Why holograms are coming to the corporate meeting

Video meetings aren’t going anywhere. Are there new solutions that can remove some of the agonies?

May 16, 2022

A high-level executive recently led a meeting where some of his team was in the office, and the rest tuned in remotely. The camera was in the front of the room, as was the executive. What did those on the Zoom call see on their screens? The back of his head… the whole time.

As the hybrid work model evolves, there’s growing angst around how we virtually communicate and collaborate.

“What ends up happening is that you have two separate groups in that meeting: the in-room folks and the virtual participants,” says Dan Burns, JLL Technologies – Consulting, Sr. Vice President. “You shouldn’t have different experiences in a collaborative setting. As technology evolves, there are real opportunities to allow virtual participants to feel more included in the room.”

Some companies think holograms could be the answer.

In the original Star Wars movie, the technology behind R2-D2 projecting a hologram of Princess Leia requesting assistance for the Rebel Alliance – “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi – you’re my only hope” – is moving from science fiction to reality.

NASA is sending holographic doctors into space. A 7-Eleven in Tokyo is wowing customers with 3D checkout screens, and an 85-year-old grandfather in Los Angeles has eternalized himself through hologram technology.

At the office, WeWork recently announced a partnership with Canadian firm ARHT Media Inc. to bring hologram conference technology to up to 100 of its buildings. And several startups are already exploring the space, along with teams at Google and Microsoft.

While mass adoption of seeing a co-worker morph into a life-size, three-dimensional projection might still be a ways off, Burns says it’s addressing real needs created by the rise of hybrid working: an equitable experience for all participants.

One of the biggest challenges of the hybrid work environment is a general lack of feeling connected to others. Antiquated technology plays heavily into that pain point, such as the aforementioned single-camera Zoom setup.

Fixes for the future

Working virtually over the past couple of years has revealed that the rudimentary tools exist to connect through video and audio, but with more hybrid workplaces now in play, the dynamic is different, Burns says.

Video conferencing technology that allows for a more immersive experience can vastly improve virtual meetings and remove the friction between those working in the office versus at home.

Instead of using a system that puts one camera and screen at the front of the room, Burns says it is vital to think about all the meeting participants, not just those in the room.

What does that look like? Multiple screens, more microphones to improve sound quality, and analytic video cameras smart enough to detect who is speaking and zoom in on their face.

While companies need to be open to using emerging technologies to foster a more collaborative working environment for hybrid employees, Burns says it is important to remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to tech solutions.

“The widgets vary; the application matters,” Burns says.

A better-integrated system of tools can also significantly improve the hybrid work environment.

From cloud computing and mobile and remote working tools to workplace and productivity applications and collaboration tools, there are plenty of options to help build a more successful hybrid workplace. The key, Burns says, is that they are unified and packaged to consider whether the employee is at home or in the office and what device they are using.

“You’re touching three or four different systems there: an application of sensors, a resource booking system, video and audio conferencing systems, and a mobile app–isn’t it great when that is all integrated and friction reduced?” Burns says. “How can you connect some of these systems to create an experience for all? These are very real cases.

“The hologram’s coming, but in the meantime, there’s a better way to use technology to bring the workplace together.”

Looking for more insights? Never miss an update.

The latest news, insights and opportunities from global commercial real estate markets straight to your inbox.