You hear a lot nowadays about the metaverse and its vast earnings potential. But outside of gaming, are there business applications for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) products that are already up and running? How might we see metaverse technology deployed in the real world, to solve real problems? And when?
Technology analyst Jon Arnold hosted a panel discussion on these topics. The session was titled "Brave New World, Part 1: Augmented and Virtual Reality” as part of this year’s Future of Work Expo in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
"What we're trying to do is find not only a new way of doing old things, but doing new things with the newest technology," said Arnold, President of Consultancy J Arnold & Associates.
Right now, however, gaming is admittedly way ahead of things when it comes to building the metaverse. To see how enticing the technology can be, "all you have to do is see what your kids are doing," Arnold said.
Employing the technology in business applications is definitely next. "You can take gaming in a lot of directions," Arnold said. Such directions with strong early potential for development include areas using virtual displays for warehouse operations, repair manuals, and even virtual training.
"There's a lot of idea recirculation when new technologies come along," said panelist Joe Ward, founder and CEO of IKIN. The company specializes in bringing holograms to life without using headgear, Ward told the session. Their retail-product debut is scheduled for the third quarter of 2023.
"The concept of getting communities together is not new," he said. “It’s just a matter of how.”
Software development is the key reason the technology has charged forward, Ward said. "The ease of creating content is, to me, the focus. It's not just the hardware; it's about how you can leverage the software to focus on the content itself."
Ward said his company is actively integrating "wanding" capabilities into its software. Wanding involves using an electronic wand to trace the outline of a figure, so you can transfer that figure's physical appearance to the digital realm. "We're focusing on the content itself," he said.
“VR and AR aren’t really a brand-new idea,” said Terry Woloszyn, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Utopia VR. His company is one of the first to offer metaverse-as-a-service (MaaS) technology.
“Ten years ago, Nintendo had some limited AR capabilities, such as projecting a dancing bear in the air,” Woloszyn said. “Remember that? People have been trying to do this for quite some time. I say it’s about time.”
Plus, the term "metaverse" means something different to everyone. Woloszyn believes that there will eventually be just one metaverse, just like there's one internet.
“But within that metaverse, there will be plenty of nodes,” he added. “Also, the availability of bandwidth is important. As the kids will tell you, you need more bandwidth here."
As for specific use cases today, both panelists agreed that the hybrid work force is the way of the future. "We're never going back to the way it was," Ward said.
Woloszyn seconded that notion. "The majority of the work force does not want to go back," he said. His company is working on AR and VR applications for training, meetings and education. “Those will be the first types of products to roll out.”
Woloszyn said that he has never physically met many of his work colleagues. They gather in the metaverse to meet and discuss business operations. "Even if you're in the office, you're in our metaverse.”
Ward closed by saying his company already does focus on specific applications, such as training hundreds of medical students at one time on a 5G network. "We believe the application has to be very specific today to have value," he said.
Time will tell. In the meantime, metaverse potential awaits.
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