Friday, August 14, 2009

Overcoming the dis-embodied brain

Recently a colleague has had to work from home for extended periods. Today's technology is amazing in that it is wholly possible to do this and still work productively. With remote access to work and email applications via Citrix, diversion of office phones to mobile phones, and the use or web based wikis, IM and twitter there is no impediment to seamless remote working.

But there is a down-side. It pyschological more than anything else. It's dis-embodiment.

After a period of working with my colleague in a remote manner, the image of my colleague is fading and being replaced with the direct image I see during our converasations - a conference phone, a computer screen. It's crazy, I know, but he is turning into a dis-embodied brain, a god floating in the ether.

But there is another way. It may be a little data intensive and some options are down-right mind-blowing in their cost, but there should be no restriction in today's technologically capable world from not have visual and audio connections in remote locations.

Here are just a few options organisations can and should consider for employees working remotely:

Online video calls
Google and Skype both offer free one-to-one video calls.

Virtual worlds
Not as silly as it sounds, virtual worlds are promising to deliver the next generation of remote conferencing and offer unlimited flexibility in communicating with life-like representations of colleagues. Workplace virtual world examples include Forterra, Rivers Run Red for Second Life and some organisations are even trialling PS3 Home as a virtual communications medium.

TelePresence is something that Cisco has championed and the innovations coming out of Cisco really do show where remote working is heading. Life-sized imagery broadcast over digital lines is pretty amazing.

And just to show you there is always something way out there. The video below show's the next next generation of teleconferencing - Princess Leia style - holography in the boardroom.

Home offices and SMEs are perfectly positioned to leverage free online video technologies such as Google video and Skype. Larger organisations should consider distributed telepresence. I say distributed because I believe that having a system locked down to office-to-office video calls misses an opportunity to link in staff at home, customers and suppliers that all have webcams that could link in.

These are our best options for really tangible and meaningful connections via remote locations, we should embrace visual connections as much as possible and shun the dis-embodied soul.

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