Work Smart and Play Harder

How hybrid tech will accelerate the blending of our digital and physical worlds in 2023 By Dave Prezzano, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, HP Inc. With insights from Luke Thomas, Chief of Staff & Futurist, HP Inc.

  • 1 year ago Posted in

It’s easy to forget that just a few years ago, our work and home lives, as well as our physical and digital identities, were much more distinct. However, the rapid emergence of hybrid work models and the continued progress of technology has enabled us to work and play from anywhere.

Personally, I am travelling quite frequently again, and while I enjoy the energy of being in the office and the unplanned yet insightful interactions that come with it, I have come to appreciate the freedom of hybrid work.

This increased flexibility has increased employees’ sense of autonomy and improved the perception and experience of work. A recent study revealed 63% of respondents believe new workplace technology enables them to engage in more meaningful tasks. HP’s own 2022 Hybrid Global Survey found that 89% of UK office workers believe that flexible work enhances their work-life balance and well-being.

Cloud gaming tech has also removed barriers in the world of play, allowing people to access games and player accounts from different devices and locations, with remarkable consistency. People’s choices when it comes to digital entertainment are also impacting physical workspaces, with high-end gaming peripherals increasingly common in home office setups.

This merging will only accelerate in 2023, creating new opportunities for workforce-focused solutions that offer genuine hybrid innovation, as well as more immersive gaming experiences. The following trends are among those our futurists and engineers are focused on for the year ahead.

A seamless and inclusive hybrid work experience, powered by AI

Collaboration technology has improved insignificantly since 2020, as organisations have sought to enhance hybrid productivity. R&D in this area is not slowing down, with a relentless focus on removing friction from communications. For example, smarter, more seamless conference room audio and video enables anyone to start presenting immediately without a time-consuming setup.

However, these solutions have further to go to ensure everyone is seen and heard fairly. According to HP’s 2022 Hybrid Global Survey, four times as many office workers believe that being in the office increases their chances of promotion, which significantly disadvantages employees who find it difficult to commute or who are remote workers.

To address this, AI is increasingly being integrated into hardware to ensure that everyone can participate more equally. For example, webcams can track faces, keeping individuals centred on the screen while presenting or contributing to discussions. AI-enabled audio, such as voice levelling, ensures that remote attendees are not talked over or drowned out. Even AI-optimised battery performance can give people the confidence to commute while still being able to work reliably.

Personalised gaming gear goes mainstream, for improved immersion and wellbeing

You might be surprised to learn that the UK is forecast to become the country with the highest percentage of self-identified gamers, surpassing Japan. In 2022, 60% of UK adults considered themselves gamers, and this is expected to rise to 70% by 2027. With games now dominating the global entertainment industry, people are increasingly investing in improving their experience.

This translates to greater mainstream demand for more sophisticated peripherals, such as customisable keyboards, mice, and external microphones, previously considered niche products geared towards hardcore gamers. The same is true for ergonomic professional-grade controllers, or blue light filtering glasses designed to mitigate sleep disruption. Premium headsets with immersive multi-directional audio can provide both gamers and professionals with more personalised, comfortable experiences. All of which are raising consumers’ expectations when it comes to device performance.

When I stumbled upon the flip-up-to-mute microphone feature on my Poly headset by accident, it was a great example of how even small, familiar features can provide a delightful experience. Discovering this for myself was a minder of the kind of moments that consumers, either gamers or professionals, love.

Advancements in AI will also enhance the role of microphones and sound in gaming. Integration with connected microphones and headsets will allow players to interact with the game world in more natural and intuitive ways. Voice control features will enable gamers to execute in-game actions – such as carrying out complex moves or accessing menus – simply by speaking.

More sustainable choices for work and play

A shift is happening in net zero climate goals and consumer expectations. Simply announcing plans is longer enough; people demand action. Shoppers are rightly more environmentally conscious and want to see tangible progress and be presented with greener alternatives - sustainability is now a deciding factor in purchase choice.

I too prefer to invest in those companies taking real steps for climate action. As device manufacturers begin to offer a wider range of eco-friendly hardware, I expect this market segment’s growth to keep accelerating.

This means that more products will incorporate more sustainable materials, like recycled plastic that may otherwise have ended up in the ocean. HP’s newest Dragonfly and Elite 1000 Series PCs, for example, contain ocean-bound plastics in the speaker enclosure, as well as bio-circular content such as used cooking oil. Circular economy materials will soon make up a more significant portion of all our devices.

Designing more sustainable products and ensuring these choices are accessible to everyone is a core principle for HP, too. As part of our goal to develop the world’s most sustainable PC portfolio, we have integrated over a billion pounds (more than 453 million kilograms) of recycled materials into our hardware since 2019. We anticipate seeing more brands announcing exciting innovations in this space in the months ahead.

The best of both worlds - as standard

Despite the challenges we face, and the urgent need for action that combats climate change, protects human rights and accelerates digital equity, there are reasons for excitement and optimism, too. These tech trends are just a few examples showing we are still living in amazing times.

When these solutions are designed, deployed, and managed well – they enable us to work and play more flexibly and equitably, so we really can have it all: more effective collaboration when we’re in the office, better focus and privacy when working from home - with more people than ever given access to the tools they need to fulfil their potential.

We are seeing new standards of technological performance and integration with the flow of life – that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. I believe this will lead to a more productive, more enjoyable, and more sustainable world for us all.

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