You've no doubt heard about the metaverse, a virtual reality (VR) world in which users interact with each other and experience activities and places just as they would in the real world, only faster, better, and more expediently. By utilizing applications, such as 3D data visualization and manipulation, virtual meetings and conferences, employee training, and sales gamification, the metaverse promises to create an entirely new workplace.
The metaverse's building blocks are already in place, providing the foundation for an entirely new enterprise landscape that focuses on how people interact and where they work. “As VR is integrated across the enterprise, we’ll start to see the creation of augmented workplaces, more immersive technical training, and new ways of using digital replicas to help employees make better operating decisions,” says Yusuf Tayob, group chief executive at Accenture Operations, which helps clients update and transform their business operations.
VR has the potential to take many industries to the next level, impacting every field of any given business both in the way it interacts with its customers and also in the way it operates behind the scenes, says James Lloyd Townshend chairman and CEO at technology talent provider Revolent Group.
Using VR simulation, team members can immerse themselves into almost any situation they’re likely to encounter in the real world without facing any of the risks they might experience offline, such as storms, pandemics, and natural disasters. Potential applications include interactive team training, sales presentations, seminars, product and service demonstrations, problem-solving sessions, and an array of other group-oriented functions. “Although real-life experience might be the best teacher, VR is certainly a runner-up,” Lloyd-Townshend says.
Accenture’s Tayob identifies three main potential metaverse business applications:
- Augmented workplaces. The pandemic and resulting “office anywhere” environment have challenged companies to go beyond email, videoconferencing, and chat to create rich collaboration, learning and human connections. VR allows teams to work at home without sacrificing the benefits of personal interaction.
- Physical world simulation. Digital replicas allow employees to function within familiar environments, allowing them to connect with holistic views of offices, warehouses, assembly lines, and other physical facilities, helping them make informed operating decisions.
- Reimagined business operations. By creating and analyzing enterprise digital twins, leaders can safely experiment with various business models, test different scenarios, and reveal hidden agility and financial opportunities.
VR Adoption Challenges
VR adoption barriers include costs, limited VR software, bulky headsets, and low network connectivity. “However, the latter challenge will be solved as soon as 5G technology becomes available worldwide,” says Sergey Golubenko, head of the SharePoint department at IT consulting firm ScienceSoft.
VR headsets will soon become smaller and wireless, Golubenko predicts. “They will become more convenient to use, which will ensure higher VR adoption in the workplace,” he adds. VR visual quality is also destined to become increasingly refined and realistic. “This will allow for creating even more lifelike experiences that will make communication and collaboration of remote employees more efficient,” Golubenko notes.
Lloyd-Townshend believes that the biggest VR challenge is understanding the technology's full potential and how it can be used to resolve multiple business pain points. “I think this is always the case with innovative technology,” he observes. “Let's not forget that up until a couple of years ago, cloud technology was an exception to the norm, and now almost every business depends on the cloud for most or all of its operations.” The same can be said for social media, automation, artificial intelligence, and other technologies that are now essential daily operations. “It’s just a matter of finding the right place for VR within the typical business model,” Lloyd-Townshend says.
Getting Immersed in the Metaverse
Enterprises looking to get a head start in the metaverse can turn to Meta's open beta, Horizon Workrooms, which allows teams to work remotely in groups using Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets. Horizon Workrooms is a great way for remote teams to meet up, says Johanna Viscaino, executive director at 154 Agency, a marketing, web design, and brand development firm. She notes that users simply scan their desks, connect to their laptops, and enter a virtual office. “My team enjoys sharing design work and user experience comments in presentation mode,” Viscaino says. A team can also invite non-VR users into their workroom. “They appear in a floating monitor and . . . get to engage with your avatar self.”
To get your feet wet in the metaverse, Viscaino suggests seeking budget approval for a small focus group. “You'll need a VR lobbyist to speak [on your team's behalf], since it's still not a widely respected work tool.”
Over the next few years, Viscaino expects a growing number of enterprise leaders, encouraged by younger executives, to begin exploring VR's workplace benefits. “In a business world that lives within a pandemic world, any tools that help you enjoy work is vital,” she says.