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Metaverse will change the way we function — but here’s what it means for businesses

BMW, Disney, Gucci and Warner Bros are some of the companies already operating in the metaverse. Take a look at a summary of upcoming trends.

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  • The metaverse brings “tremendous opportunity” – but lots of work is needed first, Accenture says.
  • This includes redesigning today’s internet from a “disparate collection of sites and apps” to a continuous 3D universe.
  • BMW, Disney, Gucci and Warner Bros are some of the companies already operating in the metaverse.

The metaverse proposes a very different platform to the internet we’re using today – and businesses must be ready. That’s the key message in a new report from professional services company Accenture, titled Meet Me in the Metaverse.

The metaverse is essentially a new immersive version of the internet. Instead of viewing digital content on a computer, we will wear virtual reality headsets to move around 3D digital environments.

Here’s a summary of the four key trends Accenture says will shape business processes over the next decade, as companies prepare for life in the metaverse.

1. WebMe – making the metaverse work for us

The WebMe trend is about how our virtual lives will be designed to deliver what we expect or want from the metaverse. This involves the internet of today – which Accenture describes as a “disparate collection of sites and apps” – being redesigned to create the metaverse of tomorrow, which will be a continuous 3D environment. For businesses, there is “tremendous opportunity up for grabs”, Accenture says. But lots of work is needed in the meantime to build new platforms, products, services, partnerships and technology.

BMW is one of the case studies in Accenture’s report. The auto manufacturer has built digital twins of 31 different factories, with photo-realistic 3D environments. These are used for different functions, including training robots to move around the factory and bringing designers together from different countries to experiment on new lines.

2. Programmable World – changing the physical world, too

Technology that can be programmed is being interwoven with physical environments in evermore sophisticated ways. This includes the convergence of 5G, augmented reality, smart materials and ‘ambient computing’ – connected devices that use sensors and other ‘internet of things’ technology to talk to each other.

Business leaders should set up tech-scouting initiatives that can track the development of these programmable technologies, Accenture suggests. This will help companies prepare for the merging of physical and digital technologies in the metaverse.

Accenture gives the example of ‘voxels’ – a type of advanced new material developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. Researchers believe this could be programmed to change in response to its environment: “Like airplane wings that shapeshift in response to different air conditions,” Accenture explains.

3. The Unreal – making the synthetic authentic

This trend relates to the opportunities and also threats of artificial intelligence and its ability to mimic reality. The unreal can sometimes be better, according to the report: “like when we speak to a synthetic nurse about a skin rash or train an AI model with synthetic data adjusted to counter historical discrimination”.

The unreal is also a threat for the metaverse, it warns – specifically “bad actors” using the same technology to create “deepfakes and disinformation” that undermine trust.

Companies should explore using synthetic data, Accenture suggests. This is the process of adjusting data collected in the real world to improve it, for example by removing historical bias.

American Express is one company using synthetic data. This allows them to detect more instances of fraud, the report says. Businesses should ensure that unreal content like chatbots, AI-generated images and video improve customer experiences – and deliver new results for the organization.

4. Computing the Impossible – new machines, new possibilities

Machines today are increasingly able to solve problems that were previously impossible.

“Tools like quantum computing and biology-inspired computing are allowing businesses to solve problems that may be too expensive, inefficient, or flat-out impossible for traditional computing,” Accenture says.

Businesses need to be part of this wave – “or risk being swept away by it”. This means understanding how these new forms of computing can help solve problems for your own business.

For example, in 2019, Google showed how a quantum computer solved a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years.

Spending time in the metaverse

By 2026, a quarter of us could be spending at least an hour a day in the metaverse, according to a recent report by technology research specialist Gartner.

It says shopping, studying, working and building virtual homes are some of the things we’ll be doing there.

In a blog for the World Economic Forum, experts at Michigan State University in the US describe the metaverse as a combination of immersive virtual reality, the internet and a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game”. These are online games played together by millions of people in a digital universe.

Disney, Gucci and Warner Bros are among the companies already embracing it.

This article previously appeared in the World Economic Forum.

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