The Tech-enabled Workplace
According to Ozamu Tezuka’s Astroboy, cars are now supposed to hover. As for hovering, it’s been four years since Back to the Future predicted actual hovering hoverboards, but they did nail self-lacing shoes. Unfortunately, some tech predictions don’t always work out as predicted, as technology moves at a slower pace than fiction. But we’re getting there in terms of other things, such as communication, work paradigms, architecture and engineering.
Early adopters try to push the limits hoping that innovations will take off and improve further, and they’re the best people and places to see for a glimpse of the future. Many companies have already adopted modern paradigms to become more efficient, eco-friendly and worker-friendly such as the removal of cubicles, open layouts, teleconferencing, telecommuting and simultaneous work online collaboration. The following are examples of what the future has in store.
Energy-Efficient, Eco-friendly Buildings
Let’s start with the workspace. Are you familiar with the LEED Certification? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which adopters try to achieve by having sustainable office buildings such as self-power generation through solar panels, efficient illumination by design, water consumption reductions and efficient HVAC systems. One such example is the Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland which is LEED Platinum certified. There’s also One Bryant Park in New York and the Facebook HQ in California.
Again, Hollywood overestimates the future with computer interfaces such as those used by Iron Man. We’re practically there thanks to Augmented Reality (the display of interactive virtual objects over a physical environment) and Virtual Reality (immersion of oneself in a virtual environment). A company called Parametric Technology Corporation has adopted Microsoft’s Hololens technology to provide training solutions to industrial customers. Volvo has also adopted the Hololens to help customers in buying their cars. Volkswagen has also invested heavily into AR and VR for safety and navigation on a project that makes use of suspended AR interfaces and gestures. HumanSim is a company that uses VR to provide advanced training in healthcare.
The holographic conferencing technology made popular by the Star Wars franchise will soon be a reality thanks to Vodafone and 5G technology. Vodafone has demonstrated its holographic system on stage where a soccer fan conversed with the holographic image of Steph Houghton, captain of both the England national and Manchester City football teams. Human Media Lab’s Telehuman 2 project also seeks to revolutionize video-conferencing to the style seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier where 3D human-size images are projected onto tubes where the projected image can be seen from all angles.
The Modern Office
We’ve heard stories that Google offices provide the ideal work environment, which is true if you look up photos of their offices. There are walk-in video conference rooms, collaborative work spaces, recreational areas and privacy pods to relieve stress, beanbag chairs and a playful aesthetic. Other such offices include the Selgas Cano Architecture Office in Madrid, Spain and the DropBox office in New York City.
Thanks to advances in communication which allowed us to work remotely, the location of the workspace is now practically location independent for many industries. More and more companies are adopting telecommuting, plus the advances and adoption of advanced collaboration tools such as Trello and Slack, distance will no longer be a mitigating factor in getting work done.