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Monday, February 6, 2023

Will you be doing your job in the metaverse from now on?

When we look back in fifty years, it’s conceivable that the 2D internet we all use now will seem absurdly dated.

Not only is it plausible that the internet will no longer reside behind a screen, but it is also likely that we will interact with it differently.

We will control items using augmented reality (AR), experience virtual-reality (VR) environments, and combine the physical and digital in ways we cannot conceive of today.

And what will it entail for the employment landscape? We are already migrating away from the nine-to-five commute and the typical office environment. This is due to two years of pandemic lockdowns and a newly discovered fondness for or tolerance of virtual gatherings.

The natural next step would therefore be to work in the metaverse, the projected virtual realm where 3D cartoon replicas of everyone would move, speak, and interact.

It is vital to clarify that the metaverse does not currently exist, since the word has gotten overused. Even those committed in the notion vary as to its precise nature.

Will competing virtual worlds interact in a manner that currently does not occur across competing technologies? Will there be more time spent there than in the actual world? Will whole new regulations be required to manage these new spaces?

There are no answers to any of these issues yet, but that hasn’t prevented a flurry of interest and exaggeration as companies perceive a new avenue to make money.

Meta’s Horizon Worlds, games like Roblox and Fortnite, and freshly constructed places like Sandbox and Decentraland are all examples of embryonic metaverse worlds where companies have opened.

Nike currently offers virtual running shoes, HSBC owns property in Sandbox, and Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton, and Sotheby’s all have a presence in Decentraland.

Neal Stephenson created the phrase “metaverse” about thirty years ago. In Snow Crash, the protagonist discovers a better existence in a virtual reality environment.

In October 2021, perhaps the most audacious step was taken to transform this science fiction into reality. It was at this time that Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta and began investing billions of dollars to transform itself into a metaverse-first company – a goal driven by its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

Nonetheless, this massive expenditure has raised alarms among shareholders, some of whom have lately voiced worry that the company is spending too much on virtual reality.

In addition, an October 2014 story by The Verge, which claimed to have read internal Meta documents, alleged that the Horizon Worlds platform was riddled with flaws and underutilised by personnel.

Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable, a company that develops software for creating metaverse regions, and author of the book Virtual Society, is sceptical of Zuckerberg’s ambition.

The policing or regulating part of the metaverse is problematic, not only because it is technically difficult to monitor possibly billions of avatars engaging in live discussions throughout a virtual environment, but also because of the massive quantity of data that these avatars may generate along the way.

According to a research from Stanford University, spending only 20 minutes in virtual reality generated almost two million distinct body movement patterns, a valuable new source of data for businesses.

Alex Rice, co-founder of the internet security business HackerOne, believes that a great deal of consideration must be placed into the metaverse’s architecture before any corporation can ever contemplate letting its staff free in it.

Tom Ffiske, editor of the technology journal Immersive Wire, believes that it is much too early to consider working in the metaverse.

Despite the fact that no one really understands what the metaverse is, there are optimistic market estimates regarding its potential value. McKinsey anticipates a market value of $5tn (£4.2tn) by 2030, while Gartner expects that a quarter of the global population would spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse by 2026.

Matthew Ball, principal analyst at the research firm Canalys, disagrees; he expects that by 2025, the majority of existing corporate ventures in the metaverse would be terminated.

He believes that businesses should consider if a presence in the metaverse is really important, or whether they are just employing technology for its own sake.

Tiffany Rolfe is the chief creative officer of the digital branding company RGA. She and members of her team have worked in the metaverse before.

During the outbreak, the company produced a virtual American football stadium in Fortnite for phone giant Verizon and collaborated with Meta to create a music realm inside Horizon Worlds.

Ms. Rolfe explains, “People who would normally be building stuff on a computer have to don headphones and collaborate with developers across the globe.”

The fact that individuals now work in virtual reality environments shows that the metaverse may have a future as a workplace, but the occupations that will exist there are likely to be very different from those we do in the actual world.

And anybody wishing to replace their daily commute with a headgear would likely have to wait many years for this to become (virtual) reality.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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