Every January, the world learns about new innovations on display at the consumer electronics show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES is a melting pot of new electronic ideas and products that range from televisions to virtual reality (VR) to cars. VR, given our history, is always of interest to Mechdyne. We continue to attend CES to see how consumer VR technology is evolving and learn about other technological advancements at the same time. We know that the technology people have in their homes can influence what they might expect at work. Consider that the iPhone was the first device to have practical applications for touch technology and years later, we use touch tablets and computer screens in our offices.
After attending CES this year, there are four technology trends we believe will impact workspaces and purchasing decisions, along with our thoughts on virtual reality developments.
#1 – 8K Resolution Displays
Sony introduced the first 4K television in August of 2012. Now, just over six years later, 8K home television has been announced. Mechdyne has already been working with projection and panel display partners about 8K resolution for business/research applications, one of which is Digital Projection who showed an 8K laser projector in mid-2018. We expect to see other vendors featuring their 8K technology in the near future. Content may be the biggest driver for whether or not 8K will benefit your workflows. Keep in mind that 8K (7860 x 4320) is actually four times the pixels of a 4K display and 16 times the resolution of HD. Does your organization need that level of display fidelity for spreadsheets, PowerPoint, or video conferencing? Many early users of 4K commented about how difficult it was to find and distinguish the tiny Windows icons (they still do). Researchers, designers, and data interpreters reviewing information like medical scans, oil/gas reservoir models, automotive concepts, and similar content may truly benefit from the quadrupling of resolution offered by 8K.
While changing a display may seem like a relatively easy upgrade, there is also the consideration of the infrastructure to support it. Data sources, cabling, switching, and other components may also need to be replaced to support the higher bandwidth required by the higher resolution.
#2 – Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence has tremendous potential to automate some business workflows and processes. Specifically related to meeting rooms, technology can be used to automate the start and end of work sessions. Another example is the use of facial recognition or badge-based RFID to identify meeting attendees. The number of attendees could affect the HVAC needs of the room, audio levels, and other settings. When the presenter arrives, the sources, display technology, and any remote video conferencing connections could be enabled and preset to the presenter’s preferences. Tasks like logins, establishing connections, and turning on displays can be eliminated, allowing meetings to start on time and efficiently.
#3 – Robotics
Robotics in the office? This might seem like a stretch, but robotics is heading into the realm of personal assistance. We’ve already seen small robots being used as enhancements for presentations, where they are programmed to talk about specific topics. Admittedly, robots might not find their way into meeting rooms any time soon as facilitators. However, there are also robots with software that are beginning to automate repetitive business processes to reduce manual operations. Regardless of the type of robot, interest in them might steer budgets in their direction and away from other technology upgrades. All expenditures are usually competing with other initiatives in the budget.
#4 – Voice Recognition
Voice recognition technology, in the form of voice-controlled home speakers/assistants, is one of the fasted growing segments of home technology. Similar to the touch technology mentioned before, as people get used to technology at home they may start to expect it at work. Imagine being able to simply say “start meeting” or “conference in my team” to make connections happen. It’s already starting to happen. Alexa interfaces are already being developed for meeting control systems, which will enable the selection of sources, turning devices on and off, and more.
One of the biggest considerations around these devices is privacy. Are these smart devices always listening? When do they stop listening? Can anyone access this device remotely? These are legitimate concerns for households. Now, consider these concerns at an enterprise level. What is being discussed in meetings? What levels of security are required? These questions are being addressed but may impact where voice assistance is deployed within an organization.
Virtual Reality Technology
As a bonus to these four technology trends to have on your radar, given Mechdyne has a long-standing interest in VR technology, we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on this subject. What we saw at CES was mostly extensions of technology we have been working with for years. Display resolution continues to increase, which holds the promise of improved imagery. Consumer interest is driving more development into haptic/force feedback that will enhance gaming experiences. Some of this technology may be of interest to businesses, but these devices are typically designed only for head-mounted displays. Large-scale VR environments use different motion tracking and other technology that require completely different software API development to make consumer devices compatible.