement.
Loop didn't spring into being out of thin air. Craven says that it began with technology to help athletes. "The journey started with a mobile app called Coach's Eye that's available on all the mobile platforms. It's for analyzing performance and giving feedback," he said. "It's like telestration and annotation and scrubbing through the video. It fits the mobile platform very well."
In the process of watching athletes use Coach's Eye, TechSmith learned a number of lessons, according to Craven. "The surprise is that we thought people would start by recording them and sharing them, and it would be all about sports. We found instead that it was all about immediate feedback. They wouldn't even record it to video," he said.
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When users didn't want to record results, it surprised the product team at TechSmith. "That blew our mind. We thought it would be on the Camtasia model of shareable content and that wasn't the case," said Craven. He said that they began to suspect that there was a need for instant video analysis -- and then they heard that a large automaker was using Coach's Eye to aid process performance improvement.
Enterprise users were as clear about what they didn't want from Coach's Eye as they were about what they wanted. "They don't want to be video experts and they don't want to use technology unless it will help them win. If you're a nurse or a factory worker you just want to get your job done," said Craven.
The Windows 10 Store
"Around this time Microsoft let us be a launch partner for the Surface Hub and that all brought us into Loop," Craven said. "It's a universal windows platform app, so the same binary runs on the desktop, Surface Pro, Windows Phone, and devices like a Surface Hub. It's integrated into OneDrive." He acknowledged that versions for iOS and Android are almost inevitable, but there's no question that Loop is tightly integrated into the Microsoft cloud and software infrastructures.
Integration is key to allowing video to be analyzed when and where needed. If a user can get video from any source into Office 365, it can be shared to any device, where it can be analyzed and displayed at the point of the operation.
"It's not like a video editor, it's more like an odd player where you can record, stop, and scrub through [video]. You're essentially editing video without knowing that you're editing video. It's a live take," Craven said. Those live takes are finding use in a number of operational areas.
"We've had hundreds of customer conversations and dozens of customer visits," Craven said. "We thought it would be useful for healthcare, logistics, shipping, and industries like that. That's true, but we're getting into the deeper conversations about what problem it really solves for them. They do time and motion studies where they shoot video of a lab or factory floor from above, then do a spaghetti diagram of where people move."
An AI Coach
TechSmith is rolling Loop out to users now, but Craven said that the real excitement could be when the technology is married to machine intelligence. "The things on the horizon are really exciting. It has to do with computer vision, and some of the apps can do some of the analysis themselves," he said. "We can have Loop being something that does timing and data generation on its own. We imagine a system that could score someone's performance at a job, and that gets interesting," Craven explained.
"When you get into predictive analytics, you start to look at when people might get injured at work. At hospitals it can look to see whether people are washing their hands," Craven said. Whether the process entails a weight lifter working toward the Olympics or an assembly line at work, there are thousands of enterprises that want to show workers how to make that process better -- and want to know well ahead of time when it's going to go wrong.
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