Productivity Future Vision

April 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Attention Management, collaboration, communication, Fun, Information Work, presence, social software, usability, User experience | 6 Comments

Peter O’Kelly’s blog pointed me to a Productivity Future Vision video from Microsoft Office Labs.  Highly recommended.

A few observations:

  • Airline seats in the future will be wider and have more legroom, even when you aren’t in first class (the seats on the plane don’t look like big, puffy, overwrought first class seats).  Furthermore, they will be clean and not have potato chips from the previous occupant smeared on them.
  • People will use their electronics calmly and be nice to each other.  People in the video seem to calmly make a few gestures, then relax and smile.  It seems that productivity expectations in the future have remained about constant with today rather than increasing along with the improvement in the capabilities of their applications.  The time saved through their more productive interfaces has been returned to the worker to allow them to stop and smell the roses instead of their employers and clients demanding more from them. This will allow people in the future to relax and use their new wondrous equipment in serene happiness.
  • Devices get thinner and more translucent.  But while you may think holding remotes that are as thin as a piece of glass and typing on hard, flat surfaces would be uncomfortable, they will actually be pleasantly ergonomic because people in the future will have dainty hands and features.  There seem to be no obese, elderly, overly tall, or overly short future workers.
  • There is no need for paper in the future, so working environments remain clean and clutter free.  Come to think of it, there seems to be no need for food, conference SWAG, books, printers, or desk lights either.  This explains the lack of garbage cans in the rooms shown in the video.
  • Office workers will not create content anymore, such as typing long streams of text or slaving over the graphics in the beautiful interfaces they use.  They simply do a few manipulations to content that already exists.  Presumably a new underclass of information workers (I’ll call them “information morlocks“) slave away underground crafting detailed content that the surface dwellers can then use through simple, intuitive, tap-exhale-and-smile interfaces.

OK, a few serious observations:

  • I like the thought leadership I see here.
  • The basis for some truly wonderous technology exists today, such as the machine translation, digital ink, mobile phone projectors, and OLED displays shown in the video.
  • Interfaces with touch and gestures can be much more natural than keyboards and mice.
  • Collaborative workspaces can be made more natural and incorporate many other useful technologies.

While innovating user interfaces and display devices have great gee-whiz factors, I’m really looking forward to much more mundane improvements in productivity.  To name just a few:

  • I want to see content that is created in easy-to-use tools that scale to the needs of the user and produce content that is easily componentized, tagged, reused, and reassembled. 
  • I want to see contextual meaning to be captured and guidance provided through integrated ontology and machine memory during authoring to enable better translation and localization.
  • I’d like to see powerful and consistent reviewing and commenting features across all productivity tools that can discover implicit collaborative authoring processes through observation. 
  • I’d like to see rich presence information that improves productivity by inserting routing and channel switching to messages that determine the most appropriate way to deliver a message while taking both sender’s and receiver’s contextual preferences into account.
  • I’d like to see operating systems and productivity applications working together to create more interruptable environments that fit the time sliced, interruptable nature of the workplace. They would allow better bookmarking that can save retrieve the exact state of applications and their relations to each other, easing the burden of remembering what activities were in motion during interruptions and reducing time to resuming work.  Snapshots of window layouts and application states would allow easy, instantaneous switching between multiple workstreams.
  • I’d like to see wearable electronics that utilize personal rich presence, mobile technology, and social networking profiles to alert people to others in their vicinity that share interests (or other programmable searches) and are open to serendipitous conversation.

I might be waiting a while …

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