Combine this with the freedom to do our business from anywhere we choose — thanks to the Cloud and relaxing work policies— and we’re set for a monumental shift in the way we get stuff done.
As someone who works remotely, AR couldn’t come too soon. The Cloud may have offered us the freedom to work from anywhere — home, office, or beach — but it has far from freed us from the shackles of conventional, corporate working life. The working life of your typical remote worker or ‘digital nomad’ is actually not that much different to your average 9–5 office dweller.
This is because even though they’ve managed to escape the many limitations of the rat race — things like fixed working hours, meetings, and a formal dress code—they still haven’t escaped one thing:
Just like an office dweller, the workplace of a remote worker is shaped around the limitations and practicalities of desktop computers and rectangular plastic screens. Even the most cutting edge co-working spaces are little more than your standard office with a ping pong table and more beards and flip flops.
Some super cool digital nomads may work from their tablet or phone using their fold-out wireless keyboards, but who are they kidding? When it comes to getting any serious work done, you still need to find an office-like desk setup and a fat, heavy screen for the job.
As long as the way in which we interact with the internet is through a restricted window that sits in physical space, this will be the reality of how we work. The dream of being completely free from the corporate world is still just a dream.
But not for long.
Thanks to AR, we’re moving ever closer to seeing the internet for what it really is: an alternate reality that can be entered and experienced in complete immersion. A bit like going to France.
Of course, sporting a high-tech pair of spectacles to experience this reality isn’t exactly the best— or sexiest — solution (companies like Samsung and Google are already working on contact lenses). But it will be a huge step forward from desk-bound devices. And by doing away with the desk, a freer and more engaging workplace will be able to emerge.
Not to mention it’s about time something replaced our current outdated model of work that was born when companies didn’t have Slack or email (if they were lucky they had a landline and a fax machine).
So what might this new AR or mixed reality workplace look like?
1. Infinitely expansive working environments
With the laws of physics thrown out the window, gravity can be defied, and workplaces can expand beyond the size of the screen. 3-dimensional floating windows, icons, documents, maps, diagrams, elephants—pretty much anything you can imagine will occupy the space around you. Even physical objects like chairs and walls will become digital interfaces.
2. A deeper level of communication
The way we interact with one another has moved way beyond words and facial expressions. Emojis, GIFs, photos, videos, memes—these are just some of the means we use every day to enrich our conversations and build deeper, more meaningful relationships. In augmented reality, they’ll be just a flick of the eye or a subtle gesture away.
Such convenience will make media instrumental in breaking down the social and cultural barriers of speech. And you can bet it won’t be long before using emojis in physical life becomes as natural as movements like nodding your head and raising your eyebrows.
3. Freedom of location and movement
Alternate seating like standing desks will really take off when we’re liberated from the screen. And when not engaging in intense work, say when taking a video call or virtually attending a conference, we’ll be free to move around and take our business outside of the office.
Not being tied to the desk will be enjoyed most by creatives like designers and engineers, who’ll be able to manipulate objects and picture concepts in situ. Many will never have to see the inside of an office again.
4. A TRUE co-working space
In a typical co-working space, nobody really knows what anyone else is working on unless they take a sneaky peer over their shoulders. With AR, the working experience will be a lot more open and shareable.
Imagine a writer working on a book, virtual pages scattered over her head, chunks of text in red, and hundreds of notes pinned in the air. If the space is open or shared with other workers, they’ll be able to add comments at their leisure or even just stamp a few emojis of encouragement on parts they like most.
5. Superhuman productivity and experiences
AR will work wonders for increasing productivity in the workplace. And as greater productivity translates to greater revenue, this is great news for business. The impact AR will have on a company’s bottom line has caused many to already invest in and adopt the technology, speeding up its development and getting it into the hands of people like you and me sooner.
Greater productivity is also, of course, great news for us. But what’s most exciting is the experiences and environments AR will present us with. Working in AR will not only be a pleasure but a thrill — some good examples being what they’re doing with Portal at Microsoft and the vibrating jumpsuits and clever transitioning experiences showcased at this year’s Sundance festival.
Probably the closest idea of what an AR future may look like is the short and slightly (ok, very) dystopian film ‘Hyperreality’. But really this does nothing to communicate just how amazing it will look, feel, smell, and be like.