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com Summer 2014 17
CISCO’S SUSIE WEE
leads from the front
N INTRAPRENEUR is an entrepreneur
within an organization. Te term is
less known because intrapreneurs are
much rarer jewels. Many entrepreneurs
get frustrated with bureaucracy, but intrapreneurs
like Susie Wee, CTO of Networked Experiences at
Cisco and the executive behind Spring Roll and
Augmented Collaboration, have cracked the code.
Profle and Interview by Howard S. Lichtman,
Publisher, Telepresence Options.
18 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 19
WEE HAS BEEN INTRAPRENEURING at some of the largest
tech frms on the planet in the world’s best labs focused on
telepresence, multimedia, HDTV, sofware-defned networking,
and a dozen other disciplines clustered around visual collaboration.
When she’s not playing hockey… a college athlete at MIT she’s
still on the lookout for someone with some ice when she has the
time. Tat’s right, Ms. Wee, epitome of genial politeness, isn’t
afraid to “clang and bang” with the big boys and girls.
Wee worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an intern
and HP Labs in Palo Alto for her frst job afer graduating from
MIT with her Ph.D.. When HP inherited what would become
Halo from DreamWorks, the company leaned on the Labs to
take Jefrey Katzenberg’s pet project and turn it into a globally
replicable product value-added with HP intellectual property.
Te HP team beat Cisco to market with Halo in December of
2005 with a six-seat group telepresence environment that had an
MSRP of $550,000 a room with another $18,000 per room, per
month for network and management. Customers began buying
them and loved the experience: bullet-proof reliability, fawless
video, great data collaboration, the best graphical user interface
for video calling ever, best integration of a ceiling visualizer, and
the frst inter-company directory of business partners to easily
connect with. It ofered a glimpse into a future where I can call
you from my conference room and we can have a conversation
and do work as if we were in the same physical space and it just
works every time.
Shortly afer HP Halo took of at HP, so did Wee, plucked from
HP Labs into a vice presidency on the business side of HP in
2008 where the word “Experience” shows up for the frst time in
her title. Having the word “Experience” in her title and the end
user at heart is a trend that continues to this day. In 2012, afer a
year of settling in at Cisco and taking the reins of a newly formed
collaboration experience team, she had an of-site kick-of meeting
at a team member’s house where the frst order of business was
creating their strategy and priorities. A few months later they
took on the challenge of fguring out why they all needed to meet
in person. Creating an environment where they could replicate
the collaborative dynamics of “shoulder-to-shoulder” work (but
augmenting it with tools, ease-of-use, information resources and
apps) became their goal.
Wee and her colleagues Qibin Sun, a Distinguished Engineer,
and Edwin Zhang, an experience designer, applied for and won a
$1,200,000 grant from the Cisco Tech Fund that John Chambers
set up to encourage just this type of intrapreneurship. Not a bad
result for less money than Cisco probably spends on toilet paper
a year. Tis intrapreneurship thing might have some legs! Te
fund was started two years ago and is directed by Joel Bion, SVP
of Cisco Research and Advanced Development, and David Ward,
SVP and Chief Technology and Architect Ofcer of Development.
It has 113 projects in the works and has funded 10 percent of
them to a total of about $20 million so far. Spring Roll is the frst
project they have gone public on so another hint they know they
have a hit on their hands.
Te name Project Spring Roll came from the fact that the original
Cisco Tech Fund project was approved in the spring (April 2012)
and Susie’s team uses agile methods with rolling iterations. And,
according to Susie, spring rolls are tasty and the name had a bit
of an Asian fair, which matched her innovation team which is
based in Shanghai.
Right now Spring Roll is just a proof-of-concept project on steroids
that combines a life-size head-to-toe telepresence environment and
a sophisticated user interface and set of collaborative tools that both
simplifes and improves collaborative sessions both locally and
with remote participants. Te telepresence conferencing capability
alone has a slew of innovations: a shoulder-to-shoulder telepresence
environment that is optimized for interactive whiteboarding and
large format data visualization. Trow in a video wall that displays
the entire remote scene and its jaw dropping.
But wait, there’s more. Wee gave me a sneak peak of a video
showing a remarkably advanced user interface and sofware tool
kit, plus a unifed GUI for the whole experience with some initial
Apps layered in. Apps that bring BYOD mobile devices to the
party integrate remote users through Cisco WebEx, interactive
whiteboarding, and more. It already plugs into Cisco TelePresence,
so it can reach any Cisco TelePresence system, endpoint or
Cisco gave the world its frst glimpse of Spring Roll at CiscoLive in
May, where pictures show dozens of DevNet sofware developers
pressing in, trying to no doubt fgure out what’s the business
equivalent of Candy Crush once employees get the ability to buy
apps for the conference room on the company account.
It’s not just a big idea, it’s a whole bunch of big ideas going
on simultaneously in a proof-of-concept that you can just feel
straining on the leash.
Telepresence Options spoke with Wee about Spring Roll, her gig
at Cisco, and where she thinks the future of telepresence and
visual collaboration is headed. What follows is the abbreviated
version. You can get the full story at www.TelepresenceOptions.
TELEPRESENCE OPTIONS (TPO):What were you up to in
academia and how did it shape your path?
SUSIE WEE (SW): When it came time for me to pick my PhD thesis
at MIT, I got to work with an amazing professor, William Schreiber.
In the beginning of his career he took black and white television
and made it into color television. In the middle of his career, he
made black and white printing into color printing. He pioneered
the technology to print color newspapers. At the end of his career
he made television into high defnition television (HDTV).
When I was looking for a PhD thesis advisor, he was actually
retired. Tis was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He was a little bit
dissatisfed with the direction that HDTV was going, so he actually
came out of retirement, took on me and one of my colleagues
as his last PhD students, and we did our PhD theses with him
At that time, computers could not process video in real time.
In order to compress HDTV video frames, we would write our
sofware and let it run overnight, hoping our code was working
correctly and no one else would kill the job. Ten we’d go back
to the lab in the morning and if all went well we would have a
handful of processed frames to analyze.
SOME OF THE SPRING ROLL TEAM: Edwin Zhang – Experience Designer and co-founder, Abu Aikepaer, Susie Wee – CTO of Networked
Experiences and co-founder, Zhishou Zhang – Principal Engineer, Rachael Scott, Ming Zhu
The HP Halo Studio (pictured) debuted at $550,000 per room,
and $18,000 per site, per month, and a waiting list.
The off-site that started it all. This is what knowledge work looks
Clanging and Banging – Susie credits hockey at MIT for instilling in
her the importance of team work. Over the course of our interviews
she requested multiple times that we recognize the work of Edwin
Zhang, Qibin Sun, and the rest of the Spring Roll team.
20 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 21
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22 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 23 22 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 23
What is Cisco’s Spring Roll
and Augmented Collaboration
AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? There’s a lot of big ideas
going on simultaneously here:
Stand-Up Presentation and Data Visualization—A signifcant
percentage of executives are “stand-up presenters,”
which means they prefer to speak, whiteboard, work
with slides, and similarly command attention to reinforce
their message. Anyone who has seen John Chambers
present, or Susie Wee present, or me for that matter
knows that it hard to keep a good man (or woman!)
down! Stand up presenters “lead from the front” and a
signifcant amount of presenters utilize data visualization
to enhance the audience’s comprehension and retention
of their material using images, visualizations, video, hand-
generated graphics, and annotations the way an artist
paints with a variety of brushes.
Interactive Whiteboarding & Hand-Generated Graphics –
In a virtual environment you want to replicate all the usual
and customary tools in their usual and customary format.
That means you don’t want users to try to whiteboard with
a mouse. The multi-site interactive whiteboard has been
the biggest disappointment in collaboration. No one had
really done it right although SMART’s Lync Room system got
a little closer. The ability to whiteboard interactively, save
your work product to a fle, and annotate over images and
documents are defnitely power features because, especially
in knowledge-based work like internetworking or genomics,
for example, there are concepts that are almost impossible
to explain without the use of hand-generated graphics.
Annotation is a powerful tool in a variety of settings.
Head-to-Toe Telepresence Layered with Augmented Reality—
Spring Roll is one of the best environments we’ve seen
that provides a head-to-toe view into a remote location, an
area that has also been the focus of the telepresence work
at Microsoft Research, which calls their goal the “Magic
Window.” The view into the remote scene is one beneft,
but expect Spring Roll’s computing capability and sensor
network to layer in helpful information, customized menus
and toolsets, translation capabilities and more.
Large-Format Data Visualization, Interaction and “Bring
& Fling”—You need a big canvas of pixels to let multiple
participants share multiple data inputs at the same time.
You also need a big canvas for data persistence. That is,
you want to be able to “paste” the electrical equivalent of a
fip chart to the wall so it stays fresh in the group’s memory
so it can be frequently referred back to. “Bring and Fling” is
the name for allowing BYOD participants to share content
on the big screen from their
preferred device. Yep. Spring
Roll has it.
Integration with the Rest of
Cisco’s Video Portfolio—
The platform was built on
Cisco TelePresence so,
if productized, expect to
easily connect from “The
Boardroom to the Browser”
with Cisco multi-camera, multi-
codec group telepresence
room systems, the desktop,
mobile video for tablets
and smartphones, robotic
telepresence, and WebEx.
The iPad of the Conference
Room—Most people haven’t
realized the value of having
an interactive display in
the conference room. The
conference room display is one of the most important
screens in most knowledge workers’ lives, arguably just as
important as their television, tablet, or smartphone, with
one of the most lucrative demographics on earth: educated,
frequently wealthy, knowledge workers buying trillions of
dollars of plant, property, equipment, and services for their
companies, organizations, and governments. Connect
a touch-sensitive screen to a computing capability and
now you have a platform
for Apps: marketing,
busi ness- to- busi ness
commerce, data analytics,
dat a vi sual i zat i on,
room control, and dozens
of other app categories.
Expect a knife fght over
who controls the portal
into and out of the
For now Spring Roll is a
up on the pad but it is
going in so many right
that it’s hard to imagine
that lots of it isn’t going
to stick in a big way. Why?
Because they put the
Commentary by Telepresence Options Publisher, Howard S. Lichtman
THERE IS AN APP FOR THAT! DevNet developers at a Spring Roll demo at Cisco Live! learn how to write apps for the “iPad of the
Conference Room” and begin thinking about how they might connect the room seamlessly with the rest of Cisco’s video estate.
AUGMENTED COLLABORATION DESIGN
1. Seamlessly integrate the physical and virtual worlds.
2. Engage participants with appropriate communication
channel, media representation and interaction interface.
3. Better align collaboration tools with the thinking behav-
iors of people.
4. Content is more valuable with context.
5. Make people better collaborators.
Edwin Zhang, Experience Designer, and Qibin Sun (inset), Distinguished Engineer, both live from Shanghai!
24 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 25
It was pretty early for HDTV, and we didn’t even have HDTV
displays or HDTV cameras. We had to work with studios to
get high-quality video, and a high-quality video display cost a
hundred thousand dollars. We were really working ahead of the
technology. I remember naysayers questioning why we were
working on HDTV. “No one can see the diference anyways.” It
took another decade or two for HDTV to go mainstream, but
everyone can see the diference now.
TPO: You were at HP Labs when it was the frst pure research
lab to look at immersive telepresence. What promising tech
died on the vine and what made it out alive?
SW: I was at HP Labs for 10 years and when I frst got there
in 1996, most people were working on imaging research and I
joined to do video research in areas like video coding and video
transcoding. In my research we were anticipating a world where
video would be all-digital, from video capture to video storage
and transmission to video display, even though at that time most
things were analog. So we were leaping ahead and thinking about
the algorithms that would be needed in an all-digital world.
Another exciting project was mobile video. Back then in 1999
or so cellphones were only starting to have cameras in them and
the most advanced mobile technology was in Japan. We formed
a partnership between HP and NTT DoCoMo to anticipate a
world with mobile video and we developed a 4G mobile streaming
media content delivery network. Many of these technologies are
used for video delivery today.
Afer that, we worked on what’s now known as immersive
telepresence. Jefrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks had a couple
of studios, one in the UK and one in California, and he needed
to make his movies working in those diferent studios. He was
making Shrek and he had a requirement that he had to review
every single frame himself. Te speed at which the studio could
produce movies depended on the speed at which Katzenberg could
review and give feedback to the team. So he had his IT guys build
a very high-quality studio to allow communication between two
places. Tis is what became known as the HP Halo system. Tey
were looking for partners to help bring this to market because
DreamWorks makes movies and doesn’t sell video products to
enterprises, so the partnership made a lot of sense.
At the time I was in the mobile and media systems lab and
eventually became the director of the lab, but when DreamWorks
came along I made a big bet and put most of my lab on it. We
started developing some awesome technologies for what is now
immersive telepresence. Te key there was that we challenged all
the assumptions we had made around the user experience and
technology of video networking and video conferencing. All the
systems were really fghting against limitations of hardware and
bandwidth, which was quite limited at the time. We changed
all the assumptions by using studio-quality movie cameras and
codecs and fat network pipes- this is now used in HDTV. It was
all about thinking of the user experience frst then developing
the technology to deliver that experience.
TPO: What do you do at Cisco? What is Spring Roll? What
was the impetus of the idea?
SW: When I frst came into Cisco, I was “CTEO” for collaboration.
My boss and I made the title Chief Technology and Experience
Ofcer since he knew about my passion for technology and user
experience. Ten about a year-and-a-half ago I moved to the central
CTO ofce so that I could take this experience-plus-technology
approach and apply it across the whole portfolio, extending
beyond collaboration. I’m now the VP and CTO of Networked
Experiences. I always tend to have “experience” somewhere in
my job title. My team and I are working on innovative end-user
experiences, such as Augmented Collaboration. We are also
looking at the user experience associated with managing and
operating networks, especially in the world of sofware-defned
networking. We have a Network UI Toolkit called NeXt for
visualizing network topologies for SDN to help network operators
to design, deploy, monitor and troubleshoot the network.
My team and I have also created Cisco’s new developer program,
Cisco DevNet, aimed at developers who want to create solutions
based on Cisco technologies, thinking ahead to the world where
the network is a true platform for innovation. We just had our
frst DevNet developer conference and hackathon at Cisco Live
and it was an amazing success- it’s incredible to see the appetite
of the developers who want to build innovative solutions around
the network with sofware-defned networking, indoor location
and mobility, collaboration, and the Internet of Tings.
Now we’re focusing on creating new end-user experiences on top
of the network. We have an innovation project called Augmented
Collaboration, and it’s codenamed Spring Roll. It has 10 HDTV
screens in two rows of fve screens with an IR-touch bezel around
the outside frame making it all a multi-touch surface. Te screens
are arranged in an L-shaped confguration. Four of the screens are
Susie Wee experimenting with streaming media to mobile devices
(HP Jornadas) at HP Labs circa 2000.
EXPERI ENCE MEZZANI NE.
Innovate your workspace. Disrupt your industry.
Distributed teams need more than video conferencing to connect workspaces.
enables teams from any location to work in a shared digital
workspace, accelerating a company’s ability to unlock innovation.
The Mezzanine wand allows spatial
manipulation of applications,
videos, and data across the
Mezzanine workspace and other
26 www.TelepresenceOptions.com Summer 2014 27
on one side, two of the screens are
at 45 degrees, and then the other
four screens are at 90 degrees.
On one side we use six screens to
show full head-to-toe telepresence
video. We fnd the head-to-toe
telepresence video provides a very
natural communication experience
with the people in the remote site
because it conveys context and
body language in a way that is
superior to more typical head-and-
shoulders video. People can move
around the room freely without
the boundaries of fxed seating
locations, and this allows people
to interact much more naturally.
On the other side of the L we
have the four screens used for
interactive content collaboration. Both rooms see the exact same
content collaboration screen where they can share presentations
and write on a white board. You can fip through presentations
very easily with a two-fnger swiping gesture. You can annotate
and draw on the slides and on the whiteboard, and people on
each side can do it simultaneously. In addition, we integrated a
mobile device experience with an iPad client. Tis allows you to
participate in the meeting without having to run up to the board to
contribute, providing a new means of natural interaction through
your personal device. Te iPad client lets you participate in the
content collaboration portion of the meeting when you are in one
of the Spring Roll rooms or when you are outside the rooms joining
into the meeting through a regular telepresence or WebEx session.
Te biggest challenge in creating Spring Roll was around user
experience simplifcation- we wanted to create an inviting
experience that was simple and easy to use and we wanted to hide
the technology that was needed to deliver it. When people come
into Spring Roll they feel good and know they are in a designed
experience. Teir eyes light up in the same way they did when
they frst saw HDTV and immersive telepresence.
HSL: Final question: What do you see the future of
telepresence and visual collaboration?
SW: First of all, at Cisco the commitment to collaboration is very
strong. We don’t want to just have people go into big expensive
rooms and then be able to collaborate. We want you to collaborate
when you’re mobile with your iPhone, iPad, Android device, or
laptop, and still have a full collaboration experience.
Also, we’re looking at lowering costs to make this more accessible
to more people.
In terms of the broader industry and where things are going,
something that we’ve shown with augmented collaboration is
that if you do touch and gestures very well, you can have a more
natural experience. Touch is what enables you to get that whole
interactive experience. We’re actually integrating touch into our
video telepresence products
so that we can integrate a
video and interactive content
collaboration experience like
Another big area is not only
looking at a single mode or
device for collaboration, but
using multiple modes together
by using diferent devices at the
same time. We have a feature
called intelligent proximity
that automatically pairs your
device with the telepresence
environment that you’re in
and allows you to start using
your device in the same context
as the broader collaboration
session. If you want to walk
up to the board, you can do that. But if you just want to text
something into your device and contribute to the session, then
you can do that too. What we are starting to see is that people have
diferent modes of collaboration going on at the same time. Tese
tools can come together, and you can use the best technology
for the right task at the right time. Instead of being completely
separate experiences, they should be seamlessly integrated.
I’m going to bet that even higher resolutions such as ultra HD will
become more important, especially as we have more afordable
large displays, higher network bandwidths, and more head-to-
toe telepresence video experiences. Tere will be new touch and
gesture technologies to improve input to mobile devices—this
will greatly improve how we interact with mobile devices today
and with our broader collaborative environment. We’re going to
have more sensors on mobile devices and in the environment to
help people interact more freely and naturally as we enter the
world of the Internet of Tings. Also, robotics will play a larger
role in providing natural communication experiences, as it will
help people have a physical presence in remote locations and
give them the ability to move around that remote location. Te
challenge behind all of it is not only to develop the technology,
but to drive it from a user experience frst perspective. Te
future is bright, and all of these technologies are going to help
provide even better interactive collaboration experiences in the
years ahead. TPO
At Cisco Live – The DevNet developers press in to check out
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Howard S.Lichtman is the publisher of Telepresence
Options, president of the visual collaboration
consultancy Human Productivity Lab, and a board
director at Array Telepresence. He co-founded a
company in 2001 that built visual collaboration
environments with stand-up presentation, IP video
over QoS networks, interactive whiteboarding, and
large format data visualization. At the time, he was
unable to even conceive of augmented reality, bring
& fing, iPads, or Apps.
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