- The metaverse is often described as the next version of the internet — a shared, virtual space that is persistently online and active.
- The eagerness with which tech companies are rushing to populate this digital frontier will completely alter the future of work and the workplace.
- Soul Machines wants to fill the metaverse with a “digital workforce,” which are essentially robot avatars in digital worlds – as well as extensions of ourselves.
Auckland-based tech company Soul Machines is paving the way for the “digital workforce” into the metaverse.
As we begin to see the increased metaverse hype, it’s clear that companies like Soul Machines will be filling in customer service gaps across many industries, from games to healthcare.
So, what is the metaverse and why does it matter?
The metaverse is often described as the next version of the internet — a shared, virtual space that is persistently online and active.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that the metaverse will open up the possibility of new forms of work in what he calls the “infinite office” and will reshape the digital economy. He’s so confident of this that on Oct. 28 he rebranded Facebook to “Meta.”
In 2020, Facebook released its VR headset brand Horizon, an Oculus for Business platform. Currently in beta, Facebook Horizon will allow its users to build and share collaborative online worlds in which they are able to socialize, play games, or work together on projects.
Horizon Workrooms will allow users to create an avatar, collaborate with others on a whiteboard, stream what’s on their laptop, take notes, and interact with coworkers who video conference into the virtual room — all while sitting at their physical, real workspace.
Other tech giants are working towards building their own metaverse as well.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently said that his company is working on building the “enterprise metaverse.”
In April, Epic Games announced a $1 billion funding round to support its metaverse ambitions.
The eagerness with which tech companies are rushing to populate this digital frontier will completely alter the future of work and the workplace.
“In the future, working together will be one of the main ways people use the metaverse,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Metaverse-style ideas might help people organize the way we work – and more broadly – society, in a more productive manner.
Shared standards and protocols that bring disparate virtual worlds and augmented realities into a single, open metaverse could help people work together and cut down on duplication of effort.
What is the digitized workforce?
When we think of the metaverse – popularly depicted as a game-like virtual environment where humans use avatars to live, work, and play, we’re often the main characters.
But Soul Machines wants to fill the metaverse with a digital workforce, which are essentially robot avatars in digital worlds – as well as extensions of ourselves.
As human beings, we’re always adjusting our persona and the role we have within those parameters. With digital people, we can create those constructs.
Right now, Soul Machines mostly makes digital people for customer service and public outreach.
“At some point in the future, you might be able to create a digital version of yourself or multiple versions of yourself, and they can go out and do stuff, make money for you, make money for your company, while you’re doing something else that’s a whole lot more fun,” said Soul Machines co-founder Greg Cross.
While it’s true that AI and a digital workforce may take over some jobs, it will create the need for even more jobs than it takes. There will always be a human making the final decisions, as well as monitoring and troubleshooting the digital workforce.
“We don’t see digital people replacing healthcare professionals and teachers, we see a means to augment and amplify them,” Cross said.
The idea of a digital workforce may seem intimidating and too much like a sci-fi movie, but it will eventually seem normal, just as any other technology.
What are some of the issues with the metaverse and the digital workforce?
- Privacy concerns: Questions remain as to how tech companies will handle safety and privacy issues in the metaverse and with the digitized workforce.
- Not everyone will want to participate: Whether people will really want to live much of their lives or work inside an immersive virtual simulation is unknown.
- The digital workforce needs to be monitored: If digital people are going to form the backbone of the universe that transcends the physical world, their evolution in games should invite the same level of scrutiny as it would in other areas, like healthcare and education.
Soul Machines’ work also raises questions about how digital people will work across different metaverses.
- If you had a digital person assistant, how would they traverse seamlessly through different game franchises and retain a sense of continuity?
- How would a simulated human presence affect our relationship with our livelihoods?
- What kind of tensions would arise in the gaps between people who can afford digital personae and those who can’t or won’t use them?
This technology is brand new and has yet to be fully implemented, so many questions are still arising – but what we do know is that the metaverse, and particularly the digital workforce, will massively affect the way we work in the not-so-distant future.