The question often asked is: what makes Metaverse such a big game changer and what else can you do with it than just virtual reality meetings? We don’t even know all use cases yet, because with Metaverse only imagination is the limit. I have touched here on my blog various uses besides meetings: trainings/learning and process automation for example. But there are lots of uses for all kind of different organizations and needs.
- Onboarding experience: getting familiar with your worksite (or sites), learn the ropes by walking around digital twins of offices, factories, retail shops, hotels, airports and get instructed along the way with other colleagues or by holograms / bots. Add there bits and pieces of information – with some pop quiz to make sure you have been listening. Learn who your closest colleagues, management and company values (told by CEO or HR manager, for example). I see onboarding as a very big opportunity for companies to gain good value and ignite a sense of togetherness for new employees – make newcomers feel straight at home and part of the crew. And let’s not forget that training and learning in the metaverse can be much more effective than in other ways.
- Situation rooms: space for company, projects, leadership and also used in crisis situations. Persistent spaces where you can combine all information that are relevant to the need. This can be documents, whiteboards, tasks, notes, reports, applications (thinkin Power Platform and low code) , 3D objects, AR / Digital twins and so on. This is traditionally done with either a specific Team or SharePoint site, but unlike in the Metaverse you can see all information in walls – just like in a real life physical room. And you can also meet with relevant people in that space.
- Large scale situation spaces for monitoring and managing larger physical areas. This could be a city traffic, construction sites and projects, population demographics, water flows, agricultural areas (fields, crops, harvesting), factories, airports, wind mill areas, electric network, power plants, border surveillance and so on. For experts you can move through large areas using mixed or immersive virtual reality to see the overall big picture, dive into details and access supporting information to make better decisions & use remote controls and also to help field workers when needed. For people on the field it would be an augmented reality (mixed reality) experience where physical world information is overlapped with digital presence. In essence this is about creating connected digital twins that are spatially anchored and enhanced with information, processes and controls. Construction and engineering are doing this quite extensively already today to make sure plans and designs fit correctly – and the information is later used in maintenance processes. We also have plenty of traffic and other data that is used to monitor and manage environments – currently via 2D displays so the step to 3D and immersive Metaverse isn’t that long as we tend to think.
- Remote assistance and maintenance work will benefit from Mixed Reality. This is already real life and routine via Dynamics Remote Assist and other RA providers. We will see the use of Mixed Reality and bringing unambiguous AI and computing to more scenarios where we need for more information at hand (documents, instructions, how-to instructions, schematics, designs and so on )and remote expertise to consult. This will see lots of use cases scaling multiple industries – from factories to power plants, electric network to retail stores and medical use cases.
- Customer Services can use Metaverse to meet with customers or partners, to be able to help and guide in a more immersive environment. This opens possibilities similar than in in-situation room (bring in relevant information and tools) but also situations like remote assistant with Mixed Reality. Financial services are doing remote meetings very often these days, but bringing in virtual space will expand possibilities for engaging and interacting with customers. This can be very easily expanded to job interviews and other customer (external) facing situations.
- Space and cost optimization: how much your office spaces are really used, how many and much desks are occupied, what routes people use and so on. Dynamics Connected Spaces provides lots of analysis of spaces and usage already. Originally it was developed for retail stores, but it has since expanded to various other spaces. Built-in skills make the setup very easy and I vision the next step will be able to view statistics and predictions in the Metaverse environment – and expand integrations.
- Virtual doctor consults and nurse visits are also common in hybrid world. This rocketed during the pandemic but the trend will continue further. Making it possible to people to see doctors in Mixed Reality environment it is also similar to remote assist scenario. This won’t replace all visits, but it can help to save time and travel (and optimize doctor availability, where doctors from other cities can help to share peak loads) for various needs. Of course medical industry will gain vast amount of benefits from Mixed Reality and Metaverse in the future: expert assistance, planning surgery together with other experts from different locations, helping nurses and doctors to see the patient information when needed and so on.
- Shopping and retail experience in the Metaverse will be growing and expanding. We already use web stores all the time but in Metaverse-era we will be going to virtual shopping tours – from grocery store (digital twin of the fish desk and / or available products in the display) to shopping more furniture or appliances by using mixed reality to place them (in the right size) to our rooms and seeing if they fit – and in which color. We already want to see our potential future car or bike in 3D format so we can look inside, rotate it around and apply add-ons or change colors. It is just a small step to think about the next step when presenting products: from small to large, using mixed reality and making the purchase easy.
I have been doing my grocery shopping partially via app for some time now (past two years, no surprise). What I don’t like the app is that you need to know what you want – the next level is to be able to visit the shop virtually and check out what’s available at counters and displays. But unlike in real life you can get more information easily – as well as serving suggestions. All the information and tech exists already – it is just a matter of time when we start seeing these more.
- Real estates and apartments are already creating digital twins by using lidar enabled scanning. Results are very good for quite a small amount of work and training required. This is happening already today – we can do that even with latest iPhones. Making digital twin where you can move inside is getting more and more commonplace – and when we can process these models to be part of the Metaverse (say Mesh for Teams or AltSpace VR, Meta and so on) and embedded with actions (more information, details, contact, buy, add to basket etc…) this will be widespread faster than we can imagine. Web3 is going to surface via these models, making Metaverse something more understandable to people. So, in the future you are not just checking around your next car in the Metaverse but your next home as well – and can play around with your existing furniture to see how they fit there.. and it wouldn’t be a full metaverse experience without getting a quote from moving company to take care of it all : using your plan for the end result.
- Hotels, resorts and other sites will be also allowing people to take a look and experience at the premises virtually. A few photos doesn’t really do the job (today’s experience) when you could be moving around the area and see if that location fits your needs. As a father to a small child I need to take that into account: is that a good place to visit with a kid, what kind of playgrounds there are and so on. The more complete the digital twin of the site and it’s surroundings is – the better the experience will be. Of course you can talk with holograms / bots to ask questions – or perhaps there are also sales people present (very likely alerted by bots, that someone wants to talk there).
We will see this emerging in steps. The real life today is very often that you can see great looking pictures on the website but when you email the hotel you don’t hear from them for a week (or more). So there is a long road for some hotels.. and business wise they are on the wrong path if they don’t start reimaging their digital business models.
- Virtual tourism is going to be booming more, especially when sustainability is on the table more. No, visiting any part of Africa virtually isn’t equal experiencing it in real life – but then again you could do such a trip in hours. What about walking on the Great Wall of China.. when you can’t walk in real life due to accident or other reason. How about a space walk, walking on the moon or flying around Saturn? We can visit places from real sites to far space. What about taking a look how Rome or Greece was 2500 years ago? I can see virtual tourism actually quite intriguing option with a good quality headset and Metaverse construct. And I did land to the moon.. with PlayStation VR. We may expect some of these experiences a low cost or free, but that won’t be the case for large number of quality content.
- NFT, world & content creation and other new business opportunities have and are emerging with Metaverse. Very often Metaverse is associated with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies & -markets. NFTs enable the concept of ownership and it has been predicted that the market will be over 13 billion USD by 2027. There has been already examples of selling NFT virtual goods & clothes. This can extend the current offering but this is also emerging business for new companies. Combined with avatar designing & creation and property ownership with virtual housing on metaverse this is indeed a good opportunity for creative minds. Gaming industry has shown already, prio Metaverse, that people are reay to pay for virtual goods – and trade with them. What I think we will also see are marketplaces for custom worlds or metaverses where you can easily setup your event or office in more unique or rich environment. Only some people will use Unity and other tools to create their own custom worlds – others will use out of the box worlds or buy ones to their liking. Or order that custom world and avatar clothing & decors from companies so they can represent their business brand properly.
- Go sustainable and green is more on business strategy than just a specific use case. Using Metaverse to create awesome and immersive hybrid and virtual events, avoiding traveling and having smaller offices will create cost savings and save environment. While creating world-class Metaverse events won’t be inexpensive they can still make the event available for larger number of attendees and also be lower in co2 emissions than setting up a large event where everyone travels to. While in-person will always be a in-person the Metaverse can take us much closer to the experience than we have today in 2D virtual hybrid / virtual events. Microsoft created a case study on virtual MVP Summit using Microsoft Teams versus MVP Summit happening in person at Microsoft Campus at Redmond. This may mean that next MVP Summit in 2023 will be virtual – but for event like MVP Summit in-person is actually something to do because it is a lot about creating personal connections with other MVPs and Microsoft product group members.On the other hand virtual MVP Summit allows many people to attend MVP Summit who wouldn’t do that if it were only in-person. Perhaps Metaverse is where we will see large events materialize in hybrid form- Immersive Metaverse Summit would make networking a lot better and natural than 2D Teams meetings currently do.
Several of these example have people (like experts) included. On top of real people we will see growing number of AI used to help out people – they can be there for 24/7. With speech to text and text to speech we can communicate with bot holograms or programs easily beyond language barriers. Some of these examples are already reality, some will happen during this and next year and some take longer. It is a journey but the Future work is in the Metaverse.