This year’s CES, which ends today, is appealing because it shows future changes in product design, based on the assumption that many will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, rather than everyone entering the office.
One of the most exciting sessions at the virtual event focused on this new telecommuting regular job. Former CNET colleague Brian Cooley has joined Paul Lee of Deloitte LLP, Megan Wollerton of CNET Home, and Jennifer Kent of Parks Associates to discuss the current situation and future.
Let’s talk about what they emphasized this week.
Zoom meetings alone are not enough
I’m not trying to select a zoom. And other video conferencing products have improved over the past year in terms of attracting people. However, they all leave a gap because there is no way to recreate casual conversations around the office or at lunch. Our people working from home have learned to live without old social involvement. But we haven’t replaced them with anything, our pool of friends is declining, and our social capacity is declining with them.
Facebook, which started out as a social tool, could have filled this gap. However, the service got lost and became a personal publishing platform rather than a way to build and develop true friendships. I didn’t see anything to fill that gap with CES. Someone has the opportunity to look at an old Facebook that was initially focused on making friends and come up with something similar. (This kind of friendship is more likely to come from today’s multiplayer games.)
A related note is that not being able to see body language on the camera makes effective communication difficult and suggests the need for camera progress. I’m thinking of something like a video door (place a big screen on the door frame so you can chat with people standing away).
Smart homes that need something smarter
One of the issues that the panel focused on was the need to deal with our chores while working from home. CES did not have a product that actually addressed this issue. Focusing on Zoom calls, phone calls, emails, and Slack messages, it’s great for hardware that not only does laundry and tidying up, removing and cleaning dirty dishes, but also putting them in cabinets. Isn’t that the case? Do you want to clean your house?
Samsung had the best prototype for this new future. The company exhibited a new robot vacuum with lidar (from self-driving cars) that can navigate the code and automatically dispose of the dirt it picks up. Samsung TV updates include services that replace the old office gym, like Peloton. The company then exhibited two robots, Bot Care and Bot Handy (which can actually be integrated into one).
Bot Care is a wheeled personal assistant that can provide reminders on the display and camera and start a video conference. The bot handy has display-like arms and face that help you put dishes in the dishwasher and store them when they’re clean. Folding the laundry can be a bridge too far for the robot for now. (There is a device that folds the laundry, but Bot Handy may work with that device.)
Keeping remote employees healthy these days has been particularly difficult, and CES has had some pretty interesting health monitors. According to panelists, the telephone (voice only) was the largest equalizer during the pandemic. Annoying video conferencing systems and PC access issues to healthcare have created issues that need to be fixed in systems that function and interoperate as efficiently as phones. White coat hypertension, unheard of until recently, is a real problem surrounding today’s telemedicine systems. They need to make a lot of progress to reach their full potential.
Another issue highlighted by the panel is that despite the huge number of health sensors introduced by CES, they are not tied to the health system and both the sensors and the backend are fragmented. was. So far, IBM has pointed out the lack of data integration as a continuing problem. The data could have mitigated the COVID-19 epidemic, helped find remedies more quickly, and speeded up the research needed.
One of the interesting issues discussed, and one that didn’t happen to me, was “family envy.” Video conferencing people also showcase a variety of homes, from small apartments to palace-like mansions. It’s unwise to drive a better car than your boss has, but if you need a promotion or salary increase, it’s rude to show off your luxury home, to say the least.
Even if you have a great home, you may want to use one of those digital backgrounds currently supported by mainstream video conferencing systems to ease things.
Changes are coming based on this fascinating session. Interestingly, as in the early days of client / server technology and advanced telephony, interoperability and change avoidance prevent a complete pivot to remote work. But if tech leaders are listening, they will eventually address these issues. The COVID-19 pandemic is still going on, forcing changes.
Within a year, the new normal should be sufficiently trapped to become a sustainable way to hire people. At least in the US enterprise market, many people choose to stay home, but many are more likely to return to the office. (Along those lines, you might want to check out a new book by Karin Reed and Joe Allen. “Suddenly virtualized remote conferencing works.. “)
This was arguably the best CES I’ve attended in terms of what I’ve learned, but the worst in terms of interacting with people. This is the nature of current remote work and virtual connections. A fix that guarantees that working from home stays here.
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The Future of Work from CES: Home Headquarters
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