The Enterprise Metaverse: a huge shift ... or a scam?
Before the revival of the trend in 2021, Second Life was one of the most promising Metaverse projects. At its peak (2006-2007), many brands had opened their stores in this universe and even political figures, such as Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy, held presidential campaign meetings there.
Network capabilities have now improved dramatically, with the democratization of cloud computing, AI and 4G/5G. Add blockchain and NFT technologies to the mix and you have the perfect breeding ground to grow a new world of opportunities. This could be the right conjuncture for the B2C Metaverse to become a permanent fixture in our daily lives, even supplanting the Internet as we know it.
The main goals of the Enterprise Metaverse are to increase productivity and creativity by facilitating collaboration and manipulation of complex data or 3D models. Typical B2B use cases include collaborative VR/AR design of 3D products, building and navigating digital twins of factories, cities, and more to test products in "real world" conditions, organizing meetings, conferences, and workshops (team members are represented either by avatars or photorealistic holograms, who can interact with each other as if they were in a real meeting room. ), as well as improving the onboarding, recruitment and networking experience. Some of the most significant projects include Microsoft's Nth floor onboarding and socialization platform for Accenture, and Mercedes testing the reactions of its autonomous cars in NVIDIA Omniverse to real-life situations (including ethical dilemmas). On the government side, the city of Seoul is the first to take the plunge by launching its Metaverse as part of the Seoul 2030 plan. This Smart city initiative aims to replace interactions with the administration and to allow the organization of large online gatherings, such as the New Year 2022.
The main players of the Enterprise Metaverse today are Microsoft with Mesh for Teams, Cisco WebEx Hologram, NVIDIA Omniverse and Meta with Oculus Horizon Workrooms.
Therefore, the enterprise Metaverse is supposed to enhance the remote working experience and boost creativity and productivity. But does its added value justify an additional investment from companies?
We are still skeptical about the beneficial effects of the Enterprise Metaverse on telework. Indeed, the Metaverse could actually exacerbate the privacy violations that we already experience via social networks. Thus, remote work in Metaverse environments could increase employee surveillance and presenteeism, reducing work-life balance. This view is confirmed by whistleblower Frances Haugen, who describes the Facebook/Meta Metaverse as a "time bomb" before the French and European parliaments.
We consider that the most promising use cases are either not yet known or not sufficiently developed for the enterprise Metaverse to be truly relevant:
- The lack of avatar photorealism in the available solutions is a barrier to adoption. Indeed, Cisco's photorealistic holograms are not yet available on the market.
- Collaborative 3D design, which would allow for example large multinational manufacturers to design and test their prototypes in real size, is not yet an available feature, although it is very present in many Metaverse teasers
- The lack of haptic features is also a barrier to adoption. New technologies are emerging in that field.
The implementation of enterprise Metaverses still faces many obstacles. Their main inhibitors are their lack of safety and regulation, and the prohibitive cost of AR/VR hardware. The ecological soundness of the democratization of this virtual world can also be questioned. Indeed, processing and storing the data necessary for the functioning of a Metaverse involves colossal energy expenses. This highlights the need to select only those use cases that have a real added value for companies.
In short, human well-being is at stake and must be considered as a priority by the market players in order to avoid the drift of the Metaverse.
We believe that the value provided by the Metaverse in the B2B context at the current stage of the technology is insufficient to justify too much investment by companies on the subject. However, it is important for IT providers to follow the technological evolutions surrounding the B2B Metaverse in order to find the use cases that will bring the most value and justify additional investments from the user companies.
This is why we have analyzed this emerging market in the Insight: Metaverse: initial use cases and vendor landscape for business purposes - InSight Analysis – Worldwide.