- Hardware is still a barrier to adoption for many individuals and companies.
- But the metaverse is starting to break through as a key collaboration tool.
- When in-person isn’t possible, the metaverse is the next best thing.
The metaverse is here, and it’s promising to impact everything from healthcare to the environment. Within the world of work, it’s seen by many as Zoom 2.0, the next iteration of remote working where you can virtually meet with your colleagues and co-workers.
But, as with any new technology, the hype is hard to cut through. So, we spoke to Kristi Woolsey, Associate Director, BCG Platinion, Lead for BCG Smart Environments Group, about everything meta – and its impact on the future of work.
Allwork.Space: What are the main adoption barriers for immersive technologies in the world of work?
Kristi Woolsey: Most platforms require the use of a headset to engage in immersive collaboration. For most people, this is completely foreign and uncomfortable for extended periods of time.
Allwork.Space: How could these issues be resolved?
There are a few platforms currently available that enable interactions through combined headset access as a virtual avatar and browser-based access where you get a view of the virtual room and can participate interactively from a virtual screen.
Long-term, the form factor of headsets is already moving toward being lighter and simpler. The first headsets used for immersive interactions needed to be tethered by a cord to a computer. Subsequent releases have been wireless and tend to get smaller with each new version. As previously demonstrated by certain industry providers, the technology exists to eventually land on something no larger or heavier than a standard pair of glasses.
Allwork.Space: So, how can companies use the metaverse today to boost collaboration?
Right now, with platforms that mix browser and headset access, you can use a dual-screen conference room to connect people in the virtual room with people in the physical room.
Earlier this year, I led a BCG team that worked out the details of how this would work. Through significant user testing, these literal hybrid meetings – enabled by metaverse technology – were significantly more impactful in terms of both experience and outcome.
The way this works is that the room – or a computer in the room – joins the virtual room through the browser. Then, the virtual room and its occupants are projected onto a screen in the physical room. Anyone at a distance can join the virtual room using a headset, at which point anyone in the physical room would see them all “together” on-screen. It really does work.
According to this interesting article in Nature, immersive experiences mimic physical space experiences, and so the same conclusions regarding increased creative collaboration would apply.
Allwork.Space: But immersive technologies have always struggled to gain a foothold in the commercial market – how do you think they can thrive in the corporate world?
I think up until now, use cases that add significant value have not been there. However, following the effects of the pandemic, we are seeing more organizations embrace – or at least accept – the premise of hybrid work, the benefit of being able to source talent from anywhere, and the increased employee value proposition of work-from-anywhere. In that context, we need tools that allow us to come “together” in ways that are more immersive and dynamic than boxes on a screen.
Immersive experiences allow for the serendipitous interactions that drive innovation, and for reading body language and other contextual communication cues. Even for social connections across distance – a quick break to play a game of virtual ping pong with a colleague from the other side of the globe fosters greater connection. All of this adds enormous value in the context of our current workplaces.
Allwork.Space: Going forward, what innovations can we expect from the metaverse in the world of work?
Several of the big technology companies are very focused on bringing the metaverse to the enterprise. They are developing solutions for organizations, while also cultivating application developer communities with avatar-based systems for use outside of specific platforms. Some of these collaboration platforms also unify access across AR, VR, laptop, and smartphones – and will be integrated with their existing video-conferencing platforms.
We will see more of this technology emerge within the next year. However, in my opinion, the “people change” will take significantly longer. To benefit from these innovations, organizations need to launch small pilots and observe and learn what adds value for their people. Then, they can communicate those successes and scale appropriately.
Allwork.Space: And can the metaverse ever replace face-to-face contact?
In-person is best when it is possible. It isn’t always possible, however. Our teams are dispersed and, in many cases – even globally. Our customers want interaction without the hassle of transit. Some specialized or future environments are too expensive, too dangerous, or not possible to build in physical space – and we need to test and learn virtually before building.