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VR meetings, robot colleagues, and wearable passwords: Is this the workplace of the future?

Effective use of technology in the workplace has enhanced remote working, streamlined workloads, and helped employees to excel. Further developments are set to see us working with, and alongside tech in a whole new way. Lisa Moon from Hitachi, tells us more.

Robot colleagues

Artificial intelligence in the workplace means that monotonous tasks can now be automated, freeing up human workers to upskill and take of more creative and strategic roles.

AI technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with online chatbots now able to hold realistic and natural conversations with humans. Beyond this, artificial intelligence has become life-like in its use of spoken language and conversation skills. At their recent conference, Google demoed their latest edition of Google Assistant, Duplex. As part of his demonstration, CEO Sundar Pichai showed Duplex booking phone call as naturally as a PA would.

The iPal robot has been developed to supplement children’s education, with engaging programs that promote social development and learning. Future editions are set to be put to work in the care and hospitality industries — meeting and greeting customers, and providing a concierge service. iPal is both capable of being a companion and performing duties of care, such as providing security with medical emergency monitoring.

We’re now even seeing the development of robots with personalities. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have already employed one such member of staff with their receptionist robot, ‘Nadine’, who is said to exhibit mood and emotion.

It is thought that humans will respond better to a robot that shows personality traits and emotion – particularly if we are going to be working side by side with them.

Virtual Reality Meetings

Offices of the future will make use of virtual reality (VR) and holograms for meetings which could bring substantial benefits for businesses.

VR meetings will offer employees flexibility. It is predicted that half of the UK workforce will work remotely as soon as 2020. By using VR technology, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, face-to-face meetings can take place, despite being anywhere in the world.

A challenger to HoloLens’ market domination, ‘Lightware’, hit the tech world headlines earlier this year. After six years in the making, and at a cost of $2 billion, the “Creator Edition” of the headset from little-known company, Magic Leap, was unveiled in December. The rumour is that Apple might acquire Magic Leap, however, this is currently little more than speculation from Gene Munster, Apple analyst. The benefit to Apple being the acceleration of its own AR goggle development.

The cost of VR technology will be deciding factor for many companies. That said, savings on travel, accommodation and venue hire could soon see VR tech paying for itself.

By being able to conduct meetings from anywhere, the constraints of accessibility, and national and international travel are removed. The world is brought together. In this way, virtual reality meetings can allow SMEs to accelerate.

Wearable passwords

It’s been reported that seven in ten people no longer trust passwords to protect their online accounts. With data hacks an all-too-regular occurrence, it is not any wonder. But the days of replacing o’s with 0’s and i’s with 1’s to form a ‘crypt1c_123’ password are going to be long behind us thanks to biometric technology.

Nymi bands use our electrocardiogram (ECG), which is as unique as our fingerprint, via a wristband as authentication. By wearing the Nymi Band and enabling Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC), login information can securely be relayed to the provisioned devices in close proximity.

This form of ‘wearable password’ is more secure, and removes the frustration of forgetting a password. In terms of application, Nymi say that their band is “an ideal solution for industrial IoT applications, where there is a strong need for strong data integrity without compromising productivity.”

The future for our workplaces

Our workplaces are set to see some seismic shifts in their use of technology. Virtual reality will transform the connectivity of the business world, and wearable tech will go see authentication and access become effortless.

Undoubtedly, there are roles in our workplaces that could be performed far more efficiently by a robot. But far from replacing humans, utilising technology to automate work will create an environment where staff can thrive.