The pandemic seems to have enhanced our sensory perception, paving the way for new Internet experiences
Imagine a virtual workplace that automatically changes depending on what you need to do. It might give you a big display when you are retouching a video, or a haptic keyboard and thesaurus for writing a report. Imagine, digitally sensing your colleague’s anxiety over a tough deadline; imagine you can feel, and even smell things over the Internet. The pandemic has been a tipping point for reimagining the office, and we would soon be working in the ‘dematerialized’ office, one in which we interact professionally entirely in virtual realms rather than physical offices outside of our homes, as the Internet of Senses becomes a reality.
5G to enable full Internet of Senses
During isolation people everywhere are rediscovering the importance of the smells and the flavours and the sheer physicality of the locations they normally frequent and do business in. In fact, the pandemic has created a tipping point for what white collar workers expect of the future digital office. This is driving a demand for ‘realistic immersion’ which means going beyond video and sound, beyond AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality); it also means digitally communicating touch, taste, smell, and the feeling of heat or cold. Ericsson Research envisions that a decade from now, advanced technology and 5G networks could enable such a full internet of senses.
Office work will not go back to the way it was before the pandemic. Instead, employees will spend more time working digitally and, for this reason, drive the need for future technologies on a scale and at a pace that was unimaginable only a year ago. Rather than just letting us pull up a virtual computer screen in thin air, the experience could become all-inclusive, covering coffee breaks, social experiences, and a digital commute – the dematerialised office.
Walking the streets of Pompeii with colleagues virtually
One of the things we missed during remote working is team building this has made Dematerialized team building Team building with colleagues even more important. A survey by Ericsson found that, 55% of AR/VR users and 49% of all respondents would, for example, like to go with their colleagues on a digital team-building trip to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, walk its streets, taste ancient street food and experience a traditional bath. Imagine that Vesuvius suddenly erupted, the plumes of volcanic ash showering the city and the scorching heat as the city becomes engulfed in lava. It would certainly be something to talk about around the virtual water cooler later. And although only 30% of those who do not plan to use AR/VR are interested in playing immersive virtual football during work breaks, those who are into AR/VR are much more positive, driving up the interest to 48% of all respondents.
Digital touch, earphones which translate in any language
Technologies are already available and are being developed to turn this sci-fi vision into reality. A few years ago, a piano teacher using haptic gloves was able to train a student sitting in another continent. The student felt the touch of the teacher guiding his hands over the keys when their haptic gloves were connected. Remote surgery by doctors manoeuvring robotic arms from hundreds of miles away is already a possibility.
Digital touch tech will be available by 2030. Smartphone screens that give you the sensation of feeling the shape and texture of digital icons and buttons. Earphones that convey the physical impact of machinery sounds when virtually visiting a production facility. A wearable device that uses online weather forecasts so that you can feel the oncoming weather, such as the amount of wind or rain you are exposed to on your commute or on a customer visit
Earphones that automatically and flawlessly translate between languages using the sound of your own voice. You can call anyone in the world in any language and sound just like yourself. A headband that enables a hearing-impaired person to work and interact perfectly by transmitting sounds directly to the brain. A microphone that perfectly transforms the sound of your voice into someone else’s voice. You could, for example, take on any voice when receiving a customer support call.
Digital technology to make you feel the temperature
Spatial video tech is a given Spatial video services expected to be in use by 2030 AR/VR meetings that replicate your actual work environments and not just the faces of participants. A wearable device that uses digital technology to make you feel cool even when it is very hot where you are, such as in an office or conference room. An add-on to AR/VR glasses that lets you remotely experience the temperature in a warehouse or in a customer’s premises. A device that cools or heats your body to mimic an environment you visit digitally, such as an office abroad or a customer’s premises.
Built in smell sensors at the office automatically alerting the facilities management that for example a specific waste basket needs emptying. The ability to digitally convey the scent of food, clothes and even shoes for marketing purposes. A service that enables you to digitally convey what you are smelling such as the fresh interior of a new car while demonstrating it online to customers. Thought-based interfaces that give you the ability to think commands to open documents or navigate your virtual environment, are also emerging as a distinct possibility.
Lines between thinking and doing will blur
Many predict that by 2030, the lines between thinking and doing will blur. Fifty-nine% of consumers believe that we will be able to see map routes on VR glasses by simply thinking of a destination. By 2030, technology is set to respond to our thoughts, and even share them with others. Think what that will mean; think, and that will mean.
According to the 10 Hot Consumer Trends Report, Using the brain as an interface could mean the end of keyboards, mice, game controllers, and ultimately user interfaces for any digital device. The user needs to only think about the commands, and they will just happen. Smartphones could even function without touch screens. According to the report, this opens up new device categories with entirely new interaction paradigms. Consumers are expecting that thinking show map would display a map right before their eyes. They also expect to be able to search for routes simply by thinking of the destination. Once all these technologies evolve and mature, then the idea of our offices, the workplaces would be truly dematerialized. Ten years from now, the workplace could look, feel, and even smell, very different than it does today.