The Metaverse, digital space created by the interaction of virtual, augmented and physical realities, is entering the world of work. What are the benefits of the “new” workspace where people interact with each other using virtual and augmented reality through their digital avatars? And does the Metaverse have the potential to be an alternative workplace?
Within the metaverse, we move in three-dimensional space that depicts realities in a “new world”. Neal Stephenson first drew the picture of a virtual world similar to today’s metaverse in 1992 with his science fiction novel “Snow Crash”. Since then, virtual worlds have repeatedly been part of the analogue world. Physical persons can have immersive experiences in the metaverse with the help of their digital identity. The spectrum ranges from concert visits and events to collaboration in a business context.
The US market research institute Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25 percent of people will already spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse.
Knowledge work in the metaverse
Knowledge workers in particular could use the metaverse in the future. Immersive technologies are already being used today, for example, in the development of new automobiles and in complex architectural projects. Participants at different locations, or more precisely their digital avatars, can meet virtually and – unlike in video conferences – move together in a virtual space. Prototypes can thus be viewed and discussed from all perspectives.
Users are still dependent on VR glasses that visualise the metaverse and hide real environments. Modern technology provides all relevant data and stores it in corresponding virtual spaces. Ideally, the experience will feel truly realistic. Then you can also spend work breaks with your colleagues’ avatars in the digital cafeteria.
Benefits of the metaverse in everyday work:
- flexibilisation of work
- bridging spatial distances
- location-independent interaction
- immersive experience in virtual meeting spaces
- use in HR, e.g. in the areas of recruiting, onboarding, further education and qualification
- creating experiences for people
- increasing attractiveness for tech-savvy talent
State of the art
At the 3rd FRAME event “The Next Space” on 26 October 2022, Astin le Clercq and Bas van de Poel, founders of the Dutch think tank and consultancy Modem, presented innovations in workplace technologies.
- Portals for video communication such as Tonari or Google Starline enable a completely new, immersive experience in daily remote communication. The key promise is that meetings can be held and collaboration can be organised as if colleagues were in the room together. For this purpose, those not physically present are projected into the office via screens as a physical person or as an avatar, in which the respective conversation partner is represented as a 3D projection like a kind of hologram.
- Augmented realities include Meta’s and Microsoft’s virtual spaces. Microsoft Mesh is a collaboration and communication platform that unifies virtual collaboration across multiple devices such as VR headsets, AR, laptops or smartphones. Meta Horizon Workrooms is a VR app that enables teams to collaborate in virtual space.
- The tool Gather.town is reminiscent of a video game. It presents individuals as avatars and offers a virtual working environment in two-dimensional space, where you can see yourself and your colleagues from a bird’s eye view. The browser-based virtual reality platform Spatial.io allows people to create virtual copies of physical offices and to work and communicate with each other in real time via avatars.
According to le Clercq and van de Poel, new technologies will create a more seamless and inclusive physical and digital work environment in the future. For the experts at Modem, it is clear that technology will allow people to choose their lifestyle and work style more freely. In the future, offices can be almost anywhere if the right technology is provided.
The metaverse, an alternative workplace of the future?
New technologies enable work to be more flexible and less location-dependent. How far the metaverse will establish itself as a workplace remains to be shown. Experts agree that it will only succeed when the current VR glasses are replaced by more portable systems that enable a connection to the outside world. The necessary interest among employees seems to be there, at least according to Microsoft in its “Work Trend Index 2022”. According to the index, 52 percent of the 31,000 respondents from 31 countries want to use immersive spaces in the metaverse for meetings or team meetings in the future. Of these, 47 percent are willing to appear in meetings as avatars. And around half of the respondents can also imagine having their work partly take place in the metaverse.