Prezi’s Augmented Reality Presentation Software Wants to Kill Boring PowerPoints

When Peter Arvai founded Prezi in 2009, he didn’t set out to topple PowerPoint. He just wanted to see better presentations. With the right tools, he figured, he could help people create visual aids that felt more engaging. Arvai was sick of sitting through slide decks containing walls of text and bullet-pointed lists, listening to the speaker ramble on while the audience squinted at the words on the screen.

So he, along with co-founders Péter Halácsy and Adam Somlai-Fischer, set out to build something that looked more like a digital poster board. You could pepper it with images and animations, then zoom in and out to focus on specific things at specific moments during a talk. The tool, which they named Prezi, uses what Arvai calls “a spatial metaphor” rather than simple paginated slides.

Prezi wants to bring audiences inside of a presentation using augmented reality.

That was eight years ago. The company has since grown to over 300 employees, split between Budapest and San Francisco, and its software product now counts 85 million users and holds a repository of over 325 million public presentations; pitch decks, lectures, and student projects. Last year, the company launched Prezi Business, a suite of tools designed for companies and teams; individuals can still use the basic Prezi tools for free, or pay for more premium features for a monthly subscription.

As high as Prezi has climbed, Microsoft PowerPoint is still the market leader. It has hundreds of millions of users—most of them creating the same boring slideshows Arvai has vowed to make extinct. So in order to take that next step and become the top name in presentation software, Prezi needs to evolve. How could Arvai and his team create tools to make presentations even more immersive, more exciting? The answer: bring audiences inside of the presentation using augmented reality.


Quite a Show

Arvai and his team have been watching the augmented reality takeover. It’s played out at Snapchat and Facebook, at Google and Apple. Companies are using AR to design cars, sell furniture, make little digital sharks swim around your breakfast table. What if Prezi could apply that same technology to make better presentations?

The company had the tech to do it. The Prezi Business software was built on a completely new set of software tools called Prezi Next. “This technology stack is something we’ve developed that works across mobile phones, browsers, installed on your computer—and it allows us to do things like AR,” says Arvai. The question would be what exactly those AR presentations might look like.

In a demo in Prezi’s San Francisco’s office, Arvai pulled up an early version of Prezi’s AR application. The software looks more or less like the regular Prezi presentation builder: It’s a blank canvas where you can place visual assets, drag them around, add commands to zoom in or out. Arvai added a string of dangling lightbulbs and some bunny ears. Then he turned on his webcam, and the visuals appeared next to his face.

In a traditional presentation, Arvai says, you might be standing in a room with a screen behind you displaying all of your visual aids. But what if you’re presenting your pitch deck in a web conference, or a Zoom Room? Remote presentations lose all of the benefits of good visual design and practiced body language. “Either you have the video but you don’t have visuals, or you see visuals but you don’t see who’s talking,” Arvai says.


In Arvai’s demo, the light bulbs dancde beside him on screen. He could also call up a graph or chart, or make the visuals swoop in and out at the touch of a button. It all looked sort of like he was talking in front of a green screen; the tool isn’t harnessing revolutionary technology or transporting the speaker to distant worlds. But Arvai says that’s the whole point. He doesn’t want to create software that distracts audiences from the person presenting. He doesn’t want you delivering a talk with Snapchat’s puppy filter on your face.

“We’re thinking about, OK, how can we actually enable human connections with the use of this technology, and enable people to be better understood?” Arvai says.

Arvai cites studies that show audiences get distracted by flashy visuals or too many animations. So with AR, the Prezi team didn’t want to make anything too showy. Instead, they built something that looks more or less a Prezi overlayed onto the presenter. The graphics are sometimes cartoonish, the imagery sometimes cheesy. But the pairing of the speaker and the AR visuals is somehow still powerful. Instead of standing in front of a visual aid, it’s as if the presentation plays out around, above, and in front of the speaker.

Sharp Vision

As of right now, Arvai and his team are still trying to decide what exactly their AR software should do. The company debuted an early version in a recent TED Talk, where neurologist Robert Sapolsky used Prezi’s tools to give a talk about the biology behind the best and worst of human behavior. At one point in Sapolsky’s talk, he calls up an image of a man holding a hand gun, his finger on the trigger. It’s pointed right at Sapolsky. The effect is weirdly chilling, and somehow more lifelike in augmented reality. It makes that part of his talk hard to forget.

That, Arvai says, is the potential of what software like this could do. But the product isn’t ready for a public launch yet. Prezi has enlisted a select group of influencers to try out the AR tools and offer feedback before the company releases a beta version. He expects to have a better developed sense of the product in the coming months.

Arvai knows his role in the augmented reality future is a modest one, but he also believes deeply in the power of storytelling and communication tools. He showed me a couple of presentations people have made on Prezi, detailing new projects in engineering and medicine. One presentation, created by a journalist, uses visual aids to explain the conflict in Syria. Just imagine, Arvai says, if you could explain that with the aid of AR.

“We won’t put a woman on Mars, we won’t cure cancer, and we won’t make peace in Syria,” he says. “But when we do our jobs correctly, we contribute to all of this.”

What’s going on With All That Fabric on your own devices?

Earlier this present year, whenever Microsoft showed down its new Surface professional laptop, one part of the device endured away. The sleek tablet-PC hybrid had been made, predictably, out of aluminum and glass, but its keyboard was covered in a soft-suede like material. Alcantara, particularly, similar material used in cars and designer handbags.

“Everyone we showed had exactly the same response: Whoa, that’s cool,” states Ralf Groene, mind of commercial design for Microsoft products. “And then some people got concerned. They said, you cannot put textile on laptop computers; no-one sets fabric on laptops.”

Generally, that’s been true. But recently, textiles have begun creeping into electronic devices really genuine method. Early in the day this month, Google revealed off a line of items, some of of also covered in knitted material. Wrapped across the Google Home Mini and Max actually soft polyester-nylon material that the company developed from scratch. “Someone described these items as friendly,” states Isabelle Olsson, Google Home’s head of industrial design. “I took that as being a match, because that’s what we had been choosing.”


About ten years ago that wasn’t plenty the truth. Apple had just introduced its first Macbook professional, a boxy laptop computer milled from anodized aluminum. Dell was offering a cumbersome, synthetic laptops. During the time, businesses were invested in presenting their goods as futuristic, maybe not friendly. That’s changed with all the sluggish creep that technology has changed to almost every facet of our life.

Today, companies like Google and Microsoft are more worried about making people feel at ease around their technology, which instantly could possibly be found on a bedside table plus in your kitchen. The domestication of technology has generated its softening. “If you appear back, technology has typically been boxy, black synthetic, and razor-sharp corners. It’s been majorly in regards to the function,” Olsson says. “For us, looks and fitting to the home can be area of the function.”

Microsoft first started considering soft materials back 2010 with regards to had been experimenting with a brand new kind address for its Surface tablet that hinged without technical components. “We additionally desired something which felt far more individual than plastic or steel,” Groene states. They began taking care of a fresh material that coated a woven substructure with polyurethane for outcome which was fabric-like underneath and plastic-y on the outside.

A couple years later on, Microsoft partnered utilizing the producers of Alcantara, a high-end microfiber found in luxury cars, to produce a new formula associated with fabric that wouldn’t extend, bubble, or shrink in different temperatures. It must be dirt resistant also, so they coated the Alcantara having a layer of polyurethane a thousandth of millimeters thick, which implied it wicked down spills without changing the feel.

“In a naive fashion, we thought, ‘Let’s make this kind address away from textile and let us get and do it,’” he claims. “What we didn’t really realize initially had been so it actually required a large amount of research to the product itself.”

Both Google and Microsoft view textile as being a core material in its commercial design palette, which means in the foreseeable future you’ll likely see even more gadgets being soft to touch. The trend isn’t just about following aesthetic whims; it is about making technology relatable. “It’s certainly not driven by any fashion,” claims Groene. “It comes from the deeper genuinely believe that you want to humanize technology.”

Candylab’s brand new Wooden Cars Swing Into the Prohibition Era

Five years back, Vlad Dragusin began making wooden vehicles into the nights and on weekends. During the time, he was an designer on design studio Gensler, as well as the automobiles were only a hobby—a solution to escape the real world hurdles inherent in designing structures. “With architecture, it gets to the point whereby you’re investing that much time on other activities,” he claims extending his arms wide, “and that much time on design.”

The automobiles, having said that, had been pure design. Dragusin, who now produces them full-time for their company Candylab Toys, possessed a soft spot for the boxy muscle mass cars of 1960s and ‘70s with their clean, blunt lines and bold colors. “See just how easy they’re?” he says pointing up to a wood car modeled after a Pontiac Firebird. “They’re just easy wood obstructs.”

Dragusin and his group spent 1st four years of Candylab making variations of the muscle cars by having an Airstream or tow truck tossed in. After which they hit a wall surface. “We knew we had been planning to do something different period-wise,” he states. “We developed [the muscle tissue cars] as much as we’re able to before it gets repeated.”

The company’s new type of automobiles, called The Outlaws, is modeled after prohibition-era hot rods which have been souped up and redesigned for modern day. The automobiles, which vaguely echo Rat Rod vehicle tradition, are curvier than Candylab early in the day designs, with an elongated human body that tapers in front and tires that jut away. It’s speedy form is harder to engineer versus typical muscle car, Dragusin explains.

Typically, a hot rod silhouette could be produced from an injection molded synthetic. But Candylab’s new line is made by shaving the wood for a router table to obtain a exact, compound bend. “It’s like sculpting,” Dragusin claims. “You can simply subtract with timber.”

By restricting it self to a solitary product the human body, Candylab loses some of the information found on other toy cars. In place of accessories, Candylab’s cars are defined by their overall shape. “For vehicles, silhouette is truly effective,” says Kaeo Helder, a designer at Candylab. Working together with Dragusin, Helder talks about a model of an actual vehicle and peels right back as much detail possible until they arrive at the essence of this form. More often than not, this leaves all of them with a simple silhouette that echoes the initial.

Inside brand new line, the automobiles aside from the tow vehicle use the same fundamental body shape. It’s a way to optimize production and provide the line a cohesive identity. Cleverly, the group distinguishes the cars by flipping their wood figures upside down, going the cab toward the front or straight back of the car, or painting on extra details like taillights. “Essentially we are doing exactly the same thing they [Rat Rod makers] did,” claims Helder. “You chop it up, combine it, and to discover what are the results.”

Candylab’s New Wooden Cars Swing Into the Prohibition Era

Five years ago, Vlad Dragusin began making wooden cars in the evenings and on weekends. At the time, he was an architect at the design studio Gensler, and the cars were just a hobby—a way to escape the real world obstacles inherent in designing buildings. “With architecture, it gets to the point where you’re spending this much time on other things,” he says stretching his arms wide, “and this much time on design.”

The cars, on the other hand, were pure design. Dragusin, who now creates them full-time for his company Candylab Toys, had a soft spot for the boxy muscle cars of the 1960s and ‘70s with their clean, blunt lines and bold colors. “See how simple these are?” he says pointing to a wooden car modeled after a Pontiac Firebird. “They’re just simple wooden blocks.”

Dragusin and his team spent the first four years of Candylab making variations of those muscle cars with an Airstream or tow truck thrown in. And then they hit a wall. “We knew we were going to do something different period-wise,” he says. “We developed [the muscle cars] as much as we could before it gets repetitive.”

The company’s new line of cars, called The Outlaws, is modeled after prohibition-era hot rods that have been souped up and redesigned for modern day. The automobiles, which vaguely echo Rat Rod car culture, are curvier than Candylab earlier designs, with an elongated body that tapers at the front and wheels that jut out. It’s speedy shape is harder to engineer than the typical muscle car, Dragusin explains.

Typically, a hot rod silhouette would be made from an injection molded plastic. But Candylab’s new line is made by shaving the wood on a router table to get a precise, compound curve. “It’s like sculpting,” Dragusin says. “You can only subtract with wood.”

By limiting itself to a single material for the body, Candylab loses some of the detail found on other toy cars. Instead of accessories, Candylab’s cars are defined by their overall shape. “For cars, silhouette is really powerful,” says Kaeo Helder, a designer at Candylab. Working with Dragusin, Helder looks at a model of a real car and then peels back as much detail as possible until they get to the essence of the form. Most of the time, this leaves them with a simple silhouette that echoes the original.

In the new line, all of the cars except for the tow truck use the same basic body shape. It’s a way to optimize manufacturing and give the line a cohesive identity. Cleverly, the team distinguishes the cars by flipping their wooden bodies upside down, moving the cab toward the front or back of the car, or painting on additional details like taillights. “Essentially we’re doing the exact same thing they [Rat Rod makers] did,” says Helder. “You chop it up, combine it, and and see what happens.”

Cramped Apartment? Take to Ori’s Transforming, Robotic Furniture

A universally acknowledged truth about residing in New York City usually there is hardly any space to go around. What passes for the whole apartment in Manhattan is recognized as a walk-in cabinet in Des Moines. This dearth of square footage has resulted in a few notable phenomenons: specifically, pocket-emptying rents and some—letis just phone it—creative uses of available space.

I recently glimpsed one especially unusual eyesight of our unavoidable micro-living future. Twenty floors up in a luxury midtown Manhattan studio apartment, a hulking furniture piece sat pushed from the wall surface. From the front side it appeared to be an activity console with built in shelving. Through the part, it looked like a normal bookshelf, save your self for a small button. At nine feet tall, five feet wide and seven legs very long, finished . used nearly a fourth regarding the apartment’s primary living area, making just enough area for what could either be described as a livingroom or bedroom, but definitely not both.

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“that is Ori,” stated Keegan Kampschroer, patting the medial side of the wooden block. Kampschroer may be the assistant general supervisor of The Eugene, the apartment building hosting the demo, and he ended up being there to show me just how to run the massive hunk of wood. Because—it turns out—Ori needs an operator.

Ori, short for origami, is a robot disguised as plywood furniture. Push a key or dictate a demand together with unit, as the name suggests, unfolds itself as a sleep or walk-in closet. “There are a couple ways to get a handle on the system, but here is the coolest,” Kampschroer explained as he looked to an Amazon Echo sitting on a nearby dining table.

“Hey Alexa, tell Ori to exhibit me the bed,” he said.

Having whirr, the bottom of the furniture started to gradually expand such as a wood transformer. After about 20 moments, a totally made sleep jutted to the living room, taking up the majority of the apartment’s once-empty area. “It really turns a studio in to a one bedroom,” Kampschroer stated, pressing a key to make the sleep disappear.

I happened to be here to give Ori a test ride, into the most literal feeling. For the past two years, the business’s founders are attempting to fine tune the device into a thing that could possibly be commercialized and mass produced. Using its arrival at The Eugene (it’s also installed at nine other luxury residential developments nationwide) Ori has finally entered its pilot phase. By the conclusion of the season, the organization plans to offer specific devices for $10,000 a pop, presumably to property designers and people like myself: Young, technologically savvy customers who reside in cramped, metropolitan flats.

“Millennials are looking for frictionless experiences,” Hasier Larrea, one of Ori’s co-founders, explained.” And Ori, along with its automatically vanishing bed and considered software is the epitome of effortless. As some body squarely in its market, I was curious to observe how I’d like living with robotic furniture. Had been chatting with a bookshelf really the revolution of the future? Could a shape-shifting storage product can even make a tiny apartment feel more spacious?

I gave it a chance. “Alexa,” I stated confidently. “Show me the sleep.” Nothing.

“Tell Ori showing me the bed,” Kampschroer corrected.

“Alexa, tell Ori to exhibit me the bed,” we repeated, whilst the bed’s motors stirred alive.

Robots, like humans, are awfully finicky roommates.

Robo History

Before Ori discovered its method to the upper end rental market, it in fact was a scientific study on MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places group. Six years ago, the group’s manager, Kent Larson, began considering just how robotics will make the growing trend of micro living feel less micro. He figured if tiny areas felt like big spaces, more folks might be inclined to scale down. The reverb effect, he reasoned, is increased density and reduced stress on towns experiencing booming populations.

One of his solutions had been the town Residence, a transformable furniture piece ripped from the Ikea 2050 catalog. The prototype changed form utilizing the wave of the hand. Comprehensive dining room tables, beds, and showers emerged through the wood rectangle like magic. “We were checking out ideas, a few of that have beenn’t ready to commercialize,” Larson recalled.

At the time, Larrea and his co-founders, Carlos Rubio, Ivan Fernandez, and Chad Bean, were students of Larson’s, taking care of the task. City Residence had been a lab prototype, but Larrea and his team thought the notion of automatic, shape-shifting furniture held real market potential. “whenever you go through the smart house, it’s all according to peripherals,” he stated. “we have been forgetting about 90 % regarding the area.”

Unlike smart thermostats and linked coffee pots, furniture is really a room’s anchor. This will make it interesting being a possible hub for many regarding the ad-hoc IOT doodads individuals will fundamentally enhance their home. Larrea and his lovers started to pare down the original concept, maintaining just the many vital features. They built Ori’s simple, contemporary poplar framework together with a skeleton of computer software, sensors, engines, tires, and songs. Today, Ori has three main tricks: It can expand to produce a walk-in wardrobe, contract to help make more family room area, and—most importantly—hide a messy sleep with the press of the switch.

Wall to Wallet

You are straight to think the theory seems odd. Ori’s primary conceit is counterintuitive: How does adding a massive furniture piece towards room create more room? The mathematics doesn’t work out. Ori is not a discreet murphy sleep that tucks into a cabinet or wall surface. It has a genuine, unavoidable presence in an area.

Later that night, a friend came by to check it down. “It is big,” he said, stating the most obvious. It’s a fact also Larrea concedes. The worth of Ori is not in producing more real room, Lerrea states, but optimizing the area you already have. If you desired to have a walk-in wardrobe, room, workplace desk, and residing room—all things Ori provides— you had need certainly to update to a one, perhaps two, room apartment. In a spot just like the Eugene meaning rent rates above the already staggering $4,000 for compact studio.

Ori is hefty. It is robust enough to carry the extra weight of an adult girl taking a joyride on its integral desk (or so I heard). Only after dozens of constant commands did the system appear to tire. Several times Ori got confused and kept the sleep stranded inside space, half showing. Once in awhile, the tires would get caught regarding the track whilst the device pulled away from the wall, producing the eerie sound of a technical death rattle.

In those methods, Ori still feels as though very early technology—a 1.0 version of one thing destined to become prevalent next ten years. Will the robotic furniture for the future appearance the same as Ori’s shape shifting bookshelf? Most likely not. But it’s easy to understand how a underlying system is actually a jumping down point for other adaptable designs.

For now, Ori is a luxury product that developers will purchase to include value as to the’s currently prohibitively expensive studio flats (Brookfield, the developer of The Eugene, says they might request one more $350 monthly for an Ori-outfitted room). Yes, it’s useful—as some body with one cabinet in her tiny one-bedroom apartment, the lust for walk-in wardrobe is genuine. But at this time, it’s prematurily . to think about this as being a genuine choice for the average indivdual.

As I revealed my buddy across the apartment, he started thinking aloud about all nagging issues property owners have when considering a big purchase. “What happens once you drop the Apple TV remote through the crack?” he asked. “What if a mouse gets in there? “What about dirt?” “think about sleep insects?” Entrusting your apartment up to a apparatus that may inevitably breakdown produces a novel kind of anxiety.

However ask Alexa showing me personally the closet. The bookshelf slides away from the wall, exposing a beautiful, organized nook built to conceal away all of life’s inconvenient mess.

“That is cool,” he stated. He is right. It truly is.