The Metaverse is a virtual 3D space where individuals can meet and interact online, using either virtual reality or augmented reality technology.
Currently the Metaverse is more of a vision than a concrete product or service. However, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has invested more than $10bn into Metaverse research, and major tech companies including Google and Nvidia are working on their own Metaverse-type projects. Microsoft has already unveiled its Mesh for Teams platform, which supports virtual 3D meetings using Meta Quest headsets.
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What are the business applications of the Metaverse?
The Metaverse concept takes telepresence to the next level, allowing staff located all around the world to meet as 3D avatars in a virtual meeting room. The goal is to provide a sense of personal presence and social interaction, improving communication and reducing the isolation of remote work.
Metaverse scenarios could also be used for training and simulations of real-world tasks, with the possibility of examining and interacting with 3D models and scenes. Combining cameras with Metaverse technology might allow workers to carry out virtual site visits or inspections without the need to travel.
What else might the Metaverse be used for?
The Metaverse has potential for education, allowing students to visit and explore immersive simulations of historic or geographically significant scenarios. Metaverse technology could also allow individuals to virtually attend live 3D projections of concerts, sporting contests and other events, with the benefit of multiple viewpoints and unlimited ticket availability.
What challenges do Metaverse applications face?
Metaverse applications require considerable network bandwidth, to allow multiple people to interact freely inside an immersive 3D world. However, 5G and Wi-Fi 7 connections can support the high data rates and low latency required to maintain a real-time experience.
A bigger question is how Metaverse users will control their avatars. While virtual meeting spaces already exist, no one has yet come up with a practical way to allow individuals to freely walk, talk and interact with objects in the virtual world. Issues of motion sickness and headset discomfort are also not yet fully solved.
Even once these challenges are overcome, the fact that Metaverse research is being pursued by multiple companies suggests that we could end up with a market of many different Multiverses. This could create barriers to communication and collaboration.
What does the future hold?
Businesses are broadly optimistic about the Metaverse. Research by PwC suggests that two thirds of company leaders expect to be using some sort of Metaverse technology by the end of 2025.
However, it’s anticipated that Metaverse-type applications will be used primarily for interactions between staff, alongside current communications methods. The most ambitious visions of the Metaverse aren’t expected to come to reality any time soon – if indeed they are ever possible.
Note: the Metaverse is not to be confused with Workplace from Meta.
- The Metaverse is a concept for a shared virtual 3D meeting space.
- Many companies are working on Metaverse projects, but there aren’t yet any real Metaverse products or services.
- One major unsolved challenge is enabling Metaverse users to control their 3D avatars in a natural way.
- Businesses expect that the Metaverse will catch on for internal communications. Beyond that, its viability has yet to be proven.
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