Metaverse solutions cut across various industries from healthcare to fashion to manufacturing, but it’s still in its infancy. Think of it like the internet of 1994, when you used Netscape and a dial-up handshake to navigate around the wobbly web.
As businesses step into the metaverse for workplace efficiency and to enhance the customer experience, this is the right time to experiment with using it as a service.
Defining the Metaverse
One of the significant uses of the metaverse will be for removing the limitations of the physical world. From a provider’s perspective, I see the metaverse as a confluence of realities with a wide spectrum of uses.
In addition to virtual reality, there is also base reality, augmented reality, mixed reality as well as regular 2D and 3D web. You can connect online using any of the realities to interact with people, spaces and things.
The metaverse as we know it now is a collection of digital technologies, nano technologies, connectivity and cloud computing. This is all laying the foundation for what the metaverse can become. In the future, you won’t be able to tell the difference between augmented reality and VR, or the other realities. It will be so seamless, it will virtually remove the constraints of physicality.
Owning Your Space
Blockchain technologies are another signal of how the metaverse will be defined as a decentralized space so that no single entity can control it. There’s a lot of value in being able to create your own community. Social media has followers, but it’s not a community. The next level will be co-creation of a true community.
One key aspect to consider in metaverse development is allowing organizations to own their space. Suppose you have high-value content on a social media platform. That provider can kick you out anytime they want. In the future, you’re going to want to own your workspace. Blockchain architecture, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies will play a critical role in providing sovereignty in the metaverse.
The Pew Research Center estimates that 500 million people will have the metaverse as an integral part of their lives by the year 2040. In order to develop metaverse solutions, you need to experiment.
Just like with any industry, businesses interested in expanding into new areas should try things out to see what resonates best with their clientele. In retail, for example, if a brand wants to grow its market, it might try adding a flagship store in a major city or invest in pop-up stores around the world.
Businesses that want to step into the metaverse should start experimenting to see what works. It’s a process that will take testing and refining. Transparency is important, with clear communication between businesses and their customers.
For now, the fashion industry is accessorizing with metaverse by creating immersive experiences to engage with customers. It’s great for fandom – allowing customer avatars to meet celebrities, to socialize, take part in promotions and engage with a whole range of brand experiences.
Nikeland is one example of a brand venturing into the metaverse, enabling Nike customers to buy exclusive digital products to decorate their avatars. Among luxury brands, Gucci dipped its toes in the metaverse early on and is a good example of a brand that is not afraid to test the waters. Gucci is experimenting with everything from NFTs to collaborating with Roblox on gaming. It is even a part of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). It’s parent company, Kerig, has a team dedicated to the metaverse, as well as individual teams for Gucci and Balenciaga.
Brands are getting “phygital,” merging physical and digital marketing efforts. They’re leveraging metaverse solutions in order to stay current and on the cutting edge of cultural trends.
Hybrid Work Solutions
Companies can also use metaverse solutions to generate end-to-end employee experiences. As a practical application, virtual reality training has been a vital resource for companies in this tight labor market.
In manufacturing, where the average attrition rate is about 45 days, metaverse tools can streamline the onboarding and training process. This takes smart glasses, VR gear, mixed with cloud computing, artificial intelligence, sensors, etc., to mimic gestures and body tracking.
You can create an immersive experience for new employees. The traditional way, it could take several weeks to teach them just one process, requiring two supervisors for every 20 trainees.
Using metaverse tools, workers put on VR goggles and use the controls to go through the motions of each step in the process, saving time and resources. Unlike traditional methods of training, supervisors don’t need to be present during virtual training. They can monitor activity and progress on a dashboard, identifying which trainee is ready to move forward without ever having to be in the room. VR training is also a frictionless way to upskill your workforce.
Investing in the metaverse is a long-term strategy. We’re still eight to ten years from having the metaverse truly come into its own.
As a business model, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The early internet (Web 1.0) connected people with information. Now we have web 2.0 social platforms like TikTok and Instagram that connect people with people. The next incarnation will connect people with physical things and physical environments.
Another factor in this future is generational. Those entering the workforce will be native to the metaverse, used to playing in virtual reality on multiplayer world-building games such as Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite.
The unicorn organization thriving in the metaverse has yet to be created. Right now, companies are venturing in, experimenting and trying to figure out the future roadmap to help them navigate through it.
Immanual J. Kingsley is Metaverse Technology Officer and Head of the Innovation Lab for Hexaware Technologies