While the concept of the metaverse still feels new to many, the idea of a simulated digital environment has been around for a few decades. The idea was explored by many science fiction writers and movie directors. However, it wasn’t until recently that the popularity of online gaming, the increase in computing capability, and the rise of digital estate have allowed us to truly anticipate the metaverse as something almost inevitable.
You can think of the metaverse as a more integrated and immersive type of social media, one that is not restricted to two-dimensional digital spaces. We now have new, lighter, and more powerful headsets, a range of devices to facilitate digital presence. At the same time, several start-ups (and established companies like Facebook, now renamed Meta) are heavily invested in building the metaverse. We are entering an era of immersive 3D reality that is opening up a new economy - and there's change on the horizon.
The Metaverse and Work
The metaverse seems to already be an economic engine, with companies investing millions in its development. We are also seeing a significant increase in demand for high-skilled AR/VR-specific jobs. But it’s not just businesses that expect to make money on the metaverse. Users will be able to do it, too. And, provided the metaverse becomes a widespread reality, it's just a matter of time until we see significant alterations to our workplaces.
It’s likely many of the things we do on a daily basis will somewhat exist, too, in the metaverse. Work is no exception and, some believe, the move to a simulated virtual environment might even be one of the most significant changes we witness in the coming years.
So what does it mean to work in the metaverse, and what can we expect in terms of new and existing job positions as they make the move to these novel digital spaces?
Jobs in the Metaverse
When we talk about jobs in the metaverse, we need to consider two groups of people. First, those that are doing work that is already in demand to build the metaverse, such as software developers and experience designers. And second, the types of employment you will be able to get once the digital world has been widely popularized.
Over the next decade, we can expect to see companies hiring thousands of software engineers with VR and AR skills. Other professions in demand will be:
- Product managers (to own and improve the user experience)
- 3D game designers (for designing, prototyping, and building immersive 3D games)
- Storytellers (to craft compelling storylines for games and virtual experiences)
- Hardware engineers (to make devices wireless, comfortable, and capable of communicating touch and emotions)
- Marketing specialists (to conceive, create, and execute interactive campaigns)
If you specialize in any of these fields, you can already start looking for work in the metaverse. But what about the rest of us? Can the metaverse reshape our society in a way that allows more of us to do our jobs in a virtual environment?
The Evolution of the Virtual Workplace
It’s no secret that we already spend a lot of time online. We use social media, we work remotely, we do our shopping. However, when we talk about the metaverse, we are referring to a more immersive environment that acts as a sort of alternative reality.
This means that our jobs will most likely go well beyond having video call meetings. For example, we could transition to a full-body experience by using VR goggles and haptic devices that can communicate, touch or read (and translate) the different emotions shown in our faces. No doubt, this will bring new security and privacy challenges to our lives alongside significant benefits like improved flexibility and autonomy, and better work-life balance.
2D meetings have become the norm after the COVID-19 pandemic, but the way we work in the digital world is constantly evolving - and we can expect things to leap once the metaverse becomes mainstream. So what does our future workplace look like, and how will it shape our daily lives? Let’s explore a few possibilities.
How Will We Work in the Metaverse?
Adopting the metaverse in all its potential will probably have enormous implications for our careers - and for companies that can adapt to the digital age.
One of the disadvantages of remote work (at least in the shape it’s taken during the pandemic) is that distance can hurt collaboration. Video calls don’t provide the ideal context to cooperate effectively. The metaverse, however, has the potential to bring people together in specialized spaces that foster creativity and deeper collaboration.
For example, an architecture firm can develop a client’s building in the metaverse and allow them to virtually view and explore it using 3D models and immersive technology. Many companies, like PandaMR, are already holding impressive 3D metaevents and exploring the possibilities of personalized avatars and experiences.
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely made us rethink our priorities. We are all reconsidering how we want to work and for whom, and flexibility has become a priority for most of us. One of the most significant advantages of the metaverse is that it facilitates remote work while ensuring the business’ needs are met. Companies can recruit employees from more diverse backgrounds and locations and try innovative approaches that can positively change our workplace culture. These are some of the undoubtedly positive consequences of embracing remote and flexible work.
Learning in the Metaverse
In the near future, companies will be able to use the metaverse to provide “hands-on” learning in an environment that allows people to try a job and see if it’s fit for them. This could drastically compress the time required to learn new things and provide valuable career advice.
For example, businesses could use interactive 3D displays and step-by-step how-to guides mixed with role-play exercises and gameplay scenarios to simulate everyday work tasks (such as doing a sales presentation or dealing with a difficult client).
Many sectors are already using virtual reality to accelerate the development of skills. For example, surgical companies are using Microsoft’s HoloLens and 3D anatomy models to train medical students, and Embodied Labs use a 360-degree video to imitate the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease to help them make diagnoses. Car companies are also using VR headsets to train technicians on vehicle maintenance, and nurses are using AR to practice specific scenarios and skills in care.
The Metaverse and Artificial Intelligence
When we think about the future of work in the metaverse, we should not restrict our imagination to virtual spaces. Another revolution that is already at our doors is artificial intelligence and automation.
On the metaverse, you might be taking meeting notes while floating around a space station or lying down next to a blue ocean in a Caribbean resort - all without leaving your living room. But there is so much more we might be able to do once the metaverse becomes normalized. For example, you could send an AI-enabled digital twin to take notes for you.
Many of our metaverse work colleagues might not be backed by real people. A lof of them could, in fact, be human-like AI-powered bots. These agents, capable of conversing in natural language, could act as assistants and advisors that can interpret context and make decisions. We already have effective consversational bots, so avatar-embodied ones would be an easy next step.
Many of us have been asking ourselves: “How will the metaverse change the world”? One thing is certain: It will, although it might be too early to tell precisely how. Remote work has already revolutionized the way we collaborate with each other, learn, and feel closer to our loved ones. Just three years ago, nobody would have expected video calls to become the norm for so many companies. Now we can't imagine a world without them.
Unfortunately, we can also expect some of them to go out of business, as those capable of innovating will replace the ones that fail to modify their practices and embrace the new possibilities and challenges of virtual worlds.
If businesses can learn how to navigate the disruptions brought by the metaverse and the growth of the tech industry, we will see a lot of companies and industries reinventing themselves. For example, take hospitality. Someone could create a hotel in the metaverse. This will require digital architects to design it and digital managers to make sure operations run smoothly. But also entertainers, tour guides, decorators, service providers, etc.
It’s hard to say if the metaverse will completely reshape our society. In the coming years, we will see our workplace evolve in many expected and unexpected ways. Many of them will probably bring benefits to employees around the world, such as more flexibility and better options for underrepresented groups and those living far from urban centers. The metaverse will also create new challenges. Privacy, security, digital equality, and trust will be at the center of this technological revolution, too.
We will have to wait to see how the metaverse will change work - but it is 100% certain it will.
Are you ready?