Bloomberg predicts the metaverse will grow into an $800 billion market opportunity by 2024. 44% of respondents in a Lenovo survey say they are prepared to work in the metaverse. Companies like Mercedes, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Boeing are already experimenting in the metaverse. So, what is the metaverse?
The metaverse, in short, is a vast, persistent, and interactive virtual world that mirrors the real world, in which people will shop, socialize, get information, entertain themselves, and work in the future. It has been called both the next generation of the Internet and, as one article phrased it, “a souped-up version of virtual reality.” But the concept isn’t new, and the metaverse – in its most idealistic form – does not and may never exist.
Today’s metaverse is a rebranding of existing VR technology. In truth, enterprises have been creating and experimenting with immersive experiences, or metaverses, and the devices used to enter the metaverse since 2015. Continued advancement of the underlying technologies along with changing social norms promise to take their use cases to the next level.
Here are 3 use cases for the enterprise metaverse:
REMOTE WORK/VIRTUAL OFFICE
There are many upsides to virtual office space for employers and employees alike, and the move isn’t as disruptive as one would have imagined pre-pandemic. The biggest change has already happened, namely the shift to remote work. VR is a next step, offering remote workers the opportunity to work in custom immersive environments like a Parisian café or a 3D space that can’t be found or replicated in the real world.
Available apps such as Immersed allow you to organize and manipulate multiple screens around you in virtual space, with some users reporting increased productivity. The capabilities of similar platforms (as well as the hardware) will only increase, improving how we view and process information.
For employers, the greatest benefit may be saving on rent with the closure of some or all physical offices, and the infiniteness (at least in theory) of virtual real estate. Solo work in VR will likely take off before entire virtual offices and could also help companies attract next-gen workers.
TRAINING/LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT
AR/VR/MR (XR) is being used today to teach workers everything from how to operate heavy machinery to how to handle a difficult customer. Companies like Bank of America, DHL, Ford, JetBlue, and State Farm already have immersive training programs in place for both hard and soft skills. These early adopters have shown that XR is faster, more effective, and cheaper compared to traditional training methods.
The technology also solves many of the logistical challenges that make training in manufacturing, energy, utilities, and other industries expensive and disruptive: Training can be delivered anywhere, at scale, transporting trainees from all over the globe to a digital replica of the plant floor instead of flying them to a physical factory and causing unnecessary downtime. In a virtual factory, users can safely learn to use complex machinery without having to requisition expensive assets or shadow another employee.
But perhaps the most novel aspect of training in the metaverse is that training can be designed for uncommon or edge use cases that are unsafe, impossible, or not ideal to simulate in real life. XR also allows for variation and repetition, even a degree of randomness, that would be similarly impractical or unsafe in the real world. It’s this aspect of immersive training that will improve as metaverse technologies advance and virtual reality gets more realistic.
Beyond e-commerce, the metaverse promises to profoundly change how we interact with brands. Already, NFTs and virtual worlds with their own digital economies are changing how people view material goods and ownership. McDonald’s, J.P. Morgan, and other big brands are rushing to “enter the metaverse,” filing patents, launching activations, and opening retail stores in VR.
The metaverse will also transform how consumers consume and hopefully make our material culture more sustainable. Already, consumers are using augmented reality to try on virtual products and envision virtual objects like furniture in real space before making a purchase. In some physical stores (think a car dealership), buyers can put on a VR headset to view more product options than the store can physically showcase and customize goods on the spot.
One intriguing concept is the “user experience by proxy.” Like the metaverse, the experience economy is not new. Immersive experiences can be seen as a new category or other dimension to this economy which values experiences over products. The question is: Once VR is capable of simulating all of our senses and not just sight, what kind of experiences will we want to buy?