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The Metaverse Is Ready to Take the Workplace to New Dimensions

Video calls could soon become outdated, as virtual meetings evolve into digital simulations of people gathered in the same room, proponents of the new metaverse say.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, tech companies foresee scenarios in which workers in different physical locations will don virtual-reality goggles and view one another as cartoon avatars — digital substitutes for the real world. With specialized gloves, we’ll be able to touch and manipulate virtual versions of goods such as machinery or fabrics, they say. After work, colleagues might socialize at virtual bowling alleys.

The metaverse is still nascent and its hardware can be expensive and clunky. But workplace experts expect that, as the technology becomes lighter, cheaper and more advanced, it will fundamentally alter the way that many people perform their jobs — while also creating new jobs, some unknown today.

“The metaverse will be evolutionary, not revolutionary,” says John Egan, chief executive of Paris-based forecasting firm L’Atelier BNP Paribas.

In the metaverse, “Talent won’t be acquired depending on location,” says Richard Kerris, an executive at Nvidia Corp., who is co-leading a metaverse-infrastructure project called “Omniverse.”

Potential downsides to the technology are plentiful. While all but eliminating human interaction, a workplace metaverse could also give organizations far more power to surveil their employees. If eye-tracking is enabled on headsets, for example, eye-rolls could be recorded and logged.

Kurt Opsahl, general counsel of privacy-watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says that such surveillance, combined with smart-watch readings of an employee’s body temperature or heart rate, could help companies infer a worker’s emotional state and sideline dissenters.

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