There’s now a calm, quiet, personal bubble waiting for you in the heart of LaGuardia airport.
It’s a little bigger than a telephone booth, it’s soundproof, and it has a window that lets you watch in tranquillity while a sea of travelers, flight crews, security officers, and baggage handlers go whizzing by.
You can share this place with your friends and colleagues, too.
It’s a portable workspace the size of a telephone booth that comes complete with a video calling connection, and it is going to make video conferencing and air travel far more compatible.
Video Conferencing on the Run
The freshly installed Work Pods are the creations of Jabbrrbox, a New York firm that designs mobile work areas that can be deployed anywhere there’s a need for a temporary, web-connected office. Each unit costs between $13,500 and $24,000, and they come equipped with carpeted flooring, a built-in chair, a table, and optional USB ports, wifi, display screens, and HDMI connections. Each unit stands 7.5 feet high and it looks like there’s enough legroom to make the average airline coach passenger envious.
What the Work Pods don’t possess is any working phones or computers. You have to supply those yourself. The pods have been deployed as temporary offices within businesses where the shift toward mobile workforces has made permanent space a rare commodity. The pods are a little less appealing to us as workspaces within offices, but at LaGuardia, they offer an oasis from the perils of crowded lounges and noisy surroundings. If you have your smartphone or your laptop on hand–and who doesn’t these days–you can slip into a work pod and make use of the time you would otherwise have lost to travel or delay.
Video Calling from a Phone Booth
The Work Pods are a fitting addition to our increasingly “smart” airports. In an age where internet-powered baggage cart can take you from your cab to the departure area without you having to interact with anyon except the earnest airport security officers, it’s entirely appropriate that you can dive into your own private world while awaiting your flight.
You could use the built-in wifi to bid a final farewell to the family back home over Skype, make a video call to your colleagues on the other end of your flight, or quickly check in with the office to let them know you’re on your way.
But most of all you can recapture time. Being in transit doesn’t mean you have to reschedule a meeting. You can slip into a Work Pod, fire up your laptop, and join everyone in a group video call. And that works whether you were supposed to still be at the airport or the airlines have decided to delay your flight. In fact, the idea of being able to still function socially and professionally no matter how long you’re detained in the concourse almost makes the possibility bearable.
Moreover, the progress of video conferencing technology and its growing popularity makes it possible to do more than just talk while camped inside your Jabbrrbox.
A Mobile Health Service, a Portal Across the Oceans
Indian Railways is currently installing something like the Work Pod along its network of stations. Rather than work, they’ve focused on health. These Public Health ATMs act as a virtual doctor’s office and feature biotesting equipment and a trained medical attendant. You may not be quite ready to take a physical amid the throng at LaGuardia, but it does prove how versatile a public video conferencing phone booth could become.
Back in the U.S., a larger, more robust form of the Jabbrrbox is being used as a virtual link between continents. The Portal, a project by New York group Shared Studios, uses old shipping containers as video conferencing booths, and opens its technology to public. People are free to enter The Portal and use an open, room-size video calling screen to speak with people in other portals stationed around the world.
Those are big sky ideas, but you’ll probably get the most use out of the LaGuardia Work Pods by keeping things close to home.
A Video Calling Oasis
If you’ve ever flown anywhere, you’ve probably lived through the boredom and anxiety of delayed and canceled flights. Obviously, these new Work Pods will keep you in touch with the office and let you get to a video conferencing meeting on time, but they might become a social lifesaver as well.
If you’re not going to make it home at a reasonable hour, you can still say your goodnights to the kids over Skype–in fact, video conferencing has been given the green light by the American Academy of Pediatrics as an exemption to their no-screen-time-for-kids rule, so they may actually benefit from your video call.
Perhaps more importantly, you could even enjoy an evening of movies, music, and whacky cat videos together with your partner–virtually. There are several video calling apps, such as ooVoo, Rabbit, and Airtime, that let video callers watch live streamed media together from their remote devices.
And there it is. Even if you’re stuck half a world away, you can still get a perfect night in with the family, thanks to the genius of the Jabbrrbox and the continued incompetence of the American airline industry.