Office woman in vr glasses in the metaverse.
Image: denisismagilov/Adobe Stock

In a recent TechRepublic podcast, Clarence Reynolds spoke to Mic Locker, principal and national industry leader for the technology, media and telecommunications practice at Deloitte, to explore how businesses should prepare for the metaverse in terms of investments, staffing and deployment. This is the third of a three-part series on the metaverse: Part one and part two have also been published on TechRepublic. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Listen to the podcast version of this interview on SoundCloud

Clarence Reynolds: How can companies prepare for the metaverse today? Are there existing trends that are foundational to the metaverse?

Mic Locker: The metaverse is a set of technologies and behaviors that bridge the digital and physical worlds rather than a specific place, solution or business model. It’s where physical and digital worlds are merging and interconnecting, and these digital spaces are already quite popular. More and more people are spending time together there, and technology is evolving to make these worlds more immersive and more interconnected.

These solutions will very likely be different for each industry sector and business. Maybe a way to think about it is differentiating between consumer enterprise and learning applications. I’ll talk a little bit about how companies can prepare for depending on which of these areas that they’re focused on.

First, from a consumer or BSC perspective, there are already lots of gaming, social media, shopping and entertainment examples — whether it’s a concert on a gaming platform or digital goods that are purchased and traded in virtual worlds.

B2C companies should explore extending their brand or even their products into current consumer metaverse experiences like popular multiplayer game worlds. They should think about this in terms of leaning into authenticity and direct-to-consumer experiences rather than just 3D advertising.

SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In B2B or industrial applications, again, there’s already companies that are building hyper-realistic digital twins that simulate natural environments, that simulate physical structures, industrial operations and transportation networks. These are being done to accelerate design and planning cycles, whether it’s a digital simulation of the earth to simulate weather patterns or the digital simulation of a factory floor or oil rig.

B2B companies should consider how their operations and workforce can become more digital, more immersive and more interactive. Consider how AI agents can interact with these employees and humans as well as with the robots and the sensors that are in those environments to speed design and planning.

Finally, from a learning perspective, there’s already a lot of immersive onboarding and training platforms out there as well as immersive aspects in meeting and collaboration software. Companies here should think about how their workforce can become more digital, more immersive, more interactive, more social, more remote and/or more hybrid. What are the benefits associated with that?

In summary, companies should think carefully about which parts of their business lend themselves to a metaverse solution and then which business model can be unleashed with a metaverse strategy.

Clarence Reynolds: In general, what type of technological investments should a company expect to make in order to be competitive in the metaverse?

Mic Locker: Metaverse applications in these virtual, immersive worlds constitute a form of content that’s heavier than video in terms of share bites. Latency is going to be really important, and these are going to be enabled by edge computing and faster connectivity from technologies like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and processors.

At the umbrella level, there’ll be investment required in compute-specific hardware like GPU, chips and servers; network specific hardware and solutions; and the hardware devices and endpoints that will be used to access, interact with and develop the metaverse. I’ll contrast B2C and B2B.

From a B2B perspective, think about those digital twins that I mentioned before. Those will require investment in industrial cameras, sensors and tracking systems that will be able to capture entire rooms, buildings or environments to create those digital twins. Then, there’ll be investment required in immersive or augmented interfaces. How are employees going to interact with each other and interact with those digital trends?

SEE: Best uses of the metaverse for business (TechRepublic)

On the consumer side, companies may need to test and adopt more capabilities and technologies like 3D modeling or interaction design while getting more acquainted with multiplayer game worlds and engines. Think about the digital behaviors of the younger generations that are really at the bleeding edge of social interactive technologies.

Aside from the technology, companies are really going to need to invest in talent to support the new technologies and lean into these innovative solutions and business models. The good news is companies can test, learn and iterate to get better.

Clarence Reynolds: For companies that want to participate in the metaverse, will it be like starting a whole new division? Or should a company consider a more holistic strategy that spans its internal business, ecosystem and customers?

Mic Locker: The latter. When customers are considering this holistic metaverse strategy, each business could be different. In general, companies should consider how capabilities like shared immersion, interactivity, digital twins and Web3 technologies can support their existing needs but potentially enable new business models.

Companies that are focused on B2B or industrial applications should ask themselves questions: Can these capabilities help us better train and optimize our workforce or do this more safely? Can the capabilities make it easier to visualize operations, to improve those operations, to track resources, to experiment with and simulate future pathways? Ask if these technologies enable better collaboration and more seamless connections and interactions with ecosystem partners.

On the B2C side, ask questions like this: Are there ways that connectivity, data modeling and 3D interfaces can help stay closer to customers? Can they help support those customers’ needs and challenges better than we’re supporting them today? Can we create stronger connections with customers or greater customer loyalty? Can we extend our visible products into the virtual world, or can we create virtual experiences that amplify our brand impact?

That’s the what of the strategy. Then, I think companies need to think about the how. We talked about the technologies that are going to enable these virtual worlds. Companies need to think about which technologies are going to enable their specific strategy and then what operational capabilities they need to build associated with those new technologies.

SEE: Meta report: Future of work includes VR headsets, the metaverse and vendor collaboration (TechRepublic)

Maybe it isn’t just a matter of building; they could buy or potentially even partner to deliver those capabilities. Then, companies need to ask how they’re going to monetize the new offerings. Is it going to be part of how they’re charging customers today, or is it a brand new offering? Last but not least, companies should think about how the internal management systems need to change to enable all of this.

Clarence Reynolds: Will companies need to hire a chief metaverse officer to oversee and coordinate product marketing, business development, security and other entities?

Mic Locker: Officers are very expensive, so companies should think very carefully before they add the title. Realistically, this could be the role of product and design leaders, and then, the CIO and COO could coordinate all of the back-end infrastructure requirements and the expanded surface area of security and vulnerability. Short answer: No.

Check out more installments from this podcast series: Exploring the metaverse: What is it? and Exploring the metaverse: Why a universal digital identity is essential.

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