How will work change as the metaverse becomes our new reality? To find answers, futurists Bugge Holm Hansen and Sofie Hvitved venture into the virtual realm to meet with CEO Bruno Larvol, whose firm has been conducting its business in the metaverse for the past six months.
Emerging technologies have always brought convenient alternatives to traditional ways of working. Usually these changes take a while to materialise, but when the pandemic hit, we saw how technological solutions could suddenly become crucial to keeping the workplace running. Extensive investments in future immersive technologies by the world’s largest tech companies hint that we are on the brink of opening new workflows that may be a catalyst for a transition from working on our computers to working inside our computers – and inside the metaverse.
So what is the metaverse, exactly? The answer to that question is that nobody really knows for sure. Some perceive it as a future vision or concept with accompanying business models that have yet to materialise. Others see it as something that is connected to certain technologies like AR, VR, and haptic wearables that enable immersive engagement in virtual spaces. Certainly, immersive social worlds have so far been a central selling point of the metaverse, not least in the vision presented by Meta (formerly Facebook) in their much-discussed concept video from late 2021.
What most anticipations around the metaverse have in common is an emphasis on what it might become. But in many respects, the metaverse (at least in its nascent state) is already here. The groundwork has been laid by the steady merger of our physical and virtual lives which has been happening for some time now. Additionally, immersive technologies are already being used by some first-mover organisations to host meetings, collaborations, and other activities in virtual spaces. The promise these technologies hold for the future is that collaborating, learning and meeting can be made more entertaining when done virtually, and that products, concepts, or scenarios can be tested in immersive environments before making their way into the real world. We may also see co-designing of virtual prototypes or onboarding new employees take place in the metaverse.
Although the potential is there, employees seem to have mixed feelings about a future of where work is done in the immersive metaverse. According to a recent US study by Morning Brew-Harris, 27% of employees are enthusiastic about the potential of adopting AR/VR in the workplace, while 29% are completely unmotivated. Meanwhile, 31% remain hesitant, even though 83% of senior company executives foresee an increase in immersive technology investments.
There are other barriers than employee discontent to overcome as well, not least the cost associated with participating in virtual, immersive experiences. Metaverseenabling tech like haptic wearables, VR headsets, AR glasses, and spatial audio devices have a high price point. Over time, these barriers will diminish as the price of the technology is lowered for consumers, but issues around privacy and security will also need to be addressed. For any organisation wishing to have a presence in the metaverse, it will be essential to be able to secure both their digital assets and their virtual meeting spaces.