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Workplace technology for the next generation

Australian workplaces experienced massive disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as many organisations are learning, when it comes to remote working, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.
Workplace collaboration using Webex Hologram

With Australian workers showing a preference for flexible working locations, many leaders are interested in exploring ways to better invest in hybrid working practices. While their focus is the immediate need to maintain the satisfaction and productivity of their workers, there is a danger however that they may limit their options for catering to the needs of the workforce of tomorrow. 

As the pandemic demonstrated, technology plays a key role in the workplace, but the tools utilised to date represent only the beginning of what emerging technologies can deliver in the near term.

Advancements in audio and video tools are combining with investments in virtual and augmented reality and other metaverse concepts to create new possibilities for collaboration. Extending beyond the present capabilities we have observed and imagined.  

The question for leaders now is how to invest in physical and digital infrastructure that supports a hybrid workforce in the short term without limiting the opportunity to incorporate emerging technologies.

The next generation of workplace technology

We are already seeing early iterations of the next generation of workplace collaboration technology.

For example, Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are both considered immersive technologies, but they aren't the same. Mixed Reality is an extension of Augmented Reality that allows real and virtual elements to interact in an environment– a wearable device which overlays digital information and images into a person's field of vision.

This technology is finding early applications as an aid to repair work in the engineering and construction sectors but is likely to also find a home replacing some screen-based tasks in white collar workplaces.

Similarly, sizeable investments in the metaverse are spilling over into the creation of immersive virtual environments for corporate purposes, in the form of virtual reality meeting rooms and training rooms, all the way up to major conference presentations. 

Cisco has begun demonstrating the next evolution in its Webex digital conferencing solution, called Webex Hologram. This technology uses digital glasses that project information into the field of vision of people in multiple locations, enabling them to interact with virtual objects as though they were all gathered in the same place.

Workspace training using WebEx Hologram

While the use cases and underpinning technologies for these new concepts differ widely, they all share a common requirement for high bandwidth, low latency connections. High bandwidth is essential for carrying the ultra-high-definition video signals needed to trick the mind into enjoying a shared experience, with low latency being vital to ensure the virtual environment responds as the real world would. 

Why these technologies are important

We have come a long way when it comes to supporting remote collaboration and digital workplaces, but we are essentially still only digitising arrangements that have changed little in the past 60 years. 

As some leaders have realised, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how work is done, and whether the current arrangements truly are in the best interests of their teams. 

The true value of technologies such as augmented and virtual reality comes through the use of high-definition video and spatial audio to produce an outcome much more akin to 'being there'.

When combined with artificial intelligence systems that can both capture and insert useful information into meetings, along with highly configurable cloud-based environments that scale as demand requires, many of the barriers that prevented these technologies from becoming mainstays of the work environment before now begin to fall away.

In the past few years, we have also learned a lot about how to make virtual interactions work better, such as the importance of representing non-verbal communications in a digital environment through converting gestures into emojis.

Woman using WebEx Hologram

AI has made real-time transcription a reality, unlocking possibilities for knowledge capture, and enabling the participation of hearing-impaired individuals. The next step now is simultaneous translation, to effectively smash through language barriers.

AI can also play a role in analysing conversations and automatically surfacing relevant information or become an active participant in virtual environments by answering complex questions in a similar way to today's smart speakers.

It is not hard to imagine that in virtual environments, Digital Assistance powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be represented by their own avatars, and even act as proxies for people who aren't able to participate.

Of course, all these capabilities will need to be supported by excellent cyber security arrangements, with a strong emphasis on ensuring trust in the identities of participants, and the security of multiparty communications.

Much of these ideas are achievable today and will be a part of the collaboration toolset within this decade. Their adoption however will depend greatly on the presence of the supporting smart 5G future ready network infrastructure, essential in maximising their performance and user experience.


These technologies present incredible opportunities for enhanced working environments and effective and engaging collaboration between workers in any location.

It is also worth remembering the lessons of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) era, when the experiences that workers had in their personal life came to underpin their expectations of their working life. It is fair to assume that should Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) interfaces and virtual worlds prove compelling in consumer applications, their users will also want to see them adopted professionally.

Bringing them to life however will require smart investments in the infrastructure and security technology needed to support them. 

It is critical then that as we make the decisions that will support the hybrid working arrangements of today, that we are also considering the needs of tomorrow, and ensuring that fulfilling short term requirements does not close the door on even greater opportunities that lie ahead.

To find out more about how you can build your future with Optus Enterprise visit FutureNow - Optus Enterprise and Business.

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