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An Interview with Adrian Doyle

Adrian Doyle Adrian Doyle has worked in the IT sector for many years implementing large scale business and enterprise applications for clients including British Airways and the UK's Inland Revenue. He also has managed new start-up companies in the Internet sector and helped to turn them into successful businesses. He now heads Visual Exemplars Ltd, a UK based company that creates Perspector, the popular 3D add-in for PowerPoint.

See Also: Perspector - PowerPoint Add-in Review

Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and what led to Perspector.

Adrian: I've been working in IT for over 20 years, performing roles ranging from development, project management and strategic marketing for a large multi-national corporation. Latterly I have been focused on turning Internet startups into successful businesses. Perspector started as an idea formed with a small number of fellow investors who like me feel frustrated with existing tools for expressing complicated ideas. The main idea was to combine the simplicity and familiarity of the PowerPoint GUI with the expressiveness of 3D images.

Geetesh: How can 3D help inside a presentation.

Adrian: 3D can help the presenter to capture complex ideas and messages in a simple diagram. Our brains are programmed to think in 3D, so a complex idea can more readily be grasped when presented in 3D.

Judicious use of a few key images, maybe only a couple per presentation, can bring a presentation alive making it both more interesting and better at conveying the message.

An even more powerful approach is where a cascade of slides elaborating many minor points (a common problem among PowerPoint presentations) can be reduced to a single succinct 3D image. This is clearly illustrated in the sample Nano Knives sales presentation in Gallery 3 on our website.

In this presentation, a fictitious knife manufacturer, Nano Knives, wants to sell the idea that their product fills a gap in a market. In a typical presentation they might show a blizzard of slides displaying lists of competitors, numbers of existing purchasers, lists of current outlets, etc. etc. All of this would be with the aim of bombarding the audience with supportive evidence of their claim. However, such detail would be unlikely to hold anyone’s attention or, more importantly, convince anyone. This is a common trap for presenters struggling to create meaningful content.

Using 3D however, Nano Knives are able to graphically illustrate the core idea they wish to get across. The audience is shown a physical block, with a corner piece missing. This corner piece is then revealed to be their product. This is an image that is readily understood and will remain with the audience. The presenter is then free to perform a verbal presentation explaining each of the reasons that back up the claim, interacting with questions and observations by the audience. Any supplementary data can then be provided in printed form.

Geetesh: How does Perspector work inside PowerPoint and how does it aim to to fulfill the lack of a 3D environment in that program.

Adrian: Perspector works seamlessly within PowerPoint offering the same toolbar approach.

To enable fully interacting 3D shapes to be displayed and edited in PowerPoint, Perspector introduces the concept of a Perspector frame. A Perspector frame contains 3D shapes.

To PowerPoint, a frame behaves like a picture. It can be displayed on any slide. It can be copied and pasted between slides. It can be animated using PowerPoint animation to fly around the slide, to fade in or out, or any other type of animation effect.

When the frame is double-clicked, it becomes editable. The user interface to edit the shapes inside the frame has been kept as close as possible to PowerPoint’s native user interface. For example, 8 resize handles are drawn at the corners of a selected shape, and dragging a shape moves it. This was an essential design criteria for Perspector, as PowerPoint users would need to find it natural to switch between editing 2D and 3D shapes.

Where the interface needed to be extended to cater for 3 dimensions, the extensions have been provided as sympathetically as possible to PowerPoint ’s original design. A good example of this is the provision of three rotation handles where PowerPoint only needed one.

Geetesh: How has the response to Perspector been - also tell us more about what new features were introduced in the new version as a direct result of user feedback.

Adrian: Response: Very positive and helpful - v2.0 owes a lot to detailed feedback from early adopters and reviewers.

New Features: For example, feedback brought to our attention that version 1.0 suffered from some speed issues when switching between PowerPoint and Perspector. These problems originated from the use of Microsoft ActiveX technology. For version 2.0 an innovative redesign replaced ActiveX with a more flexible, lightweight solution. This fixed the speed issues and also made the file sizes of presentations far smaller, resulting in a greatly more useable tool.

Perspector 1.0 had a slide-centric design, that is, it was based around the idea of having a single Perspector frame per slide. There were a number of calls for a desire to fit more than one frame per slide, and to be able to manipulate the frame more easily. This lead to a shift in Perspector ’s design. Perspector 2.0 now has a shape-centric design – it can easily accommodate having many frames on each slide, and as previously discussed, each frame can be treated as any PowerPoint image. This change has proved popular. It has greatly increased the use of Perspector to generate small 3D images that can be used to add a touch of elegance to a slide.

The other feature of version 2.0 that was often requested in version 1 was 3D animation. The contents of a frame can now be spun around. This really shows-off the 3D nature of the shapes.

Geetesh: Tell us more about Perspector's support infrastructure.

Adrian: Our highly motivated support team typically respond to support issues within 24 hours. As a company we respect the fundamental role our customers have in ensuring our venture continues, and so we recognize the importance of following up properly on any issue that they may encounter using our technology. Basically, we want Perspector to work for you, and we will work with you to make that happen.

Geetesh: Is there any trivia you would like to share - perhaps an unconventional use of Perspector or something similar.

Adrian: We were amused when Steve, our Director of Sales and Operations, took the Community Gallery picture to a printer to produce it as a poster to use atconferences. (You may recall that it has a Perspector image superimposed in correct perspective on a banner outside of the Tate Britain art gallery.)

The picture was on one person's screen when someone bounded over to ask where we had got the banner showing on our poster printed. He thought it was a real banner and not just a digitally enhanced image created by Perspector. It was a pleasing reminder of how powerful Perspector-generated images can be!

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