The Bordeaux company Immersion has developed a remote collaborative solution.
Crédits photos : Immersion
Since 1994, Immersion has been asseterting itself as a European expert of collaborative solutions. In 26 years, this Bordeaux-based company has built up this expertise through numerous virtual and augmented reality products and solutions. In 2020, sensing the importance of collaboration in companies, Immersion’s teams develop Shariiing for You, a remote collaborative solution to “boost teamwork”. Christophe Chartier, co-founder and president of Immersion, tells us the story and the birth of this project.
How was the Shariiing project born?
In 2014-2015, we started to sell a software that was the result of research projects on decision support in crisis management: Shariiing. It was a new turn for Immersion, because it’s not our core business to sell hardware or to integrate customized solutions. At first, those research projects Initially, these research projects were mainly intended for the military, special forces, fire brigade markets. It became clear that the problem these people were facing was above all the need to make decisions in complex and stressful environments, with multidisciplinary teams and crisis management strategies (pandemic, attack). This software was created to respond to these crisis issues.
We realised that this ambition corresponded quite well with the evolution of industry and the way of working with globalisation. So we did the test and we saw that some manufacturers were beginning to adopt Shariiing, to help them decide on Ariane 6 designs, for example, on industrial problems, etc. We thought that it might be worthwhile to turn this prototype product resulting from research into a real industrial software. Then we gradually developed Shariiing in a new version : Shariiing Advanced. Today it is marketed with a few hundred licences. And we are really pushing Immersion’s strategy towards this software.
So it was initially a solution for companies?
Yes, Shariiing Advanced is dedicated to workplaces: meeting rooms, showrooms, etc. The software mainly works on company networks. We were not on the web; it was a wish and a technical choice to meet the security challenges. When we work with clients such as Airbus, Renault, Ariane Groupe, it is out of the question to be on the web because there are risks of spreading information. All our developments are therefore stored directly at the customer’s site. But we are aware that the deployment of this type of tool must not remain confidential. Today, collaboration and working together is everyone’s business. We therefore thought of developing a web version, for a launch at the end of 2020. But when we saw what happened with the confinement, everyone who had to work daily on tools such as Zoom, Teams, Skype, we had a click about the problems of digital sovereignty.
In April, the Immersion software teams were gathered to imagine a full-web and free version of Shariiing for the beginning of June: Shariiing for You. The idea was not at all to make the buzz. The objective was to bring value to the product and a different approach compared to all the other solutions I mentioned before. And the challenge was taken up!
A few words about Shariiing for You, this new web version open to all?
In addition to seeing each other by videoconference, the product allows you to share documents and meet up to eight people; for us, this is a figure that is ideal for decision support. Up to eight documents can be shared, everyone can interact on them very easily, make ephemeral annotations. You can also connect with your phone, which is often a paying option in other solutions. All you need is the link to the invitation and join the meeting. You can thus share your camera but also make live annotations. These are simple features that can be very useful in the construction sector in particular. The most important thing is that you don’t need to install an application, the connection is made through the browser.
In short, it is a French tool, simple, clever and man-centred. We wanted it to be usable by everyone, and it will remain free of charge. The challenge was to contribute, at our level, to supporting the economic rebound of companies.
You have mentioned sovereignty and digital security several times. What is your approach to ensuring this?
We chose to share pixels, not data. When we want to show a project or a prototype, we do not send the 3D file directly. This raises a security issue. Moreover, to respond to this approach of digital sovereignty, we work with OVH and we are only hosted on French servers. Nothing goes abroad. On a completely different aspect, given that we use a browser, it is the user who must authorise or refuse access to his camera and microphone.
In Shariiing, there are these notions of sharing, connecting, collaborating. Do you believe that these human values are fundamental in the world of work today?
We are quite pioneering in new ways of working, in the sense that Shariing is a way to connect the living forces of a company, or actors with clients or subcontractors; to better decide together, to better design, to better understand each other. Today, with what happened with COVID-19, we can see that it will become a method that will become anchored in everyone’s daily life. How do I promote this corporate agility while being distant, and while keeping the intrinsic values of man, benevolence, return on emotion? This is the challenge we give ourselves with Shariiing.
Beyond saying that it is a software that will help collective intelligence, it is above all the fruit of cognitive sciences. At one time, people used to talk about ergonomics and user interface, but Shariiing goes a bit further. Our process is really centred on Man, through concepts of observation and understanding how he behaves, how he works socially with others. This is the quintessence of Shariiing. It is not just a tool to see yourself. At any moment I can share a document, annotations. Beyond being pretty, we tried to do something natural so that technology can be erased in the service of Man.
Your ambition was therefore to facilitate communication between employees. In concrete terms, how does Shariiing make this possible?
Yes indeed, the stake of Shariiing, in the vision of Immersion, is to connect everyone in an agnostic way. Someone can connect with a tablet to another person who has a CAVE or a headset, and thus have a common reference. The strength of our vision is that we use military methods: COP (Common Operational Picture). This image allows us to have a common representation that is easy to access because it is visual, 3D, intuitive and interactive. We will be able to make the right decision even if we are different people, even if we are not on the same medium, even if we are not on the same interface. Anyone can view the information whether they are a remote hologram, wear a headset or use a tablet. The common reference is the motor. So Shariiing is really about the power to share anything, with anyone, anytime.