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Washington: From virtual reality helmets, integrated audio systems, and smart cameras, tech giants are offering more and more high-end products to match work from home and the office, but these new services may widen the digital divide between the rich and the poor.
In late August, Facebook launched Horizon Works, a platform that creates an online meeting room in which participants join as virtual characters using Oculus helmets, which cost $300 apiece.
As for Google, for its part, it launched Series One, which is a very sophisticated toolkit for organizing meetings that allows reconciling between in-person meetings (with the actual presence of several people in the room) and remote ones.
More advanced packages can cost up to $7,000 and include audio systems and smart or directional cameras.
(Studies reveal a decrease in the level of productivity due to the fatigue experienced by employees during their remote work, depending on the stressful home conditions)
Regardless of the spread of the epidemic in the world, flexibility has become the desired goal at work, and competition is fierce among technology giants to implement this concept on the ground as much as possible.
And Rhiannon Payne, a specialist in remote working methods, who has published in this regard, believes that virtual reality will be fused into the work system, as was the case previously with a laptop or cell phone.
With these new products, IT equipment companies are seeking to “develop ways to facilitate remote work and improve communication with colleagues,” according to Payne.
There is no doubt that laptops and cell phones have influenced our approach to the concept of work, but the new approach to work requires mastering modern tools and the adoption of a hybrid format.
(Expensive tools for remote meetings and work that not all families can afford)
Some employers have added familiarity with virtual presentation software or remote bid management as one of the conditions for affiliation with their company.
“It seems practical and harmless at first glance, but it can exacerbate inequality if we don’t pay attention to it,” said Monica Sanders, a lecturer at Georgetown University.
For many, “working from home remains a luxury they can’t afford,” says Michelle Burris, a researcher at the Century Foundation think tank.
Broadband Now, an organization working to expand Internet access, estimated the number of Americans without a high-speed network at 42 million, or 13 percent of the total population, according to a study published in May.
In some of the most disadvantaged areas, this percentage may be much higher and includes, for example, a quarter of the population in Louisiana and about 40% of them in Mississippi.
In addition to the Internet, the acquisition of information equipment is also an obstacle.
18 months ago, Patricia McGee moved from her work in an Amazon logistics center to a position where she handles customers from afar, in light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The 39-year-old mother of four had to spend about $2,000 to purchase a personal computer, as well as payments for operating software and internet connectivity.
“Not everyone can afford these costs,” she says. “Some are denied jobs because they don’t have the financial resources or skills” to use the information tools that have become popular during the pandemic.
A few days ago, Patricia’s computer malfunctioned and she was no longer entitled to take a vacation and she now has to wait for the machine to be fixed in order to earn a living.
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