Jan 25, 2017
Conference organizer John Werner and Bob Metcalfe on stage
On January 17 and 18, the inaugural AR in Action conference was held at MIT Media Labs in Cambridge MA. It brought together a wide range of speakers as well as some heavy-hitters in the technical industry to discuss their thoughts on augmented reality (AR) and how it is going to change our lives in the near future. They included Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, Alan Kay, a pioneer in object oriented programming and the graphical user interface, and Steve Mann, considered the father of wearable computing. The conference included 32 panel discussions (with 127 panelists), 28 stage demos, 42 floor demos, and 2 stage performances.
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Ricoh announced on January 18th that they had taken their strategic investment into Avanti Computer Systems to the next step by acquiring the company. The acquisition is not a surprise for those that have been watching the workflow story develop at Ricoh. The company acquired MarcomCentral (formerly known as PTI Marketing Technologies Inc.) in 2014 and expanded its software partnerships in recent years.
Avanti is best known as the provider of the Avanti Slingshot print management information system (MIS) targeted to exactly the types of print shops where Ricoh finds success for their Pro C product lines. With Slingshot, Ricoh now has a JDF-certified Print MIS that can be on premise or cloud-based. Its modular, open platform lays the groundwork for integration with other Ricoh software solutions. The platform also provides the ability to distribute business intelligence, plan production and integrate into fulfillment and logistics. For Avanti, they now have the resources of Ricoh to support expansion into Europe and then worldwide.
From the workflow perspective, this acquisition gives Ricoh a tested, mature print MIS. Coupled with the MarcomCentral acquisition and their growing professional services offerings, Ricoh is better positioned to grow their commercial customer base and become more deeply entrenched with the mix of customers they support today. This graphic from the Avanti web page illustrates the modular nature of Avanti’s solution and, as important, the partners that connect into it.
Both companies have stated that the acquisition does not change any existing partnerships, but does this acquisition open the door to some other partnerships for Ricoh? Avanti has a slate of automation partners, including Ricoh competitors Xerox, HP, Esko, EFI, CREO, Aleyant, Konica Minolta, Agfa, Fujifilm and Kodak. Aleyant gives them a path to large format automation with a refined set of prepress tools. Esko opens doors into packaging.
The big question is if this is the slow continuation of an acquisition spree for Ricoh. Avanti makes Ricoh one of the few digital printer vendors who can claim a viable commercial print MIS product in their software tool kit. That gives them a strong foundation to move deeper into the general commercial print market with both their color toner and color inkjet products.
While it will take some time for Ricoh to fully integrate the power of the Avanti solutions into their workflow talk track, it is hard to believe that this is the last stop on the acquisition path Ricoh has been following.
Many virtual reality (VR) innovations debuted at CES 2017, but HTC’s new Vive accessory, the Vive Tracker, warrants special attention. The HTC Vive Tracker is a tool that will enable motion tracking with virtually any external controller. Currently, the Vive operates through two included wand controllers that come with the headset. The Tracker will expand this. Demos at CES included a rifle, a firehose, and a baseball bat. This wide range showcases the potential of applications that Tracker can unlock in VR.
At CES, InfoTrends noted the large size of the Tracker. It is unknown if HTC plans to shrink down the device in future versions.
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Jan 22, 2017
This is the seventh time that I have recorded a video blog review of all the corporate greeting cards I received during the holiday season. This year I highlight cards I received from three different types of providers: technology/systems, support services, and printing/marketing. In this video you’ll see premium substrates, dye cuts and folds to create structural pieces, dimensional effects and foils, as well as eye-catching design and innovative personalization techniques.
If you have an interesting greeting card you’d like to send me, my address is Jim Hamilton, Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends, 97 Libbey Industrial Parkway, Suite 300, Weymouth, Massachusetts 02189, USA
If you would like to see the previous videos, here are the links:
Jan 13, 2017
There are still a few more items in the Workflow Quiz to work through before we can say that every stone has been turned over in the quest for optimization and documentation. In this segment it’s time to look at what processes you have that might qualify as islands of automation that should be linked together.
Most print shops have some automation in place. Tools are purchased to meet a specific need, and sometimes suites are brought in to automate specific sets of processes. What tools and suites have you brought in over the years to automate? Web-to-print solutions? Order entry and management solutions? Job tracking? Are your production processes linked to your accounting processes?
Workflow Automation orchestrates the handoffs between processes to eliminate human intervention and create seamless activity from the start of a job to delivery. It may include automation of resource allocation, flow control, and consumables ordering, but always includes reporting as each step is completed.
Over the years I’ve visited shops with some amazing automation. Some was bought, some was assembled from a variety of software sources, and still other solutions were written in-house. In most cases the teams working in the shop started their automation out of a need to streamline multiple job onboarding processes or tie multiple touchpoints into a single process. The goal is always to move jobs through faster. Read more »
Jan 6, 2017
Beijing-based technology company, LYRobotix is bringing a new system to mobile virtual reality (VR) called Nolo VR. Nolo VR utilizes position-based tracking to monitor a user’s movement, much in the same way as Lighthouse does for the HTC Vive (or Guardian for Oculus Rift). Nolo VR plans to add motion control to the mobile VR experience, through its two palm-fitting wand-shaped controllers (typical system configuration shown in Figure below). In addition to improving mobile VR, LYRobotix is partnering with Riftcat’s VRidge software to enable remote play of Steam (Valve’s PC software vendor) VR’s library on a mobile headset.
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