An Office Space Odyssey
It’s the million dollar question: what will the office of the future look like? And will there be robots?
No-one really knows for sure, but suffice to say it will be worlds away from ‘the office’ as we know it. And based on the speed at which technology and R&D is moving, it will probably be light years away from our current expectations too.
One person who has several theories on how today’s office space might evolve is Alastair Reynolds, a science fiction author and former space scientist at The European Space Agency. He believes that what was once the stuff of science fiction will eventually work its way into our everyday lives, both at home and in the office.
According to Reynolds, “transformative technologies” are at the heart of it all. “These new technologies, combined with demographic shifts and globalisation, will have a profound impact on the future of SMEs,” he says.
That much is true. Reynolds points to the example of GPS navigation tools, which he says would have seemed completely science fictional not all that long ago. He also refers to the tablet computer – as shown in Kubrick’s 1968 film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – as a tool that was once nothing more than sci-fi fodder, and yet today is a massive part of our everyday lives.
Just look at the impact that tablet and smartphone technology is having on business. Now, employees and business owners don’t have to stop work when they leave the office. They can remain productive virtually anywhere – at the airport, on the train, at motorway service stations and even in traffic jams. Needless to say this presents enormous growth opportunities for businesses of any size – from freelancers and start-ups to multinational corporations.
As for the office of the future, telepresence robotics could be among the sci-fi wizardry we’ll find in a few decades’ time. The idea is that you could be “in” work even when you’re not physically there. Using a combination of 3D vision, cameras, microphones, speakers and even “full-body telerobotic control”, meetings and presentations could be conducted virtually – removing the need for physical travel altogether.
Artificial intelligence is another possibility – and this reality is not as far away as you might think. For instance, cleaning robots are already being used in Tokyo office skyscrapers at night. However rather than mechanical beings with a conscience and a sense of identity, it’s more likely that artificially intelligent robots will be just that – artificial, giving the illusion of intelligence.
Either way, such developments could have untold impacts on your business, your team and your workplace. Who knows – perhaps you’ll even ’employ’ one of these robots in the not so distant future? As Reynolds puts it, the sooner we start thinking about the future and the opportunities or challenges that lie ahead, the less chance we’ll have of being caught out when it arrives.