Post-Pandemic, Business in India will be Virtual, 3D, and Panlingual
As the coronavirus crisis fades in intensity but lingers in memory and restrictions, work and business will never be the same. The changes are disruptive and painful, forced on us against our will. We long for the way things were before the lockdown, to wake up from this viral nightmare. Yet it’s dawning on us that the new avenues of communication and collaboration, across the enterprise, India, and the globe, have big benefits. It may yet be possible to translate disruption into opportunity, and transition from viral to virtual.
Translating Innovation to Transform Our Remote Work World
Panlingual. Those of us lucky enough to speak English, lingua franca of the business world, may be forgiven for thinking that language revolves around them. True, English is the most spoken language, but runners-up 2,3,4 (Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish) account for twice as many people.
Less than one in 6 people speak English, which opens the way for the fast-growing translation services seeking to overcome language barriers. The most exciting developments are in machine translation. AI-driven neural network technology has brought closer the science fiction idea of an instant universal translator. Anyone who explores the translation apps of Google and Microsoft will be blown away not just by the accuracy and fluency of translation these days.
- Voice-to-text dictation which rarely misses a syllable and can translate on the fly
- Text to voice translated into dozens of languages, with voices almost human
- Camera translation with augmented reality translations replacing foreign language signs and menus
- Sequential voice interpretation for fluent smartphone convos with foreigners
- One-to-many simultaneous interpretation for conferences and keynote speeches
- Video Remote Interpretation lets you add an interpreter in any language, on-demand, to your video call
Virtual. In April, XRBASE out of Amsterdam put on an investor-startup matchmaking event– totally in virtual reality. It brought together a few dozen investors and a hundred entrepreneurs in fields of eXtended Reality (XR), encompassing Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. While the holographic 3D machinations of Tom Cruise in Minority Report or Neo in the Matrix franchise are still a way off, they’re getting a lot closer. My client kindly sent me an Oculus Quest Head-Mounted Display and within minutes I was doing the tango with a nimble-footed avatar partner and losing myself in the dance. Immersed in a virtual auditorium experiencing the multi-dimensional pitches of the XR startup, chatting and gesturing to fellow attendees seated next to me, I had no worries about social distancing or viral droplets from my virtual seatmate’s chatter.
While Zoom and its cousins will continue to be a mainstay for 2D video calls, the impact of the virtual reality conference – one of a series of remote 3D events rolling out these days – made clear that, even if physical face-to-face conferences and expos are ever restored, the time for XR experience is nigh. The industry just needs a critical mass of helmet-wearers to make it routine to “meet in virtual” and have conferences “all in the remote.” Virtual is no longer kid’s play – it’s the future of remote meetings, dating, concerts, sports, immersive and intense. Social distancing in your face. Feel the buzz.
Take-Away Only: Which Apps can We Trust for Remote Working?
A recent article in Gartner discusses the inevitability, post-Corona, of remote work for an organization’s future. As one who has been remote working for close to a decade now, I can say that remote working is remarkably from the petty politics and turf issues that dominated face-to-face office life in my previous incarnation as a small business boss. According to the thinktank’s study, 64% of professionals say they can work anywhere, and 71% of companies have remote work policies.
A handful of power tools have transformed my remote work reality. I credit Upwork as a life-changer. This is arguably the top marketplace for freelancers. I got into it, set up a shingle as a copywriter, editor, and ghost. I’ve never looked back, and I credit the simplicity of the business model and its trust-based fairness. Freelancers negotiate terms with clients, and clients deposit an agreed escrow amount which is automatically released upon meeting milestones. For hourly work, there’s a time-tracking mechanism that screen-captures what you’re working on to “keep you honest.” It’s like Reagan said about SALT talks with the Russians: trust but verify.
Slack is a collaboration platform that manages channels of communication among colleagues for complex projects. Combined with Google docs, it’s a snap to collaborate on document editing, spreadsheets, and presentations, each colleague’s contributions trackable. And as a staple work tool, even the venerable MS-Word keeps yielding pleasant surprises, like its cool dictation and translation features.
How to Translate Acute Distress into Sustainable Progress
The tools for remote working, and networking, are already out there, ready for use. This crisis and economic shutdown, however painful for so many, has the benefit of giving us, and the earth, a break. The pause enables us to re-experience a slower pace, re-evaluate our priorities, and explore new avenues for living and working.
Remote work may prove healthier and happier. Do we miss commuting? Traffic? Air pollution? Anyone one who has breathed the air in Indian cities can appreciate the difference. I welcome the opportunity to meet the legions now entering the world of remote working and interactive 3D experiences.
We are witnessing a silent revolution. Walls of separation are tumbling. Language barriers are toppling. Is social distancing a cause for despair? I think not. Social intimacy is possible across physical distance. Our minds and hearts can still meet.
There’s room for us in virtual space. There’s freedom in this new frontier. See you there.