Four people view a graphical user interface.

Welcome to the Virtual Innovation Center

Participate in virtual workshops as a 3D avatar

May 14 2020Andreas Droste

Innovative co-working in three-dimensional space

Recently at the innovation center in Munich: a customer enters our showroom with his project team, is received by the T-Systems colleagues and, after a welcome coffee, takes part in a 30-minute presentation on predictive maintenance. Sounds like a typical customer workshop. Up until this point, at least.

A product manager in the breakout room uses a virtual image of a refinery pump to show him how the predictive maintenance of machines via our Cloud of Things IoT platform works. The customer also uses pumps in his pharmaceutical production and is very interested in this innovation, which helps to avoid high maintenance costs and unforeseen breakdowns. He enters the teleport area and seconds later, at the Innovation Center in Barcelona, has a Spanish colleague explain in more detail how the pump is monitored via the Cloud of Things web dashboard.

Teleportation successful

Graphic representation of a person in front of oversized VR glasses.

Wait a minute: teleportation? You read that correctly: This possibility does indeed exist – although admittedly (for the time being) only virtually. Together with the Düsseldorf-based start-up doob group, we have completely digitalized and virtualized our Munich innovation center in 3D.

For us, the innovation center is both a laboratory and a showroom. Using concrete showcases, creative sessions, and prototypes, we show you what we are working on day to day, what our partners are up to, and which innovative trends and technologies are currently being discussed on the market. We don't simply want to demonstrate T-Systems' innovation skills here: first and foremost we want to talk to the customer and, ideally, come up with a co-creation or rapid-prototyping approach together.

About doob group AG

At doob group AG, 130 employees are busy creating digital avatars of people. The start-up from Düsseldorf uses full-body scanners to create photorealistic 3D models of its customers. Life-like 3D-printed figurines are a popular product for end consumers. doob sells them through its own stores in Germany and the USA and via franchise partners in ten countries worldwide. For business customers, the Düsseldorf-based company offers digital avatars that can be controlled in real time for visualizations in virtual reality conferences and training courses.

Further information about doob group AG can be found here.

T-Systems innovation center

T-Systems currently operates four major innovation hubs: demo cases, exhibits, and plenty of space for working together are available in the Innovation Center in Munich with its attached data center. Around 200 customer workshops take place here every year. The T-Gallery in Bonn and the centers in Utrecht and Barcelona are also geared towards creative collaborations. We also provide flexible showrooms in Darmstadt, Berlin, Vienna, London, New York, and Paris, where we make small, individual formats possible, such as one-day pop-up showrooms.

You can find further information about the innovation center in Munich here.

Social avatars in virtual worlds

I myself am on the road a lot, leading workshops at customer sites or giving lectures at trade fairs as well as, of course, presenting our work here in our innovation center in Munich. We have been in a lively exchange with the doob group since November 2019. The young company was sponsored in Telekom's TechBoost program and has specialized in creating virtual social avatars of people. The 3D models can be used on social media or in VR worlds, for example. This is how the idea was born to bring our customers into virtual reality in Munich and some of our satellite centers, such as Utrecht, Barcelona, or Paris – and to create a kind of extended experience when we conduct workshops or explain use cases.

This was the inspiration for our virtual innovation center, a – slightly beautified – 1:1 depiction of the real premises in Munich. It's complete with a large showroom, the small breakout rooms, and a kitchen. The objective: conduct real virtual workshops with customers. We have already scanned many of our marketing and sales colleagues in the doob stores and brought them to life in virtual 3D for this purpose. We also host the doob platform in the Open Telekom Cloud, the showcases were built together with our colleagues from Multimedia Solutions, and the content runs in our Cloud of Things.

Visit using glasses or browser

A man and a woman in a hall wearing VR glasses.

We have deliberately kept the technical barrier for the virtual tour low, since not everyone has VR glasses at home. The tour can also be easily accessed via browser. During the tour the participant is presented with many possibilities: wander around, turn around, talk and mute, clap – and of course interact with all virtual objects with a click of the mouse.

The room houses a number of large screens such as the command system, a large touch display. It serves as an oversized whiteboard; you can interact, draw, and show presentations and videos. We conduct creative sessions with our customers on the central collaboration board. It shows cloud-based applications and is a repository of ideas, a display for design thinking sessions, and a post-it wall all in one. This allows intuitive collaboration and the development of new ideas – even without VR display, simply in your web browser. On another screen we can show live videos from mobile cameras or bring in external speakers via video.

The customers and participants in workshops explore the center as avatars. We can create a generic image from a photo – or they can be scanned in completely in a doob store. This is done very quickly and each visitor controls their own personal avatar. Our employees are also on site with their virtual avatars; this creates a more personal atmosphere, almost like being there in person.

Virtual innovation center

At T-Systems' virtual innovation center in Munich, participants work as 3D avatars on innovative technology trends.

Live showcases from our start-up support programs

Our innovation map runs on a mood board: this tool can show interactive presentations, a WebEx, or live showcases during workshops. For example, I can check the current temperature in our smart greenhouse via a Cloud of Things web dashboard – and watch the peppers grow via live cam. Start-ups from our tech incubator hub:raum are also represented here, such as BeeAndme or Dimenco from the 5G Prototyping Summit. The Dutch company builds displays that allow 3D and VR to be used without glasses or wearables, for example for CAD applications. We also use one of these displays in the Munich center. This has resulted in a project idea with an auditing company: in future, when inspectors want to examine a defective machine, they will be able to view a high-resolution 3D photo of the machine on the Dimenco display. This could replace many a trip to the customer. As you can see: start-up solutions are also focal in our innovation centers.
We have already held our first team meetings at the virtual innovation center in Munich. This is even more personal and interactive than via a normal video conference – and more productive too. We are considering now how to dramaturgically prepare one of these customer workshops. The first workshops will be held in May – I am looking forward to it!

About the author

Andreas Droste

Senior Innovation Manager, T-Systems International GmbH

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