The future of how we work was a prominent theme at CES 2023, with key players launching new remote-friendly products and leading discussions about technology’s role in facilitating remote, flexible and more engaging work.
Mopria Alliance member HP expanded its product lineup aimed at freelancers and prosumers, Dell explored the future of connection with Concept Nyx, a metaverse office concept, and Acer even unveiled a bike desk, blurring the lines between work and exercise.
From the conceptual to the tactical a common theme emerged: the role of technology will deepen as the world continues to embrace a flexible and hybrid work environment, and its power lies in its ability to improve engagement, collaboration, and enjoyment.
If CES is a preview of what’s to come, what are the implications of the metaverse and remote work for the print industry? We caught up with Mike Scrutton, Director of Print Technology & Strategy at Adobe and Mopria Alliance member, for his take on the future of printing in an increasingly digital landscape.
Q&A with Mike Scrutton, Director of Print Technology & Strategy at Adobe
Mopria Alliance: The metaverse office concept entails a shared space for collaboration integrating virtual or augmented reality, 3D displays, laptop/tablet/smartphone screens, and/or in-person tangible objects like smart whiteboards.
But is it all virtual? What is the role of printing in the metaverse office concept?
Mike: It’s all about “surfaces”. All of the above [screens and whiteboards] are ways of presenting information to the office user. Given an infinite number of digital screens, covering all visible areas and even capable of stacking so you can move between them with ease, then maybe you could imagine a digital-only future. But paper has proven to be a resilient surface for holding and representing information. It’s two-dimensional yet can be stacked and even optimized to have two surfaces per sheet – a front and a back – and can hold a large amount of information in a relatively small area, and viewed without consuming any power so it’s very environmentally friendly.
Compared to the “surface” trends seen at CES, paper complements them rather than replacing them, and vice versa. In the same way you can look something up on a smartphone or tablet and then return to a bigger screen to continue your task, so a printed sheet can be used to refer to information, an idea, or be transported outside the room. Or indeed be used to bring information into a space.
This is all the more important if we can assume that people will move between locations while working. That might be between a corporate desk and a meeting room, between the corporate office and the home office, or between the home office and the kitchen table, or between the home office and the airline seat en route to the hotel desk.
Mopria Alliance: Is print technology ready for the metaverse and the office of the future? What technology is already available, and what do we still need to see?
Mike: Just as we want to move information between the screens, so we really want to freely move information between surfaces. In this context, it means printing (or initiating a print) from any screen or device to any printer, and the ability to digitize the paper (scan) to any screen or device. That’s all the more important if devices move with us between locations which might have different printers and infrastructure.
“As we become information-centric rather than location-centric we need the ability to print and scan without friction, and certainly without the need to perform setup using the help of an IT department or specialist.”
As we become information-centric rather than location-centric we need the ability to print and scan without friction, and certainly without the need to perform setup using the help of an IT department or specialist. Printing our information should ‘just work’ – irrespective of our location, device and printer in the vicinity. Mopria’s work to establish standards and solutions around printing and scanning have helped enable this.
Mopria Alliance: Do we anticipate any adaptations or evolutions of printer/scanner hardware in the home office setup to adapt to the metaverse?
Mike: The biggest evolution I see is in the area of how one selects the printer to send information to, and how one makes any choices about “how” the information should be presented when printed. Today when I print, I’m presented with a list of available printers and that might change based on what printers are connected to the same network as my device – this will get more complex as we remove the friction of printing. 5G will further complicate matters if devices and printers are all connected to the same central locations rather than sub-networks.
In my smart-home, it’s sometimes difficult to tell my smart speaker to turn on a particular light if I have filled my home with smart lights. In the same way, in the future when all devices can print to all printers with equal ease (whether they are in my home, my corporate office, my hotel lobby, my ski lodge or just at my neighbor’s house across the street) then having my print come from the right device will be critical.
The solution for my lighting problem might be to use the “definite article”. Turning on the light might mean something different depending on what room I’m in. Likewise printing on the printer might be context sensitive based on my physical location, be that determined by Bluetooth, triangulation of Wi-Fi signal strengths, GPS, or some other technology.
As the workplace of the future continues to materialize, Mopria looks forward to continued partnership with member companies like Adobe as we meet the demands for an evolution–not elimination–of print infrastructure.