by Devin Morrissey: In 1989, Back to the Future Part II predicted that business dealings would be done via video calls…
While they also predicted fashion would consist of wearing two ties and fax machines would be installed in everyone’s closet and couldn’t predict how AI would affect businesses, they did get video conferencing right.
Some 30 years later, video calls are a staple of modern business. They are a way for families to see each other when they are halfway around the world from each other. What does the future of communications hold?
One of the newest ways to communicate came with the advent of the iPhone X. Now, instead of just plain emojis, you can send friends and family Animojis that use your face as a reference. Sony is taking the technology even further, creating a 3D-sensing camera, meaning AR video calls projected in 3D.
Right now, it takes an entire 3D video booth to make a call, and it’s expensive. Technology will be cheaper in the future, and instead of a booth, it might be from your phone. Think Princess Leia’s hologram in the Star Wars movies: a small animated hologram of you playing a message to a friend or loved one.
Part of the reason for having a hologram is voice and body language. The Wall Street Journal suspects a shift is coming soon from text back to voice. It’s easier to assess a person’s emotions through their voice than just through text. In the shorter term, they posit, texting will be replaced by short voice recordings, or by using phones as walkie-talkies just like old Nextel phones.
In the Workplace
While the hologram example above could be useful in a work environment, there are a few other possibilities that stand out. It’s important to note that, according to an Arizona State University survey, hiring managers believe that up to 38 percent of their full-time employees will work from home by 2028.
Remote workers, therefore, have the added difficulty of not being able to have a face-to-face talk, a harder time showing their work, and making collaboration complicated. Enter VR.
With virtual reality, two co-workers can digitally share a space. It’s already used as a more connected form of communication, better at building trust and reaching a better outcome than if the conversation had been over email.
A recent Deloitte study showed that 70 percent of workers intend on using collaboration platforms more, and VR might be the ultimate platform for remote workers to collaborate with each other. Text will probably have its place, as 62 percent of respondents predicted a rise in instant messaging.
Instant messaging is also taking advantage of technology, incorporating AI. Today, programs like Slack use AI to recommend a document to pull from other programs based on links you enter, and iMessage helps respond to a message with short, pre-written responses, based on context clues. In the future, this will likely be not only more effective but ubiquitous. Emails or messages could be entirely AI generated based on the user’s preferences, making responding to work emails a matter of minutes instead of agonizing over the correct response.
As a Customer
Communication with businesses in the future could be characterized by a lack of actual communication. Shopping in the future will involve dealing with robots or AI, something 55 percent of shoppers prefer, while waiting for a drone to deliver their package. They will try on new clothes in virtual reality, and see items in 3D before buying.
Even the ways the computers interact in a business deal are changing. While it’s just starting to catch on, virtual wallet tokens are becoming more prevalent, with people using their phones’ near-field communications to wirelessly connect to a cash register and pay for items.
Eventually, it might not even be a phone — something like an RFID chip in your wallet. All of these would serve to increase the security in paying for products in a world where hackers regularly steal credit card information from companies. Token information, on the other hand, is essentially useless to a hacker, and it’s hard to steal an RFID chip.
Communication is changing. It’s hard to entirely predict what it will look like in 30 years, as Back to the Future tried to do, as technology moves faster than we can guess. But, given current technology, it’s possible to glean some hints. It’s doubtful, however, that faxes will come back into fashion or double ties will catch on.