Augmented reality. Virtual reality. Holographic computing. Dynamic morphing geometry.
These aren’t terms from science fiction. They aren’t even topics reserved for niche technology blogs anymore. These terms are quickly becoming the mainstream technology trends of the day, and they are poised to have an incredible impact on all sectors. In fact, a recent study by Digi-Capital estimates that the augmented reality and virtual reality markets will combine for a staggering $150 billion by 2020, disrupting the mobile space and redefining how we interact with technology.
It’s too early to know exactly how or when these technologies will start to infiltrate the workplace, but it’s only a matter of time. Even if products like Oculus are currently aimed squarely at gaming and recreation, the same wave of consumerization and exploration that made BYOD and BYOA such forces in business will take hold in VR, AR and more.
More Than Just Toys
As I mentioned, it would be easy to dismiss a lot of this tech as parlor tricks or recreational tools that have no place in business. And yet, some major business software players are already exploring the space, most notably Microsoft. The tech giant revealed a number of new products at an event in January, the most surprising of which was HoloLens, an augmented reality headset that allows for interaction with holographic images superimposed over your immediate environment.
Again, games were on display through Microsoft’s own Minecraft, and I think they’ll continue to be one of the easiest entry points for these technologies. But Microsoft’s vision clearly includes the workplace and they’re building the next version of Windows with this seemingly far-fetched technology in mind.
Google, another company with a vested interest in the workplace, made waves when it invested over $500 million in Magic Leap, whose recently released tech demo showed an office brought to life with augmented reality:
While the tech powering Magic Leap remains a bit of a mystery, it’s clear through this video that the workplace is squarely in their sights; the focus on email, apps and tools (as well as setting the video in an actual office) speaks volumes on how they see the technology being implemented and utilized.
The Meetings of the Future
As collaboration innovators, it’s hard not to imagine the role these kinds of technologies will play in the meetings of the future. Full-blown virtual reality will let you fully immerse yourself in meetings in other locations, take walking tours of remote offices or examine in-process projects from across the globe. Augmented reality will put your remote colleagues around the conference table in front of you or let them annotate a physical object or prototype right in front of your eyes.
Even our in-person meetings will likely start looking like something out of a space opera. New research is being done on dynamic physical content and morphing geometry that will redefine data visualization, even if we’re in the same room. Your charts and graphs will literally leap off your tablet to be freely, physically manipulated. We’ll marry the physical world with the virtual, combining the tangible experience of interacting with the physical with the ease of creation and portability of the virtual.
It’s fun to imagine the possibilities these technologies will create for work and for play. One of the reasons why I think games are often the entry point is that, in a way, these technologies bring out the kid in all of us, the awe and wonder that gadgets once held for us all that has been lost in our now hyper-connected society. In the meantime, we’ll continue bringing PGi’s innovations to the meetings of today, but always with an eye on the horizon.