Two years ago we shifted towards remote or hybrid work due to COVID-19, and since then, enterprises have been looking for a way to make remote working environments more immersive. The most current trend that ought to shape the future of remote work is metaverse VR solutions, hyped by Mark Zuckerberg and Meta. Since this technology is promised to become a game-changer in the upcoming few years, let’s find out what a metaverse is and why it is so crucial for modern workplaces.
What is Metaverse?
The term metaverse was coined by Neal Stephenson back in 1992 in his science fiction novel Snow Crash. Inspired by the success of the Internet, the author came up with its virtual reality-based successor called Metaverse. The novel describes metaverse as a 3D visual reality world where people connect to the Metaverse using avatars and can do everything the same as in the real world: travel, communicate with other users, work, search for information.
Today, the VR market is strong as never before. We have powerful computer hardware at home and a strong internet connection is accessible almost worldwide. These circumstances facilitated the rise of a metaverse, and its concept didn’t really change since the time of its inception.
Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook (now Meta), gave a more concise definition of a metaverse:
“A metaverse is an embodied Internet that, unlike the Internet of today, gives one a feeling of presence.”
The official website of Meta gives the following definition for the term metaverse:
“The “metaverse” is a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.”
In other words, a 3D metaverse is a virtual world where people can interact with each other and the surrounding using digital versions of themselves (the avatars). In fact, the modern understanding of a metaverse is not necessarily connected with VR. Metaverse can be accessed via smartphones and computers, but it is only VR that offers the immersive experience described by Neal Stephenson and Mark Zuckerberg. That’s why we focus strictly on VR metaverse solutions in this article.
Can Metaverse VR Environments Become Our Future Workplaces?
Although the metaverse is a relatively new phenomenon and is still under construction right now, its global revenue opportunity is expected to reach $800 billion in 2024, according to data from Bloomberg. In the midst of such a promising forecast, one can infer that investing in a metaverse is quite profitable. That’s why Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, Epic Games are already investing billions of dollars into it.
Aside from the theory and forecasts, how is 3D metaverse implemented today, and how do companies take advantage of it? The fact is that VR metaverse environments have a solid potential as employee training grounds or workplaces. In recent years, large companies have been actively adopting VR training for employees:
- Walmart wanted new employees to get a feeling of what a Black Friday actually is before they face this chaotic event. They developed a VR training that immerses users into many real-life situations that occur during Black Fridays. They learn how to handle issues in a safe digital space and are already prepared when real situations take place.
- American Airlines created a VR training program for its cabin crew. The program enables flight attendants to walk around the cabin, interact with the team, and get familiar with their tasks in a simulated environment before taking the actual flight.
- Volkswagen Group prepared 30 VR training experiences for employees to cover everything from vehicle assembly, new team member training, and customer service. Their goal was to educate employees across multiple brands and create a more efficient workflow and training pace.
These VR training programs have proven to be not only effective as teaching tools but also offer exciting immersive experiences that employees want to repeat. Here are the benefits that metaverse VR environments bring to modern workplaces and employee training approaches:
As of today, COVID-19 forced us to shift towards remote and hybrid work, which accelerated the development of VR metaverse 3D environments for workers and trainees. The widespread application of this technology affected not only companies’ business approaches but also employees’ attitudes toward work. Thus, nearly half of the UK population want companies to adopt the metaverse in the workplace, according to research released by Owl Labs.
“With hybrid work firmly cemented in our work culture, the need for technology that makes the remote working environment more immersive has never been more important,” said Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs.
That is what a VR metaverse environment is meant for – to create an ultimate, immersive working or training environment for remote employees. So let’s dive deeper into metaverse virtual reality implementation in specific fields and see examples from N-iX hands-on experience:
Employee Training in Metaverse VR Environment
Training employees is an incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and even risky endeavor. If you work in construction, healthcare, oil & gas, or energy industries, your training environment definitely includes costly and dangerous equipment. In such conditions, any newbie’s failure may cost a fortune or lead to life-threatening consequences.
Not to mention that there are work scenarios that can hardly be simulated in reality, like teaching employees to properly rescue unconscious people out of a gas-filled pit. You will need the entire testing ground to simulate the environment, place replicas of necessary equipment there, and invite a group of trainees. But what if you have several hundred employees needed to be trained, and they are scattered across the country? Imagine the scale of expenses on relocation, accommodation, instructor’s time, etc.
Fortunately, nowadays companies can opt for way better approaches to employee training. Now we can do all of the above-mentioned in a simulated 3D virtual reality metaverse. This is called VR training or VR simulator, and it can provide hands-on training to hundreds of employees at the same time, while they’re miles away and any mistake they make would not cause any harm.
Our Experience: PIXO VR – Gas Expert VR Training
Our client, PIXO VR, aims to bring changes to the current labor market and training approaches by popularizing Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality solutions (all combined also called Extended Reality or XR). They offer effective and secure ways of distributing and managing XR content on a global scale.
The task of N-iX during our cooperation was to develop fully immersive and interactive 3D workspaces for Inside/Outside Gas Meter Inspection, Appliance Inspection, and Facility Locating & Marking VR training modules. It was a full-cycle project where our team was responsible for game design and researching how each appliance works, level design, 3D modeling, programming, QA, etc.
The training simulation was built in partnership with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from the Gas Technology Institute (GTI). Hence, PIXO VR training is a hundred percent credible tool to effectively teach trainees and test experts of the industry.
With PIXO VR, you just need to put on a VR headset, take controllers, and you are in the virtual reality metaverse getting ready to do your job. As a trainee, your task is to inspect multiple appliances, including central air/heating units, gas meters and pipes, ovens, vents, etc. You investigate the problem and potential hazards, document the process, solve issues and report findings. Just like in real life, some of the simulated situations are risky, even deadly. Trainees must show their critical thinking, observational, and decision-making skills to pass.
Metaverse in Manufacturing
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than one-third of US manufacturers either already use VR and AR technology or plan to do so in the next three years. Indeed, from design and prototyping to the final production and assembly, metaverse VR spaces are rapidly taking root in many stages of manufacturing:
- Design & Prototyping. VR can demonstrate how a product would look like without creating a physical prototype. Ford Motors has long been using Ford Immersive Vehicle Environment technology to create virtual representations of yet non-existent vehicles in the tiniest detail. Designs are transmitted into virtual car environments, enabling engineers to see what it’s like to be inside of the future car.
- Inventory Management. Though AI effectively manages inventory databases, there’s still confusing manual labor of picking products from a warehouse. Using XR, any worker holding an iPad or wearing a VR headset sees the exact location of a particular item and is guided to the very aisle and shelf where it is stored.
- Preventing Accidents. By simulating a production environment in VR, manufacturing companies can indicate potential threats and eliminate them long before they even arise.
There’s a myriad of ways how you can implement XR in manufacturing and many benefits that it brings, including better time-to-market, reduced expenses, employee instruction, etc.
Our Experience: C4X Discovery – Health Care VR Application
C4X, a pharmaceutical company from Manchester, is effectively using a virtual environment to create new types of medicines. Their team has developed 4Sight — a VR visualizer that offers a unique perspective on the efficacy of known compounds and makes the drug development process more straightforward.
Traditional methods of molecule visualization, like the ball-and-stick model, represent molecules as static objects, while in reality, they’re in a state of constant movement. 4Sight uses Unreal Engine 4 technology and its real-time rendering system to create an accurate visual representation of compounds. A virtual environment allows chemists to observe, mix, and innovate new molecule compounds.
This VR visualizer extends the ways of designing new pharmaceutical compounds and provides new means of collaboration between the scientists not only within the office but anywhere across the world. Have a look — Taking Pharmaceutical Discovery to the Next Level in Unreal Engine.
Sportsmen Training in Metaverse VR Environment
Being completely risk-free spaces, VR metaverse environments are perfect for sportsmen training. Let’s take the training of a quarterback (QB) for example, which is the leading position in American Football. Training QB talent could be very risky. It requires investments, the engagement of the whole team, and has an estimated 40% of injury risks. In turn, injured quarterbacks cost teams millions of dollars each year, and lost championship opportunities.
Our Experience: QBSIM – Quarterback VR Simulator
The former GM of the Denver Broncos and CEO of SportsVTS, Ted Sundquist, who also happens to be a former Air Force pilot, came up with an idea to train quarterbacks the same way pilots are trained - using a virtual environment. SportsVTS reached out to the N-iX team to create a VR simulator for quarterbacks (QBSIM). We gathered a group of specialists specializing in 3D modeling, animation, Unreal Engine, Oculus, and motion capture to help them realize this.
Our goal was to make the virtual experience as real as possible. We produced highly realistic models based on full-body 3D scans, life-size stadiums based on college and professional teams homes, developed an AI based on over 10 years of game data and statistics and implemented an accurate ball trajectory tracing and catching system based on motion capture technology. For the end-user, the experience looks like this: you put on your VR goggles and you see a cone with a ball placed on it. The virtual ball is located exactly where the real one is, so you can pick it up, and once you are ready you can throw it to make a pass before you get sacked by the defense. You can see actual quarterback feedback and the gameplay in the attached video.
This VR training allows for placing other 21 players on the field, where they can master passing techniques and develop scheme recognition, pocket presence, decision-making awareness, and other crucial skills. The system also provides actionable data for use in recruiting, performance assessment, and return-to-play protocols.
You can see the result here — QBSIM: Revolutionary Tech For Training Quarterbacks.
These were only a few implementations of metaverse VR environments in workplaces. In our next article, we will cover the adoption of a metaverse in automotive, advertising, education, business meetings, and gaming.
If you want to know more about how our metaverse development services can benefit your business, contact our experts. The virtual reality metaverse world is limitless, so there is always room for improvement!