The way we work is changing. You’ve likely already encountered some of these innovations: meetings held via video conferencing, BYOD policies, or even increased instances of automation at your workplace. Yet, some of the future possibilities might seem too out-of-this-world to even be possible. One of those innovations might seem like a sci-fi fan’s fantasy, but holograms in the workplace are becoming a distinct possibility. That might seem preposterous, but utilizing such a technology in the future is more likely than you think.
How the Workplace Is Changing
Increase in Remote Work
The world is favoring mobile and remote work. In fact, according to the International Workplace Group, new research shows that 80 percent of workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. As a result, 83 percent of businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy, or are planning to adopt one as of 2019. Working remotely has its benefits; it can increase productivity, cut costs, and end the seemingly constant migration of workers from rural areas to bigger cities where opportunities abound. While these are all positive benefits, of course, they come with some downsides, namely decreased collaboration, and interaction with co-workers, which can lead to social isolation, a lapse in creativity, a smaller chance for a promotion and raise, and more.
The Incorporation of AI and Digital
Artificial intelligence is here to enhance your job, not replace it. AI as much potential to grow the world of work, bringing with it a layer of digital value chain, the automation of the back office and commoditization. While people still fear the possibility that AI is here to steal their jobs, the reality is much more positive. If AI is properly integrated within workspaces, human abilities can be augmented, allowing them to focus on high-level thinking, creativity, and decision-making. In the meantime, machines can help people process, analyze and evaluate the abundance of data that is created by today’s world.
More Collaboration in Mixed Realityd
According to TNW, remote work has been made feasible by the latest generation of technologies, which includes everything from high-speed broadband internet and video conferencing to project management tools and instant messaging. These technologies have increased communication speed and allowed us to stay connected to work by completing projects everywhere from a home office to our bedrooms. Yet, the next generation of tools offers so much more. Expect simulation of the collaboration and co-worker interactions in the traditional workplace. Called “mixed reality,” some companies are working on technologies that portray this new reality. What kind of technologies?
This is where holograms come into play.
Holograms in the Workplace
You’re already familiar with the technologies that allow you to interact with remote workers, such as 2D video conferencing screens. As workers become increasingly dispersed throughout the world, get used to 3D holographic images, avatars, and virtual and augmented reality taking up shop in your office.
German startup HoloMeeting, aims to lead the charge in the future of remote collaboration by developing software for Microsoft Hololens that allows teams to meet, interact, and collaborate via mixed reality. Specifically, HoloMeetings lets companies hold meetings in a shared holographic workspace. Participants are able to share 3D and 2D content, which is visible to everyone else in the meeting. What’s fascinating about this proposed technology is the fact that if a person chooses to walk around the shared workspace, their avatar – holographic shapes that take on the form of the person’s head and shoulders – mimics them, which is visible both to the user and other participants. The meetings themselves mimic a typical office environment. For instance, there is no mute button. People are also free to come and go as they please, which copies a fellow employee unexpectedly dropping by your desk at work.
And the benefits are obvious – virtual meetings reduce the need for office space and air travel, which has a worldwide effect as it minimizes energy use and reduces cost.
How Holograms Work
According to NASDAQ, to create a hologram, you record an object or person in a clean environment with a laser beam. That information is then applied to a recording medium that will clarify the image for the viewer. The laser beam is split into two and redirected at mirrors, with one of the beams directed at the object. A segment of the light reflects off the object and is recorded on the medium. As this is occurring, the second beam, also known as the reference beam, is directed toward the recoding medium, allowing the beams to coordinate and make a precise image in the hologram location. The two laser beams intersect and interfere with each other. The pattern created is imprinted on the recording medium to recreate the 3D image.
And companies are already rolling out their applications for 3D holograms. For instance, Microsoft has its HoloLens headset, Apple utilizes ARKit and Google showcases holograms in ARCore. Soon, other companies will be racing to dominate the AR market.
Holograms are major business and the public is certainly fascinated by them. According to an article on The Conversation, by 2020, the market for genuine, display holograms will be worth $5.5 billion. Again, this is not occurring in some far-reaching future; in fact, holograms are currently being used in the following ways:
One industry that is looking to be an early adopter of virtual communication technologies is the manufacturing sector. Offshore oil and gas are using AR and VR to teleport expert knowledge to wherever is necessary. For instance, senior BT field engineers worked with the University of Essex and used mixed reality headsets to run a trial that involved remotely viewing and advising junior colleagues in different engineering tasks to reduce response times and onboard personnel quickly. According to Professor Hani Hagras, research director at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex, these types of projects will soon become routine in the engineering sector.
Fully dimensional holograms are already being used for improved reconnaissance, as geographic intelligence is highly important to military strategy. 3D holographic maps of “battle-spaces,” which are created using computerized image data and turned into holographic sheets, let soldiers view three-dimensional terrain, peer around “corners,” and most importantly, train for missions. The maps are also helpful in military rescue scenarios and disaster evacuation. This type of technology is easy to use and can be rolled up for easy storage and transportation.
An enormous amount of data is generated by society every day. And holograms have an added benefit of recording pure data and storing an incalculable amount of information. And in an age where cybersecurity is a huge concern, holograms store data in three dimensions so if one page of information is corrupted, you still have the other two layers to draw from. In this way, holograms offer a special kind of long-term security.
Thanks to holograms, new tools can be utilized for visualizing patient data and training surgeons and students. Using advanced imaging technology, current systems like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and ultrasound scans produce complex data using advanced imaging technology. This technology is able to produce full color, computer-generated 3D holograms. When 3D images are used for training and display, holograms don’t need viewing devices or glasses. Students and doctors can merely “view,” uninterrupted, the three dimensional images, which can include complex organs and systems of the body, like the heart, lungs, liver, brain, nerves and muscles.
Fraud and Security
Hologram are advanced and difficult to create, which gives them an advantage when it comes to commercial security. Already, credit cards are utilizing holograms. As explained by NASDAQ, holograms on credit cards can be found in the small silver rectangles or ovals usually found on credit cards’ backs, which are white-light, mirror-backed transmission holograms. They display a three-dimensional image that is visible to the viewer as he or she moves the card from side to side and changes color as the card is tilted up and down. These holograms are very difficult to forge. In addition to credit cards, bank notes are also starting to incorporate secure holograms. An example of this can be found in the UK, as the newest £5 bank note features an image of Big Ben and uses holography to produce a set of changing colors as the note is tilted. Further, there is a 3D image of the coronation crown “floating” above the note when tilted.
Artists around the world are using three-dimensional holograms to combine collections of still images or video to produce 3D animated works, bend and cut space, and to sculpt light.
Future Technology Must Collaborate
Once new technologies, like AR and artificial intelligence, are combined, they can create new technologies and new possibilities for co-working, training, education, and communication.
Yet, there are barriers to address when it comes to widespread adoption. Employees will need to consent to having their every movement recorded and further, wearers will have to figure out how to write notes with their headsets on. While mixed reality via holograms can do a lot for us, there are clearly still practical and privacy concerns that need to be addressed.
Despite these setbacks and concerns, a new consumer trends report by Ericsson learned that most of the respondents expect mixed reality and a full internet-driven sensory experience in the future. Fascinatingly enough, by 2030, more than half imagine the difference between physical and digital reality will almost disappear. This prediction may be due to the fact that interconnectivity, the cloud, AI, 5G, sensors and faster processing, virtual communication technologies are the future. In fact, that development is moving faster now than it has in the last ten years.
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