Virtual cakes and mind reading – Is this the workplace of the future?

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We love cake and we’re sure many of our readers do as well. Sure pies and flans are cool, but nothing beats a slice of cake.

But what if we told you that the tradition of office cake on a colleagues birthday could become a virtual affair?

That doesn’t seem all that strange given the fact that many workers are working from home alone.

However, a virtual cake that you can taste is something white-collar workers want in the office of the future according to Ericsson IndustryLab’s report, The Dematerialized Office [PDF].

A bit of forewarning, many of these visions are so bizarre they border on laughable. That having been said, if you told us in 2010 that we’d all have super fast internet access in our pockets, we’d have laughed at you then as well. As such we’re reporting on this because it’s part interesting and part fun.

A survey of 8 400 workers who are early adopters of AR, VR or virtual assistants from 16 countries was conducted to see what expectations employees might have of the office space in 2030.

The most bizarre of these expectations is “an internet of senses for work”.

Rather than working from an office, employees envision working from home while having a full sense presence at work. This means having a sensory experience as if you were at work but from home. Why anybody would want to feel as if they are at work from home is bizarre.

Something that makes more sense from the Ericsson report is the fact that digital meetings need to evolve. Many firms were forced to adopt an all digital strategy with little to no warning. This lead to many less than ideal situations and within weeks, videoconferencing fatigue set in.

“After months of working on their computers at home, constantly engaged in video meetings in their sometimes-chaotic home environments, nearly 6 in 10 [respondents] foresee a permanent increase in online meetings. They are also realising that while connectivity is more important than ever before, digital meetings need to evolve before they become as effective as the real thing. There is simply a need for tools that better support remote interaction,” reports Ericsson.

What those tools look like remains to be seen but we can’t help but wonder what a digital meeting could look like in 2021.

If you thought a full sensory office experience at home was strange, how about digitally enhanced food?

Of the respondents in senior management, 73 percent believe that by 2030 the office canteen’s food can be digitally enhanced to taste like anything. This could help keep costs down while keeping perceived quality high though, if we’re honest, we eat with our eyes so even if slop tastes like lobster, it’s still slop.

Something that is both bizarre and worthy of consideration is how privacy and security will be handled by 2030.

“As digital interaction moves beyond sound and vision to incorporate all our senses, and potentially also enables functionality such as thought control of devices, the avenues for fraud, manipulation and identity theft will grow exponentially. While 66 percent think that by 2030, technology will enable them to sense when a colleague is upset, that also means their employer will know when they themselves are upset. The challenge will be in finding a balance that allows for fast adoption of digital technology in the workplace, while also respecting the integrity of employees,” writes Ericsson.

This all sounds very much like Ericsson took a leaflet out of a booklet from the 1960s discussing the future that awaits us in 2020.

But, there is some degree of realism to what is being suggested here.

Virtual scents are already a reality, and there is not denying that digital meetings need an update. Food tasting like better food though? That’s something that just seems impossible to us right now.

Impossible however is something that can be overcome with time and enough budget and we won’t deny that a slice of virtual cake that we can taste is a pretty awesome prospect.

[Original Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.