Introducing Roundarch Labs

As Director of Emerging Technology at Roundarch, part of my job responsibilities are to help foster innovation and collaboration among our teams and bring a level of expertise around where experience-enabling technology is headed to our clients. I am not alone in these efforts though, as a primary aspect of the the culture at Roundarch provides a vehicle for everyone here to participate in a similar manner.

To help focus our efforts in idea generation and the research, development and testing of those ideas, we’ve recently started to formalize some internal processes within the company and in doing so, have formed what we are referring to as Roundarch Labs. The Labs is a virtual group within Roundarch that will be co-managed by Director of Technology, Gary Schwartzbard and myself.

Gary and I have two primary goals for Roundarch Labs:

  • To serve as an internal mechanism that supports business development, creates marketing opportunities, oversees software product development, and helps to incubate innovative ideas within the company.
  • To serve as an external advocate of Roundarch, by demonstrating industry expertise, through community involvement and the evangelism of design & technology solutions developed by Roundarch.

These concepts are not new to the company, as Roundarch has clearly been doing these types of activities since the company was founded and have been quite successful in establishing Roundarch’s position in the marketplace. What is new, however, is the formalization of these initiatives. Our thinking related to this is that our past success can only be amplified as we move forward with the formalization of structure and process related to the design and development of experimental, experiential projects.

Since the inception of Roundarch Labs, we’ve had a variety of great internal and external wins, and as we continue to push the boundaries of Web, desktop and other screen-based experiences, we will be talking about them on our Roundarch Blog (Impost) as well as discussing them at conferences, in the media and with our clients.

Roundarch Labs will help bring the innovative thinking that permeates the company to our clients and the community, and (i hope) will help provide inspiration both internally and externally on where we think enterprise Web and interactive technology may be headed.

We have a lot going on, and in the coming weeks we plan to elaborate on several different developments that are related to Roundarch Labs, including:

The Merapi Project – Roundarch has adopted the Merapi Project. ( We have finalized the open source merapi roadmap and plan to release the code in the coming month. We are dealing with final details now, and deciding on what open source license works best for the technology. Adam Flater, a long time friend and associate of mine has joined Roundarch in the role of lead evangelist and architect. Adam is the inventor of Merapi, and is now working with our team to expand the Merapi product into a platform. We’ve gotten such great feedback about what we are doing, it’s lit a virtual fire underneath us to push forward as fast as possible with the Merapi platform development. Secrets are secrets though, so more on this to come in the very near future!

Adam Flater, Evangelist and Architect at Roundarch joins a panel at the SXSW Conference where he showed how Merapi can be used to record and transmit telephone calls audio, in conjunction with the cool services offered by Ribbit.

Working with Wilco
– The Labs team has been doing a lot of mobile development, focusing primarily on the Apple iPhone and Google Android operating systems, but keeping our eye on the ever-changing future (can you say Palm Pre?). Because most of the large scale Web projects that we engage on with clients have some sort of mobile component, Roundarch has invested a lot of time and energy in the development of what we are referring to as the “Mobile Web Enabler Proxy”. This server-side framework contains a Request Translator and Content Transformation layer, and is designed to provide a standards-based mechanism for the delivery of content to the cornucopia of mobile devices in the marketplace. I will be sure to go into more details about how this all works in future posts, but for now, we are excited to be working with the band Wilco to test things out. We are in the final stages of the development of a Wilco mobile application that will be targeted towards iPhone users and heavily promoted by the folks at Apple. –

Several Screens of the Wilco iPhone Application being developed by the Roundarch Labs using the Roundarch Web Enabler Proxy.

Tesla Motors, Model S Prototype/Show Car – About a month before the new Tesla Model S prototype car was announced to the world, the Roundarch Labs team got involved to help develop some technology related to hardware-software communication in the vehicle cockpit. This project was a thrill to work on, as you can probably imagine. It is important to note that the Tesla Model S is currently in prototype development and no aspects of the car have been finalized, but we were able to play a role in getting the show car (prototype) ready for the road and look forward to working with the amazing team at Tesla in the future as the vehicle technology becomes more final. It is terribly exciting to witness first-hand the convergence of Web technology with the human other human experiences. –

Human-Aware, Socially Connected, Ambient Data Visualization – I’ve been working on a concept for about 6 months now, and have introduced it to Roundarch labs as a conceptual design and development effort. I don’t want to spill the beans quite yet, because what we are creating is very different than pretty much anything that I’ve seen or heard of. This prototype project utilizes a variety of enterprise-level technologies that we often lean on for client projects: Rich Client GUI technologies, Microsoft FAST Enterprise Search, Wall-based (large format) displays, Computer Imaging, and RFID. We are currently in the design process and as things progress, I will be sure to provide updates.

HTML 5, CSS 3, Apple & The Release of Apple’s Snow Leopard – If you haven’t seen some of the capibilities of the new HTML 5 and CSS 3 specifications, than I recommend that you grab a cup o’ joe, do some googling and prepare yourself for the future of the Web. At Roundarch, we specialize in developing Web applications that have great user experiences and are experts in “RIA” development (Rich Internet Applications). In short, RIAs merge the best of what the Web offers with the robust interface behaviors of what we’ve traditionally thought of as “desktop” software. To enable these types of experiences, we typically need to lean on technologies like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight, with AJAX as a backup solution for those circumstances where leveraging an embedded player isn’t possible. This is changing though, and the recently announced HTML 5 and CSS 3 specifications bring us very close to being able to develop equally robust applications inside a browser by itself. As a spin-off of the work that Roundarch Labs has done with the band Wilco, we are also working with the band and some of the folks at Apple to create an experiential application that will coincide with the launch of Apple’s new operating system.

Touch Computing and Human Interface Experiments – There are a lot of brilliant people that work at Roundarch, and many have advanced degrees in HCI and similar disciplines. Because our primary goal is to provide world-class Web and software design and development services to our clients, we don’t always get the opportunity to push forward with the ideas that are brewing in our heads. Is the best way for us to interact with information the way we currently do it? You know… sitting in front of a screen with a mouse & keyboard, or fumbling our way across a mobile device’s miniature keypad? We think not! There are several concepts that have been floating around the company related to the next-generation of machine interactions, and we are beginning to work on several proofs of concept around them. This is exciting stuff, and over time, look forward to sharing some of the extraordinary ideas that our teams are coming up with.

Mario Russo, part of the team at Roundarch, experiments with one of the Roundarch Labs’ prototypes.

Roundarch Labs is not a group of specific people. It is not a place.

It is not limited to practicality and certainly not constrained by what is currently possible.

We’ve replaced white lab coats and beakers with laptops and a serious passion for the future of user experiences and technologies that enable them.

Roundarch Labs is about incubating and testing ideas and working to bring them to market.

It is an exciting time at Roundarch, and I am thrilled to be able to play a part in it.