Recent world events such as the global pandemic have caused a massive shift in how we work. Remote work and online communication have been increasingly normalized and Zoom and other video conferencing and collaboration tools have transformed corporate dynamics. This transformation has the potential to go even further. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Meta, promises that the Metaverse will be the biggest game changer, enabling new ways of working; the so-called “Virtual offices” will greatly change the relationships between employees and companies in the coming years.
If it does succeed, the question of hybrid work will no longer be about the division of home and work, but about achieving a balance between the virtual world and the physical world.
First, what is a Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a concept that was first introduced in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel “Snow Crash“. In the book, the term “Metaverse” is used to describe a combination of the virtual and mixed reality worlds accessed through a browser or VR headset, which allows people to have real-time interactions and experiences across distances.
In reality, the Metaverse will be a global network where people can interact with each other through avatars. It is an environment where people can be and do whatever they want. It is also a virtual space where people can work, socialize, and even learn.
The idea of a Metaverse has been thought out by many companies like Roblox, Nvidia, Snap, etc. for a long time. But, recently, Facebook (now renamed as “Meta”) and Microsoft seem to be taking the lead in this area.
Mark Zuckerberg changed his company’s entire strategy by re-branding. What was once Facebook is now known as “Meta” because he sees the Metaverse as the digital future. Additionally, Microsoft has outlined their plan to bring existing technologies into the company’s vision of the Metaverse. They’ve taken a low-key approach so far but only time will tell how things will evolve.
What is the Metaverse for “Meta”?
Metaverse has become a buzzword recently because of Zuckerberg and his company’s interest in making it a reality. Meta is developing a virtual reality collaboration space. It will be a social VR platform where people can connect and share experiences in 360-degree virtual worlds. Meta promises that its Metaverse will be different from other VR platforms because it will be open and interoperable, meaning that it can work with other platforms like Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE, and PlayStation VR. The idea behind this project is to create a space where people can interact with each other in an immersive environment.
The Metaverse will be built on top of the existing Meta platform, which means that it will have all the features of Meta (Facebook) such as chat, groups, events, and more. It will also have its own currency called “Facebook credits” which can be used to buy items in the virtual world. Here is a glimpse of Meta:
What is Microsoft Mesh?
Microsoft Mesh is the company’s response to the Metaverse. Mesh will offer a Mixed Reality platform that enables seamless collaboration across various virtual and augmented reality headsets. The solution comes with tools to help you create better apps. Microsoft Mesh is one of the latest innovations in Microsoft’s MR ecosystem.
Microsoft believes that blending real and virtual worlds through Mixed Reality could be one way to allow for better teamwork. Microsoft Mesh can potentially change the way we interact with each other. It’s a space where you can share and experience different things of two worlds – virtual and real. Microsoft is planning to integrate Mesh into its suite of collaboration tools. According to them, Mesh provides an immersive and virtual experience that allows everyone in a meeting to be present without being physically there. With personalized avatars, people can have natural conversations in meeting rooms or immersive spaces.
Metaverse: Innovating Remote Work
In their efforts to remove the barriers between the real and digital world, companies like Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft are working towards building an immersive virtual environment that you can use and explore by using technologies such as augmented reality and hologram technology. This technology that, until recently, was only seen as a gimmick in the gaming environment may be used in the corporate world so that people can interact with each other from anywhere on the planet.
Imagine yourself in a virtual work meeting, wearing a headset that connects you to augmented reality and allows you to interact with other people, without having to leave your home? With their respective Metaverses, Microsoft and Meta have shown that this can be a reality. Mark Zuckerberg himself showed how there could be different uses for augmented reality interactions at work in this video:
The corporate Metaverse also intends to improve the mental health of professionals who work remotely, in order to keep motivation and productivity high. According to a survey by Lenovo, 44% of professionals surveyed would be willing to work in the Metaverse, because they believe it can deliver performance benefits in the workplace.
Ken Wong, President of Lenovo Solutions and Services Group, says: “The pandemic has challenged all of us to adapt to new ways of working – forcing organizations of all sizes to evolve at an exponential pace. The Metaverse presents companies with new opportunities, but also more complex technological challenges, such as the need for more computing power, better-integrated hardware, and simpler, more flexible IT solutions.”
The survey data also points out that even though half of the workers (51%) agree that the speed of adoption of modern technologies is an indicator of initiative, many are still insecure about whether the transition to a virtual environment will be an effective one. Two in five (43%) respondents believed their employers do not have or are unlikely to have, the knowledge or experience to enable them to work in the Metaverse of the future.
How will Metaverse change the way we work?
After more than 40 years of use limited to a few areas and functions, Virtual Reality (VR) has expanded to more widespread use in industries such as retail, logistics, and customer services. According to a PwC study, in less than 10 years, virtual reality will be used in 23 million jobs worldwide, thus reinforcing the entry of many companies and workers into the Metaverse.
The Metaverse can potentially increase productivity by simulating office spaces, letting us hold meetings in real-time with remote colleagues, conducting business presentations in dynamic environments, and have face-to-face interactions with people from all over the world. These modern technologies allow developers to create virtual environments to help workers collaborate on projects and access information remotely.
As demonstrated in the below video from a company called Gather, each person will have their own virtual avatar that can interact with each other in the virtual world, making virtual interactions more human-like.
Shared standards and protocols that bring disparate virtual worlds and augmented realities into a single open Metaverse can help people work together and minimize corporate bottlenecks.
What Employees Should Expect?
According to Microsoft, 52% of employees are considering transitioning to a hybrid or remote model in their current role within the next year. This report comes from an external study of 31,000 people in 31 different countries. In this context where people are prioritizing digitalization, 54% of decision-makers within companies (directors and managers) say that by 2023 they will focus their efforts on redesigning meeting rooms to be easier to use in hybrid models. This means that they will invest in more technology and support to sustain a model where virtuality is present. DoubleMe, a tech startup, is working on a 3D holographic technology called HoloPort. HoloPort is a simple software that records and streams video. Using this, you can Project yourself from anywhere in the world with any 3D camera and PC.
Here is a demonstration of the technology:
One of the key benefits of introducing virtual offices to workers will be convenience. There will be no need to travel, as all interactions will have digital alternatives that are equal in effectiveness. A key benefit will be that people can work more effectively from remote locations but as if in an office setting, since they can model their work location to look like their office environment which all their coworkers can relate to, and interact in, more easily. After all, wouldn’t it be fun to gather around the virtual water cooler or coffee room and talk about the previous night’s game or book club?
When studying these trends, one cannot help but think that the Metaverse begins to appear strong as an interactive environment where virtual and augmented reality will seek to improve, among other things, remote and hybrid work. The Microsoft report makes it clear that employees do not want to leave the home office completely behind.
Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, computer vision, and RPA, are already being used in the corporate environment. However, they are now being tested by major corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony to provide even more intense and immersive virtual work experiences.
According to research and analysis by Bloomberg Intelligence, the Metaverse market could reach around $800 billion in 2024 versus nearly $500 billion in 2020, representing a compound annual growth rate of just over 13%.
Small companies are looking to get in on the ground with this new technology that has a huge potential to change the way we do work and business. If it catches on, this could completely revolutionize how we spend our time online.
Online gaming companies like Roblox and Epic Games are leading the charge to build a Metaverse where people can socialize, play games and participate in the digital economy. In pursuing this ambitious goal, they’re bringing us closer to more immersive, shared digital experiences. While Roblox is primarily used by teens, the company has worked on other features for older participants to conduct business and access content made for them.
Businesses are constantly looking for ways to grow and evolve, and they’re often willing to take risks with new opportunities. Virtual Reality is no exception. Supporting their ventures in the Metaverse could lead to some really beneficial long-term strategies, such as opening up new markets.
According to PwC, virtual and augmented realities could bring a $1.5 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030. There are also many potential business impacts that will come with the development of Metaverse technologies in just a few years.
The Future of Our Lives is Here, and it is called the “Metaverse”
Still, it will take more time and effort before we are all swallowed up by the Metaverse! Tech experts believe that by 2030, a large percentage of people will be interacting with meta reality. Despite its popularity as of late, there is still a lot more work that must be done before it becomes mainstream. It is possible that this will be a situation where we leave VR headsets on for short periods of time. This means we get the best of both worlds and can move between realities as we please.
The use of the Metaverse could save time and money when working remotely. It helps to make the work you do more interactive and productive. But there are challenges with creating a realistic human experience. Especially because the realization of the Metaverse will require, in addition to specific technologies, the acculturation of companies, alignment with customers, the adaptation of professionals, and legal regulations.
Additionally, life in the Metaverse will demand new social norms, which people will take time to get used to. A new culture that incorporates this new reality will need to be built daily, adjusting expectations and implementing new privacy laws.
Since the advent of the internet, the remote working trend has been growing and the current pandemic has fueled this trend exponentially. The coming Metaverse revolution promises to take it to even more exciting levels and possibilities, with the promise of more flexibility for individuals, greater mental health, greater collaboration, and hopefully, higher levels of productivity and innovation. This would be a win-win situation for people and businesses.
Organizations will need to adapt to this revolution and tweak the way they work and manage their people moving forward.
While we at Digité, don’t yet provide AR/ VR tools, our collaboration and productivity solutions truly help organizations humanize work and the individual in a hybrid work model. Check out our solutions here!