At the Drexel University Library in Philadelphia there is a curious new table group in the central atrium. It is a prototype of a new collaborative furniture system that Steelcase is calling Media:Scape. The furniture is designed to promote collaborative work through the incorporation of visual display panels controlled by a central hub integral to the furniture. Users of the furniture are able to plug their laptops into the hub, use the displays to augment their work, as well as to present work on other displays connected to the hub.
This is an interesting concept, in that it is blurring the line between the furniture and the computer accessories that you could install on any office desk, or meeting desk. Steelcase is taking it on to themselves to say that "we as the furniture maker are in a better position to integrate these functions". The mounting and positioning of the video panels, and the management of their display via the hub can all be much more tightly integrated than if assembled out of 3rd party components.
But more significantly is a new type of furniture aimed at collaboration, but not just pulling our chairs together at a table - it also facilitates collaboration of our work tools - via the laptop and display integration. I think perhaps these are baby steps, and ultimately something that will be integrated more closely to us as workers. But for the current state of technology furniture is certainly the best place for this to happen and its interesting to see Steelcase jump on it.
Which brings me to my final question: Is this the first of a generation of office furniture that will be a strong match for the workplace patterns of CoWorking?