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Productivity, digitally enhanced: what the world will look like by 2020

Vision of the not-too-far-off future shows lots of ubiquitous, interactive digital displays connecting knowledge workers everywhere -- and some people even still type.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributor on

Microsoft recently released its Productivity Future Vision video, which dramatizes a look at the world of a decade or so from now, with smart devices and systems interconnecting offices, vehicles, hotels and homes across the globe.

There's a nod to technology Apple has helped proliferate, with interfaces that resemble those seen in easy-touch smartphones and tablet computers. There is also the ability to manipulate graphics projected off the screen with hand motions, as seen in the movie Minority Report. Such technology exists, but is still being developed for commercial use.

While the theme of the video is "productivity," it's tied to the underlying assumption that such hyper-connectivity and always-on features will drive the performance of knowledge workers to deliver even more value to their businesses. Of course, not every technology implementation works such wonders.

Some other observations of the many new technologies shown in the video:

  • Smart devices implanted in the frames of glasses that help provide location-aware guidance.
  • User-aware displays on cab windows that highlight important locations, such as meeting venues. (I never saw such clean windows on a cab, by the way!)
  • An abundance of paper-thin digital display devices, for everything from hotel room service features to business presentations to menus, all connected to the Internet, of course.
  • The ability to notify a hotel via mobile device that you have arrived, with the appearance of a digital room key.

Note: still no flying cars, no evidence of friendly helper robots. Boo.

In an interview with FastCompany, David Jones, acting director of Microsoft's Envisioning Lab (which produced the video), says the video emphasizes high-level knowledge work because that type of work will continue to grow over the coming decade. The video emphasizes more natural user interfaces: speech, gestures, touch, he points out, but typing will not go away by any means. "Typing is one of the fastest ways to input data--test after test shows it. We'll definitely be typing in the future," Jones says.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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