Let’s Redesign the Laptop for a Work-From-Home Era

When it comes to working from home, there is a lot of focus on the most important tool for working from home: the laptop. But leaning so heavily on a laptop raises all sorts of questions, from camera and audio quality to security and privacy.

What are the upcoming developments in laptops to facilitate remote working? And what events should take place? Here’s what several experts had to say about it.

The more we become familiar with video conferencing, the more we notice poor video and camera angles. Thanks to software innovations, we’ll all look better on camera.

There is already software available that allows you to change the pupil of the eye to give the impression that you are facing the camera. It’s no exaggeration to think that the software will scan our face and present a virtual camera image that shows us at the most flattering angle, with a little movement for added realism.

To take it one step further, more and more employees who are constantly in meetings don’t want to stare at a camera or a single screen all day. If you have more than one camera – think of a home production studio – the meeting software can seamlessly switch between cameras depending on what your eyes are on.

We also need to see the evolution of tablet and laptop design to improve the way we look at the device. If you have a device with a detachable keyboard, you can already place the screen and camera on a stand to get a better viewing angle. It is wise to disconnect the camera from your laptop so you can put it anywhere.

You already have another camera: Your smartphone. With the right app, you can send video from your smartphone camera to your computer and bring that video, with a few hurdles, to a meeting. In the future, this device may become more pluggable, so that the camera on your mobile device is just another device that you can put anywhere on your computer.

The cameras below the screen match the design of the smartphone. This will go the way of the laptops. We will be able to look our interlocutors straight in the eye on the screen, without having to strain ourselves.

-Adam Preseth, senior research director, collaboration and employee experience, at GartnerInc. a research and consulting firm.

In our Corona-infested world, we realize that we lean heavily on our portable webcams….. and they’re not very good. Joanna Stern of the WSJ compared the new MacBook Air to Dell’s XPS 13, Google’s Pixelbook Go and Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3.

2. …and how it sounds.

Perhaps the most economical and effective upgrade to current speech and hearing systems on laptops would be to equip them with microphones. Not only do all speakers speak with muffled echoes and sounds, but the words are sometimes difficult to understand.

To stay at home?

Nearly four in ten working adults say they can do most of their work at home. Among those who say they are ___ all or most of the time:*


Work on

at home before the onset of the coronavirus

I currently work from home

I would like to work

out of the house as soon as the coronavirus outbreak is over.

Among working adults who currently work entirely or almost entirely from home and whose workplace is open, the percentage who indicated that each of the following reasons ____ is why they currently work from home:

concerns for exposure to the coronavirus.

And, just as importantly, it can be hard to hear those little sounds that signal approval, like. B. an aha, a mess, like. For example, a hmm, or when someone wants to talk, like. B. an aha or a mmm. The inability to hear these beeps makes conversations more stressful and less effective.

Artificial intelligence analysis of real-time conversations can solve this problem by providing additional clues that help people have more meaningful conversations. It really works and is available today.

Moreover, research shows that sound quality is as important as video quality in assessing the overall quality and attendance of a conference. While the quality of the microphone is most important to the audio experience, the quality of the speakers also plays a big role. With additional speakers, it would be possible to hold sessions in small groups that would be much closer to the natural experience of face-to-face meetings. They would be much less stressful and more effective.

-Alex Sandy Pentland, professor of media arts and sciences, Toshiba, MIT.

3. Improved radio communications

For most people, the main form of connection for a laptop is wireless. The various forms of wireless communication are getting better and better. The latest generation of Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6) is coming to the market in 2019. It offers faster speeds, lower latency and the ability to share the Wi-Fi spectrum more efficiently with the ever-increasing number of connected devices in the home.

It was recently announced that 6E Wi-Fi products will use the new 6 GHz spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission recently released for unlicensed access. This is the largest spectrum gain for Wi-Fi in 20 years.

I look forward to the work that has already begun on Wi-Fi 7. Each of them brings a new performance improvement in terms of speed and latency. Meanwhile, the advent of 5G cellular connectivity enables similar improvements for laptops equipped with 5G modems, with the added benefit of allowing users to easily connect when they leave the house.

Improvements in Wi-Fi and 5G can enable laptops to support higher quality video conferencing and augmented/virtual reality applications. They will also allow users to move most of their storage and computing power to the cloud, which will result in thinner, lighter laptops with longer battery life.

-Randall Barry, John Dever Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northwestern University.

4. Larger and better screens

It’s unlikely that the screens on each device will get bigger, but the total screen area will increase. People will prefer multiple monitors to have better multitasking access to other applications, for example. For example, video conferencing.

Users will benefit from software that can flexibly perform their work on multiple screens, whether on a desktop, laptop or mobile device. For example, participants may want to postpone their meeting to go outside or to the kitchen.

Share your ideas

What computer features do you find most useful? Join the discussion below.

When working outside a lot, software interfaces need to adapt more and adjust contrast and brightness.

We will need longer life batteries to power the brighter screens. In addition, computer processors and operating systems should be smarter about allocating resources from other sources when maximum screen brightness is a higher priority. Perhaps there will even be alternative display technologies (such as head-mounted Retina displays) that avoid exposure to ambient light.

-Xiang Anthony Chen, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Samuel School of Engineering, UCLA.

5. Eliminate noise

If you work on a laptop at home, you have all kinds of problems with sound. Bickering roommates, barking pets, or just plain city noise are hard to quell when laptop users are participating in video or audio conferences. But help is on the way.

Laptop algorithms will soon be able to filter out background noise so quickly that the noise is continuously filtered out before it leaves the computer. The same can be done at the receiving end: If Bob’s laptop can’t filter out its own background noise, his colleague Alice can put the filtering in place so that her laptop’s speakers only reproduce Bob’s clear voice.


Global sales of laptops will rise by 2020 as people work and learn from home


Of course, random background noise is harder to eliminate than consistent, familiar sounds. But these filtering algorithms can be re-trained to be better guards next time.

To take it a step further, laptops can even create sound bubbles around the user’s head. This means that the laptop’s speakers emit sound in such a way that it is clearly audible to the user’s ears, for example, when they are nearby. For example, if the user’s roommate is reading, there is almost complete silence.

-Romit Roy Chowdhury, professor of electrical and computer engineering, University of Illinois.

6. Clarify the context

Virtual backgrounds are becoming an indispensable part of online meetings.

As a host, dynamic background images at 10 o’clock can vary greatly. Raise the 3:30 p.m. meeting. Similarly, as a meeting participant, you can make your contribution more memorable by removing distractions from your living room or by using a background that suits the topic or moment of the meeting.

Good lighting and a handheld camera that allows you to stand in front of an abstract drawing or tropical background without looking like you’ve been cut and pasted with safety scissors help make virtual meetings look more professional.

-Peter Plotika, Head of Web and Digital Design, Data Science Institute, Columbia University.

7. Safety inside and outside the laptop

Working from home brings with it a number of security issues for businesses that will lead to laptop upgrades that you may not see.

Remote control version

Many people working from home maintained or increased their productivity on individual tasks during the pandemic, but not so much on collaborative tasks.


Among American workers who are satisfied with social connections, they are more likely to maintain or increase their productivity when they perform cooperative tasks.

Satisfaction with the social bond



We’ve already seen the first laptops that use the new fingerprint recognition to unlock the device. Similarly, laptop manufacturers could introduce facial recognition or other biometric unlocking software, similar to what we’re used to from mobile phones.

Beyond the device itself, we are seeing the rise of personal and corporate networks with virtual private use and multi-factor authentication. In addition, companies can focus on post-quantum security by using cryptographic algorithms in their systems.

Mark Gibson, Head of U.S. Technology, Media & Telecommunications, KPMG

8. Search for advanced technologies

Laptops are equipped with various hardware and software to locate them in case of loss or theft.

The most obvious method is GPS tracking of laptops. For all common laptop operating systems, there are software tools that use GPS to locate the device. However, GPS tracking can be disabled and its effectiveness compromised indoors.

The second line of defense consists of radio frequency identification tags. Cheap RFID tags applied to retail machines do not work well because laptops contain a significant amount of metal. Metal tags can be attached to the notebook for quick remote reading. The company can then use its existing RFID-based tracking system to track its laptops.

One of the problems with more tracking is whether user privacy will be compromised. There is an eternal dilemma between privacy and utility. It is essential that the legislature establish legal guidelines on how this ubiquitous tracking data can be used by law enforcement in cases involving individuals.

-Somali Chaterjee, Assistant Professor, Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering, Purdue University.

9. Protect your laptop (from children and others)

With business laptops increasingly being used at home, individuals and companies are making an effort to protect them from prying eyes. There are some basic hygiene rules that can be established to protect the equipment.

These include screen lock timers to prevent children from accessing the device when an employee leaves the room, administrative-level privilege restrictions to prevent other employees from downloading inappropriate products onto the device, and the use of complex passwords or multi-factor authentication to provide basic protection against unintentional threats, such as family members, friends, or household help.

Meanwhile, security-conscious companies are placing additional security devices and multi-layered encryption on devices to protect them not only from family members, but also from government actors and common thieves. For example, these tools can limit the behavior of unauthorized users. For example, plugging in removable media or using Wi-Fi at a local café.

Companies can also implement a heartbeat security model. In this case, the devices can be used outside the organization’s premises or outside the company network. In addition, laptops can be equipped with advanced security software that takes protective measures, such as. B. disable devices to erase the entire hard drive if the device is not checked at specified intervals.

-Jason Myers, managing director at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Mr. Weil is a writer from West Palm Beach, Florida. You can reach him at [email protected].

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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