Before AI like DALL-E, Midjourney, ChatGPT etc. stole its thunder, the new buzzword around town was “metaverse.” But what does that actually look like for businesses? Is it just some fade pushed by social media companies? Does it concern my business?
According to people like Apple’s CEO Tim Apple, the metaverse is coming. He went so far as to suggest that “Life without AR will soon be unthinkable.” Regardless of whether that’s a short- or long-off prediction, companies need to be ready.
First we need to build an understanding of what a metaverse actually is. Metaverse is a general term, like internet or network – hence why it’s not capitalized like a proper name. The metaverse refers to a collective upgrade of the internet to an interactive 3D virtual environment. This would be an over-world interconnected between various sites. These sites would reflect the immersive games and experiences that you see today.
Did Facebook/Meta invent the metaverse? No.
The idea of connected 3D immersive worlds has been around for decades, with Second Life being the earliest major success story. Several online gaming companies have staked a territory in the metaverse for quite a while, and if we were to narrow the definition of a metaverse to what it is perceived as today, then your kids (or younger family members) are already on one that generates Billions a year in revenue – Roblox!
The metaverse is being hyped now because technology has advanced to actually execute the ambitious concept. It has begun to catch up to the needs of such a world, though VR headset and graphics card technology is still a decade off from truly enabling them as imagined. Fast internet connections and immense processing power are required, as well as a delivery method for 3D that works on most PCs.
Are we there yet? Again, not quite, but the metaverse is picking up steam. Recently, Microsoft announced a partnership with Meta. This partnership is to bring Microsoft 365 apps into the metaverse, which enables collaboration in an entirely new way. Microsoft notes that ~50% of Gen Z and Millennials expect to do some of their work in the metaverse in the next two years, though this is likely an overly optimistic assumption.
How Will The Metaverse Impact Your Company?
With companies like Microsoft looking at the future of AR & VR, it could be a reality soon. In spite of the division layoffs recently, you can expect the metaverse to touch your own company in some way after the next few years. Here’s a preview of what it may impact.
Where You Advertise
When the internet was first introduced, companies didn’t immediately realize the potential for targeted advertising. Now though, most companies wouldn’t consider operating without a website for example, and marketing spend is on digital rather than physical media. It’s a necessity for driving leads and converting sales, especially given the death spiral of legacy methods and their increasingly depressing results.
If the metaverse takes off as a new 3D iteration of the internet, it could be just as big of a transformation. This means exploring metaverse-type advertising in virtual worlds, and potentially creating your own VR site or showroom.
How You Service Customers
With the meteoric rise in social media use, companies realized customers used it to reach out and communicate. Seventy-nine percent of consumers expect companies to respond to a social media message, and promptly, within a day at most.
To address this, many businesses established a social media presence. They use this for marketing, as well as answering questions and inquiries from customers.
The metaverse is purported to be the next step here. If people begin hanging out there, they will carry their current expectations for business interactions with them, just like they do now with social networks.
This means companies need to be aware of how customers interact with the metaverse as it grows in use. Adding questions about metaverse use to a year-end customer survey is one way to be proactive here, though this is honestly jumping the gun in 2023.
How Employees Are Trained
One of the touted benefits of the metaverse is its ability to enable more immersive employee training. This is said to greatly increase training capabilities and effectiveness for everyone, from doctors to forklift certified operators.
Imagine being able to replicate a task more closely in a virtual world, free from the expected risk of replicating it in the real world. A person could safely make mistakes there, and see first-hand examples up close. Then they could grow proficient before doing that thing in real life, and have actual experience in recognizing it in the field.
While it’s a bit early, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about the types of training that your employees currently need. Then, look at ways that a VR world may make the training safer or more efficient. The metaverse may not have what you’re looking for now, but with the pace of technological advancement, it could after a few years.
More Immersive Team Collaborations
Virtual meetings are virtually the norm these days, born out of necessity during the pandemic. The next generation of online team meetings may end up being in a virtual world.
As we noted earlier, Microsoft is already working on bringing its apps into a virtual space. Add a few avatars, an immersive setting, and suddenly you have a completely different meeting experience! The downsides are many though, from the cost of the VR headsets, to the cost of computers powerful enough to render it, to the bulk/weight/general uncomfortability of modern VR headsets. This will inhibit the roll-out of virtual meetings for the foreseeable future to say the least.
Visualization is a major benefit of virtual meetings, and is especially relevant to design-oriented businesses? Take building design and maintenance. Imagine being able to walk through a 3D recreation of a space before it’s built, and fine-tuning the construction while inside that space.
Is Your Business Prepared For The Metaverse Digital Transformation?
What are your digital transformation plans for the coming years? The next 5 years? If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a technology brainstorming session.