Let’s be honest, we don’t currently have the tools that can really help distributed teams work together as effectively as when they’re in the same room.
That’s because we’ve evolved how we work together in person, but technology hasn’t kept up. Work meetings now are often 'brainstorming sessions' and very interactive.
But how does this interactivity play out in the virtual world? There are plenty of online whiteboard platforms, but given the choice between a browser-based online platform and physical objects, we’ve seen the physical space win out every time.
Creativity is stimulated by physical action, actually grabbing the sharpie and not feeling inhibited by a keyboard or mouse interface.
Of course, the physical whiteboard has a few critical shortcomings. It’s either unviewable or uneditable by remote participants and even if everyone is physically in the room, at the end of the meeting what’s left on the wall must be collected and transcribed.
In the future, we'll bring the physical experience of creating into the virtual space. Because it marries the physical and the virtual, this will be a mixed reality state.
Mixed reality meets wearables
There are many predictions about the future of virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality removes us from the physical world around us. Augmented reality layers digital content atop the physical space. And mixed reality allows us to interact with virtual content that is present in our physical space.
In the case of mixed reality for business purposes, there are clearer benefits and less social stigma
This is how we will collaborate in the future – not because we have to accommodate for remote workers in a sub-optimal environment – but because it is the absolute best way to get work done. We'll see the benefits of both digital and physical collaboration.
In order for participants to engage with augmented or mixed reality states, they’re going to need some special gear. Although Google Glass saw some negative consumer reaction, it was realised as a consumer application.
In the case of mixed reality for business purposes, there are clearer benefits and less social stigma. We’ve already seen wearables gain adoption in industrial settings, and the collision of lower prices and clear productivity benefits will result in adoption in the workplace.
We already need to put on audio headsets to collaborate with our remote coworkers, so completely distributed teams will be the first to recognize the clear benefits of augmented reality.
Their current reality, staring at small floating heads on a computer screen, leaves a lot of room for improvement.
The adoption curve
The basics of product design tells us that we should aim to solve critical pain points for a specific customer, so virtual reality will hit fully distributed teams first.
They have specific challenges related to interaction with others to be addressed. They’re also more likely to be in a culture of early adopters, since the trend of fully distributed teams is itself a newer way of working.
Economically, there is an opportunity here. These new companies don’t have the overhead of physical offices, so a device purchase is likely not prohibitive.
The next wave of adoption will come from co-located teams that really value teamwork and collaboration. While this will be a much larger market to tap into, the positioning will have to be different.
This is not a group that needs to collaborate with remote workers; instead, benefits of efficiencies and improved communication will have to lead. Many of the advances with virtual assistants and voice interfaces can help here.
What if you could remove the “note-taker” role from meetings so that everyone could focus on each other and participate actively? This is how technology can augment what we already do and actually help us engage more fully.
The final, trickiest business segment to be conquered by mixed reality is the businesses with an equal mix of co-located and remote employees. This is because each distinct sub-segment has its own “most critical problem” and context, and a single interface won’t meet all their needs – at least, not yet.
For that, we will have to wait for the platform to support both use cases, blending together the best solutions for each situation to revolutionize how we engage with our colleagues.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.