I first realised just how quickly attitudes towards technology were changing when my mum told me, two days after lockdown began, that she had downloaded Skype.
She’s not exactly an early adopter – in fact, she has resolutely refused to video call anybody, ever, until now.
Lockdown has removed the luxury of choice for many of us. If you want to see your relatives, it has to be on screen.
As we get over the social awkwardness of the “Zoom boom” – when to mute that mic, when to stop talking – we’re realising that, for the most part, video chat works.
Whether it’s family reunions, pub quizzes, office meetings or even pet appointments with the vet, we can get together quickly without being in the same room – and there’s a good chance that is going to stick.
woman working from home
Twitter has already told its staff they don’t ever need to go back into the office again, and Cambridge University says its lectures will remain purely online until the summer of 2021.
This week Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that up to 50% of the workforce could be working from home in the next 5-10 years.
The tech giant’s head of Virtual Reality, Andrew Bosworth, shared a fascinating video of what a mixed reality workspace – a combination of the real world and digital images – might look like.
As we think through supercharging remote work and productivity, we’ve been working on mixed reality concepts that builds on existing technologies like Passthrough to allow people to switch between real and virtual worlds pic.twitter.com/cJCEXDxC7b
— Boz (@boztank) May 21, 2020
Broadly speaking the internet infrastructure has coped pretty well with everyone piling onto it – at least for those with access to more robust services.
Some experts have long called for the net to be recognised as a public utility, alongside electricity, water and gas – as well as the requisite regulation that comes with it – and perhaps it has finally earned its spurs.
John Graham-Cumming, from internet security firm Cloudflare, said the company is now seeing three daily peaks for internet traffic around the world – first thing in the morning, lunchtime and early evening – and they are bigger than ever.
“If you think about the internet as a utility, can you think of another utility that could sustain 50% growth [in traffic]?” he said.
“The net has been a reliable sidekick through all this.”
And the tech firms have certainly spotted their opportunity.
Microsoft’s Satya Nadella says digital transformation has advanced two years in two months, as we seek to be entertained, to be connected and to keep track of what is happening during the pandemic.
We can already see investment and goodwill getting behind tech alternatives in the hunt for new ways of doing things: could this be the moment drone deliveries finally take off (pardon the pun), e-scooters get an easier ride, and virtual gyms put our post-lockdown bodies through their paces, via a headset, in the comfort of our own homes?
History will eventually reveal whether lockdown was the dawn of a new era or merely a blip before things returned to the way they were.
For tech to truly prove itself as a game-changer, it has to become part of the furniture: consistent, reliable and, therefore, totally unremarkable.
And as anyone who has experienced an unexpected outage at a frustrating moment in the past few weeks will tell you, we’re not quite there yet.