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In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 22, 26 August - 01 September 2023

Metaverse: Shaping Industries, Redefining Work

 

Bhupendra Kumar

 

The metaverse, a term first coined by author Neal Stephenson, is the emerging 3D-enabled digital space that utilises virtual reality, augmented reality, and other advanced internet and semiconductor technology to allow people to have lifelike personal and business experiences online. With its limitless potential, it offers an array of possibilities for various industries. From virtual reality experiences and social interactions to e-commerce, education, and entertainment, from the depths of blockchain to the creation of avatars, the metaverse is revolutionising the way we live and work.

How Metaverse Works?

Since the metaverse is mostly not yet built, there isn't much agreement on how it will work. However, in simple terms, the idea of how the metaverse might work is that it's a digital world made using different kinds of 3D technology, real-time collaboration software, and blockchain-based tools that isn't controlled by a central authority. Even though there isn't just one plan for "how to build" or "how it works", two main technologies are thought to be the base of the metaverse, which are:

·         Virtual Reality (VR): Think of it as a simulated 3D environment where users can engage with a digital world that closely mimics our real-life experiences. This simulation aims to replicate how we perceive reality through our senses. Presently, this virtual reality experience is typically accessed using a special headset that completely fills a user's field of vision. Enhanced by haptic technologies such as gloves, vests, and even full-body tracking suits, the interaction with this digital world becomes more immersive and lifelike.

·         Augmented Reality (AR): It isn't as immersive as VR and can be explained simply as bringing virtual objects into our real world. Well-known examples include Pokémon Go, which took the world by storm, using AR technology to introduce virtual objects (in their case, lively figures of Pokémon) into the scene.

The Metaverse Landscape

The metaverse's current landscape is rich with diverse platforms and technologies. Leading platforms like Facebook's Horizon Workrooms, Roblox, etc. are fostering virtual environments that enable social interactions and gaming experiences. Technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are transforming how users interact with the digital world. Additionally, blockchain technology is playing a pivotal role in decentralising virtual worlds and ensuring secure transactions.

Emerging trends in the metaverse include the integration of artificial intelligence, haptic feedback systems, and advanced 3D rendering techniques that enhance user experiences. As these trends continue to evolve, it becomes increasingly crucial for industries to understand how they can leverage the metaverse's potential.

While it may not be entirely inaccurate to suggest that the 'Metaverse' still has a considerable journey ahead, let us now take a foundational perspective on the current metaverse landscape:

       I.            Metaverse Ecosystem to Extend Beyond Hardware: The integration of 3D immersive effects into uses beyond gaming, such as entertainment and e-commerce, will be crucial for widespread adoption. The utilisation of tokens and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) could unlock new business models, and a yearly capital of $10 billion will support leading GPU makers' demand for 3D software.

    II.            Surge in Transactions: It would not be an exaggeration to anticipate a 60% yearly growth in token-based transactions, driven by integration with cryptocurrencies and digital wallets.

 III.            Metaverse and Social Interaction: The Metaverse is reshaping social interactions, providing users with a sense of presence and immersion even in virtual spaces. Social media platforms are incorporating Metaverse elements, enabling users to connect, socialise, and collaborate in 3D environments. Virtual events, concerts, and gatherings are becoming more popular, drawing global audiences and breaking geographical barriers. The Metaverse's capacity to create shared experiences ushers in a new era of social networking and community building.

 IV.            Integration of Virtual Commerce and E-Commerce: The Metaverse is revolutionising commerce and e-commerce. Virtual storefronts and marketplaces offer businesses fresh avenues to showcase their products and services. Virtual try-on technology empowers customers to virtually "try" clothes, accessories, and cosmetics before purchasing. Brands are experimenting with virtual influencers and brand avatars to engage customers on a more personal level. Additionally, blockchain-based payment systems ensure secure and transparent transactions, enhancing trust and reliability in virtual commerce.

    V.            Revolutionising Education: The Metaverse is reshaping education, creating interactive, immersive, and accessible learning experiences. Virtual classrooms allow students to engage in captivating lessons, collaborate with peers, and explore subjects deeply through realistic simulations. Remote and underserved communities stand to benefit from virtual educational opportunities, bridging the educational divide. Educational institutions are progressively embracing Metaverse technologies to craft innovative learning environments, prepare students for future careers, and promote lifelong learning.

 VI.            Virtual Tourism and Travel Experiences: The Metaverse is reimagining travel and tourism, enabling individuals to virtually explore destinations before embarking on physical journeys. Virtual tourism offers a preview of landmarks, cultural sites, and natural wonders, encouraging travellers to plan their trips more effectively. With advancements in virtual reality, users can "visit" museums, historical sites, and art galleries from the comfort of their homes, enriching their cultural experiences.

VII.            The Metaverse in Healthcare and Therapy: Healthcare professionals are utilising the Metaverse to enhance patient care and therapy. Virtual reality-based therapies are proving effective for addressing phobias, PTSD, and anxiety disorders. Medical training simulations enable doctors and nurses to practise complex procedures in a risk-free environment. Metaverse-based telemedicine facilitates remote consultations, offering medical care to patients in distant locations and reducing healthcare disparities.

VIII.            Virtual Events and Entertainment: The Metaverse has revolutionised the events and entertainment sector. Virtual conferences, conventions, and trade shows offer a secure and scalable alternative to physical gatherings. Attendees can network, participate in workshops, and access exclusive content from anywhere globally. Virtual concerts and performances featuring digital avatars and holographic artists captivate audiences, pushing the boundaries of entertainment.

 IX.            The Metaverse and Environmental Sustainability: The Metaverse holds potential in contributing to environmental sustainability. By facilitating remote work and virtual meetings, it reduces the need for extensive travel and commuting, resulting in lower carbon emissions. Moreover, the Metaverse can promote eco-friendly practices by offering virtual education on environmental issues and sustainable lifestyles.

    X.            The Metaverse and Digital Identity: As the Metaverse blurs the distinction between physical and digital realities, establishing secure and decentralised digital identities becomes pivotal. Ensuring privacy, preventing identity theft, and enabling seamless cross-platform interactions rely on secure digital identities. Blockchain-based identity verification systems can play a substantial role in achieving this goal.

Impact on Industries

·         Gaming: The gaming industry has been at the forefront of metaverse adoption. Virtual reality games, immersive experiences, and interactive storytelling are redefining gaming as we know it. This has led to a surge in demand for game designers, 3D artists, and virtual reality developers.

·         Retail: E-commerce is merging with the metaverse, creating virtual storefronts and immersive shopping experiences. Brands are exploring innovative ways to engage customers through personalised avatars and virtual try-on technology. As a result, virtual retail architects and designers are in high demand.

·         Real Estate: The metaverse offers virtual property ownership and a platform for real estate transactions, allowing individuals and businesses to explore properties remotely. Virtual real estate agents and developers are becoming essential in this ever-expanding market.

·         Healthcare: The metaverse is revolutionising healthcare by providing virtual medical training, telemedicine, and therapeutic applications. Professionals in medical VR development and data analysis are needed to enhance these services.

Education: Virtual classrooms, interactive learning experiences, and remote education have become more prevalent due to the metaverse. Virtual educators, content creators, and edtech specialists are shaping the future of education.

The Future of Work

One of the most profound impacts of the metaverse is on the future of work. As the boundaries between physical and digital spaces blur, the traditional notions of workplaces are evolving. Remote work and virtual collaboration are becoming more prevalent, allowing individuals and teams to work together seamlessly from anywhere in the world. The metaverse facilitates virtual offices, where colleagues can meet, collaborate, and conduct meetings as avatars in lifelike virtual environments. Companies are exploring the possibilities of leveraging the metaverse to create innovative and immersive virtual workspaces. These virtual offices can enhance productivity, creativity, and team collaboration. Virtual reality meeting rooms enable participants to interact naturally, fostering a sense of presence and engagement that is often lacking in traditional video conferencing.

 

Moreover, the metaverse opens up new career opportunities for individuals with expertise in metaverse development, spatial experience design, and virtual event planning. Companies are increasingly seeking professionals who can navigate and excel in this digital frontier, leading to a surge in demand for metaverse-savvy employees. Some of the ways in which Metaverse is really shaping the future are discussed as below:

·         Reducing the Risk in Dangerous Work: Virtual Reality (VR) training modules can be designed based on hazardous work environments, offering virtual training to apprentices. For instance, electricians often work on high-voltage power grids, and apprentices have to do the same without proper training, leading to potential hazards. However, this is changing with the use of virtual reality environments. Apprentices can practise multiple times until they achieve proficiency, minimising risks before working in the real world.

·         Virtual Presence: As the world continues to progress, demands for physical presence in certain professions, such as metal sheet workers, persist. Integrating the metaverse and future versions of Industry workplace management systems can allow tasks to be performed with the precision of an experienced worker. This transformation involves turning physical presence into a virtual one, ensuring work is accomplished safely without exposing individuals to hazardous situations.

·         Physical Prototypes: Large-scale construction projects often rely on prototypes to showcase their offerings, but these prototypes may lack the detailed experience consumers expect. The Metaverse offers a solution by enabling virtual tours of future construction projects, providing consumers with an immersive and realistic feel. This enhanced experience assists consumers in making better investment decisions and applies similarly to machinery equipment demonstrations.

Optimised Employee Selection: Reports indicate that only around 38% of an organization's workforce performs well in demanding environments on average. Ensuring that newly hired individuals are suitable for handling such situations is challenging. The Metaverse offers a solution-by immersing candidates virtually into these scenarios, organisations can better assess their performance. This approach enhances workforce selection optimisation by providing a clearer picture of candidates' capabilities in demanding situations.

Thriving Skill Sets and Roles

The metaverse ecosystem requires a diverse range of skill sets and roles to support its varied applications:

·         Virtual Architects and 3D Designers: These experts specialise in designing and constructing virtual spaces, buildings, and landscapes.

·         Virtual Event Planners: Skilled professionals adept at organising and hosting virtual events, conferences, and exhibitions.

·         Data Analysts: Specialists who analyse user behaviour, preferences, and engagement patterns to enhance virtual experiences.

·         Virtual Reality Developers: Programmers with expertise in creating immersive VR applications and environments.

·         AI Integration Specialists: Professionals who integrate artificial intelligence into metaverse experiences for more realistic interactions.

·         Blockchain Developers: Experts who create secure and decentralised virtual environments using blockchain technology.

·         UX/UI Designers: Specialists focusing on user experience and interface design to optimise interactions within the metaverse.

·         Virtual Event Managers: As virtual events gain popularity within the metaverse, the demand for skilled event managers who can organise and coordinate virtual conferences, trade shows, and exhibitions is rising. These professionals need to ensure seamless execution, attendee engagement, and technical support for participants.

·         Metaverse Security Specialists: With the metaverse's growing prominence, ensuring data privacy and security is critical. Metaverse security specialists focus on safeguarding user data, preventing cyber threats, and addressing vulnerabilities within virtual environments.

·         Metaverse Architects: Visionaries who conceptualise and design large-scale metaverse projects and ecosystems.

·         Metaverse Economists: Experts who study and optimise virtual economies within the metaverse.

·         Spatial Experience Designers: Professionals focused on creating seamless and immersive experiences that merge physical and virtual spaces.

·         Virtual Healthcare Specialists: Healthcare professionals with expertise in providing medical services within virtual environments.

·         Metaverse Ethicists: Individuals who analyse and address ethical concerns in the development and use of the metaverse.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations

As the metaverse becomes more pervasive, professionals must address several challenges and ethical considerations:

·         Privacy and Security: Safeguarding user data and preventing unauthorised access to virtual spaces and assets.

·         Digital Identity: Managing and securing digital identities to prevent identity theft and fraud.

·         Inclusivity: Ensuring that the metaverse is accessible and welcoming to individuals from diverse backgrounds and abilities.

·         Virtual Addiction: Understanding and mitigating the potential addictive nature of immersive virtual experiences.

·         Intellectual Property Protection: Establishing guidelines and systems to protect intellectual property rights within the metaverse.

·         Mental Health Implications: The metaverse's immersive nature can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. While it offers opportunities for escapism and socialisation, excessive use of the metaverse may lead to issues like digital addiction, social isolation, and diminished real-world interactions. Professionals in the field must consider these mental health implications and develop strategies for promoting a balanced approach to metaverse engagement.

·         Digital Divide and Accessibility: As the metaverse evolves, it is essential to address the digital divide and ensure accessibility for all. Not all individuals have equal access to high-end VR equipment or high-speed internet, limiting their participation in the metaverse. Creating inclusive experiences that cater to a diverse range of users is crucial.

Conclusion

The metaverse is poised to reshape the way we interact with the digital world and transform various industries. From gaming and entertainment to education, real estate, and healthcare, the metaverse offers a myriad of opportunities for growth and innovation. As technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, and blockchain continue to advance, the metaverse's potential will only expand further.

Navigating this digital frontier requires professionals with diverse skill sets, ranging from virtual architects and 3D designers to AI specialists and metaverse economists. Embracing the metaverse also demands a responsible approach, addressing ethical considerations such as privacy, security, inclusivity, and digital identity protection.

As the metaverse landscape evolves and new possibilities emerge, it will be essential for individuals, businesses, and policymakers to work together to harness its potential for positive change. The metaverse promises to open up a world of limitless possibilities, where virtual and physical realms intertwine, creating a more interconnected and immersive future for all. By embracing innovation and responsible development, we can pave the way for a metaverse that enriches lives, enhances experiences, and transforms the way we perceive and interact with the digital frontier.

(The author is Joint Director, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing. You can send us your feedback on this article @feedback. employmentnews@gmail.com).

Views expressed are personal.