Metaverse: is this the workplace of the future?
- Jane Wakefield
Looking back 50 years from now, it’s likely that the 2D web we all use today will seem ridiculously archaic.
Not only will the internet probably no longer exist behind a screen, but we will interact with it differently.
We’ll manipulate objects using augmented reality (AR), explore virtual reality (VR) worlds, and merge the real and digital in ways we can’t currently imagine.
And what does this mean for the business world? We are already moving away from the home-to-work commute and away from the traditional office. And that’s thanks to two years of pandemic lockdowns and a newfound love or tolerance for virtual meetings.
Would the next logical step be to work in the metaverse, a virtual universe where cartoon-like 3D representations of everyone are supposed to walk around, talk to each other, and interact?
Metaverse has become a buzz term, so it’s important to note that it doesn’t exist yet. Even those invested in the concept disagree on exactly what it will be.
Will competing virtual worlds be interconnected in a way that doesn’t currently exist between competing technologies? Will we spend more time there than in the real world? Will we need entirely new rules to govern these new spaces?
None of these questions are answered yet, but that hasn’t stopped the growing interest and hyperbole as companies see it as a new way to make money.
From Meta’s Horizon Worlds to games like Roblox and Fortnite, to newly created territories like Sandbox and Decentraland, we’ve seen businesses pop up in nascent metaverses.
Nike now sells virtual sneakers, HSBC has a Sandbox, and Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton and Sotheby’s have Decentraland.
The term “Metaverse” was coined by author Neal Stephenson nearly 30 years ago. The hero finds a better life in the world of virtual reality in the book Snow Crash.
Perhaps the most daring step to turn this fiction into real technology took place in October 2021. That’s when Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta and began investing billions of dollars to become a metaverse-focused company. its founder and leader is Mark Zuckerberg.
Still, this huge investment has raised eyebrows among shareholders, with some recently expressing concern that the company is spending too much on VR.
Last October, a report by The Verge, which claimed to have reviewed internal Meta logs, suggested that the Horizon Worlds platform had numerous bugs and was not well used by employees.
Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable, the software company for creating metaverses, and author of the book Virtual Society, doesn’t believe in Zuckerberg’s vision.
“Why do we want an office in the metaverse that looks like our real office?” he said. “The goal of creative spaces in new realities is not to repeat what we already experience in the real world, but to expand our experiences.
“But I think there’s going to be a lot of work in the metaverse — we’re going to need moderators, for example.”
The moderating or policing aspect of the metaverse is controversial, not only because it is technically difficult to keep track of potentially billions of avatars conversing live in a virtual world, but also because of the vast amount of data these avatars can generate on the Internet. road.
A Stanford University study found that spending just 20 minutes in virtual reality generated more than two million unique body movement recordings, a rich stream of new data for businesses.
Alex Rice, co-founder of online security firm HackerOne, believes that the design of the metaverse should be carefully considered before companies consider leaving their employees there.
“Imagine something as innocuous as a casual conversation in the office,” he explains. “Imagine this happening in a fully protected metaverse environment: it would certainly have life-changing consequences.
“People can now be fired outright for saying something they believe was in a private, informal conversation with a colleague under massive corporate control.”
Tom Ffiske, editor of technology newsletter Immersive Wire, thinks it’s too early to start thinking about working in the metaverse.
“The discussion of the metaverse is still fraught with difficulty, and the definition is still tenuous and contested,” he says. “While the term itself is debated and loosely defined, it’s unclear whether we’ll be working in the metaverse in the future.”
While no one can define what the metaverse is, there are optimistic market predictions of how much it could be worth. McKinsey suggests the market will be worth $5 billion by 2030, while another management consultancy, Gartner, predicts that by 2026, a quarter of the world’s population will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse.
Matthew Ball, senior analyst at research firm Canalys, disagrees: He predicts that most of the existing commercial projects in the metaverse will close by 2025.
In his opinion, companies should ask whether a presence in the metaverse is really necessary or if they are using technology for technology’s sake.
“Not every company needs VR headsets to remotely position avatars of colleagues or view virtual models,” says Ball. “Not every business needs a VR headset for meetings. As powerful and engaging as VR is, Zoom calls and Teams offer nearly frictionless alternatives that can be less cumbersome.”
Tiffany Rolfe is Creative Director at RGA, a digital branding company. He and some members of his team have worked in the metaverse before.
The firm created a virtual soccer stadium in Fortnite for phone giant Verizon during the pandemic, and it also worked with Meta to build a music world in Horizon Worlds.
“Typically, people who designed things on the computer had to wear headsets and work with builders all over the world,” says Rolfe.
And who says new ways of working mean new considerations like how long workers have to wear helmets. “My team wore it in a two-hour period,” he says.
The fact that people already work in virtual reality worlds suggests that the Metaverse may have a future as a workplace, but the jobs that will exist there will be very different from what we do in the real world.
Anyone hoping to replace their daily commute with a helmet will likely have to wait many years for this to become a (virtual) reality.