By Antony Taylor, Technology Lead at Insight
The “Metaverse” is currently a much debated topic – there is a a lot of discussion about what it is and what it isn’t, and what opportunities it can and could present. In this context, it is worth exploring what this trend could mean for businesses (specifically those consuming Metaverse services and offerings) in real terms, and how you can get involved or invest in the opportunities surrounding it now rather than in the next few years.
The Metaverse is a portmanteau word, in which “Meta” (meaning beyond) is merged with “universe” (meaning space and time (and its contents) known today). This constructed word represents an additional dimension to the physical world, a parallel universe or alternative reality if you will. In this space, individuals and organisations can interact and engage in different experiences. It is important to say that the Metaverse as is exists now is still at the start of what it could be – it is constantly developing and expanding and the full opportunities and challenges that is brings will only fully be discovered in years to come. Ultimately, the drive of the Metaverse and what most of the creator companies’ visions have in common is a connected and/or immersive experience – whether it is seeing a fully decentralised Web 3.0 take the internet browsing experience 3D and immersive, or it is shopping on Amazon by walking around a virtual supermarket chatting to strangers (how big would that virtual supermarket be!).
The Digital Twin is a term you will hear referenced often on the topic of the Metaverse, and is key to understanding and realising business value. This can take the form of making an avatar of yourself so you can go into a collaboration experience and communicate with others, or massive undertakings like building 1:1 scale Digital Twins of your whole manufacturing operation.
Right now, you can get involved with software like Fracture Realities JoinXR application, Cisco’s upcoming “Webex Hologram”, or Meta’s Horizon Worlds to name but a few of a large selection of offerings in this space. The use of one of these aforementioned tools enable the removal of barriers, allowing different types of work to be realised that you would have categorically said “previously didn’t work unless you’re in a meeting room together physically”. Importantly, tools are brought together that you can actually find in a physical meeting room, such as whiteboards, sticky notes, presentation screens for video content. The possibilities do not stop there though. These tools open up new opportunities that were not previously possible in physical meeting spaces, such as hovering a 3D render of your latest product design in the middle of the room for people to pick up, move around and even expand/slice through to see additional detailing.
So what could this type of connected experience practically mean for some companies? Let’s take, for example, a design team for a clothing manufacturer, that tends to create physical prototypes for design iteration at great expense. With the option of virtual prototypes in a space like the Metaverse, the manufacturer can reduce costs associated with design iterations and the time needed to reproduce different sized and coloured models. Decision makers can put on their immersive technology goggles to give easy, early feedback on look/design/colour schemes in an agile and mobile way, or share designs with select users or focus groups for early feedback
Looking at the Digital Twin spectrum, I mentioned creating whole locations, which is an incredible industry development in many fields like manufacturing. Having access to 1:1 scale immersive environments and feeding in live service data from your machinery and/or processes, data and immersive technology can be used to help train new staff, identify potential problems early on, and find efficiencies in processes. Modifying and changing layout of some elements is also possible, to see scenarios of ‘what would happen’ without having to alter things in the physical world, which massively lowers your total cost of service.
These are just two examples of what you can do today from opposite ends of the spectrum of connected immersive experiences – the potential opportunities will only grow with time as the Metaverse expands and takes shape. Because of this projected growth and the associated opportunities, it is worthwhile for organisations to follow metaverse developments and trends. This also extends to investigating ways to incorporate virtual and augmented reality into their business processes and customer experience. While it is still early days for the Metaverse, the potential opportunities it presents could be vast for organisations.