Since January is the true start of the new millennium, we've decided to take a look at the future of meetings and incentives. Talk about science fiction becoming fact...

If you think conference rooms will always be of the mahogany-paneled variety, picture yourself meeting with co-workers overlooking the company lap pool, or a lake on the corporate campus where employees can sail at lunch hour. Imagine flexible, fluid spaces scattered throughout HQ where colleagues can meet at a moment's notice. That's the vision of the meeting room of the future sketched out for us by Thompson and Rose Architects of Cambridge, Mass. With the emergence of technology, they say, "there's a need for meeting spaces that can promote spontaneous human in teraction." Don't miss their pictorial, beginning on page 32.

Next, picture a conference table at which half the participants are real and half are illusions, beamed in for the day. Tele-immersion, a technology being developed right now, could make this possible. Just as wild: Imagine walking into a meeting room and having a chip located inside your glasses or contacts supply you with background info on everyone there. Tech expert Corbin Ball's predictions about the corporate meetings of the future, begin on page 35.

What about the future of incentives? According to our annual trends survey, they will have to be more innovative, individualized, and customized to drive the workers of the new economy. Like the road warrior sales staff at Keane Inc., a billion dollar Boston-based business technology company. Pamela Wilson, supervisor of meetings and special events, says they want gadgets to make their work lives easier, from upgraded cell phones to the latest laptop computers. See the survey article, beginning page 24.

Finally, don't miss our Tech Edge column, on page 43, a reflection on how important it is - with all this new technology - to know when to log off and make some time for what's important to you personally.