Companies of all stripes are positioning themselves to tap the potential business value of the metaverse, an immersive virtual world that some envision as the next digital frontier for work, play and shopping.
Technology companies, including Meta Platforms Inc. and Microsoft Corp., are battling for talent to build the hardware that is crucial for accessing the metaverse. Microsoft’s augmented-reality team has lost around 100 people in the past year, many of them to Meta, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Meta makes the Oculus virtual-reality headset, while Microsoft makes an advanced AR headset called HoloLens.
Although it isn’t clear when the metaverse will be widely adopted, chief information officers at businesses ranging from consumer products to pharmaceuticals say they are planning to launch proofs of concept later this year to explore how it could address real-world challenges.
“The metaverse is going to play a role in business," said Mark Spykerman, CIO at AmerisourceBergen Corp.
Edward Wagoner, CIO of commercial real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., said the company is considering investing in the metaverse through several different paths.
First, he said, it is looking at “buying specific virtual locations within high traffic areas to test various scenarios," including getting a sense of how advertising, offers and services might work there.
The company also is looking at how the metaverse will provide opportunities to optimize hybrid work arrangements, a mix of in-office and remote work, through a higher level of virtual interaction.
To do so, JLL is considering investing in startups “to help us prototype and create these metaverse-related opportunities," Mr. Wagoner said.
Visa Inc. also is exploring the workplace potential of the metaverse.
“What we’re aiming for is sort of a reflection of a physical world in a virtual world that brings forth the conversation, the training, the simulations, the interactions where a few people leaving a conference room can have a hallway chat with something like an avatar or a hologram or something that you can project and look at," said Rajat Taneja, president of technology at Visa.
Visa this year plans to prototype and test the technology, Mr. Taneja said.
Scientists, in particular, can make use of the technology to simulate what might sometimes be challenging to do in real life because of logistical constraints, said Paul von Autenried, CIO at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
“We have scientists doing real work in laboratories with beakers and chemicals and their ability to do their work and free up their hands is very valuable," he said. “The metaverse for me triggers an avalanche of thoughts and technology in the space of augmented reality and sort of technology that lies at the intersection of human physical interaction and what could be done with digital innovation."
Vittorio Cretella, Procter & Gamble Co.’s CIO, said the metaverse will become a common way companies interact with their customers.
At last week’s CES 2022, P&G for the second year hosted a virtual experience, LifeLab, where visitors could create avatars and move around a digital exhibit space to learn more about new P&G products.
“When we talk about metaverse and immersive experience, I think, for me, it’s about engaging with the consumers at the right time, on the media channel they prefer and with the right content," he said.
Dave Williams, chief information and digital officer at pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., said he sees many possibilities to apply the technology. “We’ve got some really good examples in our environment of how we leverage those existing technologies, especially during the pandemic to connect experts who are in very different parts of the world," he said.
“I see that can be a huge opportunity in terms of connecting people, learning, development," he said.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text