Minority Report Offices Could Become A Reality

Remember those scenes in Minority Report, where Tom Cruise's character carried out tasks on the PreCrime holographic interface using only his hands? According to a recent article on LifeHacker, while the concept of pre-crime is merely science-fiction, the idea of working on interactive 3D projections could become a reality.

It's worth noting that the brains behind the 'spatial operating environment' used in the movie was John Underkoffle, CEO of Oblong Technologies - a company that specializes in innovative user interfaces (UIs).

Since the movie's release in 2002, the firm has been developing products and solutions that can be used in collaborative or conference room work. Its software development kits can be used in applications ranging from digital whiteboards, to video editing suites that can be edited - quite literally - by hand.

Speaking at the Unified Communications expo held earlier this year, Underkoffle told delegates that Minority Report-style technology has the potential to be the biggest 'evolutionary step' in computing since 2D GUIs (ie. pixels, icons and pictures.)

The use of gesture-controlled UIs, he explained, will solve two crucial problems currently faced by many companies; the first being the need for richer collaboration - "the kind [...] that people are capable of when they don't have computers in the way" - and the second being scale.

For example, large corporations such as FedEx may need to solve large-scale problems on something bigger than a laptop - or even a whiteboard. So instead, "a new type of computation that thinks a process on room scale and allows people to work digitally on that scale" could improve matters.

And Underkoffle makes it sound all-too easy: "There's no magical artificial intelligence involved: it's just people spreading work out over an enormous pixel space and getting things done with a new UI."

With other UI-inspired products also appearing on the market, from Microsoft's Kinect to Intel's RealSense 3D and Obscura Digital's VisionAire, it may not be long until office workers get to channel their inner Tom Cruise.

Employees Could Seek Advice From Robo-Advisors

Offices could soon feature robo-advisors who would be on hand to offer advice to employees whenever they need it, according to an article on the UK Workplace Savings and Benefits website.

But before you get too carried away imagining a tiny humanistic helper, it's worth noting that in reality the robo-advisor comes in the form of automated computer software - although that's not to say this couldn't happen in the future.

As the article explains, such software is already becoming increasingly popular in the US, using complex algorithms to help clients manage their investment portfolios while lowering their costs; but it's likely that this technology could soon be applied to the corporate industry.

Speaking at a recent WSB webinar, corporate solutions expert John Deacon highlighted the attraction of using an avatar to settle employees' queries and concerns - mostly because the advice will be monitored by the employer themselves.

"If you deploy 100 advisers to 50,000 employees you are going to have 100 different conversations going on [and] you're probably going to end up with 100 different answers," he explained. "If you use an avatar, however, you are going to provide precisely the same answer."

While Deacon doesn't see this happening anytime soon, he certainly thinks it is the way HR is headed, particularly in large organizations. However, others are concerned that going through an automated system - rather than speaking directly to a human - could cause some employees to make the wrong, life-changing decisions in regards to their role or income.

One expert - Stuart Bennet, a specialist in flexible and online benefits - even said that the concept sounded potentially "dangerous":

"Such advice still needs to be tested because you are making huge decisions [...] not talking to a person and just going through a wizard, that doesn't feel particularly good to me," he stated.

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Digital Technologies Transforming the Hospitality Industry

Our travel preferences are changing these days. We have started to look out for more casual local experiences - learning about the culture and interacting with local people as part of our vacation (think AirBnB’s success). This is especially true with millennials- who crave authentic and unique experiences as 78 % of millennials prefer to learn something new when travelling. The proliferation of digital consumer hardware and software have also raised the bar. Travelers are now expecting more value and enriched experience from their travel journeys.  

The result, a number of companies in the hospitality industry are embracing new technologies to provide value add experiences to keep pace with growing expectations. In this respect, the following key trends are emerging:

1. Personalization by using predictive analytics: - Hotels have started offering room upgrade, spa treatments and other offers personalized to the traveler based on their Code Halos. For example, MGM Grand ‘wellness rooms’ and  Westin’s partnership with New Balance provides personalized services to health conscious travelers. Besides, hotels can also provide price accuracy based on predictive analytics. A great example is from the travel booking site – Kayak - that relies on predictive analytics for price forecasting. The flight price trend predictor of Kayak advise you to either wait or buy the ticket at the moment by providing the confidence metric based on algorithmic patterns. Such accuracy and user’s confidence can help hotels get more bookings on their own platforms.

2. Integrating wearable technology and sensors: - Hotels are working on integrating wearable technology and sensors for facilitating hotel transactions and operations. Starwood Hotels is integrating Apple Watch to enable mobile check-in and keyless room entry. Hilton Worldwide also launched digital check-in and room selection technology to Hilton HHonors members – the members will also be able to further customize their stays by requesting upgrades or making special requests for items to be delivered to their rooms ahead of their arrival ( source :- http://traveltrendstoday.in/news/2015/04/01/hilton-launches-digital-check-in-and-room-selection)

Similarly, technology is being increasingly used for back end and front end operations. Built-in sensors for lights, air-conditioning control through app, TVs for answering guest queries via voice recognition, digital newspapers and magazines to offer guests access to their local papers. E.g. Accor’s entire chain of hotels worldwide have signed a deal with PressReader.  

3. Providing rich travel related multimedia content: - Digital technologies have also made possible providing rich content about destination, stays, local culture, things to do and list of attractions through a variety of social channels such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, blogs and independent reviews website (Tripadvisor, Yelp). Not only this, the tourism boards such as that of Singapore Tourism recently launched  yoursingapore.com  to offer travelers editorial travel content along with  integrating Tripadvisor’s rating and social channels.  Providing avenues to share experiences and integrating such content on one single platform can help brands create more meaningful relationships with their current and potential customers.

4. Leveraging social media: - Hotels, now days, are encouraging guests to share their stay experience through social media channels throughout their stay.  They are also ready to reward the activity with points and discount offers. E.g. Soi Wave House Hotel - world’s first Twitter hotel in Spain has twitter themed rooms and décor, and encourages guests to hashtag their way through their stay. Guests could also connect to hotel staff and other hotel guests via a Twitter-designed online community. Similarly, Marriott Hotels introduced PlusPoints, allowing guests to earn points for their social media activity (Source :- https://sourceable.net/hotel-design-trends-for-millennial-guests/)

5. Artificial Intelligence: - Robots are entering the hospitality industry as well right from serving foods, to carrying luggage to act as hotel receptionists as well. Anybots – a start-up is trying to replace receptionists with robots; Carnegie Mellon has used a Roboceptionist to help guests find their way around campus (Source: - http://www.otrams.com/blog/innovations/artificial-intelligence-in-hospitality-industry/). Multilingual Robots will check in guests, carry luggage and perform many other functions in the upcoming Henn-na Hotel in Japan, taking artificial intelligence to a whole new level in the hotel industry.


This is just the beginning. With the advent of more sensors, robotics and mobile technology in our physical and virtual world, brands have the opportunity to differentiate themselves based on how effectively they embrace new technologies and provide unique, authentic experiences to their guests.