• Enterprises should beware the hype – the metaverse is not a decision that needs to be made this year, if ever
• However, elements of the metaverse are with us now and can offer genuine benefits – e.g., for training or collaboration
The ‘metaverse’ is manna from heaven for tech journalists (and, indeed, analysts!) as it is poorly defined, can be applied to both current technology and fantastical future ideas, and is a concept much loved by technology giants such as Microsoft and Facebook/Meta Platforms Inc. This sort of scenario is true of many new technologies, but the metaverse is a more ethereal and intangible concept than most – to the extent that even its name is meta.
The idea of people connecting in a fully 3D virtual reality (VR) represented by either true-to-life or more creative avatars seems more tied to social media and gaming than to the everyday life of business. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has recently suggested that the metaverse is primarily linked to gaming. But this does not mean that businesses can afford to ignore it.
Firstly, it is likely that there will be more than one ‘metaverse’, just as we have multiple social media platforms now (e.g., LinkedIn and TikTok play very different roles in our lives). Businesses should think of the enterprise metaverse (the EMV) as a way of enhancing the collaborative working experience in an increasingly hybrid working environment. If people now work from home more regularly and employers are increasingly global in the hunt for the best talent, tools that enable a closer ways of working should not be automatically dismissed.
The EMV does not have to involve headsets and gloves, but more immersive video experiences can help to ensure that people are more engaged. Furthermore, two of the biggest drawbacks to hybrid or home working are when it comes to training and on-boarding new employees. Technologies with the metaverse tag will include training tools that offer a deeper level connection between trainer and trainee.
Even the idea of virtual or augmented reality (AR) technology (e.g., headsets) should not be dismissed as science fiction. These tools are already playing a valuable role in areas such as engineering and medicine – both for training purposes and for real-world scenarios. Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits that artificial intelligence (AI) and VR/AR tools can have when they are used to support workers.
The final aspect for businesses to consider is the increasing blur between business and personal. Social media is already a powerful tool for business to market themselves and engage with customers. If social-metaverses emerge then businesses will need to know how their sales and customer support teams can work across them.