Is the metaverse inching closer to reality?

Alan Connolly
2 August 2022

By 2026, it’s anticipated that 25% of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse.

Imagine a world where you can have a meeting in a space station and be home in time for dinner. This might sound like a fantasy but in the metaverse, you might even meet up with someone in another continent after.

By 2026, it’s anticipated that 25% of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse.1 Whether for work, shopping, education, or entertainment, it is set to take our experiences online to the next level.

Sceptical? It is right to question technologies that promise so much when many have not lived up to the hype. Since Facebook became Meta, the metaverse has received an avalanche of media attention that can sometimes do more harm than good. But with elaborate virtual worlds long established in video gaming and engaged with by millions of people every day, the metaverse has in many ways already proven successful.

What the metaverse represents for the world today is essentially the evolution of the internet to a 3D immersive platform. Like the internet, the metaverse will be universally accessible and – through developments in virtual and augmented reality platforms, gaming, machine learning, blockchain related technologies, 3D content, digital currencies, sensors, and AR/VR-enabled headsets – its possible applications will extend far beyond entertainment.

But there is another reason why the metaverse is receiving more attention than ever. The pandemic reshaped the working world and while hybrid working has been successful, it is by no means a complete experience. To go beyond the convenience factor, employers should start thinking about the metaverse’s capability to deliver employee experiences that are more authentic, cohesive, and interactive.

A new era of collaboration

One of the most immediate opportunities for the metaverse are in the workplace. These will be realized in industrial and office-based use cases, where collaboration, creativity, and productivity can be improved dramatically.

Distance negatively impacts collaboration. Many of us will be overly familiar with the 2D environment of a video call, where some people prefer to stay off-camera and social cues can be limited by technical issues. As soon as a call ends, a conversation with a colleague might take place over Teams or Slack, but remote working has effectively cut out “water cooler” chat. This should not be trivialised as there is still real value in the informal opportunities to chat with colleagues or networks outside of the call agenda.

In many ways, the metaverse can address this issue. By replicating an office environment, people can come together in a shared space that can be both informal and formal. Whether to relax in a breakout space or to present at meetings, employees can use their digital avatar to immerse themselves in a new virtual environment with colleagues.

The level of customization is unlimited: employers will be able to just as easily choose their virtual space to take the shape of a familiar office as they will be to a spaceship or beach. This counters social disconnectedness and even gives people the opportunity to spend time with colleagues outside of their teams.

Beyond the office environment, the metaverse will enhance the connection between engineer and designer, or consultant and doctor. Teams that tend to operate from a distance can work from the same space to address issues collaboratively, whether that is refining a new car part or advising on an operation in a clinical setting. With virtual-reality technologies already being used to test learners’ skills in scenarios via interactions with 3D models, use cases are off the ground – but we can expect them to improve as the technology becomes more ubiquitous in years ahead.

An all-inclusive experience

The metaverse has the potential to deliver a more human experience in many ways. Take the onboarding process as one example – in the hybrid working era, people joining companies wade through unengaging documents and only meet with managers or specific team members to discuss day-to-day activity and expectations. Would it not be far more personal to enable people to explore the company interactively in a 3D hall or gallery? Would the subsequent training not be more interesting and more effective if it was truly “hands-on”? What if a candidate could even try the job before they buy-in?

There are so many exciting avenues to explore and if handled correctly the net impact will improve inclusion, productivity, and collaboration. Gartner research into hybrid working over the pandemic found that it can boost inclusion by 24%, in part due to a widening of the candidate pool by extending the geographical range. But to take the next step, employers should start exploring with different technologies to deliver a truly inclusive experience for employees.

Securing a virtual world

While we could spend days talking about the potential benefits, we can’t and must not forget security. As the metaverse evolves to a more advanced stage, the security challenges multiply. In the real world, cybercrime is becoming more rampant with a reported 50% increase in overall attacks per week on corporate networks last year compared with 2020. The metaverse is another avenue for cybercriminals to explore and as more of our working lives take place in virtual worlds, there are serious challenges to consider.

It is almost too early to say how metaverses will be secured. Big Tech organizations are responsible for making their environments safe to use, but users are often the weak point in cyber defences and so must also be vigilant by learning what to look out for and how to protect themselves from a potential attack or avoid deepfakes. In the near future, we can also expect wider issues like the cost of access through immersive headsets and its monetary value to be ironed out, but security has to become a primary consideration.

Employers thinking about the metaverse should be excited. It can transform operations entirely or simply augment experiences on a case-by-case basis. We are still adjusting to the new working world, but we must now be thinking: how can we preserve real human values and connections at the heart of our online experience? By addressing the challenges ahead, there are so many reasons why the metaverse can be the answer.

Contact us for additional information about our employee experience services. We’d be happy to help you explore new options for keeping your employees satisfied and productive—and keeping your business stronger than ever.

“Gartner Predicts 25% of People Will Spend At Least One Hour Per Day in the Metaverse by 2026”

Alan Connolly

Alan Connolly