To many, COVID-19 was somewhat of a workplace revolution. Almost overnight, corporations and employees had to adjust to limitations in travel and in-person meetings, navigating most of the global pandemic behind a screen in a separate location from the rest of their coworkers. While the fallout of the global pandemic is at the tail end of its cultural pervasiveness, it has only started the conversation of an indefinite remote workplace.
The metaverse – originally created by Neil Stephenson in 1992 – characterizes it as a future universe of virtual reality. More specifically, it imagines a 3-D, virtual world where individuals can foster social connections, collaborate, do business, and more, can all do so through their virtual “avatars.” A keyboard, mouse, and computer are the only tools a user needs to interact with the less intensive offerings of the metaverse at this time. A few years of innovation into the future; however, a headset-enabled, 3-D experience waits.
While it’s still in the early phases of its development, the metaverse stands to completely reimagine the way that workers, work. A recent study from Gartner, for example, has reason to believe by 2028 employees will use “avatars, language software, conversational interfaces and real-time dialect translation to work and speak with team members.” The strength of a connection would no longer limited by languages, borders, cultures, and more.
At a glance, here is what you can expect from the future of the metaverse in the workplace…
Increased collaboration and teamwork efforts. The metaverse has the power to bring a new wave of social connection and mobility that the workplace has never seen before. Not only would it support a more interactive working with more enhanced learning solutions but would also keep individuals engaged through 3-D virtual reality simulations. This could help offset any screen “fatigue” they experience, making them more productive throughout the workday.
AI-powered colleagues, at your service. The metaverse will likely be filled with a network of virtual, AI-wired colleagues. In theory, these highly intelligent and human-like avatars would function much like human advisors and assistants do – in turn – freeing employees up to address more urgent, productive, and value-adding concerns. While many natural language milestones have been made in the past few years, these AI avatars would vastly surpass them. Specifically, these avatars would have an intricate understanding of what makes up human emotion. Whether with respect to expression, gaze direction, or verbal delivery, these AI-generated avatars would function almost identically to their human counterparts. This technology would dramatically shape the way that careers, in fields such as sales and counseling, would navigate their current roles.
Increased learning and training in the metaverse. One of the other benefits of the metaverse would be its ability to help users learn more rapidly. With AI-enabled avatars available in the form of digital coaches, employees could develop new skill sets and aptitudes with the continued support from these human-like alternatives from start to finish. Whether an interactive, 3-D how-to guide – or a highly realistic “game play” scenario – the applications for this advancement would be endless.
This level of realistic AR/VR-enabled realities could tremendously improve training procedures and comprehension as these virtual experiences would feel more lifelike and realistic than ever before. Resulting in a feedback loop over 10x shorter, industries such as supply chain, military, law enforcement, healthcare fields could not only better maintain compliance but also transcend historical learning curves.
Creation of new jobs, in a new world. Much like every one that has come before it, this technological innovation will likely create a variety of new jobs in order to adjust to the anticipated scale and demand of the metaverse. Whether it be the engineers responsible for the creation of the VR or computer-generated holography displays, this reality will need to be built and maintained throughout every step of the process.
Increased socialization in a virtual context. One of the many critiques of an almost entirely virtual workspace surrounds concerns of isolation and lack of natural socialization. Research shows, for example, that upwards of 90% of communication in areas such as R&D were negatively impacted during the global pandemic. The metaverse is equipped to combat these fears. Innovators in the space are already deep into developing well-being spaces and “bump into” experiences that would allow employee avatars to interact with their colleagues in 3-D, in real-time. This also means that tourist attractions from across the world, for example, would resonate with users as real-life in many respects. Whether an aquarium, the Eiffel Tower, or a virtual yoga class, the metaverse has the transformative properties to empower workers to work anywhere in the world, at any time.
Concerns of privacy and ethics, on all fronts. This tool intended for good can be used for evil if not carefully monitored and regulated. The metaverse’s ability to help organizations with employee surveillance and monitoring for example, can either be used in their best interest or against them. This technology may even be used in assessing employee “burnout,” through the, “monitoring of their biorhythms, nutritional requirements, and exercise needs.” Specific examples include eye-tracking enabled on the VR headset to assess user engagement, or even data from an apple watch to asses heart rate and temperature in order to determine their emotional state. What’s more, push notifications may even be made available, making so that every time an individual is mentioned, this record will be logged and relayed. This would not excuse private conversations that take place on the metaverse.
While this level of insight has the potential to be extremely insightful in motivating and reprimanding workers, it also calls into question concerns of privacy, along with the potential of manipulation and misuse and manipulation of data in a work context. Boundaries may become blurred, creating a lot of grey area into an employee’s right to privacy and autonomy, both from an ethical and legal front.
Looking ahead, life between then and now. The promise of the metaverse invites the world’s greatest thinkers and innovators to reimagine what offices and work environment could be. It has the power to transcend borders, language, and interests. It even has the potential to bestow knowledge and skillsets more effectively to its employees. It would even offer 24/7 support through the employment of AI/AR-generated avatars.
While it is still in development, a brighter and more technological savvy future is already on its way… its name is the metaverse.
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