Fast Forward 50 Years: the Meeting Room to Blow Your Mind

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

High-tech trappings won’t just make future meeting spaces cool; they’ll also make them more productive.

By Matt Alderton

The Theme Building at LAX was built in 1961, embodying the era’s vision of the future. The Jetsons debuted in 1962.

Cartoons aren’t crystal balls, but anyone who grew up watching the classic TV show The Jetsons knows it’s only a matter of time before flying cars, moving sidewalks and robot housekeepers become fact instead of fiction.

Jetson-like innovation aside, some things will not change. Case in point: People will always have to meet. Mark Cooper, CEO of International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) says face-to-face meetings have survived the Internet and videoconferencing — and will continue to survive whatever technologies come next.

“If you think about it, in a world where many work from their homes or remotely, one of the only ways they can build relationships and create exciting outcomes is by coming together for meetings, training or conferences,” Cooper says. “Therefore, I think the demand for quality meetings and personal interactions will only get bigger as a result of technological advancements.”

Although the need for meetings won’t change in the future, the spaces in which they’re conducted most definitely will. As part of its 2016 “Meeting Room of the Future” report, Cooper says, IACC asked meeting planners what the most important meeting venue elements will be over the next five years and found that planners are most interested in access to interactive technology, flexible meeting spaces, meeting room-adjacent networking spaces, and food-and-beverage diversity.

But what about the next 10 years? The next 20 years? Or maybe even the next 50 years? Here are five futuristic meeting-room fixtures that planners of tomorrow may take for granted:

1. Natural Light — Anywhere

LEDs already have ushered in a new era of high-tech meeting-room lighting, according to meetings technology consultant Corbin Ball, president of Corbin Ball Associates. “LED light is not only much more efficient in terms of cost and maintenance, but every light bulb can be adjusted to the exact color you want to establish different themes and moods,” he says. “This means meeting planners can start using color psychology to wake people up or mellow them out, depending on what the meeting’s about.”

As LED technology continues to evolve, lighting will become even more important to meeting spaces. An Italian company called CoeLux, for instance, already is using LEDs to produce artificial skylights and windows that replicate the physical properties of natural light. In the future, this technology could fill meeting rooms with “natural” sunlight in even the most unusual places, like an underwater venue at the bottom of the ocean or a meeting room at the North Pole during a dark, dark winter. Or even just a lower level meeting room in a Manhattan hotel.

2. Transformable Robotics

Robots and artificial intelligence already are in use at hotels for delivering room service and retrieving luggage. In meeting rooms, future iterations of these robots will be able to deliver on-demand food and beverage, office supplies and A/V to meeting planners and attendees, according to Ball.

Even more transformative, however, will be transformable robotics, says technology futurist Gray Scott, founder and CEO of futurist website SeriousWonder.com. Instead of 3D printing, he says, the world will have 4D printing, a nascent technology that will one day allow people to print objects — including meeting spaces — that can reshape themselves or self-assemble over time.

“Once we get to nanoscale transformable robotics, we could see pop-up ‘meeting-wombs’ where you can activate the technology,” Scott says. “A thin membrane could unfold around the individuals enabling them to speak or connect privately. We are in the midst of a materials revolution — self-healing glass, stretchable electronics, etc. Don’t be surprised if new magical [meeting] spaces begin to emerge.”

3. Augmented Reality

Thanks to headsets like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard, virtual and augmented reality are currently making their way into meetings and events. In the future, however, they will be fully integrated into meeting rooms, predicts Ball, who envisions a real-life version of the Star Trek holodeck that will enable otherwise mundane meeting rooms to transform into immersive augmented-reality experiences wherein holographic technology will transform the walls of a meeting room into the Amazon rainforest, the Gobi desert, the International Space Station or anywhere else where the surroundings reinforce a meeting’s themes and objectives.

“You’ll be able to be there — in the meeting room — but go anywhere,” Ball says.

4. Holography

Speaking of holographic technology: Virtual meeting and videoconferencing technology have made it possible for attendees to participate in meetings remotely from anywhere that has an Internet connection. Meeting rooms of the future won’t just have video screens through which you can Skype with colleagues, however. Rather, they’ll have ultra-high-definition holograms that give an entirely new meaning to the term “telepresence.”

“The ability to broadcast people into the meeting room from remote locations — and have it look and feel like they’re actually there — will be very commonplace,” says Ball, who predicts that holographic technology eventually will be so sophisticated that it will be hard to distinguish the virtual colleague across the table from the physical one sitting next to you.

5. Bio-Digital Feedback Loops

Future meetings rooms will be outfitted with EEG headsets that enable “brain fingerprinting” and “digital telepathy” so that meeting attendees will be able to determine if speakers are telling the truth and even exchange thoughts from mind-to-mind, Scott predicts. “I think the objective of face-to-face meetings in the future will be about transparency and authenticity. People in the future will want to know what you are thinking on a biological level,” he says. “Words won’t ‘make the sale’ in the future. Neurons will. Brain-to-brain meetings are the future.”

Attendees aren’t the only ones who will be able to read minds. Meeting rooms themselves will be able to do the same, according to Scott, who says meeting rooms will use tools like micro facial recognition sensors capable of reading attendees’ facial expressions to adapt to attendees on the fly with the help of aforementioned technologies like augmented reality and 4D printing.

“The rooms will be bio-digital,” Scott says. “They will use augmented reality, holograms and morphing technologies to shift according to the desired outcome. The walls, chairs and the room itself will shift according to predictive data and artificial intelligence. 4D printing and transformable robots are the beginning of this idea. Imagine a room of nanobots that can shape shift into any form based on the desires of the meeting and participants.”

The possibilities are mind-boggling. At the end of the day, however, meetings will still be meetings.

“The reason we need meeting space today is to create trust and a bond with the people we meet with,” Scott concludes. “That bond will only get stronger and more intimate as the future unfolds.”

Bizly is a platform for booking small group meetings on demand at the world’s leading hotels. Browse meeting rooms here.

Photo credit: Flickr — brewbooks