The future of work is virtual

Originally posted at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/future-work-virtual-linda-ricci

#longpost #musing #futureofwork #XR #virtualreality

When #Covid first hit, I don’t think anyone could foresee just how huge – and ultimately, permanent – its impact would be. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ramifications, through the lens of XR among others (but ultimately, rooted in human behavior!).

From the beginning it seems apparent that many businesses would realize that a #distributedworkforce not only often works, but is an attractive option: cheaper than maintaining office space, but also the ability to recruit talent from anywhere. For people, many now prefer the humanity of #workingfromhome. Cue the home designer of the future, who will have to make sure that “work space” is built into living spaces of the future. Also, can only imagine the impact on human migration! If you can live anywhere, why wouldn’t you?!

But our technology to do so is adapted from the before times. We lose a sense of community when interactions are limited to Brady Bunch-style #zoom calls, let alone all the “soft interactions” that came from running into someone in the hall, or sharing lunch time in the break room. It’s difficult to harness soft skills when there is no informal interactions.

Virtual Reality has the ability to recreate that sense of community with 3D environments where people can interact much more like they would naturally. Platforms like ENGAGE XR Holdings Plc and Spatial are emerging to provide those environments; it is surprising how easily you interact and engage with others. They call it embodiment, & it’s real: someone might physically be thousands of miles away, yet you feel like you’re standing next to them. NB I’ve honestly had more *real* conversations with people/avatars in virtual reality than I’ve even had in a group on Zoom.

Not only that, but you can share visual assets and experiences just like the real world. Brainstorm with everyone posting visuals on a board, or gather around a 3d prototype, which everyone can walk around and try out – it’s so much more than just sitting around a virtual table together.

{Big} Companies are starting to create immersive spaces that replicate their offices, as they are dealing with new employees who’ve never met anyone in the company – and are not gelling and/or feeling like part of the company. Creating a sense of belonging is important to keep people productive and happy.

The future is quite clearly being brought to you by technology that will enable geographically distributed workforces to succeed. Send a new employee a computer, comfy chair and headset – no cubicle needed! Enhancing our lives, IMHO. A win for people, a win for companies. Not so much for commercial real estate.

Augmented reality (#AR), virtual reality (#VR), Internet of Things (#IoT) & Artificial intelligence (#AI) are increasingly converging to bring us the future where we seamlessly move between reality and digital, where digital will overlay and enhance our daily experience, and where real human connections will be forged across a still very large planet.

That’s it for today out loud musing. A lot more to say though.

Note: I did not use the word #Metaverse. Intentionally. Because all of this is part of our enhanced digital future – hence, the Metaverse. “Meta”verse. Another dimension to our reality, brought to you by a set of  interconnected digital / sometimes immersive experiences. I’m a bit allergic to all the hype though. It’s a real concept that will really happen – but not as many think.

That’s another #reallylongpost.

A journalist asks: XR predictions for 2022


I was asked by a journalist to answer the question, “What do you see as the biggest trends in AR/VR/XR in 2022?” – and although I typically think a little further out than that, here are some of my thoughts on the matter. I took out the bits he’s using in the article, and will post links to that when it comes out – but these are what I think some of the most important short term trends for XR will be next year.

Work: The work at home will continue in 2022, and companies will increasingly realize that distributed workforce can work in many situations and for many industries (and is cheaper than paying for office space). Zoom fatigue is real though, and 2022 will see companies trying out the new VR collaboration spaces like Spatial.io, Arthur, Engage and others to foster a remote yet together sense of camaraderie and collaboration.

Look to see some of the bigger names in the industry announcing official “virtual” offices. This will in turn bring new consumers to try VR, where they might not have been willing before; see this in turn spur the creation of a bunch of new VR applications that are not about gaming. Avatar customization will in turn be a hot area of development; expect an announcement in 2022 for cross platform avatars that will allow consumers to create avatars they can use on multiple platforms.

Advertising: Brands will continue to explore what augmented reality can add to the existing marketing funnel, and the experiences that can enhance the brand-customer relationship. People are already getting used to AR through Snap and other lenses; a few advertisers have started integrating XR into their advertising campaigns, expect to see this trend continue and grow.

In addition to just fun, social AR will start to be explored, building on the momentum around existing fandom or mega experiences (such as Pepsi did at the SuperBowl this year) – and brands will explore different paths to brand engagement via AR and packaging, including small games that may include a social component as well.

Retail: In-store retail has seen huge strides in using augmented reality to help sell makeup; expect this both in-store and as part of ecommerce – expanding to include other products such as jewelry, shoes, and accessories. Although there are huge strides in virtual try-ons, I see the focus in the next year being more on items that don’t have sizing /fit requirements.

Socializing and attending events in virtual spaces will expand from being a somewhat niche thing to something that enters the mainstream. Fortnite has dedicated a virtual space to concerts, while performers are able to perform “live” in front of crowds of avatars via Holoportation from around the world; Reggie Watts performed live stand up in AltspaceVR, and Jean Michel Jarre performed a live concert in VR while in a reconstructed Notre Dame.

Look for more of this in 2022, bringing live concerts to people without worrying about location and the logistics of putting on a live event are two very strong incentives, particularly given the continuing issues with Covid-19.

Cross industry partnerships will continue to surprise, and blur boundaries. Entertainment companies have already started partnering with gaming companies, apparel companies with gaming companies (albeit so far, mostly luxury brands – other than Nike’s latest Roblox partnership, which is a harbinger of more to come). In 2022 I expect to see announcements around entertainment companies (Netflix – particularly since they just launched a game platform for mobile – as well as the more “traditional” networks) partnering with retailers and brands as what we watch and what it on screen merges with what we can “experience” and ultimately, buy. That “interactive television” we’ve been talking about for 2 decades now will become more of a reality, as AR will provide the 3D digital interface to bring the products we’re watching to our living rooms, and enhance the watching experience.

Some of this will be fueled by NFTs / digital assets. I expect more consumer brands to jump on the bandwagon and start selling branded art, apparel and accessories for use in virtual worlds (2021 will be too early to see much adoption of wearing of virtual items in the real world via AR – I think that will happen when we see viable AR glasses that we wear throughout the day). I think they hype will die down a bit although NFTs as a mechanism to track digital authorship, ownership and authenticity is here to stay. I’d love to see that combined with a mechanism that actually permanently and immutably digitally watermarks items a la what Adobe is trying to do so the ownership information isn’t separately on a ledger somewhere, but permanently tied to the digital asset – but that is for another post.

And finally – Facebook (Meta) has brought the concept of the Metaverse to the average consumer, creating a lot of curiosity about what that means. Although the concept is not new, it does seem on everyone’s mind now, not just people in the industry. Until we have interoperability standards for hardware and software, content will continue to be siloed. Given people’s increasing dissatisfaction with Meta’s data and privacy issues, I believe there will be startups focused on providing experiences – both AR and VR – that are NOT part of the current walled gardens system, but will attract the curious there.

The end of loneliness

Reposted from linkedin


Heard a really sweet story today by Donna Z. Davis, Ph.D. at AWE (Augmented World Expo): she told the audience about an elderly woman with Parkinson’s, who regularly “meets” her tuxedo clad physically distant son (avatar) in VR to go dancing with him. *That’s* the power of VR for me. Not the whiz bang isn’t it cool game stuff, it’s the human element – and how much better it can make people’s lives. On the We Get Real AF Podcast (airing in June) I was asked what I thought the ultimate benefit of VR would be: my answer, without missing a beat, was “The end of loneliness.” And I really believe that. 

#VR #loneliness #VRforhumanity #immersivetech #wegetrealaf #spatialcomputing #AWE2020 #Decahedralist