Enabling efficient collaboration in digital design spaces across time and distance

The goal of the Tele-Board system is to facilitate remote Design Thinking for distributed teams and support Design Thinkers in using their creative potentials and working more efficiently with digital tools.

We developed the Tele-Board system for synchronous and asynchronous design work. To give the essential feeling of really working together, Tele-Board proposes a full screen video behind a synchronized translucent whiteboard surface. To understand the remote team's work, a history browser allows users to easily view past design activities and obtain data for further statistical analyses.


As the Design Thinking Method is becoming increasingly popular and widespread worldwide, Design Thinkers expand their collaborations across regions and continents and are thus geographically dispersed, even across time zones. The visual and haptic components of the work space are so far hard to share over distance and time. Moreover, written documentation and communication work tend to suppress creativity, curiosity, spontaneity, and team experience. It is our goal to design and implement new IT-tools, which really support and optimize collaborative Design Thinking without hindering the team performance during the process.

In the first phase we focused on supporting real-time Design Thinking for teams distributed over different locations. We developed the Tele-Board system which clearly shows the potential of remote Design Thinking by digital means. Through observations and user feedback we discovered that the digital support of Design Thinking activities is not only useful for synchronous and distributed work settings but also valuable for both co-located and distributed asynchronous work. Therefore, we developed the Tele-Board History Browser, a web based interface which gives the opportunity to go back and forth in the timeline of a whiteboard.


The Tele-Board system is an electronic whiteboard software suite which allows users to write digital sticky notes on tablet PCs, smartphones or directly on a whiteboard. One can move the created sticky notes, cluster them and write or draw on the whiteboard. This digital implementation also includes additional features - previously unrealizable by physical tools - such as resizing sticky notes or changing their color. All of the mentioned actions are synchronized automatically and propagated to every connected whiteboard client. To facilitate a real interactive session, we included a video conference feature for distributed team members. The translucent whiteboard can be displayed as an overlay on top of the full screen video of the other team members. This setup allows seeing what the others are doing, where they are pointing and what gestures and facial expressions they are doing.

Features and Equipment

The Tele-Board system consists of different software components, most of them accessible from the Tele-Board webportal. Once you are logged in, you can create projects and so called whiteboard panels on different topics. The history browser inside the portal lets you go back and forth in the timeline of a whiteboard panel and you may also see various statistical analyses of your team's work. To start working at your board you just open the whiteboard client and if your remote team partners do the same, you are automatically connected. You may also start our "Post-it Pad" application from the webportal to write sticky notes on your tabletPC. Or you use our iPhone App or any XMPP chat client to create sticky notes with your finger or keyboard.

The Tele-Board system is hardware independent, meaning that you can choose which devices you prefer for in- and ouput. Nevertheless we collected some suggestions and minimal requirements for the different components in this documentation. The most important hardware for the Tele-Board system is a computer connected to an interactive whiteboard, one pair for each location. The whiteboard should be about the same size as a standard, non-digital whiteboard. Additionally, personal devices should be connected wirelessly for writing post-its, e.g. a chat client, a tablet PC or a Smartphone. Which devices you choose depends on your team’s preferences. For a remote setup you will need a webcam and speakers for each location.

Tele-Board Webportal
Whiteboard Client
Working at the Whiteboard
Smartphone Post-it App
Smartphone Chat Client
TabletPC Application
Statistical Analysis of Whiteboard Usage Areas
Statistical Analysis of Whiteboard Events
Statistical Analysis of Whiteboard Elements

Research Questions

Within the HPI-Stanford Design Thinking Research Program we attempt to answer the following research questions that include, but are not limited to:

  • Do digital tools like Tele-Board provide Design Thinkers with possibilities that do not exist in analog environments? Can they help to work more creatively or efficiently?
  • What can we learn about the Design Thinking process by the use of Tele-Board in concrete Design Thinking projects?
  • Do Design Thinking teams like digital whiteboard solutions like Tele-Board? How does it influence their way of working?
  • What is the value of navigating through a project history and linked information artifacts, and how can we make most use of it?
  • To what extent can the daily handover process of distributed Design Thinking teams - working asynchronously - be improved by identifying critical periods in the project’s timeline?
  • How can digital tools support the synthesis phase of a co-located team, and make it even possible in a distributed setting?

See a presentation of our latest research results at the last HPDTRP workshop on tele-TASK.

Patents and Trademarks

For the Tele-Board system patent applications have been filed in different countries.

  • Gebrauchsmuster (20 2010 004 430.8)
  • EU Trademark Registration (008291891)
  • US-Patent (US 2010/0318470 A1)




  • Lutz Gericke
  • Raja Gumienny
  • Nikolai Wuttke
  • Adrian Klinger
  • Jan Teske
  • Christian Willems
  • Michael Backmann
  • Carsten Baum
  • Markus Dreseler
  • Matthias Quasthoff
  • Ingo Rauth
  • Oliver Böckmann
  • Peter LoBue

Email: tele-board"at"hpi.de
Web: https://tele-board.de

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