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December 13, 2023

Metaverse Predictions for 2024 from Virbela Founder Alex Howland

The following article was written by Alex Howland, President & Co-Founder of Virbela
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As we get ready for 2024, we see a continuation of the metaverse predictions I made last year. I had predicted the metaverse would enter an experimental phase, where features, products, and pilot programs would rapidly cycle, letting us discover which work best for everyone. 

And collaborative technology is in an experimental phase: Virtual worlds are expanding, companies are onboarding greater numbers of staff, and metaverse experiences are popping up alongside legacy events. An explosion of AI chat tools is changing how we work every day.

In the coming year, organizations will be balancing the immense potential and emerging challenges of XR.  While major players like Apple and Meta have already unveiled groundbreaking devices, it’s not completely clear yet what we’ll do with them. That’s because virtual workspaces are still evolving. For example, at Virbela, we regularly add new features based on customer feedback and upgrade experiential design to make the metaverse a more appealing place for anyone to work. 

Here, I’ll share more of my thoughts for what’s next and how it may impact enterprise companies in the coming months. Let me know if you agree with me or have your own ideas to share, too. You can find me on LinkedIn or follow Virbela for more. 

AI will propel metaverse creation, while web-based XR will help grow adoption

In 2024, it’s clear the use of artificial intelligence in the metaverse will supercharge user experiences, leading more people to spend more time in new spaces.

Companies can expect to witness AI seamlessly integrate into the enterprise metaverse. Natural language processing, computer vision, and data-driven insights may elevate virtual experiences, making digital workplaces more intelligent, dynamic, and tailored to individual needs. The cost to creating bespoke venues and learning experiences will continue to come down in both time and cost to create.

Users and companies will benefit from AI tools and personalized assistants

From a user perspective, this will include virtual assistants or avatar chatbots that eventually evolve beyond mundane tasks, engaging in complex conversations and doing things like scheduling meetings and facilitating seamless interactions. With interactive tools like this, metaverse adoption will grow, bringing more people into virtual worlds to connect and work together. 

Companies also may be able to improve learning and development or staff retention with new ways to measure engagement or other feedback. Onboarding programs will become easier to execute with AI-driven resources available to staff as new hires and during their tenure. In 2024, we’re likely to see more companies use spaces like Virbela’s library scene to provide always-on access to company standard operating procedures and other documentation. A spatial environment, like the library or art gallery, lets staff interact with organizational content and each other simultaneously.

Web-based XR experiences will continue to drive accessibility and adoption

Web-based XR experiences will continue to move to the foreground. Whether its through true webXR or streaming services, accessibility right from the web has been a major benefit of these offerings. Historically, they have had limitations of scale, fidelity, and stability, but as the ecosystem has advanced and applications iterated upon, these technologies are becoming enterprise-ready. Barriers to adoption will be removed and the web options will be more likely to make it through bureaucratic IT ecosystems.

The innovation gap between remote and RTO companies will widen

Remote work held a recession at bay during the pandemic, but tighter return-to-office (RTO) demands may upset cultural, productivity, innovation, and financial gains. 

While a desire to return to the office will always vary among individuals, there is some clear data in favor of remote work. Firstly, most staff—even senior staff—prefer remote work. Then, there are the productivity increases. While burnout was an issue when remote work initially took hold, individuals have adapted, driving important social and economic change. With the reopening of stores and restaurants, people no longer overwork. They are mastering work-life balance in ways that are liberating, inspiring, and flat-out good for companies of all sizes. 

Some companies will lose ground by wasting time on outdated strategies

In fact, pushing back against remote work may become a trend. The 2023 Women in the Workplace study, the largest comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America, reveals that all genders view flexible working as a top 3 employee benefit and consider it crucial to the success of their company.  The share of people in the office full-time  dropped to 42% in the second quarter of 2023, down from 49% in the first quarter, according to The Flex Report, which collects insights from more than 4,000 companies employing more than 100 million people globally. 

I predict it will take three to four years for the debate to be settled. In the meantime, hybrid working will become the norm next year as employers try to convince themselves that a half-and-half model is the solution to appease both parties. The reality is that this will only confuse things further but will be a temporary part of the journey towards a remote workspace that maximizes output while making employees feel valued, heard, and accepted. 

Other companies will multiply capabilities by investing in the right tools

My other prediction is based on a reality we already see. The gaps between these companies will widen in 2024. Teams that have access to advanced tools and technology will develop more effective communication, collaboration, and learning across a variety of settings. This isn’t limited to the metaverse. It may mean staff innovate together on digital whiteboards or get more done on complex projects using project management platforms. 

The takeaway is that innovation begets innovation. Companies that don’t fear the metaverse will gain competitive advantages that reflect their cultural attitudes around technology.

Staff happiness may become more important at tech-forward companies

When it comes to virtual worlds, another gap will widen: the happiness gap. Organizations may need to dig deep to figure out how to measure happiness at work, but those that put steps in place now will be better off in the long run. Virbela will support this trend by providing a space where teams can collaborate and feel a deeper sense of presence, crossing paths with colleagues as they walk around, just like they would on a physical office campus.

Metaverse skill sets and leadership will be in higher demand

In 2024, companies will bring more teams into the metaverse. As a result, cross-functional productivity and collaboration will take center stage. This will create a spike in demand for managers and other senior staff who have remote and metaverse leadership skills, including technical and soft skills. 

Management in virtual spaces demands more centralized communication, which creates organizational efficiencies and allows teams to reallocate time and energy to company objectives. Hiring and training will undergo metamorphosis, too. Leaders that leverage the benefits of the metaverse will be able to achieve rapid onboarding and unprecedented staff retention rates.

New opportunities and skill sets will emerge, ushering in a demand for virtual architects, experience designers, and content creators. As the metaverse evolves, entrepreneurs and innovators may find fertile ground for pioneering ventures.

Ethical considerations will drive new company policies and procedures

As with any new technology, the evolution of the metaverse may surface concerns around privacy, security, and bias. Virtual worlds present real solutions to these issues, allowing a level reset where companies can create new opportunities for more types of people, but it will require intentionality.

In 2024, the companies that will attract and retain top talent are the companies that have policies and procedures in place to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion. Companies that attract and retain top clients will be the ones that have firm privacy and security policies in place.  

With such rapid change on the horizon, trust becomes the cornerstone of effective collaboration. Transparency, focusing on outcomes over hours worked, promotes autonomy and fosters a flexible work culture where staff feel valued.

In 2024, we will build tomorrow’s workspace together

Global collaboration in virtual-first work will continue to foster diversity, inclusion, cross-cultural exchange, and creativity. All of these will lead to innovative solutions and fresh perspectives. Virtual settings allow for a deeper level of presence and meaningful connections and will continue to develop as the technology improves. Web-based virtual worlds will play an increasingly important role as companies look to these new technologies but without the cost, scale, and accessibility challenges of new hardware.

As companies settle into the right tools for them, they will begin to realize that the biggest driver of productivity - even beyond physical presence or the use of the latest technologies - is trust. Trust, transparency, and looking at outcomes in tandem move companies forward. None of these are easy to build or measure, so some companies may avoid the effort, but this is the foundation of building organizational performance and happiness at work.

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