Behind the story of PressIT

PressIT Wireless Presentation System: a novel product stands out in a new business climate

Behind the Product invites Panasonic employees to discuss the development of new product solutions. In Part 1 of our exploration of the PressIT Wireless Presentation System, Lead Engineer Takayuki Kida explains how the pandemic changed the device’s development trajectory and turned a unique product into something even better than expected. Part 2 in this series of interviews on PressIT is published here

PressIT was developed to streamline meetings and lectures. Content from the presenter’s PC can be transmitted to a conference room or classroom display or projector with a single button push. It’s no longer necessary for meeting participants to change seating positions, share a cable, or touch the remote controller.

The pandemic had significant impact on product development with suspended factory operations affecting parts procurement and prototype production. These challenging circumstances inspired the team to deliver a product capable of dramatically enhancing the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of what is becoming an even more precious resource—face-to-face communication.

As the world comes to grips with life during the pandemic, what role will PressIT play in the conference room and beyond? And what’s behind such commitment to the product?

Takayuki Kida

Engineering leader of the PressIT

Also in charge of pro display category including software engineering

Exhaustive development focuses
on product usability

The product we’re discussing today, PressIT, is a Wireless Presentation System. What kind of product is that, exactly?

Takayuki Kida

Have you ever had difficulty connecting your PC when giving a presentation in a meeting room or had images that didn’t appear on screen even though your device was properly connected to the display or projector?

It happens all the time. The connection appears to be good, but for some reason it’s not working … it’s like a stereotypical conference room moment where the gaze of waiting people is almost painful…

Takayuki Kida

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could share your PC screen to a display or projector with a single press of a button?

No, no way! Can you do such a thing?

Takayuki Kida

Yes, you surely can. PressIT is a product that connects a transmitter to your PC or other device and allows you to share content at the touch of a button. It consists of a receiver that connects to the display or projector and a transmitter that connects to the presenter’s PC. When you press a button on the transmitter, the screen of the PC is shown wirelessly on the display or projector screen.

So, you don’t have to connect a cable to your PC, do you. Does dedicated PC software have to be installed in advance on the transmitter side?

Takayuki Kida

No, no software installation is required. Just connect the transmitter and press the button. Just two steps to shoot the image out. That’s it.

Sounds so simple. I thought you had to run an executable file or something…

Takayuki Kida

That’s right. One of the main features is that you don’t have to go through that hassle. There are some features other companies don’t have in terms of ease of use. For example, input switching. With ordinary displays and projectors, you have to connect cables to the PC and then switch inputs.

Right, sometimes I think it’s connected to Input 1, but a “No Input Signal” message appears and I’m at a loss…

Takayuki Kida

PressIT automatically turns on the display or projector* and switches input when you press the transmitter button. There’s no need to operate the remote control.

* Note: HDMI CEC-enabled devices only.

It does that automatically?

Takayuki Kida

We specialize in a form where no matter what you’re doing in any situation, as long as you press the button, you can display the content. This is one of the features we put most effort into developing.

I’ve been wondering about this for a long time. These days, we’re working remotely more often, and we’re growing more concerned about getting together in a conference room. In these circumstances, developing PressIT for face-to-face presentations might not be acceptable…

Exactly, after the state of emergency was declared [in Japan], I was wondering, “Who’s going to buy this?”. I was worried, and even within the team, people were saying, “Can anyone use this?

Your motivation probably dropped?

Takayuki Kida

That’s right [laughs]. But from the beginning of May, I changed my thinking.

Is this related to what you said earlier about putting in more effort after COVID-19 hit?

Takayuki Kida

That’s right. Just before the holidays during the state of emergency, I caught the phrase “social distancing” in conversation with colleagues. Isn’t PressIT, which is used wirelessly, useful for keeping people at a distance in a meeting room? With PressIT, you don’t have to exchange cables by hand or touch the remote control that everyone uses. However, the transmitter may be shared with others, so I hastily added an antibacterial coating to it as well. By pivoting to a concept of “a new age of meeting tools” centered on a need for social distancing and with antibacterial protection, we can make this work! My colleagues’ motivation also increased. By changing my mindset, I was able to move development forward much faster.

A process of trial and error

When did the Press IT project start originally?

Takayuki Kida

This project began in April 2019. We showed a prototype at an exhibition in the United States in June, and our original idea was to incorporate the receiver inside the display. I was pretty discouraged by the feedback … I got a lot of questions from customers, such as, “Is there a receiver that’s not integrated in the display? Can it be connected to a projector? What about mobile device connection?” However, since the prototype was designed only to show images on a display, I couldn’t say it could do what they were asking. I thought, “This isn’t good.” In September, I got our president [Yasuyuki Higuchi, President of Connected Solutions Company] to look at a sample. That’s when I got him interested in the product concept, and that was a decisive factor in restarting development. So, we started again, reworking the design and concept in the fall of 2019.

Display booth at the 2019 exhibition.

You learned about the needs of customers in the United States and decided to start again. But did you have an opportunity to hear the needs of customers in other regions?

Takayuki Kida

I tried something different. PressIT is a new category of product for us, so I decided to share the concept more widely within the company to get people interested. We gathered about 20 people from various departments to discuss what kind of specifications would be best.

Is that something 20 people can just get together and decide on?

Takayuki Kida

No, everyone had different ideas. I was told I gathered too many [laughs]. It was tough… For example, here were many opinions about how many seconds the button should be pressed for. Originally, we were thinking of three seconds to prevent mishaps, but some thought three seconds was too long. We settled on two seconds just yesterday*…

* This interview was conducted in mid-August, 2020.

Yesterday!? It took that long to decide?

Takayuki Kida

Everyone has their own particular preference regarding the product based on the application that most closely corresponds to their area of responsibility. I can understand everyone’s point of view, but it’s difficult to just put that together and say, “I’ll do this.” We discussed it all thoroughly, and then decided on specifications that everyone could agree on.

It’s quite a daunting task ... On the other hand, did you ever have a moment where you thought, “We’re all on the same page?”

Takayuki Kida

A lot of people said they wanted it to be easy and to have the ability to operate it without having to look at anything. Oh, and they also said, “Please make it with just one button.”

But there are two buttons on the transmitter now, aren't there? It would certainly be easier if you could just use one…

Takayuki Kida

That’s true, but the buttons are made with meticulous perfectionism.

Striving for the tactile click of a luxury mouse

Why are there two buttons when the original intention was for a “one-button-to-screen” product?

Takayuki Kida

Main and Sub buttons have different roles. Press the Main button to enable or disable screen sharing and hold it to switch to Lock Mode. Pressing and holding the Sub button turns on Multi Mode so you can easily compare content from different PC screens.

Two buttons occupy the entire surface of the PressIT transmitter. The larger button is designated as Main and the smaller button as Sub.

What is Multi Mode?

Takayuki Kida

It allows you to split the screen into four segments and share content from up to four devices at the same time. At first, quite a few people said that Multi Mode wasn’t necessary. “We don't use it in a conference room,” they said. However, we were also considering usage at universities and other educational institutions, so we really wanted to include Multi Mode. Some in the education field said it’s absolutely necessary for comparing students’ work results side by side. We convinced everyone that Multi Mode would differentiate us from other products, and that’s how we ended up with the product in its current form.

And so now there’s two buttons.

Takayuki Kida

It’s another thing I’m a bit obsessed with... I wanted the buttons to feel like they’re clicking. I wanted it to have that “click” sensation you get when you use a slightly more expensive mouse. Mechanically, it was quite difficult to achieve. Because the buttons cover the entire surface, if you press off-center, the other end of the mouse goes up like a seesaw, and you can’t press the center, which is crucial.

I see, the range of pressing and reacting is limited…

Takayuki Kida

We went through a long process of trial and error to expand the actuation range of the button surface. We were still dissatisfied with the button’s feel, so we made more prototypes at the factory.

Was that okay, considering the schedule?

Takayuki Kida

I was scolded by some, who said, “That’s enough!” [Laughs]. The first prototype was delayed because the factory in China was shut down due to coronavirus, and production of the prototype was pushed back to April.

Even if you’re a month late, you’d be in a bind. I imagine people would be upset if you announced at that point that you’re doing another prototype.

Takayuki Kida

We asked to do another prototype, saying that we’d try our best to keep the release date the same. We managed to work it out and are proceeding with the same release date. The result is a button that will become the face of PressIT, and I’m proud to say this challenge turned out to be a success. We were worried about the reaction of our customers, and were relieved that people instinctively understood how to use the product.

From what I’ve heard, you really put a lot of people’s ideas into every single specification and button.

Takayuki Kida

Everyone who contributed was from within our company, but as long as you view them as typical customers, I want to hear from them. Well, I didn’t expect it to take quite so long to come together, considering there are only two buttons…

Central to meeting room equipment

Come to think of it, I haven’t asked you about picture quality yet, but perhaps this was pursuit of perfection, too?

Takayuki Kida

Of course, high picture quality is a selling point, but speaking of perfectionism, it’s also important that there’s little video latency. Whenever video is sent wirelessly, a slight delay on the receiving side is inevitable compared to the transmission side.

It means there’s a slight delay between the moment you say, “Well, here it is,” and when the image actually appears.

Takayuki Kida

That’s right. Too late, and you have an “Oops!” moment. With PressIT, we worked to reduce delay by using hardware to encode and decode the video. Eliminating any sense of discomfort was a non-negotiable point.

So many features are packed into such a simple, easy-to-use body … the product will go on sale in October, any comment on what’s in store for the future?

Takayuki Kida

As this is our first product, we have done everything we can to make it better. We plan to listen carefully to customer feedback after launch and make improvements accordingly. Actually, we don't want to improve the product so much as we want to make it more advanced.

What would an “evolved PressIT” be like in your mind?

Takayuki Kida

We consider PressIT not only to be a device for wireless image display, but also something that can become “central to the conference room”. As a first step, we developed a function that automatically switches input for you, which can be realized in combination with a Panasonic professional display device. The idea is that you [PressIT] take center stage and change the other party [the display or projector]. We’re still searching for the future, but we’re hoping that PressIT can become that kind of product. Face-to-face meetings facilitate more intimate communication. That said, web conferencing is also evolving rapidly, and I think the trend will be to have fewer face-to-face meetings in conference rooms. I think that elementary and junior high schools will become more of a place to maintain face-to-face communication during the pandemic. PressIT in based on the concept that anyone can use it easily, intelligently, and safely. Whether it’s used in the office or school, we hope it’s useful for enhancing face-to-face communication.

- Interview by Masaki Inoue


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