The New Worlds of Work

The open work landscapes of the future are already a reality at Microsoft Germany’s new headquarters in Munich. They were designed by the Fraunhofer IAO.

Where the future of work begins

The innovations that will shape tomorrow’s world of work are emerging right now. We asked Fraunhofer researchers how their developments could alter the everyday working life of an engineer in the years to come. Their responses and future scenarios form the basis for the following fictitious account of Jens Kowalski. The action unfolds in the year 2025, in the world of work at a research and development department of a German industrial concern.   

The new worlds of work

The technologies that will shape our world of work in the future are being developed right now. Fraunhofer researchers are contributing to this development through a wide range of projects.

Work Environment


Workspace Innovation Lab

The office world of the Center for Virtual Engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engeering IAO provides an experimental space for research on the impacts of innovative work environments.


The Immersive Engineering Lab (IELab) at the Fraunhofer IAO is a work and presentation environment that enables the creation of immersive 3D presentations for highly detailed, high-fidelity, real-time visualization in virtual reality (VR).

Visualization Technologies


Extended workdesk

The extended workdesk developed by the Visual Technologies Team at the Fraunhofer IAO is an innovative digital work environment that overcomes the limits of today’s computer workplaces. The extended workdesk’s entire surface is an OLED multi-touch display, on which the user can arrange and use a variety of 2D applications windows and 3D objects.

Multi-biometric face recognition

The aim of this project, which is being carried out at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD, is to develop an easy-to-use multi-biometric system for the identification of crime suspects from photo and video data using 3D face image data. The system enables the clear identification of individuals using a combination of 3D face and ear recognition. 


Pro Table

The ProTable developed by the Visual Technologies Team at the Fraunhofer IAO is an innovative digital work environment designed for use in meetings and group collaboration settings. With the help of high-resolution projection, a normal conference table becomes an interactive interface on which 3D objects can be presented as though they were on the table. 

Immersive video communication

The special camera systems and complex algorithms developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI, as part of the immersive video communication concept enable the generation of a full-size, three-dimensional, virtual image of a human being in a space. 

Man-Robot Collaborations


Care-O-bot 4

This mobile robot assistant has the very best manners and social skills and can be used as a waiter, for fetching and carrying, and as a department-store guide. It can present a range of moods via its head touch screen. 


At the Fraunhofer IAO Neurolab, brain activity for a brain-computer interface is extrapolated using EEG (electroencephalography) and near-infrared spectroscopy and analyzed in real-time with the help of an algorithm. The data provide information about a person’s concentration and emotions and can be used for controlling robots and computers. 

Additive Manufacturing

Fraunhofer Additive Manufacturing Alliance

The Alliance coordinates 15 Fraunhofer institutes which work in the area of additive manufacturing. The alliance covers the entire process chain, including the development, application, and implementation of additive production processes and the associated materials.

Aachen Center for Additive Manufacturing ACAM

The Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT and Production Technology collaborate with partners from scientific research at the Centre for Additive Manufacturing. The aim is to enable companies to make good use of additive manufacturing technology in their production processes and to improve their profitability as a result. 


The AGENT-3D consortium is a strategic alliance for research, innovation, and growth in the area of additive manufacturing involving over 120 partners from research and industry. The aim is to consolidate Germany technological leadership in the main areas of additive manufacturing. The AGENT-3D strategic alliance is led by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 

Digital Engineering

Smart Factory

The Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF is the technological partner for the realization of the smart factory concept. An import component of the process is digital engineering, with the help of which a product’s digital construction data can be used on all levels of its development and production process.

Engineering Collaboration Lab (E-Co-Lab)

The E-Co-Lab of the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM provides companies with test access for their engineering solutions. Based on the example of one of their own projects, companies can validate the benefits arising from various applications of their development work. 

Digital Engineering Lab

At the Fraunhofer IAO Digital Engineering Lab – DELab – products and their production can be experienced before they actually exist. The focus of the work carried out in this ‘Living Lab’ is the process chain from the idea for a new product to its planning, manufacture and assembly.

Digital Twin

With the help of an innovative concept, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK are creating a vision for Industry 4.0. A digital twin models the entire production process and allows direct intervention at any time. Real and virtual production merge to become one intelligent system. The actual production site is modeled entirely on a digital level and a virtual twin is created that reproduces the production process in real time. 

Work Organization and Social Change

Zukunftsstudie 2027, #ICHINZEHNJAHREN (Future Study 2027)

In an online survey involving around 3,000 respondents, the Fraunhofer IAO studied how current technologies and developments are changing our living environment. One finding: the typical eight-hour day will be a thing of the past in 2027. Work and leisure will merge and work-life blending will become a reality.

Foresight study on the digital transformation of the world of work

The study carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI on behalf of the Vodafone Foundation found that companies will outsource more and more work processes in the future. ‘Click and crowd workers’ will have to re-apply for new jobs on internet platforms all the time. 

Mobile Working

A survey of around 680,000 employees in manufacturing industry carried out by the Fraunhofer IAO found that flexible working can result in more hours of work. However, the positive impacts of mobile working on the work-life balance appear to compensate for this disadvantage.

SANDRA – Intelligent company availability management

Researchers at the Fraunhofer IAO and their partners working on the ‘SANDRA’ project (Designing the future world of work through availability management) aim to identify employee-friendly solutions for the problem of the constant availability due to technology. A digital availability assistant classifies emails based on importance. The user can decide on the level priority that must be assigned to emails for them to be sent after work or at weekends. 

Future-proof Management

A study carried out for the Bertelsmann Stiftung clearly shows that hierarchies are becoming less important. Project work is gaining in significance; managers orchestrate the project team, seek out synergies and identify the requisite skills. 

Science Year 2018 – Working Life of the Future

Logo Arbeitswelten der Zukunft

The theme of Science Year 2018 is “Working Life of the Future,” which will address such questions as how work will change in the future and what role research and science play in coping with these changes. The Science Years are a key science communication initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which has been co-organizing this event with the Wissenschaft im Dialog (WiD) initiative since 2000.

Fraunhofer IAO to launch hands-on activities relating to the Science Year showcasing the “Working Life of the Future”

Fraunhofer IAO startet  Mitmachaktion zum Wissenschafts­jahr »Arbeitswelten der Zukunft«
© Ludmilla Parsyak / Fraunhofer IAO

With events, projects, interactive experiences and a series of blog posts, Fraunhofer IAO will offer a diverse range of information, hands-on activities and support services relating to “Working Life of the Future,” the motto of Science Year 2018. Representatives of business and politics and the general public are invited to participate. The program will kick off with the Future Forum at the Im Wizemann concert hall in Stuttgart on February 1-2, 2018.