How the metaverse is looking to transform the workplace with virtual reality technology
Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita interviews BCG Global Head of Luxury Sara Willersdorf and other experts during a special report on the metaverse and how it may affect the office experience.
- Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. The global metaverse market is estimated to reach nearly $400 billion in the next two years. Revenue has largely been concentrated in the gaming space so far, with content outside of it slow to follow. But the virtual world is increasingly being used by Fortune 500 companies to bring employees together in a hybrid work environment. I set out to explore the metaverse with headset in hand.
- From happy hours along the waterfront to a meeting with a view, virtual reality technology is transforming the office experience. There are no Zoom calls in the metaverse or those muted squares. This version of work transports workers to any location, any time they choose.
- Think after two years of Zoom or Teams or whatever you us, most people are exhausted and sick of looking at their own pictures, sick of being on there. So actually, to be in a virtual setting that feels much more close, is really unique.
- And with companies increasingly opting for remote work, more and more employees are strapping on their headsets to connect in the metaverse. Boston Consulting Group's Sarah Willersdorf took me inside for a virtual tour.
SARAH WILLERSDORF: Welcome to our metaverse or at least one of our rooms.
- This looks like a really cold room. Where are we?
SARAH WILLERSDORF: A nondescript snowy mountain range, which is perfect to collaborate and learn.
- For BCG, that's meant retreats in snowy resorts, and pitch meetings in the tropics offsite. The company has held more than 5,500 virtual sessions so far using the metaverse to unite a global workforce with a click of a controller.
- How much of the use, at least at BCG, was accelerated by the pandemic?
SARAH WILLERSDORF: A lot. What I would say is that BCG, because we have a lot of people thinking about future innovation, the thought was there, there were already a number of people thinking about what it meant, but it was a little bit more theoretical. What's happened now is it's accelerated, both because we have a real need to work in a hybrid way and in a virtual way. And our clients are increasingly asking about it.
- In fact, the company estimates the metaverse market will grow to $400 billion in the next three years. That's opened up big opportunities for design firms like Interior Architects, a firm better versed in real-life physical spaces.
GUY MESSICK: Seven years ago, we started using virtual reality for design. As that technology evolved, right when we all went home, we got some immediate interest from clients who had worked with us in VR, saying, well what about this extended reality stuff?
- Guy Messick gave me a tour of one of his offices, a virtual space inspired by a real workspace in Midtown Atlanta, except this one's built along the coast of South Africa.
GUY MESSICK: The design team picked the spot. And so we found this lovely spot, more of a village on the coast, and we transported it here.
- It's much better than a long flight.
- And there are other perks-- A fire pit complete with marshmallows sticks, benches and tables by the water with virtual drinks.
GUY MESSICK: Cheers.
- Here we go.
- Earn corner comes with its own work tools-- A whiteboard to jot ideas, Post-it notes that expand.
GUY MESSICK: You can put them anywhere, put it over on the table, but they also have a magnet, if you will, for the marker board.
- You can even create models to size up and size down. It's all surrounded by realistic features like trees blowing in the wind and water rippling. While the experience may be limited to inside the headset now, Messick says it's likely to merge with reality as technology advances.
GUY MESSICK: So a mixed reality is when you will be observing your office the way it is now, and you'll be greeting people from other locations as avatars and holograms. And they will also be seeing yours, and so forth. We think that that's very near future.
- And so this all got us thinking naturally about what Yahoo Finance would look like in the metaverse. Now we asked Arthur Digital, which designed, by the way, that BCG metaverse, we sent him about like six photos. So not a very elaborate picture, but-- Brian you can vouch for this, whether it actually looks like our office.
I would argue the one perk here, and this is the thing with the metaverse-- Look at that view. That is not our view from the office.
- No, it's not.
- That's probably from, what, the 50th floor?
- This is way nice.
- Even higher.
- Hudson Yards view.
- Yeah, it's a Hudson Yards view, but that's what we're finding increasingly in the metaverse. These companies who are saying, look, yes , we want to get together virtually because we're not together physically, but we want an upgrade. And so this is what you get. I mean, look, I don't look like that clearly, so we have to work on the avatars a bit more. But it is interesting to see how that's being supplemented.
Everybody's sick of Zoom calls. And we talk a lot about the metaverse with Meta/Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg's. View it really is kind of in the simplest terms that it's being used right now.
- And I think that a lot of people when they hear the metaverse, they think gaming, they think of casual uses but I think what this whole BCG view tells us is that there is a real use case, in the enterprise side of things, to get companies on board with this type of thing, especially with the prevalence of remote work as you kind of nicely described there.
I think that that last demonstration where if you're doing mockups or whatever, and you have presentations, it can be a lot more interactive than just a boring slide show, which why do you have to be in there, in the room present for that anyway. So the only other takeaways are that, first of all, I didn't realize that there were hands because I've seen versions of the avatars where it's just you don't have--
- No legs.
- You don't have legs, yeah, but you can make yourself a little taller in the metaverse.
- See, this is the thing. Either you all stand in the metaverse or you sit down. I think I might have done a lot of that sitting down. I mean, obviously, for those who don't know, I'm much shorter in real life, probably, but this one we're standing, which is why you see our height staggered but--
- So wait, you were standing in real life? I am sitting in real life. OK but you can sit down. That's the reason why you don't have legs in the metavers. You can sit down. You can sit sit sit down, but I don't know, I the avatar scares me a little, I would say.