Banking firm Jeffries predicts that the metaverse will “cause the biggest disruption to human life ever seen.” At the same time, Meta (formerly Facebook) budgeted $10 billion in the last year alone for building parts of the metaverse including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI).
The metaverse seems set to reshape the world of work in at least four major ways:
1. New immersive forms of team collaboration
2. The emergence of new digital, AI-enabled colleagues
3. The acceleration of learning and skills acquisition through virtualization
4. Gamified technologies
But while investments in the metaverse have primarily focused on gaming so far, the pandemic has made clear the technology’s ability to transform the workplace as well. The metaverse could eventually be used for tasks like onboarding, providing workers a safe way to train remotely. A separate PWC survey predicts that nearly 23.5 million jobs will use AR and VR by 2030 for training, work meetings, or customer service.
What can hoteliers do to leverage the metaverse?
The metaverse is an excellent place to practice encountering people and responding to different social situations. So for example, a concierge could act as a client to check out the guest experience. Staff could learn the language and culture of your guests and could train on how to respond to various situations. You could even offer virtual tours of your city.
The metaverse can also be used for wellness. While audio-based mindfulness apps such as Calm are great, the immersive nature of VR means that you can be transported to a relaxing environment or taken on a computer generated virtual trip to help you relax even more. One of the benefits of VR is that the headsets block out the real world meaning that your senses are tricked into thinking you are actually in a tranquil field or by the ocean as a mindfulness track plays.
We now have an idea of the potential behind the metaverse, but what does that look like when applied today? One example is STRIVR. STRIVR is creating software that enables customers to build VR training programs centered on health, safety and customer service coaching. In 2018, Walmart announced that it would team up with STRIVR to buy Oculus Go VR headsets to train employees at its retail outlets to practice a new online order pickup station before it launched in stores. “If you’re onboarding 10 new colleagues and show or give them a PDF document to introduce your company, they will lose concentration after 10 minutes. What we do instead is have them walk along a 3-D hall or gallery, with 20 interactive stands, where they can explore the company,” says Derek Belch, Founder and CEO of STRIVR, “You make them want to walk the virtual hall, not read a document.”
And that’s just one example. Others are Talespin, which raised 15M$ to provide training to employees, or Interplay (raising $18 million), or Osso ($27 million). And there’s Microsoft’s Mesh for Teams, taking Microsoft Teams meetings into the metaverse.
Of course, the metaverse is still a young technology with several potential issues. One issue is the transferability of skills. Just because a skill is learned in one virtual platform, does not necessarily mean it will be useful or adaptable in the real world. Related to this is the concept of not going all-in quite yet. During the pandemic that fully isolated remote working from home didn’t work as well as a hybrid solution. Similarly, utilizing the metaverse must be done in tandem with real-world methodologies.
Another issue is openness. To fully harness the power of this movement for workers, enterprises must not only guard against efforts to control or dominate the metaverse, but must actively seek to extend and open it up even further. For example open-source standards and software should be encouraged when possible, and interoperability is key.
Further challenges include privacy, safety, and exclusivity, especially when related to training staff. For example, a recent ExpressVPN report found that, among remote and hybrid workers, 59% felt anxiety due to employer monitoring. If the metaverse is leveraged for the workplace of a hotel, decision makers must be sure to respect staff’s privacy.
Finally, there’s the issue of cost. A single headset currently costs $300, making it cost-prohibitive for many businesses.
What Lies Ahead
Even with all those issues in mind, the metaverse’s potential upsides may far outweigh the downsides. If managed properly, and developed with security, openness, and the betterment of society in mind, it stands to be one of those generational technologies that could transform how future hoteliers and guests experience the world forever.