The end of the year is a great time for everyone to reflect on what’s happened and speculate on what may be coming up next. Even Bill Gates.
In his 2021 year in review, titled “Reasons for Optimism After a Difficult Year,” Gates dedicates a good portion of this thought to vital 2021 topics: the pandemic, vaccines, that whole thing in Suez with the Ever Given, and he also comes out strong on emerging technologies. And boy is he excited about metaverse real estate, specifically the potential digital office space brings.
Gates’ office vision and real-world office occupancy rates
Gates doesn’t hold back, in fact, he’s enthusiastic about the office future that the pandemic has created. Although he writes that he’s certain that companies will ultimately end up with some kind of hybrid office return plan if and when it becomes safe to do so, he also believes that the metaverse is the future of remote office work.
“Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids — which I call the Hollywood Squares model, although I know that probably dates me — to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars.”
Gates made this prediction before the omicron strain of the coronavirus came onto the stage, at a time when Kastle’s Workplace Occupancy Barometer was stabilizing at 40% worker occupancy for its 2,600 buildings. By December 22, that number would fall to 30.3%, and in the last week of December, only 17.5% of workers had swiped in. It’s possible some of this drop is due to the holiday season, but that’s a pretty stiff drop even so.
Physical offices are entering the metaverse
Gates was right about something else, too. Lots of businesses are rushing to the metaverse in an attempt to better serve their customers and encourage their teams to be together, even when they’re in different physical spaces.
Recently, both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Prager Metis International LLC have started construction on new branches in the metaverse. PricewaterhouseCoopers will be working with metaverse-based customers in The Sandbox; Prager Metis is going to be doing real tax and accounting from Decentraland.
Although Gates’ office future includes completely immersive experiences that require headsets and other equipment, these two financial leaders are erecting their virtual structures in worlds that can easily be accessed with a basic computer. Many office workers still seem resistant to the idea of being locked into equipment all day as they work, but they certainly aren’t minding the virtual space itself.
eXp Realty, for example, has been holding meetings and other important events in its Virbela space for years now, and for most Realtors, it seems to really click. Virbela is a dedicated office platform, unlike Decentraland and The Sandbox that are whole communities with their own economies, but it serves as an excellent proof of concept for metaverse office spaces and has been in use since 2012.
Office metaverse real estate is the next hot market
Although just a few companies are currently online in the metaverse, their numbers are growing. With omicron being a constant threat to workers’ safety and security, businesses are scrambling for a solution that both keeps workers together in a communal space and gives them the safety they need as the pandemic rages on. Rather than lose workers to endless sick days, virtual workplaces are a solution that keeps everyone busy and productive.
There’s a huge opportunity here for metaverse real estate investors, especially those who are looking to expand beyond advertising or retail. Office spaces that are ready to go will be highly desirable to smaller businesses that can’t necessarily justify buying metaverse real estate, hiring architects, designing custom office space, and so forth.
Instead, a plug-and-play office environment, similar to Virbela but in metaverse platforms that are more familiar, like Decentraland and The Sandbox, will be the go-to solution for many.
Bill Gates is all in on metaverse office space, and so are a lot of large companies. The best time to have purchased real estate in the metaverse was six months ago, but the second best time to get in on this office wave is now.
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