The Metaverse Sure Feels Like An Enterprise Thing

Can a mass-market metaverse dream come true?

Alex Kantrowitz

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The common narrative about the metaverse is that it’ll be a new digital world — enabled by virtual and augmented reality — where we’ll spend time with friends and family. The technology is moving so fast, proponents say, that we’ll experience life via the headset in short order.

That vision may be realized someday, but it’s already evident that enterprises will find the technology useful long before regular people do. If you wear a headset in the near to mid-future, it’ll most likely be at work.

“Who used Blackberries? Back then it was business users,” said Tuong Nguyen, Sr. Analyst at Gartner. “Then the phones added features and functionality that were useful to a broad set of consumers.”

An iPhone moment, however, appears far away for the metaverse. Nearly every company that builds virtual and augmented reality devices eventually turns to use cases such as factory work, teaching, and even disaster preparedness. Google Glass started as a consumer device, then went enterprise. Microsoft’s Hololens did the same. Magic Leap is making a similar pivot. Professional training is one of VR’s biggest hits. None of this is an accident.

Hanging out with friends and family in virtual reality is, for instance, unlikely to appeal to people who live physically close to each other. About 75% of Americans live less than 30 miles away from a parent or adult child, and only 7% are more than 500 miles away. It would take remarkable innovation to get someone to simulate presence with people who live a short car ride away, especially outside of a gaming context.

Virtual reality’s value shines at work, however. Using VR to communicate with coworkers in different geographies, or even when working from home, has the potential to help people work better. “It’s an amazing sense of presence being in that virtual space,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said on Big Technology Podcast this week. Clegg hosts his weekly meetings in VR. “My voice relaxes so much more when I am speaking to people in the metaverse.”

Virtual reality can also be useful in various other workplace tasks, including looking at prototypes without having to…

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Alex Kantrowitz

Veteran journalist covering Big Tech and society. Subscribe to my newsletter here: https://bigtechnology.substack.com.