This post was originally featured as an article in Rise Mag. Read it here.
You’ve heard the news and read the opinion pieces. You’ve likely asked questions, and maybe even received some legitimate answers. By now, you’ve presumably bought into the idea that the Metaverse is coming. And it’s coming in a big way. But today, I want to challenge all the hype and pose the question: will the Metaverse actually change anything?
What is the Metaverse?
Put simply, the Metaverse can be thought of as the further blending of the digital and physical worlds. It incorporates elements of immersive technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), as well as software platforms, virtual collaboration tools, and other digital experiences. Essentially, the Metaverse can be thought of as a new “place” for commerce, community, learning, work, gaming, and more.
When I explain to people what the Metaverse is – or rather, what it has the potential to become — I talk about Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks. The company that for decades has branded itself as the “third place” in people’s lives: not home or work, but another familiar and comfortable place where you can gather socially, work, learn, study, relax, have meetings, play games, and, if you want, maybe even drink some coffee.
I think about the Metaverse in much the same way, as the “third place” after the physical and online worlds. In the Metaverse, people will begin to do many of the things they used to do solely in the other two. To be clear, I don’t believe that the Metaverse will become the “third place” in a dystopian sort of way. But I do like the analogy because it’s easy to understand, and it demonstrates why the Metaverse will matter as another “place” for people to choose in an increasingly blended digital and physical world.
The Metaverse changes nothing today
With the recent introduction of the Metaverse, nothing really changes in terms of how we operate today. In 2022, we are more connected than ever before, as enterprises have collectively leaned into technology to overcome the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are learning to live in a new hybrid world, meeting and collaborating both online and in person. I don’t see this changing or taking a major leap to a whole new (and unproven) model just because we have identified the “the next new thing.”
Hints at a Metaverse may exist in pockets of the gaming world today, but without creators, content, and infrastructure, the reality of it becoming the new “place” for the masses is DOA. Accessibility, connectivity, and computing power also have a long way to go before the Metaverse can be a seamless user experience, and much of what we are hearing on this front so far is hypothetical. Additionally, the development of the hardware and software that will serve as the backbone of the Metaverse is just starting to enter the zeitgeist.
All of this is to say, what exists now as it relates to the Metaverse changes nothing about the way we are conducting business today. But the potential of this new “place” could change everything about what happens from here.
The Metaverse changes everything tomorrow
For more than a decade, we have seen a gradual shift in the way people choose certain experiences, products, and employers. With the construction of the Metaverse, this way of life will enter warp speed, accelerating the use of virtual technologies that will affect how people choose to interact, how they purchase products and services, and even how/where they work.
Virtual spaces will go well beyond the physical and online meeting rooms of today. In this world, there will be an immersive factor that will drive behavior. People may choose a product only after reviewing it in 3D detail, and may only choose to attend an event if a fully immersive, virtual option is available. For the enterprise, the Metaverse has great potential to make online collaboration more personal and engaging, to visit factories across the world to better understand supply chain issues, or to establish standardized, unbiased, digital credentials to level the playing field in the employee hiring process. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
This all sounds great… but how do we actually get there?
From today to tomorrow
Crossing a chasm typically requires a path, or more specifically, a bridge. In this case, the bridge from today to tomorrow is actually sitting right in front of us in the form of enterprise VR, and more specifically, VR training. It is today’s most important, proven, and fastest access point to the Metaverse. Immersive VR experiences have already been influencing how we learn and work, and are increasingly influencing how we interact in a professional environment as well.
VR serves as one of the most immediate and tangible elements of the Metaverse’s infancy. And this likely won’t change for the next three to five years. In addition, the “killer apps” for VR during this time will still be workplace-driven.
Having trained more than one million learners in VR over the past seven years, we’ve seen headsets go on the faces of every type of worker, from a package handler to a bank teller to a Hall of Fame-bound NFL quarterback. Over and over, we’ve found that immersive experiences are an extremely effective and meaningful way to improve workforce engagement and performance. Not to mention, people love to learn in VR because they remember more and feel more prepared for their jobs.
That’s why I believe that those leading the way to the Metaverse are chief human resources officers and chief learning officers. By enabling a remote-first workplace and engaging employees in immersive learning during such recent challenging times, they are already regarded as the superheroes of our organizations today. And in crossing the bridge, they will be major drivers in getting us to the Metaverse of tomorrow.
So if you presumed that consumerism, social networking, and games would illuminate the path to the Metaverse, think again. Individuals will not drive the Metaverse… enterprises will.
Crossing the bridge
So, where does that leave us? The Metaverse, in all its real or perceived glory, is definitely coming. And with enterprise VR, we have our bridge to this new, immersive “place,” setting the stage for enterprises and their employees to be among the first to access it. Industry giants like Bank of America, Verizon, and Walmart have already made significant commitments to immersive technology, and are seeing incredible impact across their workforce in the form of increased employee engagement, performance, and retention. They are clearly leading the charge toward the Metaverse.
Now it’s your turn.
Will you cross the bridge?