What will the metaverse mean for business?

Ah, the metaverse. Once the exclusive domain of internet gamers, the technology has a wide range of potential applications that have gained momentum in a post-covid existence. The old trope about necessity being the mother of invention appears to hold true in a virtual world as much as the “real world”. But wait. Before we start talking about its potential applications, what is the metaverse? Where did it come from and where is it going?

This year sees the 30th anniversary of the coining of the term metaverse, though the concept itself predates this – we just didn’t have a name for it. In another example of life imitating art, the term was first used in a 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash by US author Neal Stephenson. Of course, the concept of the virtual world featured in earlier books and films. Tron was a great example, even though the graphics we all thought were awesome back in 1982 haven’t really stood the test of time.

Since then, films as diverse as Total Recall, Ready Player One, Free Guy and, of course, the Matrix series have featured the concept of a metaverse. Today, the “real” metaverse is a network of virtual worlds (typically accessed by virtual or augmented reality headsets to create a more immersive experience) where users interact with each other in the form of a digital avatar.

Early uses of the metaverse were seen in gaming and social communities online, where people around the world would create an avatar and “meet” in a virtual chat room or compete/collaborate in a wide variety of gaming scenarios. Gaming dynasties such as Call  of Duty have been leveraging the metaverse concept for years and it’s expected that huge investment in the gaming industry will drive growth of the metaverse as a whole.

Other areas in which the metaverse holds significant potential include entertainment, virtual tourism and consumerism. If you can’t physically attend an event, the metaverse could allow you to experience a concert, a play or a sporting event virtually, from your living room. “It’s just like being there!” but without the queues. If you can’t travel, you can experience far flung places from home – the ultimate staycation.

The metaverse also has the potential to transform sectors as diverse as retail, fashion, real estate and the automotive industry. Just pop on your headset and do the weekly shop, complete with automatically generated BOGOF and bundle offers when you place an item in your shopping basket. Take a virtual tour of that house you’re thinking about buying or that new car. Wonder what that shirt would look like in blue, pink, green? No problem.

Metaverse in Business applications

Most of what we hear about the metaverse is very consumer-focussed, but there are business applications for the technology too. Most companies adapted well to the hybrid working revolution the pandemic created. Rather than going back to business as usual (whatever that is), the metaverse offers the opportunity to enhance the remote communication and collaboration environment.

Virtualising workspaces could provide remote workers with more engaging and immersive ways of collaborating with colleagues. The gamification of workflows could arguably change the way a workforce accesses and engages with business documents. No longer tied to physical premises, a business could expand its global reach effortlessly, providing access to new markets and new consumers.

Cautious optimism

This all sounds amazing, but most of the promise of the metaverse is still a few years away. The framework is there, but the technology still has a bit of growing up to do. Certainly the next generation of high-speed network infrastructure and connectivity should provide the bandwidth required to handle what is a fairly resource-intensive application. However, peoples’ opinions of the state of the art vary considerably. There may be some well-designed virtual meeting rooms out there, but legless avatars or badly rendered faces leave us in no doubt there is still room for improvement.

As usual, there are some concerns about the technology. Unusually though, alongside the typical security concerns of the gathering and storage of PII, the metaverse brings with it some potential societal challenges. There is some concern that making the virtual world easier to access, safer and more convenient than the real world will lead to the erosion of some core inter-social skills. A lot of businesses are predicated upon the principle that “people buy people” if you replace people with virtual representations will we be saying avatars buy avatars?

If you are interested in exploring advanced solutions for your printing technologies, get in touch today. Call 01293 562525 or email info@sossystems.co.uk



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