NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., already has a notable cool factor, thanks to an onsite museum, coffee shops and the occasional Mars rover rolling around, but the agency also recently spiced up some of its offices. The JPL has an “IT petting zoo” where employees can tinker with new consumer technologies such as Google Glass, 3D printers or Oculus Rift VR headsets. And JPL created a space it calls “The Hub,” which has modern couches, chairs and group workspaces, as well as an IT information desk and various tech toys for the staff to play with.
“JPL [employs] some brilliant people, and today they get 400 emails a day,” says CTO Tom Soderstrom. “They are distracted every five seconds with bells ringing and meeting reminders.”
So the IT department is experimenting with a concept called “Brain 2.0,” as part of which employees would have uninterrupted time to think, no matter where they are. For example, employees could wear Oculus Rift headsets for quiet think-time while looking at a beach scene using augmented reality.