Business leaders need to start envisioning how the metaverse can be integrated into their ... [+] organizations to improve everything from operational efficiency, and culture to customer service. getty
The metaverse is coming. According to Gartner, by 2026, 25% of people will spend one hour per day or more in virtual reality, and nearly one-third of businesses will offer products or services for the metaverse. Additionally, Microsoft's Work Trend Index predicts that half of Gen Z and Millennials believe they'll do some of their work in the metaverse in the next few years. The technology is still in its infancy, but tech's exponential growth rate means the world is likely just a few advances away from a snowball of VR applications. Business leaders need to start paying attention now, tracking advancements and envisioning how the metaverse can be integrated into their organizations to improve everything from operational efficiency and culture to customer service. I recently ventured into the world of VR using Microsoft's HoloLens and Mesh, a beta mixed-reality platform. Along with a small team of tech experts at my company, Centric Consulting, I designed my avatar, experimented with having conversations, moved objects around the space and tried out collaboration via accessing and authoring shared files. Was it cool? No doubt. Does the technology still need tweaking to become ready for mass-market use? Also, yes. Below, I dive into what works, what needs further development and what leaders need to know now.
What Works: VR for Connection, Collaboration, Frontline Workers
VR holds potential for improving virtual or hybrid work and could become another common modality used for connection and collaboration. Unlike your standard video meeting, VR has users fully engaged, offering a cure for chronic meeting fatigue and multitasking during remote calls. This is true even though you show up in avatar form—your avatar simulates you. It speaks when you speak, moves as you move and allows you to 'look' at others in the meeting and interact with virtual objects in the space.
VR can help workers feel more present and engaged during remote meetings. getty Collaboration could also get a big boost in the metaverse. VR whiteboarding applications can replicate the experience of in-person collaboration far better than anything we currently use on a computer. In the metaverse, participants can do everything you'd do when you're physically together, such as write and draw on the whiteboard and add sticky notes.
Aside from knowledge work applications, VR will undoubtedly transform maintenance and support, allowing experienced technicians to easily and efficiently provide remote assistance.
For instance, say your car shut down in a remote location. By tapping into the metaverse, you could get a mechanic to climb under the hood with you, resulting in a much quicker solution than describing the problem on the phone.
What Still Needs Development: More VR Applications, Better Hardware
While the metaverse will no doubt change the way we work, a few key developments must take place before the technology is ready for widespread adoption. Improvements need to be made to the following. Hardware. My co-experimenters and I got headaches, mild motion sickness or eye strain after using the headsets for a short time. For VR to really take off, the hardware must become smaller, more comfortable and embeddable in other devices. User interface. We experienced crashes and connectivity issues during our VR meetings. A less clunky and more intuitive user interface is essential. Application development. The software itself needs to be further developed. Mesh, for instance, is a solid platform with promising raw infrastructure, but currently there are limited applications for use within the platform. This limits its business applications for the time being. Affordability. The cost of VR hardware is a big barrier. Commercial pricing is needed to allow businesses to explore the technology and its potential use cases. Meta's Quest Pro headset, for instance, currently costs $1,500.
Companies are already making moves to correct some of these issues. Microsoft recently announced Mesh for Teams and Microsoft 365 applications for Meta Quest devices and Mesh as a platform service, meaning users have more choice when it comes to accessing the metaverse and advanced ability to create custom integrated spaces and applications.
Getting Ready for the VR World
If Gartner is correct that many of us will be spending some time in the metaverse in just a few years, business leaders need to begin preparing for an explosion of VR applications.
CIOs of manufacturing companies and other organizations with frontline workers should begin diving in now, conducting pilot studies and getting a basic understanding of the technology and how it may fit into the organization just a few years in the future.
Leaders of knowledge companies may not need to invest just yet in deeper exploration and research, but they should be keeping tabs on metaverse developments and how the technology can solve customer problems.