There’s a critical metamorphosis about to change the way we communicate during design. You may sense it with each email you receive, each search you perform, and within the meetings where everyone scurries to make notes. This transformation is about moving critical design discussions into your design tools, making it a coordinated effort across the design team and into web interfaces where anyone can become a part of the process. The catalyst for this is Vuuch and it’s set to affect the whole landscape of how and where we discuss design.
If we didn’t have email, our lives would either crumble to bits or we would actually have a more productive day.
Email is as pervasive a communications tool as you can get, but as convenient as it is, it’s all too often the cause of information loss and people left out of critical conversation. While I’m sure some scientist would say email is the cosmic glue that holds everything together, I’m going to raise my fist and say, email is a dead man walking… or at the very least turning into something that will be much less useful. In its place is a platform called Vuuch that combines the best aspects of email, Social Media and Instant Messaging delivered through a simple set of web and embedded clients.
What Vuuch does
Vuuch (pronounced Vooch) quite simply allows you to centralise and preserve design discussions. Instead of decisions being spread out and disconnected across email, conference calls and meetings, Vuuch keeps the content about the design consolidated within the design environment and on a web portal called vuuch.me.
The software is currently in beta release with full development taking place for various platforms including Pro/E Wildfire 4.0, SolidWorks 2008 and later and Excel 2007, with more being planned. The single identifier throughout everything with Vuuch is its simplicity. The add-in installs easily and immediately allows you to begin creating discussions within the interface you are using.
There are several ways to view and create discussions within a design environment. Typically, it will happen by selecting a model, a feature or a sidebar icon that allows you to view discussions started by yourself or others. After starting a new discussion you simply use the tabbed discussion window that appears to enter information as you would if typing details about a design change into an email. You select another tab to invite participants and the discussion begins.
With a strong argument that Vuuch is here to reduce (if not destroy) the excessive amount of email traffic we receive, you may be interested to know how it compares with email. As it stands, Vuuch doesn’t allow you to perform a lot of the functions you have through email, like attaching a 50MB PDF or grouping emails into groups of folders. Then again, email doesn’t allow you to select an object within a design environment and start an interactive discussion about it, as Vuuch does.
With email, you can start online meetings, check spelling and insert images and tables. Vuuch doesn’t offer any of those features yet. Email applications (besides the free online type) are not web-based. Vuuch is a web-based solution, but beyond that it filters your discussions based on what you are working on and displays them right within your work.
With email, you switch back and forth between programs and folders to get to files you need to attach or screenshots you need to embed. With Vuuch you simply stay in the application you are using. On top of this you can interact via the web portal and even email. Yes, the very tool that often drops us into a communication abyss is where a lot of discussion about the design can happen. However, this allows you to add to the discussion when away from your workstation with a direct reply to emails about the discussion you’re a participant of. People in the design environment can see the comments and anyone on the web portal can also see and respond to the activity taking place. It captures communication at multiple points and converges it all into one discussion.
Your design applications are void of discussion. It happens outside in a disjointed set of tools that know nothing about product development. We sit spinning models around, discussing what to do next and forget that everyone else isn’t included in the changes about to occur. Vuuch cuts into the middle of this to allow design groups, or anyone involved in the process, to have one location to see how decisions were made, and one location to discuss them further.
Whether you’re working with a customer directly or talking with vendors to spec parts, anyone that needs to be involved can be. This is catapulted by the ability to join in a conversation from anywhere through the web interface or email. Vuuch can be used to make notes of problem areas, track daily status or coordinate build cycles with production simply by allowing people to become part of a single discussion.
Vuuch gives you back the countless hours expended formatting and organising your email. In addition to giving you more design time, it adds value to the model by preserving the design discussions as part of the model definition. Days, weeks, months and years later your design decisions are still available. But what if the model isn’t open? What about the aspects of design that happen away from the computer – the bidding, idea stages, conceptualising, and drawing checks? These areas are even outside the realm of email, captured in photos, video, clay, cardboard or other media. While it’s seemingly disconnected from the area where Vuuch provides the greatest benefit, they can still be included as part of the discussion and referenced from within the design environment being used.
Is it possible to capture all the discussion that revolves around a model, that is part of a task, that is part of a larger project? It’s easy to think that throughout all the applications we use, some discussion will not get captured. It’s also easy to presume that email will always be the best tool to transfer information. The developers of Vuuch are in the process of addressing this by releasing their open API which will allow discussion to be brought into other applications whether they be on your computer, on the web, or on your mobile.
Vuuch is limited right now, but let’s face it, a lot of discussion that happens doesn’t require the excess features that email has or the complexity and cost of project management software. This is good, in my opinion. Instead of trying to completely emulate how email works and put it inside a CAD or web interface, the developers are letting users provide feedback for what they need. However, the development going on with the CAD platforms is only one aspect. This technology could very possibly reach into the environments of social media and other web applications. Perhaps even some of it will be used online for design or product sales and service. And hey, why not Vuuch-enable your ERP system to capture the discussions that are related to a customer service call? Wouldn’t it be great to reuse this in design or when a similar problem occurs? Once you put a symbiote of an idea into one area of design it can affect the entire lifecycle of that product.
With an open program interface and web interoperability, Vuuch has the potential of being an application that allows interactive discussion to take place anywhere. There are big changes coming to design environments and Vuuch is adding an aspect of collaboration that hasn’t been seen in CAD or any other type of design before. It is taking away the limitation that email has on us and it all starts with a single united discussion. Vuuch lets you do what we are used to doing, send a message, and at the same time it creates a huge value without the user having to do anything extra.