No Privacy in Your Cubicle? Try an Electronic Silencer

This article will no doubt be heavily blogged because it describes some innovative electronic acoustic privacy technology, but I thought the latter half of the piece, dealing with the relationship between innovative consultant and innovative manufacturer was extremely provocative.

Herman Miller has a long history of exploring the leading edges of office furniture and computer technology. The company worked with the computer scientist Douglas C. Engelbart during the 1960’s to design furniture and office systems that would help workers collaborate more effectively.

In fact, a walk through Applied Minds’ warehouses reveals many projects that seem to adopt the Engelbart approach of looking for ways to harness machines to augment human intelligence. With Northrop Grumman, the design firm is experimenting with teleconferencing, looking for ways to build systems that are useful for colleagues who work far apart from one another.

Mr. Ferren is particularly interested in finding novel solutions to design problems. All the bookshelves in the company’s offices, for example, are tilted 15 degrees to one side as a way to keep books neatly stacked.

In forming an alliance with Herman Miller, Mr. Hillis proposed a yearlong experiment period, which would allow the two companies to work together on broad ideas. After that, they could either commit to a product development project or go separate ways.


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