The best part of last year saw many industries in equal parts bafflement and excitement by this seemingly new concept of the “Metaverse”. Facebook’s rebrand to Meta was the opening credits, followed by a number of brands and small businesses alike announcing their new venture into the world of virtual realities.
Although the metaverse is seemingly the biggest buzzword of 2022, it is by no means a new concept and, unlike some of the biggest tech giants, many innovators in the space have created 3D platforms that have been widely used for a number of years.
From a business standpoint, many organisations are becoming acutely aware of the opportunities virtual realities hold. The metaverse is a $1 trillion revenue opportunity, with experts predicting it could reach this valuation as early as the end of the decade. And, over the next 12 months, we’ll likely see many deals and acquisitions being completed in the field, with analysts and innovators alike optimistic about the sector’s revenue generation potential. Therefore, whether organisations are directly involved in the metaverse or not, the need for a metaverse strategy is becoming increasingly strong.
What is the Metaverse?
Put simply, the metaverse refers to online 3D worlds accessed via computer, smart devices, augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. Interaction and engagement are core to the principles of metaverse, ensuring that users are able to become fully immersed in online environments facilitated by metaverse technology.
Despite last year’s hype around Meta and other big tech announcements such as Microsoft’s acquisition of Blizzard, and the more recent Sony announcement of its acquisition of veteran games development house Bungie, the concept has been around for over two decades. Innovative companies have explored how technology can be used to practically implement metaverse experiences since the early stages of the internet. 3D internet companies, for example, have been offering virtual worlds since as early as 1995 (such as Blaxxun named after the fictional virtual club in Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk novel Snow Crash).
However, whilst there has been significant growth in the world of entertainment, the notion of using the metaverse for business purposes is now finally having its moment, with many workspaces now recognising its true potential. Ultimately, when businesses adopt this into their ways of working, they can effectively maximize hybrid working like never before.
The Metaverse for Business
The ‘Metaverse for Business’ refers to the creation and launch of 3D environments for companies, be it for engaging with employees for training, through to recruitment, social gatherings and engagement with clients and customers. An enterprise metaverse is something organisations can change and control to suit their needs: just as they may have their own website, they have the ability to take control of their own metaverse. Research also shows there is a willingness for workers to embrace the advantages on offer from the metaverse. According to Lenovo, 44% of employees are willing to work in the metaverse and believe it can deliver significant advantages.
Shifting employee sentiment to the metaverse can be attributed to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on global society. The pandemic has permanently challenged the onsite, 9-to-5 working structure. Even when the pandemic finally ends, it seems likely the majority of businesses will continue to embrace flexible working patterns, including the ability to work remotely. Evidently, the metaverse has a significant role to play, ensuring employees remain engaged while helping to overcome productivity issues linked to remote working, such as video conferencing fatigue.
With Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) devices, interactive online ecosystems can be created for specific training courses, offering virtual challenges and tests which participants would need to navigate to successfully pass such training. Importantly, this training could be offered for any sector, with AI avatar bots, such as virtual customers or virtual patients, being used as part of an immersive and engaging learning experience. Different 3D ecosystems can be created to specifically cater to the needs of businesses, be it through training and development through to the hosting of online events.
Using these 3D events platforms, businesses can host and participate in meetings, create breakout areas, hold team building sessions, attend corporate partnership calls, and even create and promote webinars. The metaverse can host or link to any web content, images, videos, PDFs, and have spaces which are connected together the same way webpages on the internet are linked to each other. Within the metaverse, the avatar serves as a personal persona within a world where interaction with others is possible and the ergonomics of the environment reflects the office or venue in which the event is taking place or would usually take place. In short: the metaverse can work with or transform reality and everyday working practices.
What to expect
Over the coming years, we will expect to see the hype around the metaverse settle and real innovations come to the fore. Particularly in terms of working habits, and the demand for new ways to adopt virtual environments into old habits, the metaverse provides the solution to this challenge.
The benefits and possibilities of the metaverse and the metaverse for business are endless: and for large and small organisations alike, other potential hurdles such as accessibility and diversity are less a difficulty than they seem. If businesses are expected to soar in the near future and maintain employee engagement and productivity, this is a world they can no longer ignore.