Consider a future wherein you could hold a gathering on the ocean front with your colleagues, take meeting notes while drifting around a space station, or magically transport from your London office to New York while never leaving your home. Could it be said that you are feeling in a rush today because of a huge number of gatherings? Why not delegate the responsibility to your AI-empowered computerized twin? These are a couple of examples of the “metaverse’s” future work vision, a word created by creator Neal Stephenson in 1992 to portray a computer-generated experience-based future world.
While specific definitions are difficult to come by, the metaverse is widely thought to be a network of 3-D virtual worlds where individuals may communicate, do commerce, and form social ties using their virtual “avatars.” Consider it a virtual reality version of today’s internet.
While the metaverse is still in its infancy in many aspects, it has swiftly evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry, with companies like Meta (previously Facebook), Microsoft, Epic Games, Roblox, and others building their own virtual worlds or metaverses. Augmented reality stages, games, AI, blockchain, three-dimensional drawings, computerized monetary standards, sensors, and (in certain cases) VR-enabled headgear are just a few of the metaverse’s advancements.
What’s the most efficient way to go to the metaverse? Many present workplace metaverse solutions just require a computer, mouse, and keyboard keys, but for the full 3-D surround experience, a VR-enabled headgear is usually necessary.
However, rapid progress is being made in computer-generated holography, which eliminates the need for headsets by using virtual viewing windows to create holographic displays from computer images, or by projecting people and images into actual space at events or meetings using specially designed holographic pods. Meta was among the first businesses to create haptic (touch) gloves, which allow users to interact with 3-D virtual objects and experience sensations such as movement, smoothness, and force.
You may meet friends, raise virtual pets, design virtual fashion items, acquire virtual real estate, attend events, produce and sell digital art, and earn money in the metaverse. However, the consequences of the growing metaverse for the realm of work have gotten little attention until lately.
That’s starting to change, though. Organizations are seeking more realistic, cohesive, and interactive remote and hybrid work experiences as a result of the pandemic’s repercussions, including limits on physical meetings and travel. The metaverse appears to be reshaping the workplace in at least four significant ways: new immersive forms of team collaboration; the emergence of new digital, AI-enabled colleagues; the acceleration of learning and skill acquisition through virtualization and gamified technologies; and the eventual rise of a metaverse economy with entirely new enterprises and work roles.
Like Being There: Teamwork and Collaboration in the Metaverse
In the future of virtual work, the metaverse promises to enable new degrees of social connection, mobility, and cooperation. NextMeet is an avatar-based immersive reality platform founded in India that specializes in interactive working, collaboration, and learning. Its goal is to avoid the isolation and workforce separation that might occur as a result of remote and hybrid work. Keeping employees motivated has become a primary challenge for many firms as a result of the pandemic’s transition to remote working. In the flat 2-D world of a video conference, you can’t keep 20 people engaged; some individuals don’t enjoy being on camera, and you’re not mimicking a real-life situation. As a result, corporations are increasingly resorting to metaverse-based solutions.
Employee digital avatars can walk up to a virtual help desk, give a live presentation from the dais, relax with colleagues in a networking lounge, or roam a conference center or exhibition using a customizable avatar to pop in and out of virtual offices and meeting rooms in real-time using NextMeet’s immersive platform. Participants access the virtual world via a desktop computer or mobile device, choose or create their avatar, and then navigate the environment using keyboard buttons such as arrow keys to move around, double click to sit in a chair, and so on.
If you’re onboarding ten new employees and display or give them a PDF document to promote the organization, they’ll lose interest after 10 minutes. Instead, we have them go through a 3-D hall or gallery with 20 interactive stations where they can learn about the firm. You make people want to walk along the virtual corridor rather than read a text.”
Other metaverse startups are stressing workplace solutions to combat video meeting weariness and the social isolation that comes with distant employment. PixelMax, a UK-based start-up, assists businesses in creating immersive workspaces that improve team cohesiveness, employee wellbeing, and collaboration. Their virtual workspaces, which can be accessed through a web-based system on your computer without the need for headsets, contain features such as:
“Bump into” experiences:
PixelMax’s immersive technology allows you to view the avatars of your coworkers in real-time, making it easy to stop and interact with them in the virtual office. “According to studies, informal and unplanned discussions make for a huge percentage of business engagements — up to 90 percent in areas like R&D — and we lost a lot of this crucial communication during the epidemic,” said Shay O’Carroll, co-founder of PixelMax, in a recent interview.
These are designated regions where users from across the world may take a break and try something new. “We have constructed well-being environments intended as woodlands or aquariums,” Shay O’Carroll remarked. They may even be on Mars. These sections may include on-demand programming such as guided meditations and/or workout sessions.”
Delivery to your physical space:
Clients may add services like the ability to order take-out food, books, and other products from the virtual world and have them delivered to your actual location (e.g., home).
Live status tracking:
Just as in the actual workplace, you can stroll around and receive a 360-degree view of the office floor, check where colleagues are situated and who is available, drop in for a brief conversation, and so on.
According to Andy Sands, co-founder of PixelMax, the ultimate objective is to be able to connect several virtual workplaces. It is now constructing a virtual workspace for a group of 40 major interior design manufacturers based in Manchester, England. “It’s about developing community, having talks, and interacting.” We want worker avatars to be able to move between a manufacturing world and an interior design world, or to take that avatar and go attend a concert in Roblox and Fortnite.”
Working from home may be tough. According to Nuffield Health research, over one-third of UK remote workers struggle to separate home and work life, with more than a quarter finding it difficult to turn off after the work day ends. Virtual workplaces can help to create a greater separation between home and work life by simulating the experience of stepping into the workplace each day and then leaving and saying goodbye to colleagues when your job is over. At the virtual office, your avatar communicates your position — in a meeting, on a lunch break, and so on — making it simpler to stay connected to colleagues without feeling tethered to the computer or cellphone, which is a common source of stress.
The virtual office will surely benefit from improved collaboration and communication, but why stop there? The metaverse brings elements of adventure, spontaneity, and surprise into the office and works environment, offering up new possibilities for reimagining the workplace. Why not a beach, an ocean journey, or even another globe as a virtual office instead of a drab, homogenous working environment in the city? This idea inspired Gather, a global virtual reality platform that allows users and corporations to “build their own office.” The “Space-Station Office,” with views of the Earth, to “The Pirate Office,” with ocean panoramas, a Captain’s Cabin, and a Forecastle Lounge for socializing, are examples of fantasy workplaces.
Introducing Your Digital Colleague
Our virtual colleagues will not be confined to the avatars of our real-world counterparts. We’ll be joined by a growing number of digital coworkers, including incredibly realistic, AI-powered, human-like bots. These AI entities will serve as advisers and helpers in the metaverse, handling much of the heavy lifting and, in theory, freeing up human workers for more productive, value-added activities.
Conversational AI systems — computers that can read text and voice interactions and speak in natural language — have made remarkable development in recent years. Digital people that can perceive and comprehend context, express emotions, perform human-like movements, and make decisions are presently being created using such algorithms.
need, for example, is a multinational technological platform that focuses on developing “digital people” capable of working in a range of disciplines and positions. Nola, a digital shopping assistant or concierge for New Zealand’s Noel Leeming shops; Rachel, an always-on mortgage counselor; and Daniel, a digital twin of UBS Chief Economist who can meet numerous customers at once to give individualized wealth management advice, are among UneeQ’s digital workforce.
Emotions are the metaverse’s next frontier. SoulMachines, a technological start-up located in New Zealand, is combining advances in artificial intelligence (AI) with autonomous animation to create lifelike, emotionally-responsive artificial individuals (such as expression rendering, gaze direction, and real-time gesturing). Cosmetics experts, covid health counselors, real estate agents, and college admissions coaches are among the jobs that its digital employees perform.
For employees and businesses, digital human technology brings up a world of possibilities. Digital people are very scalable (they don’t stop for coffee) and may be deployed in several locations at the same time. They can be used in the metaverse for more monotonous, tedious, or dangerous tasks. Human employees will be able to build and develop their own digital colleagues, who will be personalized and adapted to work alongside them.
However, there are risks associated with digital humans, such as increased automation and displacement of human work for lower-skilled workers who have fewer opportunities to move into alternative roles, or possible erosion of cultural and behavioral norms if humans become less inhibited in their interactions with digital humans, behavior that could then be carried over to their interactions with other humans.
Faster Learning in the Metaverse
The metaverse has the potential to revolutionize training and skill development by substantially reducing the time it takes to learn and develop new talents. Employee training and career counseling might be assisted by AI-enabled digital coaches. Every item in the metaverse, such as a training manual, machine, or product, might be made interactive, with 3-D displays and step-by-step “how-to” manuals. Virtual reality role-playing exercises and simulations will become more widespread, allowing worker avatars to learn in very realistic “gameplay” scenarios like “the high-pressure sales presentation,” “the tough client,” or “a problematic employee interaction.”
Virtual-reality technology is already being utilized to speed skill development in a variety of industries: Medivis, a surgical technology startup, is training medical students using Microsoft’s HoloLens technology by interacting with 3-D anatomical models. Embodied Labs used 360-degree video to help medical workers experience the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related audiovisual impairments in order to aid in diagnosis; Bosch and Ford Motor Company pioneered a VR-training tool, using the Oculus Quest headset, to train technicians on electric vehicle maintenance. Metaverse Learning, a UK-based startup, collaborated with the UK Skills Partnership to develop a set of nine augmented reality training models for front-line nurses in the UK, utilizing 3-D animation and augmented reality to assess learners’ abilities in specific scenarios and reinforce best practices.
With its roots in online gaming, the metaverse may now begin to explore the possibilities of gamified learning tools to help people acquire skills more easily and quickly. “The game becomes the learning activity,” PixelMax’s O’Carroll noted. We’ve utilized gamified technologies to teach lab workers in the medical field; you’ll split up into groups and then go to a virtual PCR testing machine, for example, where you’ll go through stages of learning how to operate that equipment, with your training results being recorded.” PixelMax is developing games that combine physical training with immersive gamification for the UK’s first responder community — police, fire fighters, medical personnel, and so on — to allow first responders to repeat training, try different strategies, see different outcomes, and consider different options.
According to research, virtual-world preparation has a significant advantage over traditional teacher-led or homeroom-based preparation because it incorporates a more visual display of ideas and work rehearsals (e.g., a design plan), a greater chance for learning by doing, and in general higher commitment through game immersion and critical thinking through “journey based” strategies. Virtual experts, AI-powered bots that can assist students when they stall out, provide boosts, and configure scaled projects can be used in virtual world learning. The visual and intellectual aspect of metaverse-based learning is likely to appeal to mentally unstable persons, who prefer visual enhancements over verbal enhancements.
Virtual reality technologies may also be utilized in the workplace to overcome social anxiety, such as by providing realistic yet safe environments in which to practice public speaking and meeting interactions.
New Roles in the Metaverse Economy
The internet didn’t simply usher in new methods of working; it also ushered in a whole new digital economy, complete with new businesses, professions, and positions. As the immersive 3-D economy gains traction in the coming decade, so will the metaverse. IMVU, an avatar-based social network with over 7 million monthly members, has thousands of producers who create and sell their own virtual items for the metaverse – designer clothing, furnishings, make-up, music, stickers, and pets — bringing in over $7 million each month. The “meshers,” or developers, work with the makers to create the fundamental 3-D templates that others may tweak and tailor as virtual items.
A successful mesh may be duplicated and sold thousands of times, generating a substantial profit for its creator. The Decentraland platform creates virtual realtors by allowing users to purchase, sell, and construct companies on virtual land plots while earning “Mana,” a digital currency.
Looking farther forward, we are likely to see the creation of metaverse-native organizations, companies wholly formed and grown within the virtual, 3-D environment, similar to how we talk about digital-native companies now. And, just as the internet ushered in a slew of new jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago, such as digital marketing managers, social media advisors, and cyber-security specialists, the metaverse will almost certainly usher in a slew of new jobs that we can only imagine now: avatar conversation designers, “holoporting” travel agents to ease mobility across virtual worlds, metaverse digital wealth management and asset managers, and so on.
Challenges and Imperatives
Despite its vast future potential, the metaverse is still in its infancy in many aspects. Significant impediments may impede its future progress: the computer infrastructure and power requirements for a fully working metaverse are vast, and today’s metaverse is made up of various virtual worlds that aren’t connected in the same way that the original internet was. The metaverse also brings with it a tangle of regulatory and HR compliance difficulties, such as potential addiction dangers or undesired virtual world activities, such as bullying or harassment, about which there has recently been much concern. While there are numerous challenges to overcome, corporate leaders, politicians, and human resource executives should begin with the following imperatives for effective metaverse collaboration:
Make portability of skills a priority:
For employees, the transfer of skills and certifications will be a concern: “Will experience or credentials obtained in one virtual environment or company be applicable in another, or in my real-world life?” Employers, educators, and training institutions may develop more liquid skills by agreeing on appropriately approved requirements for metaverse skills, as well as suitable certification of training providers. This will assist to minimize quality dilution and offer metaverse-based employees and prospective employers the confidence they require.
Be truly hybrid:
With outdated legislation, a lack of infrastructure, and a tight divide between consumer and business technology, many companies had been laggards in the introduction of entirely digital forms of working, as seen by the rush to remote work during the epidemic. Enterprises must avoid these blunders in the metaverse by designing integrated working models from the start that allow employees to transition seamlessly between physical, online, and 3-D virtual working styles, leveraging consumer technologies native to the metaverse such as avatars, gaming consoles, VR headsets, and hand-track controllers with haptics and motion control that map the user’s position in the real world into the virtual world, leveraging consumer technologies native to the metaverse such as avatars, gaming consoles, VR headsets, and (although some versions use only cameras). This, however, is only the beginning.
To offer realistic walking experiences, several businesses are exploring virtual locomotion technology such as leg attachments and treadmills. Next mind decodes neural impulses using ECG electrodes, allowing users to control items with their minds.
Talk to your kids:
Companies will be forced to totally rethink training as a result of the metaverse, with a concentration on highly stimulating, immersive, challenge-based material. Companies should turn to the younger generation when developing their workplace metaverses, as many of them have grown up in gaming, 3-D, socially linked world. Reverse intergenerational learning, in which younger generations advise and train their elders, might considerably aid the spread of metaverse-based labor across the workforce.
Keep it open:
On account of the commitments of millions of engineers, gamers, and creators, the metaverse of today is generally open and decentralized. Endeavors should not just protect from endeavors to control or overwhelm the metaverse, yet in addition effectively try to broaden and open it up considerably further, for instance, by chasing after open-source guidelines and programming at every possible opportunity, and by supporting “interoperability” — consistent associations — between various virtual universes. In any case, as we’ve found in the online entertainment industry, gigantic specialized organizations could rapidly overwhelm the metaverse, confining decisions and the conceivable outcomes of grass-roots advancement.
The workplace of the 2020s already looks quite different from what we might have envisioned only a few years ago: the development of remote and hybrid working has completely altered people’s expectations of why, where, and how they work. However, the tale of workplace change is far from over. While yet in its infancy, the emerging metaverse offers businesses the potential to rebalance hybrid and remote work, recapturing the spontaneity, interaction, and joy of group-based working and learning while keeping the flexibility, efficiency, and convenience of working from home. Three things, though, are unmistakable.
First and foremost, the rate of adoption will be critical. Large organizations will need to move quickly to stay up with metaverse technologies and virtual services, or risk being outflanked in the talent market by more agile competitors, given that much of the technology and infrastructure is already in place. Second, the metaverse will only be effective if it is used to increase employee engagement and experiences rather than to supervise and manage them. Finally, metaverse-based employment must match the virtual experiences that employees, particularly younger employees, have learned to anticipate from technology in their consumer and gaming lives. Business leaders may begin to conceive and design their own future workplaces using these ideas as a guide.