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The metaverse office gains momentum

The metaverse promises to create an immersive, interactive and shared digital world that brings together mixed reality – augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – along with 3D holographic avatars, digital twins (digital 3D replicas of physical assets) and advanced use of IoT devices. It is seen as the next great leap in the evolution of the internet, with tech titans such as Meta, Microsoft and NVIDIA all announcing their vision of this alternative universe. So, beyond the hype, what does the metaverse mean for the future workplace?

Quocirca conducted a survey among UK-based IT decision-makers (ITDMs) with the aim of understanding which augmented reality and virtual reality technologies they have already adopted and what their expectations are for how usage will grow within their businesses in the near and longer-term.

Futuristic man wear virtual reality goggle acting touch AR data screen, 3D rendering picture.

The newly published report entitled: The Future Immersive Workplace reveals that adoption of metaverse-enabling immersive technology in the workplace is gathering pace, More than two-thirds of ITDMs expect VR/AR headsets will be mainstream in the workplace for virtual immersive meetings in the next two years and 61 per cent are already using at least one application of VR/AR.

As businesses look to develop virtual office environments, the metaverse may provide the answer to the challenges of replicating physical in-person interactions. Creating an immersive ‘space’ for remote and office-based workers could improve the employee experience, and level the playing field between those physically working in the office and those working from home to foster effective collaboration as employees make a return to working via a hybrid office/home environment.

Generation gap The study found a generation gap in VR/AR perceptions, with almost three quarters (73 per cent) of ITDMs aged 18- 34 believing AR/VR will be used for virtual workplace meetings within the next two years, compared to only just over half (53 per cent) of ITDMs aged 45+.

The research asked 124 UK-based IT decision-makers in SMEs (<250 employees), mid-size organisations (250- 999 employees) and large enterprises (1000+ employees) for their views on immersive technology and current adoption levels.

Key findings include:

  • VR/AR headsets will be mainstream. 68 per cent believe VR/AR headsets will be mainstream in the workplace for virtual immersive meetings within the next two years. 61 per cent are already using at least one application of VR/AR.
  • Popular VR/AR tools. The most popular VR/AR tools are those for remote employee training, used by 36 per cent and remote field service engineers, used by 35 per cent.
  • SMEs lag behind. SMEs lag behind larger companies in AR/VR technology adoption, with half currently using at least one VR application compared to 65 per cent of mid-sized and large enterprises.

Quocirca Research Director Louella Fernandes said: “It is clear that IT decision-makers believe AR/VR technologies have strong potential to become mainstream, with more than two thirds expecting them to become more prevalent in the workplace.

“It seems that younger, Gen Z, ITDMs are more confident and positive about using VR/AR in the workplace and consequently will be more likely to drive adoption in the next few years. While user experience may hinder the pace of adoption, immersive technology promises to support more engaging collaboration across the hybrid work environment, bridging the gap between office and remote workers,” she added.

Virtual immersive collaboration and meeting tools  Companies are beginning to explore the value of the metaverse for collaboration, with 26 per cent already using VR tools for immersive virtual collaboration experiences and a further 29 per cent in the process of evaluating them for this purpose. A similar percentage is using VR for conducting virtual customer visits and 31 per cent are evaluating the technology for this purpose.

Louella continued: “The availability of environments such as Meta’s Horizon and Horizon Workrooms – now in open beta – and Microsoft’s growing portfolio of mixed reality offerings, is prompting organisations to take bolder steps to evaluate how AR/VR technology and the metaverse can solve some of the challenges raised by long-term hybrid working. There is clearly an appetite for metaverse-based workplace solutions that give organisations and employees incredible geographical flexibility while solving some of the collaboration challenges presented by remote working.”