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Reimagining the future of the enterprise with the metaverse

What is metaverse?
The metaverse is a term used to describe a virtual shared space where individuals can interact with each other and digital objects in real time. It is a fully immersive experience that blends physical and digital worlds, allowing users to engage with virtual environments using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other immersive technologies. Thus metaverse ensures that a user’s physical experiences gets augmented by overlaying digital content, and a user’s digital experiences get a lot more powerful and enhanced when they interact with digital objects that are rendered in 3D. Metaverse is today a rapidly evolving space, with various platforms and technologies being developed to create immersive experiences. This article aims to explore how metaverse is reimagining the future of enterprise and what opportunities it presents for businesses.

How the metaverse could change the enterprise landscape
Virtual collaboration and remote work. The Metaverse could transform the way enterprises collaborate and work remotely. With virtual meeting spaces, employees can interact with each other in a shared virtual environment, which could enhance team collaboration and productivity. Additionally, remote work could be made more immersive and engaging, which could improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover.

The ability to work and collaborate from anywhere and connect with colleagues online is an imperative, but remote meetings can feel impersonal and hence lack the small moments that can foster and build relationships and careers. Microsoft unveiled a solution to this problem in 2022 by launching “Mesh“ for Microsoft Teams. The new feature combines the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allows people from any part of the world to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences, with the productivity tools of Microsoft Teams, where employees can attend virtual meetings, send chats and collaborate on shared documents and much more.

Enhanced customer engagement. The metaverse could also enable enterprises to create immersive customer experiences. For example, virtual showrooms could be created to showcase products and services, allowing customers to interact with them in a more engaging way. Additionally, virtual events and conferences could be held to connect with customers and build relationships.

BMW a leading luxury automotive brand, is working on initiatives to enhance customer experience by integrating immersive virtual experiences into its offering. The whole objective is to find newer and immersive ways to engage with their prospects and customers and thus create a competitive differentiator.

India automotive brands like Maruti, MG Motors, and Hyundai have also launched metaverse platforms for customer engagement. Maruti Suzuki launched ARENAVerse, a metaverse platform for Maruti’s Arena showroom network that will allow consumers to indulge in immersive virtual experiences with Maruti Suzuki vehicles. This is Maruti’s second such program after the NEXAVerse, that was launched last year. The launch of this new platform builds on Maruti’s commitment to providing a more interactive and immersive retail experience for new age customers.

New business models and revenue streams. The metaverse could open up new business models and revenue streams for enterprises. For example, enterprises could sell virtual products and services, or charge for access to immersive experiences. Additionally, the metaverse could enable enterprises to monetize user-generated content, such as virtual real estate or virtual clothing items.

Gucci, the premium Italian fashion and leather goods brand, is now hosting its own metaverse experience in The Sandbox, a well-known metaverse platform. Gucci is the first major luxury brand to build a digital world in the metaverse platform. Gucci’s experience will feature Gucci Vault Land, an experimental space where consumers will be able to go on a journey through its entire history through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and games. Gucci’s new initiative is part of a larger global trend of major brands wanting to capitalize on the opportunity to enhance the sale of physical goods and sell virtual versions of their products to metaverse users.

Nikeland is Nike’s purpose-built metaverse space that uses the popular Roblox platform that would allow its fans to meet, socialize, take part in promotions and engage with a whole range of brand experiences. Nike had demonstrated its keenness on the idea of NFTs in December last year, when it purchased RTFKT Studios, a maker of next-generation NFT collectibles. The appeal of the studio was so strong that it managed to sell 600 pairs of NFT sneakers in just 6 minutes, for a total of USD 3.1 million.

Increased efficiency and productivity. Metaverse can help organizations improve efficiency and productivity by enhancing training and learning, facilitating virtual prototyping, and automating and optimizing business processes.

  • Enhancing training and learning. The metaverse can be used to create virtual simulations for training employees. This can be particularly useful for industries where training requires hands-on experience, such as manufacturing, construction, or healthcare. Virtual simulations can provide a safe and cost-effective way for employees to practice and develop their skills
  • Virtual Prototyping. The metaverse can be used to create virtual prototypes, allowing organizations to test and refine products and services before investing in physical prototypes. This can reduce development time and costs and enable organizations to bring products and services to market more quickly.
  • Automation and optimization. The metaverse can be used to automate and optimize business processes, such as supply chain management, customer service, and data analysis.

Here are some use cases and examples of how the metaverse is being used in various industries:

Gaming industry
The gaming industry has been at the forefront of metaverse development, creating immersive gaming experiences that allow players to interact with one another and digital objects. Examples of metaverse gaming platforms include Roblox, Minecraft, and Second Life, which offer a wide range of virtual worlds and games for players to explore and engage with.

Real estate industry
The metaverse is being used in the real estate industry to create virtual property tours and showcase properties to potential buyers. Companies like Matterport and Realync use VR and AR technologies to create immersive 3D property tours that allow buyers to explore properties as if they were there in person. Additionally, virtual real estate is being bought and sold as NFTs on blockchain-based marketplaces.

Healthcare industry
The metaverse is being used in the healthcare industry to create virtual training simulations for healthcare professionals. Companies like Osso VR and Health Scholars use VR and AR technologies to create immersive training simulations that allow healthcare professionals to practice procedures and surgeries in a safe, controlled environment.

There are current challenges that can impact the adoption of the metaverse such as data security and privacy, IPR infringement, enforcement of liability, jurisdictional concerns etc. Since metaverse is still in its early days, regulators must intervene now before the technology matures; else , it will be harder to supervise once there is a higher level of user dependency. While disruptive technologies such as VR, AR, blockchain, etc. have immense potential in their applications, their impact on established legal systems gives rise to a certain skepticism. It is increasingly evident that governing new technologies would be difficult, and would necessitate a complete reworking of current legal systems.

Notwithstanding the challenges, which can be overcome in due course, the metaverse has the potential to reimagine the way enterprises operate and engage with customers, creating new business models and revenue streams. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative use cases and examples of the metaverse in action, and it is likely to become an increasingly important tool for enterprises seeking to stay competitive in a rapidly changing business environment.

This article is authored by Sunil David, Digital Technology Consultant; Ex-Regional Director (IoT)-AT&T; Co-Chair of Digital Comm. Group of IET Future Tech Panel; and CII National AI Forum Member. Views expressed are personal.

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