Using Robotics and Immersive Technologies to Support WFH Employees

An article on CIO last week reported on the shift towards standard remote working for businesses, accelerated by Covid-19. A recent enterprise survey conducted by 451 Research revealed that 80% of personnel have expanded or implemented remote working policies during the pandemic, and 67% intend on keeping these policies in future.

Despite the advantage of remote support, James Kobielus claimed that it tends to lack the immersive capabilities of robotic technology. Detail about the following particular technologies is included in the article:

  • RPA (Robotic Process Automation) = this software-centric approach has already arrived in remote work environments; however, it is not the same as having a human assistant nearby.
  • EC (Embodied Cognition) = these tools use sensor-driven Artificial Intelligence to power hardware-based robots as digital assistants, bridging the gap via anchoring robotics in physical environments. Facebook researchers are developing this technology to automate physical tasks, which could boost worker productivity. Furthermore, Facebook Research have just open-sourced SoundSpaces, an audio simulation platform that trains robotic agents to navigate 3D environments.
  • AR (Augmented Reality) = this technology can support remote work environments where certain aspects of its physicality are unknown to the worker. 3D descriptive captions are displayed over the worker’s camera view, supplementing the information with guidance and labels. This presents employees instantly with the necessary information, eradicating the need for workers to retrieve information via paper manuals or computers. MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory have created a system that can identify and caption people’s behaviours via WiFi and other signals, which can be used to detect when disabled employees require assistance, among other advantages.
  • VR (Virtual Reality) = VR is able to simulate key tools, activities, and participants that may be missing from the worker’s physical environment; computer-generated imagery can supplement tasks, projects, or outcomes, while avatars can be used to represent personnel who are not present. Additionally, head-office staff can use VR to visualise the remote worker’s environment.
  • MR (Mixed Reality) = a hybrid of AR and VR, MR blends real and simulated work environments. It is appropriate for supporting remote environments where not all participants are within an employee’s field of vision, which would call for ambiguous or missing aspects of the environment to be labelled. The technology is useful for training situations for those in high-risk careers.

The article concludes by claiming that immersive technologies such as AR will become fundamental for remote workers in coming years, enabling enterprises to deliver 24/7 support.

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