Virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things. Is this all just a pipe dream, or closer than you think?
A FUTURISTIC WAY TO WAKE UP
Imagine it’s 2030. I wake up in my future home. Around 7:00 AM – during the lightest stage of sleep – my alarm goes off. I don’t hear the deafening ringtone of my smartphone, but the friendly voice of VeRa, my virtual assistant: ‘Good morning, Dennis! According to my data, you slept well last night and are ready for a new working day! Today you have the following appointments.’ In virtual reality, my appointments – and the weather forecast – are displayed in front of me. When I go downstairs, the coffee machine has just finished brewing and my intelligent toaster serves up two lightly browned slices of toast.
Ten minutes later, VeRa chirps up again: ‘If you set off on your bike now, you will be in time for your first appointment. If you would rather go by car, your favourite shared car will be waiting for you at the next hyperloop stop.’ I decide to walk, but it takes a bit longer than I thought it would. Fortunately, VeRa has my back, and says: ‘I think you should take a shared scooter. There’s one parked 100 metres down the road, on your left. Would you like me to reserve it for you?’
FRESH CARAMEL FRAPPUCCINO
When I arrive at the office, a hologram greets me at the reception. The entrance gate is already opening; physical access passes are so 2021 (we don’t have those anymore), as are fixed workplaces. VeRa’s voice in my ear tells me which flexible workstations are available. As I pass the coffee machine, the finishing touches are being added to a Venti caramel Frappuccino with three pumps of caramel syrup. You guessed it: my favourite start to the working day.
AN EMPTY DESK WITH EVERYTHING MY HEART DESIRES
When I arrive at my workstation for the day, the lights – part of the Internet of Things in our office building – automatically turn brighter. The desk is empty, but thanks to augmented reality, everything I need for the day appears; my VR keyboard appears on the desk and my screen is projected on the glass wall. And when I’ve had enough of typing, I just sit back and dictate what needs to be typed.
DINNER BY (SMART) CANDLELIGHT
At the end of the working day, I walk outside. As soon as I pass reception, I am logged off from all systems and my equipment switches to private mode. I take a stroll through the park and VeRa tells me how many steps I need to take to reach my goal for the day. As I’m walking, she shows me my personal appointments for the evening. In the meantime, my smart fridge has communicated with the app of the largest grocer in The Netherlands, so there’s plenty of food to choose from. When I’m ten minutes away from my house, the oven starts to preheat so that in no time I can sit down to enjoy a meal by smart candlelight using the latest Bluetooth (BLE) Mesh technology.
PRIVACY IS HOTTER THAN EVER
All this means, of course, that privacy is more important than ever. Because if all those smart devices know what you are doing (and not doing), how can you prevent governments, insurance companies, and law enforcement agencies from keeping tabs on you? And what if Elon Musk’s company Neuralink really starts to take off? Will we all soon be walking around with a computer chip in our brain? That’s some serious food for thought for ethicists.
There are four key factors to consider when it comes to innovations such as these:
To be able to work anytime, anywhere, and on any device, we will need technology – from the Internet of Things, VR, AR, and AI to all the other smart technologies that are already in development.
Location is becoming less of an issue. We can already see this happening today, as we are all working from home, but the importance of a physical location and having a physical workplace will continue to decline. Your desk will soon be in your pocket. In the future, we will go to the office for the social side of things or for sessions where you want to work together creatively.
Think self-driving cars that can drive you to work, Cyclotrons for when you prefer to go by bike, drones that deliver your packages, and new forms of public transport such as airbuses and hyperloops.
I am well aware that many of these technologies are already being used today, albeit for very specific applications. The success of these technologies is highly dependent on the rate of adoption and the willingness of companies and their employees to actually use them.
THE PERSON WHO LAUGHS LAST…
Sure, there are still some challenges ahead, but I honestly believe that our world will look something like this in the not-too-distant future. And to those of you who are beginning to doubt my sanity… In 1985, we all had a good laugh about the mobile phone. I wonder what you’re reading this blog on… I rest my case.