I experimented with virtual reality. This is what leaders need to know.

The metaverse is coming.

According to Gartner, by 2026, 25% of people they will spend an hour a day or more in virtual reality, and almost a third of companies will offer products or services for the metaverse. Besides, Microsoft Job Trends Index predicts that half of Gen Z and Millennials believe they will be doing some of their work in the metaverse in the next few years.

The technology is still in its infancy, but the exponential growth rate of technology means the world is likely just a few snowball advances away from virtual reality applications.

Business leaders need to start paying attention now, tracking progress, and envisioning how the metaverse can be integrated into their organizations to improve everything from operational efficiency and culture to customer service.

A virtual reality experiment

I recently ventured into the world of virtual reality using Microsoft’s HoloLens and Mesh, a beta mixed reality platform. Together with a small team of technology experts from my company, Centric Consulting, I designed my avatar, experimented with conversations, moved objects around the space, and tested collaboration through file sharing and access.

It was great? No doubt. Does the technology still need tweaking to be ready for mass market use? Furthermore, if. Below, I dive into what works, what needs further development, and what leaders need to know now.

What works: VR for connection, collaboration, frontline workers

Virtual reality has the potential to enhance the virtual experience or hybrid work and could become another common modality used for connection and collaboration.

Unlike your standard video conferencing, VR has users fully engaged, offering a cure for chronic meeting fatigue and multitasking during remote calls. This is true even if you appear in avatar form: your avatar simulates you. It talks when you talk, moves when you move, and allows you to “look” at others in the meeting and interact with virtual objects in space.

Collaboration could also get a big boost in the metaverse. VR whiteboard apps can replicate the in-person collaboration experience much better than anything we currently use on a computer. In the metaverse, participants can do everything they would do when physically together, like write and draw on the whiteboard and add sticky notes.

In addition to knowledge work applications, virtual reality will undoubtedly transform maintenance and support, allowing experienced technicians to provide remote assistance easily and efficiently.

For example, let’s say your car has been turned off at a remote location. By tapping into the metaverse, you can have a mechanic climb under the hood with you, resulting in a much faster fix than describing the problem over the phone.

What Still Needs Development: More VR Apps, Better Hardware

While the metaverse will undoubtedly change the way we work, some key developments need to be made before the technology is ready for widespread adoption. Improvements are needed in the following.

  • Hardware. My fellow experimenters and I experienced headaches, mild dizziness, or eyestrain after using the headphones for a short time. For VR to really take off, hardware needs to get smaller, more comfortable, and embeddable with other devices.
  • User interface. We experience crashes and connectivity issues during our VR meetings. A less clunky and more intuitive user interface is essential.
  • Applications development. The software itself needs to be further developed. Mesh, for example, is a solid platform with a promising raw infrastructure, but there are currently limited applications to use within the platform. This limits its commercial applications for the time being.
  • affordability. The cost of VR hardware is a big barrier. Commercial pricing is needed to allow companies to explore the technology and its potential use cases. Meta’s Quest Pro headset, for example, currently retails for $1,500.

Companies are already taking steps to correct some of these problems. Microsoft recently announced the Mesh for Teams and Microsoft 365 apps for Meta Quest devices and Mesh as a platform servicemeaning users have more choice when it comes to accessing the metaverse and the advanced ability to create custom built-in apps and spaces.

Preparing for the world of virtual reality

If Gartner is right that many of us will be spending some time in the metaverse in a few years, business leaders need to start preparing for an explosion of VR applications.

CIOs at manufacturing companies and other organizations with frontline workers should start diving now, conduct pilot studies, and gain a basic understanding of the technology and how it might fit into the organization years from now.

Knowledge company leaders may not need to invest in deeper exploration and research yet, but they should be aware of developments in the metaverse and how technology can solve customer problems.

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