The pandemic and its associated lockdown are changing the way people work, go to school, shop, socialize and a lot more. The tech industry has taken notice — and it’s responding.
The pandemic is profoundly changing the way people feel about work and technology. Consider:
> Over 80% of the global workforce does not want to return to the office full-time, finds a survey conducted recently by mobile security provider MobileIron. Yet 30% of workers also say that being isolated from their work team is the biggest hindrance to productivity during the lockdown.
> Nearly half of Americans say they’d use telehealth for mental health and therapy sessions, finds another survey, this one conducted by healthcare security firm CynergisTek.
> Sales have suddenly spiked for Wi-Fi routers and extenders. Consumers seek reliable wireless networks that can support all their working-from-home (WFH) users and devices. Market watcher ABI Research predicts global sales of these devices will hit 223 million units this year, up by 10 million units from last year.
So what’s the tech industry doing in response? Here are 3 new ways.
Microsoft: new tools for wellbeing
Microsoft recently introduced new features in its Teams and Outlook products to help people with WFH stress.
The features include a virtual commute experience for better work and home-life transitions. There’s integration with Headspace, a provider of mindfulness and meditation apps. And tools to help people connect more easily with colleagues, schedule time for work and breaks, and more.
Headspace app in Microsoft Teams
The enhancements are needed, says Microsoft researcher Shamsi Iqbal, because working at home brings its own unique stresses.
“People will say, ‘I’m happy I don’t have to commute anymore. I’m saving time,’” she says. “But without a routine for ramping up for work and then winding down, they’re emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”
NVIDIA: cloud connections
Everybody’s streaming, with an estimated 30 million web meetings being held every day. To help, NVIDIA this week announced Maxine, a platform that provides developers with a cloud-based suite of GPU-accelerated AI videoconferencing software.
NVIDIA says the new platform can benefit videoconference service providers by empowering them to offer users new AI effects. These can include gaze correction, super-resolution, noise cancellation and face relighting.
NVIDIA Maxine offers AI effects for videoconferences
Because Maxine processes the data in the cloud rather than on local devices, end users can enjoy these new features without needing specialized hardware.
Maxine can also help developers scale conferencing services to meet real-time demands That’s not always easy. You might have hundreds of users trying to join the same call, or even thousands.
To help, NVIDIA Maxine uses AI microservices; these run in Kubernetes container clusters on NVIDIA GPUs. All this means users can run multiple AI features simultaneously while remaining well within application-latency requirements.
Samsung: volunteer power
The pandemic is hurting communities with business closures, layoffs, and of course health issues. To help, Samsung Electronics America has launched a month-long campaign that encourages its thousands of U.S. employees to volunteer in their local communities.
The program, called Samsung Gives Month of Service, was launched on Oct. 2 via a virtual company event. It expands a long-standing program at Samsung, in which the company’s offices closed for one day in October to allow employees to volunteer locally. Now they’ll have a full month, although the Samsung offices will stay open.
Samsung America: a month to volunteer
Ann Woo, Samsung America’s senior director of corporate citizenship, says the company “plans to step up and serve like we never have before.”
To help its employees stay healthy, Samsung America is encouraging them to volunteer virtually. That might include providing feedback to budding writers, mentoring K-12 students on financial literacy, and building kits for active-duty military members.
Several charities and nonprofits are participating in Samsung’s month-long program. They include the American Red Cross, Junior Achievement of New Jersey, and Operation Homefront.