Back in 1975, while most desks were still furnished with manual typewriters, technology pundits were making their predictions on the future of computers in the workplace. Computers showed tremendous potential for word processing and automation, they said, but would they really ever be user-friendly enough for general use?
Despite ominous forecasts from typewriter executives, we all know how this story ends. And a slew of other innovations have followed: the Internet, email, smartphones, Wi-Fi, GPS, and many more.
What revolutionary technologies are on the radar today? Here are five technologies that today’s experts are discussing and could very well be commonplace in offices by 2020.
Remote Workers as Robots
Yahoo ’s CEO Marissa Mayer caused a media frenzy earlier this year when she declared that employees would no longer be allowed to work remotely. But in 2020, advances in the speed of Internet connections and mobile phone networks are expected to lead to an increase in telecommuting, and technology will need to keep pace.
That’s where technologies like Suitable Technologies Beam telepresence robot play a part. The 5-foot robot has a screen that will beam a video-stream of a remote worker. The remote worker can even control the robot to move around the office, and microphones and cameras on the robot keep them in the loop of everything happening closeby.
Right now, we can access apps for voice or facial recognition. But in 2020, this technology will have advanced and be ubiquitous, at least according to Microsoft’s Envisioning Centre, which showcases the company’s research in big data, gesture control and machine learning.
During a phone conversation, for instance, voice recognition will be constantly running in the background to pick out context — such as the mention of a meeting, which it will then add to your calendar. It could also be used for real-time translations.
And, for your computing devices, a password won’t be necessary since front-facing cameras will use facial recognition to keep others out.
If your job involves design, you may soon find yourself with a 3-D printer on your desk. The technology creates 3-dimensional objects by adding material, such as plastic, layer-by-layer, based on a computer generated design until an object has been formed.
It allows designers to quickly prototype concepts right at their desks, meaning faster prototype iterations and a better chance they’ll catch design errors earlyon. It also means they can create custom objects — such as prostheses — much cheaper than conventional manufacturing.
The future is in our hands. Cutting-edge gesture control devices allow users to control their computers with natural hand gestures, rather than fiddling with a mouse and keyboard.
While the technology is still new, device manufactures are starting to take note; just this month HP announced it would integrate Leap Motion Controller’s gesture technology into select computers. The device uses infrared LED lights and cameras to detect hand gestures with up to a millimeter of accuracy, which it converts into computer commands on screen.
The technology is expected to lead to a much more natural experience interacting with computers. For example, while giving a presentation, presenters could change slides with a simple gesture rather than walking over to their laptops to hit a button.
Wearable Enhanced Reality
Our smartphones and tablets help us take photos, video and get directions, but in 2020, it will be the devices we wear that we will turn to first.
Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display slated to launch later this year, although some lucky early adopters are already using the device. It allows them to overlay helpful information onto the real world, such as directions, and take photos directly from the device.
While it may be several years before these technologies become rampant in the workplace, IT professionals can start preparing now by making sure high-speed broadband and video networks are in place, in addition to configuring their cloud hosting platforms, which will be useful in processing and storing data captured by sensors. So get ready – the future is coming, and it will be more high tech than ever before.