Metaverse: the new future for work
The metaverse promises an interactive, immersive, and digitally connected world that combines mixed reality such as AR, augmented virtual reality (AR) as well as VR (VR) as well as 3D virtual avatars that are holographic IoT, digital twins and digital holograms. It is regarded as the next big step in the development of the internet, with tech giants like Meta, Microsoft and NVIDIA unveiling their vision for this new world. Beyond the hype, what do these developments mean to the future of work?
The pandemic has transformed traditional office work in favour of a mix of virtual and remote collaboration. We are now seeing the future of a metaverse that promises to provide an immersive experience in virtual reality that can eliminate the barriers between remote and office working.
From the world of science fiction to the real world?
The author Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in the 1993 science-fiction novel Snowcrash. In the novel,”the Metaverse is a shared virtual space that mixes enhanced physical space and physically visible virtual worlds. It encompassed the totality of virtual universes as well as augmented realities, along with the Internet. The concept can be further dated back to the novel by William Gibson Neuromancer from 1984 when the metaverse was described under another name “cyberspace”. Nowadays, online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, Minecraft and Roblox have already embraced elements of the metaverse.
While the thought of a virtual world could trigger feelings of apprehension and anxiety but the integration of our digital and physical life is already taking place and we’re already dependent on pixels and screens, and many of us live and working in front of screens. In spite of it big tech companies are developing infrastructure, technology, and platforms to bring this vision into reality even though it’s five to ten years off.
Meta was previously Facebook, Inc. The umbrella organization that encompasses Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and other technologies and has made substantial expenditures to invest in AR and VR and VR, including the acquisition of Oculus in 2014. Their Oculus Quest VR headset range will be known as Meta Quest starting in 2022. Meta’s metaverse is named Horizon as well as Horizon Workrooms and is now in beta. Meta’s main collaboration service that lets users to work together with each other in a virtual environment regardless of distance. VR headsets let teams interact with virtual avatars within the virtual office shared by everyone. This isn’t just video calls via headset. Teams engage with virtual avatars. They also use digital whiteboards, and listen to an audio direction.
Microsoft is also preparing its own metaverse that is based the foundations of its HoloLens hybrid reality technology as well as the deal to acquire AltspaceVR in the year 2017. Just a few days after Facebook changed its name as Meta, Microsoft announced it will bring the mixed reality capabilities of Mesh the platform for collaboration that allows virtual experiences to Microsoft Teams by 2022. This will permit for the creation of 3D animated avatars that will be compatible with or without the VR headset. Business will now be able create their own metaverses, or virtual environments within Teams. Microsoft’s Metaverse Technology stack comprises Microsoft Mesh, Azure IoT, Azure Digital Twins and analytics.
Recently, Microsoft and Meta announced Teams Integration with Workplace, which allows users to access content on Workplace in Teams. The partnership will bring together two rivals, and even though Teams has a greater number of paid users (200 million in June 2021) than Workplace from Meta (7 million users in May 2021) This is just one move in the direction of accelerating the path towards an enterprise-wide metaverse. But, whether users want to integrate their personal social networks with their professional lives, as well as privacy issues related to trust will be a concern.
The semiconductor NVIDIA recently revealed the plans of its Omniverse platform. This is an open source tool that lets users create virtual worlds. NVIDIA defines the Omniverse as a collaboration and simulation system that “serves as an interface for physically accurate virtual worlds”. For example, Omniverse is used to create digital twins (digital 3D models of tangible assets) by Ericsson in the sense that the company develops virtual representations of cities to figure out the best ways to deploy its 5G networks.
The printing process in the metaverse of enterprise
To realize the metaverse of the enterprise in the near future, there will be a need to use digital twin technologies IoT sensors, as well as mixed reality. This will allow companies to create workspaces that permit for both digital and physical interactions. Companies are already beginning to tap into some possibilities of the virtual world with the analysis of information from connected environments, and using this to assess results, and harness AI to automate and improve processes.
The full value of AR is being realized in the realm of predictive maintenance. It can be used to leverage ML to monitor the data of devices in the past and forecast the future. This could be used to replace things before they fail or the continued usage of equipment since failure is less likely. Businesses can make use of the metaverse to predict the likelihood of a component to fail and optimize energy usage and decrease downtime by doing so.
In printing AR is now beginning to be utilized however, it has been primarily for service purposes. On November 9, HP introduced HP xRServices that is run through Microsoft Hololens 2 targeted at its industrial printers. HP xRServices is a virtual and real world scenario where users are able to connect to HP engineers in just a second via mixed reality, and get advice about any issue, at any stage of their printing.
While Xerox CareAR enables service teams anywhere to immediately provide remote AR support to their employees, customers, and field employees.
However the use of mixed reality to facilitate virtual collaboration could pose an opportunity for printing in a market that is already declining. For example, Horizon Workrooms includes a virtual whiteboard that lets you utilize your controller to function as pen, whether sitting at your desk or standing alongside others in front of the whiteboard. In the virtual world, “print could be an electronic process , where “paper” can be the projection of data in an immersive VR space. Print makers will have to think about the use of digital printing technologies for participation within the world of metaphysics.
The workplace that is fully immersive
While it is unclear what the metaverse can do to redefine work and work, we already see an unification between digital and physical worlds. Suppliers need to be able offer the agility and flexibility that today’s workforce requires. It’s just a matter of the time before technological advancements will have a major impact on the way that companies communicate with suppliers.
VR and AR are definitely expanding beyond the realm of online gaming. As companies look to create virtual offices The metaverse could be solutions to the problems of replicating in-person interaction. Businesses are already planning to build offices that are low-touch based on technology that covers areas like the monitoring of occupancy, hot desk reservation and smart heating.
Making it a more immersive experience for office and remote employees could enhance the experience and create a level playing field between those working in an office and people working from home. There is no doubt that concerns over privacy and data security will remain an issue, however it could be a way to improve collaboration while employees return to work in the hybrid office/home-office environment.
VR might not be available in the near future – wearing a head-mounted device for longer than an hour can be a burden and until the light and efficient AR glasses are accessible at a reasonable price It is likely that AR will be a place that is geared towards tech enthusiasts and people with highly specialized requirements, such as surgeons. Are we really willing to interact with badly-managed avatars or holograms in which facial movements are not appealing or the person we’re interfacing with is cartoonish? Do you think it means that once we have an identity digitally in this manner, all of our actions will be monitored and tracked?
If the metaverse is an unimaginative future or not, it’s still in the beginning stages. Like other technologies, it’s likely to develop rapidly and users will figure out what makes sense to them while leaving behind numerous areas that technology experts thought were of interest. The opportunities are numerous and we can expect to see more technology giants, as well as the vast collection of smaller point players, to take a stake in metaverse-related goals
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