The Metaverse has become a hot topic of late, but what exactly is the Metaverse?

Essentially, the Metaverse is a collection of virtual worlds in which people can work, play, shop, and socialize using advanced augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technology. I recently made the analogy that the Metaverse is similar to the Upside Down from Stranger Things, only much less scary. The Metaverse is quintessentially a virtual world that mirrors our own. You can think of it as a virtual layer to the physical world. In theory, it’s supposed to help converge our physical lives with our digital ones. Many well-established brands and retailers such as Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, JP Morgan, and Dolce & Gabbana have flocked to the Metaverse to showcase and sell commodities. However, the Metaverse could end up being an integral piece in the future of work puzzle.

According to a recent CNBC report, virtual real estate is gaining ground, with investors willing to pay millions for digital real estate assets in the Metaverse. While virtual real estate might be picking up steam, it doesn’t come without risk, especially as the Metaverse is still early in its evolution. Much like the real world, the Metaverse is all about location. However, unlike the real world, location has a slightly different meaning in the Metaverse.

Technically, you have limitless space in the Metaverse, as these virtual worlds do not have physical boundaries. However, in many virtual worlds, programmers set specific districts, or zones, depending on the type of commerce they’re showcasing– an example of this would be the Fashion District in Decentraland

If the market is so volatile, why are so many people investing in the Metaverse?

With great risk can come great rewards. Many companies are worried that if they don’t jump on the Metaverse bandwagon now, they’ll miss out on being a pioneer in this new virtual world. Currently, the future value of the Metaverse ranges from $800 billion to trillions of dollars by 2024, but these are all guesstimates. Experts are having a hard time agreeing on what exactly the future of the Metaverse looks like financially. Because the Metaverse is still evolving, there is little evidence to suggest whether the Metaverse is just a passing fad in the real estate world, or an emerging trend that will begin to take precedence.

Ok, ok, I kind of get it… but how will this affect Corporate Real Estate or the future of work?

The pandemic facilitated a huge shift in the way we work. Now, technology is more than just a tool to help us work, it can also create a platform where we work. Now, you’re probably thinking that you’re already doing this via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or any other platforms similar to these. You would be correct, but you aren’t getting the full picture of how the Metaverse and these new technological advancements can help support and enable both the workforce and the workplace. A problem many people have cited with hybrid or remote work is that it can be hard to interact and collaborate with others – there are very few touchpoints or ways to fully engage with one another. The Metaverse seeks to rectify this.

What if you could slip on a virtual reality headset from the comfort of your own home and be transported to a virtual office space that mirrors your physical HQ? Not only can you see this building, but also your colleagues. Here, you are able to walk, talk, work, share content, and collaborate with your coworkers. Hoping to further digitalize and connect the workforce, Microsoft has launched its own mixed-reality app, Mesh. Mesh leverages the productivity tools of Microsoft Teams with AI-enabled 3D avatars that allow users, “to join meetings, visualize and annotate content, and use 3D objects to explain and point out features.” Having these capabilities helps to bridge the disconnect workers may as the workforce adjusts to hybrid or remote work.

Now, these capabilities are great, but let’s take it a step further. Imagine you have a meeting scheduled with partners located in California, France, Germany, and Singapore. Not only is this a logistical nightmare time zone wise, but there could also be a language barrier. Mark Zuckerberg wants to tear down that barrier. Meta is currently in the process of building an AI system that will be capable of instantaneous universal translation in the Metaverse. “The ability to communicate with anyone in any language — that’s a superpower people have dreamed of forever, and AI is going to deliver that in our lifetimes,” Zuckerberg stated at a recent AI-focused “Inside the Lab” event. “This is going to be especially important when people begin teleporting across virtual worlds and experiencing things with people from different backgrounds,” Zuckerberg added. Zoom and Teams meetings are great, but they definitely don’t have this kind of capability.

AI, AR, and VR technology have the capability to connect us in ways that we only thought possible in science fiction books and films.  The future is now. It’s up to us to leverage these technological advancements in a way that enriches our lives – both at work and outside of it.