Augmentation in the workplace not new, we’ve been enhancing the workplace since before the industrial age with improvements in working environments, ergonomics, computing, and communications. The leaps are coming faster and bigger with every passing decade.
Sitting at your desk now – which could as easily be at home or on a beach in Bali – you have access to all the information in the history of mankind, every book written and song recorded, every moment of time described in minute detail. You have access to everything. You also have access to everyone alive as they are plugged into the same network as you. And every service; we can buy any product to be shipped to your door, and any service you can imagine – and quite a few you might not want to.
With everything and everyone available at your fingertips, we already work in an highly augmented workplace. The tools we use we call productivity tools, such as Excel or Emal or Word and are quite well integrated these days and allow us to do the stuff of grandparents dreams.
Yet the next big step in workplace environments is already on us and will allow us to do things that will amaze our parents. With the forging of AI and Augmented Reality (AR) we’re set to see a step change in workplace augmentation as we become freed from the physical constraints and move into a world of mixed realities.
Yes, I’m looking you, Apple Vision Pro and even Meta Quest. These are the best early forages into layering the virtual world onto the real world. The fusion of real-time operating systems and powerful/ubiquitous computing power will see AR pop up everywhere: in your car, on your phone, on the street. So why not on your desk? In fact, why has it taken so long to move away from the 1980s combo model of keyboard-screen.
In the 1980s we rotated a dial on a fixed-line phone to connect to a clone elsewhere in the world. Today we shout at our phone in the street and send video, reactions, and live locations to layers of friends, colleagues, and family. Yet today we still sit at a keyboard, staring at a flat pane of glass.
When the smartphone appeared fifteen years ago, it introduced a new category of device and over time it transformed the workplace by moving traditional PC tasks onto a more usable device. The rise of the tablet and notebook took desktop computing off the desktop. So what about the desktop today?
They’re more compact, better integrated with other devices, yet still constrained by screen space and 102 buttons laid out on a cramped plastic plank. Recently we’ve seen the ability to flow information seamlessly across multiple devices so your phone and your tablet are now a more integrated part of your workflow than ever before. But, much like modern car cockpits, there is a long way to go before your workplace utilises all your senses fully.
Workplace augmentation is coming super fast and combined with AI it should enhance your space, not flood it like it often feels like today.