What’s next for remote working? Holograms!

Working from home has been a perk that many companies have offered their employees in response to growing demands for work-life balance. With the pandemic of the Coronavirus, remote working is becoming a standard way of work in the USA and around the world. It has me wondering, what will be the next phase in remote working? Well, I looked into it and I think its holograms. You remember that scene in Star Wars when Princess Leia sends a holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi? We are closer to that being an everyday office reality than you might think.

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TRANSCRIPT

Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast, brought to you (in part) by Proactive Talent, a recruiting and employer brand consulting firm that will revolutionize the way you attract and hire top talent.

Working from home has been a perk that many companies have offered their employees in response to growing demands for work-life balance. With the pandemic of the Coronavirus, remote working is becoming a standard way of work in the USA and around the world. It has me wondering, what will be the next phase in remote working? Well, I looked into it and I think its holograms. You remember that scene in Star Wars when Princess Leia sends a holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi? We are closer to that being an everyday office reality than you might think. I’ll explain after this.

The CoronaVirus has been declared a pandemic and in response, businesses have been asking their people to work from home, where possible.  As more and more people get used to remote working, I suspect it will prove challenging for them to return to a physical office every day. I think over time, perhaps in the next 5 years, businesses will turn to holograms more and more to not only conduct business but to manage their office as well.

There is a company called Meta that is making it their mission to make holograms routine in how we work and collaborate with one another in the workplace. If their vision becomes reality, remote workers could work on projects together and interact with one another as they would in a regular office but, without leaving their home.

I read about Meta from an article in the Economic Times. Here are a few quotes from that article.

One recent morning, Stephanie Rosenburg arrived at work to find her PC monitor had vanished. She looked around the office and saw that members of her team were wearing headsets with see-through visors and grabbing invisible objects with their hands. Rosenburg had just returned from vacation so it took her a few seconds to process what was happening before she clued in: “Oh,” she thought. “It’s my turn now.”

Rosenburg handles marketing for Meta, a San Francisco startup that makes augmented reality headsets that overlay holographic images on the real world. Users can manipulate 3-D models with their hands or browse web pages, send emails and write code from floating virtual screens. Her boss, Meta founder and Chief Executive Officer Meron Gribetz, is determined to end what he calls the “tyranny of the modern office” by replacing monitors, keyboards and eventually even cubicles with augmented reality. To get there, he’s using his own employees—including Rosenburg—as test subjects to help Meta figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Further down the article it reads…

Meta’s goal is to make its augmented reality technology a seamless extension of the real world—enabling people to interact with holograms much the way one interacts with real objects. Instead of clicking, dragging and pushing buttons, the technology lets users control 3-D content with their hands. Gribetz believes AR hardware will become quickly commoditized, so he’s focused on perfecting the software, taking inspiration from Apple’s intuitive user experience.

In his vision, office workers will huddle around holograms to collaborate on pretty much any kind of task. That means no computers, cubicles, regular desks, or chairs. Gribetz’s own office provides a glimpse of how a future workplace might look. He has a thin slab of wood at standing height as a desk. It’s just wide enough for the headset to rest on it. He plans to redesign the rest of Meta’s office in a similar way.

I think Meta’s vision is ambitious yet, not unobtainable; a few stars will definitely have to align perfectly. In some respects, they already are. The medical holography market is heating up. There is a rising demand for digital holography in the financial sector for security purposes. And there are holographic advances on the consumer side that are boosting market growth. For example, the Red Hydrogen One cellphone debuted in 2018 with a “holographic display” that projects 3D images that can be viewed without special glasses. (I’ve seen it and it is cool although a bit pricey, starting at $1200 dollars and up.) And of course, you have concerts featuring dead celebrities that have wowed crowds around the world. (TuPac Shakur, Michael Jackson and now – Whitney Houston).

So, you add all that up, holograms in healthcare, cybersecurity for the financial sector, cool mobile phones and concerts and you would think that Meta’s version of reality, people collaborating with one another with holograms is just an eventuality that will happen in less than the 5 years I predicted. Well, I’m not so sure. There are some factors in place slowing it down. I’ll talk about them after this.

The hologram market has a lot going for it. It also has a few stumbling blocks to overcome. For one, hologram projection under sunlight is not so good. That has to be fixed for sure, before it can go to the next level. Another hurdle is cost, producing holographic images ain’t cheap by any means. Finally, what I think is the biggest impediment to holograms going fully mainstream though, is 5G.

CBS News interviewed Ben Nunez, CEO of Evercoast about using 5G to make a lifelike hologram in minutes. This is what was said.

Again, all great, but what I take away from all that is how crucial 5G is. For those who don’t know, 5G operates on a much higher electromagnetic frequency spectrum than previous mobile networks. The wavelengths it sends out have a higher capacity but a shorter range, which means that large towers that serve dozens of square miles won’t be effective. To make the 5G network effective, “small cells” will have to be placed every few hundred feet.

Rather than large traditional towers, these small cells will rely on “poles” or even existing streetlights and utility poles. Because 5G small cells cover a much shorter distance, there will eventually have to be more of them — thus the demand for a tremendous number of freestanding poles. Also, each pole may only house technology for one mobile carrier. (So, Sprint will need its 5G cells in place, ATT will need its 5G cells in place and so on) As a result, the demand for poles could grow exponentially.

All that to say, for holograms to be routine in the workplace and for remote workers (in the USA), we are going to need at least a million new towers.  Is that impossible? No. In fact, it is very possible and that concerns me the most. When all of these 5G towers are built and they begin emitting all this radiation in closer proximity to us all, how will that effect our health? I have to wonder. Maybe I’ll do some research and discuss it on a future episode?