Caleb Schoepp

The Future of AR and Remote Work

Published March 10, 2024

Like every other geek on earth right now the Apple Vision Pro has me excited. And though I haven’t tried one yet, it has me excited about how AR1 could change the future of remote white collar work.

There is a lot to love about remote work: having no commute; freely choosing where you live; making your own hours; and much more. But, remote work has some serious disadvantages too. In my experience the two most glaring issues are the lack of boundaries and the isolation2. As we continue to watch AR evolve with moments like the release of the Apple Vision Pro I’m becoming increasingly convinced that AR may have a solution to these issues.

Let’s focus on the issue of a lack of boundaries first. In a traditional work setup when you work from an office you’re given very clear physical boundaries. You can take the mental aspects of your work home with you but the intent is that work happens at the office and your personal life happens at home. Working from home shatters these boundaries and everything starts to bleed together. Suddenly you’re playing video games in the middle of the day and checking Slack right before bed.

Small improvements can be made. You’re better off working in your living room rather than your bedroom. And you’re even better off working in a dedicated room. But, an interior wall in your home isn’t a very big boundary between work and your personal life.

Others seek the solution of co-working spaces to provide this boundary for themselves. While it certainly does introduce a boundary it puts a commute back in your life and perhaps more importantly means you’re working on a laptop all day — not your lovingly crafted home office with dual monitors and an ergonomic chair.

Here’s where sufficiently advanced AR could come in to solve this issue of a lack of boundaries in two ways. First, you could use your AR headset to work in the savannah or on the moon. At the end of the day you take off the headset and you’re back at home. I reckon that the technology will get convincing enough that this will feel like a better boundary. Second, once an AR headset becomes a better setup than your dual monitors you are no longer chained to your home. Now whenever working from your home isn’t feeling right you can easily step out to your local coffee shop and be just as productive.

Now let’s tackle the issue of isolation. From my perspective this is the biggest issue with remote work. The obvious angle on this is that remote work is lonely — which it is. But, even worse I think that remote work has stolen my sense of camaraderie. I’m talking about the feeling you have when you and all your friends are about to write an exam you prepared for all semester; or the feeling of white boarding out a really difficult engineering problem with some coworkers.

You would expect working at a fast moving tech startup to offer this camaraderie in spades. But, it just doesn’t deliver the way I thought it would and being remote is to blame. The emotional effect of anything done over Zoom is dulled.

The obvious solution is to find this camaraderie in other ways such as joining a meetup. This is certainly a viable option, but it can be tough to find people interested in what you’re interested in when remote work lets you live on the ends of the earth. In any case this doesn’t address the root issue which is the majority of my day at work lacks camaraderie.

Once again AR might just have the answers to our problems. Once AR is good enough to trick me into thinking that I’m physically with my coworkers, then I may as well not be remote. The camaraderie will naturally follow. Let’s imagine some scenarios: I need to design a system and so I white board with some other engineers; it’s time for my 1-1 with my manager and so I go for a virtual walk or to a virtual coffee shop with them; I’m feeling lonely and want to have some people around even if I still need to focus by myself and so I enter a virtual office where people can work side by side. Best of all I get to keep all the benefits of remote work at the same time.

Will AR ever get sufficiently good to make these ideas come true? If so, how quickly will that happen? Will AR boundaries be able to fill the role of physical boundaries or will it still come down to personal decisions and habits? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I sure am excited to see these questions answered as this industry evolves!

  1. What I’m talking about has many names: augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), spatial computing. Society hasn’t settled on what we’ll call it so I’m going to stick with AR because it feels the least conceited. ↩︎

  2. Shoutout to the Cortex podcast for inspiring me to think more deeply about this area. ↩︎

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