As a tech buzzword, “metaverse” refers to a network of persistent digital spaces populated by people (as avatars) hanging out, making money, and claiming ownership of their own digital belongings in a similar way to how the internet evolved.
AR, VR, IOT, 5G, blockchain, and cloud computing are all expected to come together in the next decade and interact with one another. There are a few companies already contributing to the creation of this virtual world, ranging in size from large to small to diverse.
However, tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook (now Meta) are pouring money into the metaverse, from AR/VR headsets to communication platforms, for example. In contrast, there are smaller players like VirBELA and Second Life who are focusing on specific aspects of virtual collaboration in the workplace and virtual worlds, respectively.
People will be able to interact in a way that is far more personal and engaging than Zoom calls when these (and many other) collaborative systems and technologies are implemented for consumer or enterprise use-cases.
It will be some time before we know exactly how this will affect businesses. It’s been a decade since the smartphone revolution began. Consumer fart apps were the iPhone’s most popular app for a brief period of time at the beginning. They didn’t know exactly what was being built, but they were confident that something significant was on the horizon anyway. At first, there was no app store on the smartphone. In the past, 3G networks have been a disgrace. The batteries were also terrible. The metaverse will go through a similar process of development.
Some of these business functions are likely to change as a result of the metaverse.
Customer service and satisfaction
Nancy Pekala, VP for content marketing and strategy at HGS Digital, said in a blog post that the metaverse will allow organisations that rely on phone calls and digital channels (automated chats) for customer service to shift toward an absolute virtual-first experience. Customers could assemble, repair, or exchange their products with the help of digital twins of customer service agents in an immersive, shared digital space.
There is a long-term benefit for both the organization/brand/customer relationship and the customer service agent’s ability to do their job better. For example, if a customer is having trouble putting together a piece of furniture, a virtual help desk can show them exactly how to put it together using a virtual and manipulable version of the furniture.
For customers, this would be similar to speaking with a service representative face-to-face.
Promoting and Selling Products and Services
According to Atlassian CEO Michael Pryor, who heads Trello, sales and marketing executives can use the metaverse to replicate real-life communication and visualisations in order for them to pitch their products/services to potential customers.
The metaverse, on the other hand, will make the whole process more lifelike, ensuring effective communication with subtleties of body language, tone, and visual cues – while also allowing some level of choice and anonymity at the same time, according to Pryor. Customers would be able to see and experience the product in the virtual store without actually being there.
Some examples include Ralph Lauren’s virtual ski shop and Drest, an interactive game that lets people try on different outfits to see which one looks best on them before connecting to an online store where they can buy those outfits. Several automakers, including Nissan and Mercedes, have also created virtual showrooms to give potential buyers a good look at their vehicles from the inside out and increase sales.
The metaverse can also be used by businesses, particularly those in the retail sector, for product placement and advertising. Fashion labels already working in this space give a good idea of what these ads might look like in the future. For its Fall 2021 collection, fashion house Balenciaga, for example, used Epic Games’ Fortnite to promote its real-world collections as digital skins and launched its own game on Unreal Engine. Additionally, fashion-tech startup BigThinx organised a virtual fashion show that featured designs from Rebecca Minkoff, Alivia, and a number of other high-profile designers. Retailers like Gucci and OTB Group (the parent company of Diesel) have set up their own metaverse divisions to take full advantage of this new market possibility.
Conferences and Other Large Gatherings
To make large events truly immersive and virtual for businesses, metaverse will play a critical role in the future. Since tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of people will be able to see and interact with each other in the virtual world as technology advances, this is important. This is a bigger and better version of Epic Games’ Travis Scott concert in Fortnite.
Metaverse will not be limited by the physical constraints of our world. The number of meeting rooms and stages that a company wants in an event venue is completely up to them
Architecting and Engineering
The metaverse could also be used by businesses to create digital twins that could aid in the development of new products and services. Boeing, for example, plans to use Microsoft Hololens and 3D digital avatars to improve aircraft engineering and prevent manufacturing flaws. Azure Mixed Reality and Hololens were used by Airbus as well to reduce design validation time by 80% and speed up complex aircraft assembly tasks by 30%.
In addition, companies can use immersive digital simulations of their production lines to identify bottlenecks that may affect the quality or delivery of their product. As a result, issues such as machine malfunctions or human errors could be addressed prior to having an impact on the actual production process. Nvidia’s Omniverse is being used by BMW to simulate every aspect of its production processes. “Smart” manufacturing revenue could reach $540 billion by 2025, according to TrendForce.
Education and Training of the Workforce
The metaverse will also have a significant impact on skill development. Companies could set up virtual plants where trainees learn to perform all essential operations from startup to shutdown rather than gathering employees and training them on actual pieces of machinery, which could instead be used for production purposes. The virtual environment could also be used to simulate accidents and emergencies and better train employees on safety response measures. Until recently, organisations had to rely on tedious training manuals or videos to accomplish this.
The use of the enterprise metaverse for immersive learning and training has been common, according to a Deloitte spokesperson, who spoke to Venturebeat. Virtualizing Deloitte University during the pandemic and creating an immersive environment where colleagues from around the world could meet and collaborate naturally, we held 50+ events in the first three months alone. We created a Hololens 2 experience that brings William Deloitte to life and an AR experience that showcases 3D and 2D art on a dedicated wall in the new Deloitte University in India.
Preparing for Possible Outcomes
For enterprises, the metaverse could be a way to ensure efficient scenario planning and problem management due to the absence of any physical constraints. Example: A scooter manufacturer could simulate operational issues caused by supplier bottlenecks (such as a scarcity of one particular component) and devise strategies to address them well in advance.
In the areas of complex and mission-critical operational improvement, metaverses can provide superior solutions. There are groundbreaking use cases created by the convergence of AI, digital twin and 3D design,” the Deloitte spokesperson said.
Using 3D digital twin applications, Deloitte was able to help some of the busiest airports in the world improve airline landing and takeoff efficiency. To speed up the design review process for new construction projects and better allocate resources for maintenance, authorities have also created a digital twin of the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).
“What are the advantages of having persistent data for a business?
What about a virtual machine that employees can see and interact with, such as a digital twin of a machine? (for example for repair and maintenance). Another option is to ask how collaborative and interoperable content might actually be put to good use. In some cases, it may be possible to crowdsource information and knowledge and interact with the digital twin, or other data available to the enterprise, from a wide range of stakeholders. If decentralisation is beneficial, how? For example, having locally stored and processed information to improve speed and latency.”
Persistent, decentralised, collaborative, and interoperable aspects of the metaverse should be taken into account when evaluating the metaverse, according to him.