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How the Metaverse Could Change the Nature of Work

HBR | Mark Purdy | Apr 6, 2022

Metaverse could change how we work - How the Metaverse Could Change the Nature of Work

Imagine a world where you could have a beachside conversation with your colleagues, take meeting notes while floating around a space station, or teleport from your office in London to New York, all without taking a step outside your front door. Feeling under pressure with too many meetings scheduled today? Then why not send your AI-enabled digital twin instead to take the load off your shoulders?

While defying precise definition, the metaverse is generally regarded as a network of 3-D virtual worlds where people can interact, do business, and forge social connections through their virtual “avatars.” Think about it as a virtual reality version of today’s internet.

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While still nascent in many respects, the metaverse has suddenly become big business, with technology titans and gaming giants such as Meta (previously Facebook), Microsoft, Epic Games, Roblox, and others all creating their own virtual worlds or metaverses. The metaverse draws on a vast ensemble of different technologies, including virtual reality platforms, gaming, machine learning, blockchain, 3-D graphics, digital currencies, sensors, and (in some cases) VR-enabled headsets.

Getting to the Metaverse

Many current workplace metaverse solutions require no more than a computer, mouse, and keyboard keys, but for the full 3-D surround experience you usually have to don a VR-enabled headset. However, rapid progress is also taking place in computer-generated holography that dispenses with the need for headsets, either by using virtual viewing windows that create holographic displays from computer images, or by deploying specially designed holographic pods to project people and images into actual space at events or meetings).

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Companies such as Meta are also pioneering haptic (touch) gloves that enable users to interact with 3-D virtual objects and experience sensations such as movement, texture, and pressure.

Teamwork and Collaboration

The metaverse promises to bring new levels of social connection, mobility, and collaboration to a world of virtual work. NextMeet, based in India, is an avatar-based immersive reality platform focused on interactive working, collaboration, and learning solutions. Its mission is to remove the isolation and workforce disconnectedness that can result from remote and hybrid work.

Faster Learning

The metaverse could revolutionize training and skills development, drastically compressing the time needed to develop and acquire new skills. AI-enabled digital coaches could be on-hand to assist in employee training and with career advice. In the metaverse, every object — a training manual, machine, or product, for example — could be made to be interactive, providing 3-D displays and step-by-step “how to” guides.

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Virtual reality role-play exercises and simulations will become common, enabling worker avatars to learn in highly realistic, “game play” scenarios, such as “the high-pressure sales presentation,” “the difficult client,” or “a challenging employee conversation.”

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