Innovation

4 ways AR and VR will change the future of work

Before we know it, virtual and augmented reality could end up in the workplace. Here's what that might look like.

Augmented and virtual reality will undoubtedly creep into other areas of life beyond gaming. Already, there are companies working on services and applications aimed at professionals to help them get work done.

It might feel far off now, but there may come a day when your work environment is partly virtual. Here are 4 ways that could happen.

Calls

Conference calls are awkward. However, most of the time they're the best way to get multiple people in on a conversation in real time, apart from actually meeting in the same room. A few companies are taking stabs at defining what a conference call could look like using VR or AR. For example, the Meta 2 demo included a calling function where one person could even hand off a digital object to the other. Also recently announced was social VR company Altspace VR's integration of VR Call with Slack, so that users can hop right from a Slack message into the VR call. Either way, the idea is that professionals could reap benefits similar to an in-person meeting, including a better ability to read body language or even make eye contact.

Workspaces

For people in job roles like programming, there can seldom be enough monitors. The problem is that only so many will fit on a desk or in a cubicle. Icelandic company Breakroom, founded in 2014, started working on a VR workspace that would allow for many windows which can be easily stacked and moved around in an environment of one's choosing. This is not to say that in the future, office workers will sit at their desks with headsets on, but perhaps using augmented or mixed reality, there's some future in which hardware is more limited, but space is not.

Remote work

Similar to calls and VR workspaces, virtual reality meeting places could serve as ways to make remote work easier since co-workers could meet together in a virtual workplace using avatars—or even using 360 cameras to recreate an office. In a related vein, DORA (Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton) is a robot that can be navigated around while the operator sees the robot's perspective using a VR headset. A system like that could accommodate remote workers making a virtual appearance in an office.

Sensitivity training

Virtual reality is great for putting people in situations they might not be otherwise able to experience. One of those uses could be for workplace behavior, like sensitivity training for topics like diversity. A recent article in USA Today talked about how the NFL is experimenting with just this concept to deal with racism and sexism. They hope to "engender empathy" by virtually placing NFL players and staff members in training scenarios which could include an African-American female avatar being harassed by a white avatar.

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Image: Microsoft

About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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