Interview with Martin Ruse

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 0 comments

accoSo Martin, tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background?

I started out at an engineering company, where I worked for eighteen years, progressing from Internal Sales to Global Product Manager. Towards the end of this position, I lived in Boston for a few years. When I moved backed to the UK, it became clear that engineering wasn’t as lucrative a business as it used to be, and that was when Acco came along.

Acco wanted to produce systems rather than products, which really suited my background. So two years ago I joined the company as Senior Product Manager in charge of the interactive visual communications side of the business.

I’m now the Product Manager for anything digital: from DLP projectors; to interactive whiteboards; to the Kapture system.

I joined Acco just as Kapture was beginning to be developed. I was Programme Manager for the project, and was responsible for Research & Development, among other things.

And what prompted the creation of Nobo Kapture?

We came across the Anoto software that created the digital pen and paper software, and thought that it was absolutely fantastic. We immediately thought, “Great, we can use this!”

We then conducted extensive research in North America and Europe, into how people use flipcharts and whiteboards today. We identified users’ main frustrations, and decided that Anoto was really the right technology to solve them. This approach formed the basis of the Project Development for Nobo Kapture.

What did you want to achieve with the software? What was the ultimate aim?

The ultimate aim was really simplicity. Studies have shown that once people start working, they don’t like to be educated again. The great thing about the Kapture system is that it uses a pad, a pen, and a laptop – all things that are found in offices today. We just found the technology that ties them all together. The system is intuitive, reliable, and accurate, and really focused on ease of use.

What were the biggest challenges in creating it?

In creating Nobo Kapture, we put together four world firsts:

  1. No one had ever printed the Anoto pattern as big as we had. It took a lot of manpower and effort to print the patterned paper to that size. We managed to find a great company in Singapore that could both print and test the flipchart-sized sheets.
  2. We had to produce a new communication system. We chose to use a dongle for reliability. We found that if you used the pen directly with a PC, you could get it to work – however, if two or three pens were used, this wasn’t necessarily the case, as all PCs are different in terms of the way they handle the Bluetooth. The dongle made it much easier to set up the pairing system, and meant that it was a lot more reliable and robust.
  3. We had to create the Marker pen itself. Up until then, all pens used with the Anoto pattern had been smaller ballpoint pens. We had to develop a new cartridge, and find a way for the bigger pen to work with the camera.
  4. We created new software. Normally, bitmap formats would be used for this type of thing. We produced Nobo Kapture to handle data via a vectorgraphic system, meaning that the system reads several dots in a row and then makes the best line of fit. This way, we are future proofing ourselves for future developments down the road.

What are you particularly proud of about the software?

I just like the way it works. I use it every day for testing and meetings, and am still amazed at how simple it is. Even people who have never seen the system before can use it with ease. You can write on a pad, connect it via Live Meeting, and everyone in offices around the world can see what you’re writing. You can have three pages working at the same time. Competing products in the market require lessons to use. The things you do with Kapture are the things you’re already doing today with other products.

Nobo Kapture has won innovational awards in North America, Poland, and Holland, and we’ve also won Product of the Year in the USA.

Is there anything else on the cards?

We’re in continual development. We listen to all technical queries, if they can’t be answered by our online and phone system, and respond to these and upgrade as necessary. There are major jumps we want to make in the future and we will get there, but we’re still on the first system roll out! We’re currently launching the system in the US, and will do so in Japan next year.

We’re interested in incorporating the software into whiteboards and mobile easels, to really broaden the areas we can write on. We’re also creating a manual override so that you can write with the mouse in the editing function, as well as add text boxes.

There are also plans in place to create more support content. Via our user group on LinkedIn, we will be regularly publishing links, tips, and software upgrades, to further improve the user experience.

For more information, read our review of the Nobo Kapture system.

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