Jun 11, 2021

Alphabet to Develop Holograms to Reduce Zoom Fatigue

Alphabet
Zoom
AI
Microsoft
3 min
After a year of staring at screens, technology companies, including Alphabet and Microsoft aim to reinvent the way we do remote work through holograms

Some employees will gladly return to the office post-pandemic—but certainly not all. Facebook, for example, will allow many of its 48,000 global employees to request a switch to remote work. At the start of the pandemic, CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that the company could go largely remote within the next decade. “[COVID] has accelerated this dramatically”, he said. “We’re working on a lot of [VR and AR] remote presence technologies and products”. 

 

One year later, other tech companies have jumped on board. From WeWork to Google, companies want to be able to compete in the race for skilled technology workers and offer employees remote work plans. Yet Zoom still can’t match the quality of in-person meetings, and workers are growing tired of seeing their coworkers as tiny squares on a screen. “There’s Zoom fatigue, there’s a lot of friction to being on video all day—it’s exhausting”, said Brianne Kimmel, founder of WorkLife Ventures

 

Enter Hologram Technology

Some of the world’s largest tech firms have started to implement partnerships. Microsoft launched Microsoft Mesh, which can project three-dimensional images onto smart glasses; WeWork partnered with ARHT Media Inc. to start up hologram systems in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami; and Alphabet developed Project Starline to create 3D video chat screens. 


Alphabet, Google’s parent company, isn’t the only company pioneering hologram tech: 

 

  • ARHT supports hologram-enabled conferencing at live events 
  • HYPERVSN customises three-dimensional projects for walls and devices
  • Imverse enables hologram collaboration through virtual meeting rooms 

 

Still, many smaller companies will struggle to balance the costs of hologram technology with its potential—and largely unproven—benefits. WeWork will charge US$25,000 for multiple holograms to appear on a shared stage. Is it worth it? It depends on who you approach. Proponents of holograms replacing Zoom calls explain that they allow team members to more easily read body language and connect like normal. “You’ll have better, more frequent interactions”, Kimmel explained.

 

What’s the Problem? 

As with any new tech implementation, holograms could prove a logistical nightmare. Older employees may find it difficult to adapt, and live hologram meetings could fall prey to cyberattacks. This is where it helps to expand our vision of what’s possible. Workplace holograms might be best suited for recorded events, training, and seminars, according to Kanishka Chauhan, a principal research analyst at Gartner Inc. 


Yet, for employees missing the good old days before COVID-19 but unready to go back to full-time office work, hologram technology could be a compromise. It certainly won’t be long before they test it out. Alphabet’s Project Starline will start enterprise testing this year, and new firms such as Portl will transport executives to industry and tech events—in virtual form. As David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of Portl, said, “I really do believe this is a communication and broadcast tool that will be used in conference rooms all over the world”.

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Jun 18, 2021

Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR

Microsoft
NASCAR
3 min
Racing fans can expect the ultimate virtual experience as a result of the partnership with Microsoft and NASCAR

Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).

These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack. 

“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”

“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”

“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR

  • Empower employees productivity and collaboration
  • Improve fan engagement and experience
  • Improve environment security and IT productivity
  • Improve racing operations

 

Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.

“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”

“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives. 

“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.

Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”

 

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