In the film Ready Player One by Steven Spielberg we see how the life of Wade Watts (pictured above) takes place in an almost completely virtual world. A science fiction movie that becomes more real every day.
If you’re up to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse really is our future. But what exactly does it mean? Where are the opportunities in the future? And what can you do with this as an entrepreneur?
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a network of three-dimensional virtual worlds. A place where virtual reality and the ‘second digital life’ come together.
Both concepts have been around for a long time. The term virtual reality emerged in the 80’s and we know the possibility of creating a second digital life from games like Fortnite and Second Life. By combining these concepts, the metaverse becomes a virtual world where you can interact with others, whether through an avatar or not, and participate in a virtual economy.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has already taken the first steps in creating the ultimate metaverse. The Horizon Worlds platform now has more than 300,000 users since its launch in December 2021.
Development of the first real version of the metaverse is expected to take another five to ten years. Analysts say it will be a full-fledged economy worth around $30 trillion.
The possibilities of entrepreneurs
Mark Zuckerberg is excited about the future metaverse like no other. He sees opportunities in all areas of the economy. Likewise in the workplace.
So it’s no coincidence that since the pandemic, plans for the metaverse have increasingly taken shape. We all want to move towards a future of hybrid work, but we meet all kinds of obstacles along the way. The metaverse offers a solution to those obstacles.
As an organization, you can create a virtual office building in the metaverse. A place where employees can meet without having to travel. Meeting, having lunch together, strolling and chatting in the hallway – anything is possible.
Meeting in the metaverse means an end to grueling online meetings that turn engaged employees into ‘zoombies’. Advanced technology makes it possible to closely observe facial expressions and body language in a metaverse meeting, Zuckerberg explains in introducing him. And unlike hybrid working, everyone can be ‘physically’ present at the meeting (instead of one at home and the other at the office).
Concrete opportunity for entrepreneurs?
So it will be some time before this future is really a reality. However, you can already reap the benefits. Especially in the field of training and onboarding, there are great opportunities with the technology already available.
In the field of training, we have already gained experience with, for example, virtual reality in stress management training. In the games we use for this, participants are faced with stressful situations (such as jumping off a building or dominating an island) based on various challenges. Through biofeedback, participants learn to recognize stress signals in themselves and it becomes clear which parts of the brain take control. A virtual reality experience that delivers effective results in the workplace.
More and more concepts are emerging to educate people to make the experience as realistic as possible. For example, the company FundamentalVR uses a technology called HapticVR (which combines virtual reality and touch) to familiarize doctors with certain operations. KLM uses VR to train maintenance technicians and OneBonsai is busy mimicking hostage situations.
snags in the grass
So is it all positive? No, there are also risks. Experiences in the ‘real world’ are replaced in the metaverse by experiences in the virtual world. This leads to all kinds of complications.
Let’s start with the concept of screen time. In 2019, the average screen time among adults was 5.5 hours per day. When even social chats take place via a screen (or your VR goggles), that number will quickly grow to 10 hours or more.
Another topic: how do you distinguish truth from fiction in a virtual world? Even in the normal world, this is getting more and more difficult. To make games and movies more and more realistic, techniques such as deep falsification are becoming unprecedented realism. It’s good for the game, but it can have disastrous consequences for our mutual trust. And that’s one of the basic things when you look at our well-being and happiness.
We must also be careful with human needs. Back in 2011, research was carried out on the impact of the ‘second digital life’ on general well-being. This showed, among other things, that some human needs are better met in the virtual world than in the real world. Think about autonomy, physical health and a sense of prosperity. But what does it mean that the virtual world becomes more attractive than the real world?
At the moment, we mainly harvest the fruits
At the moment, the currently available technology mainly offers opportunities. The benefits of the eventual metaverse are significant, as long as we stay focused on the risks.
Not surprisingly, Ready Player One decides to disable the metaverse for two days a week. So that people also continue to live their real life. Therefore, the final sentence of the film says: “Reality is the only thing that is real.”