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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

How AI and the Metaverse Came Together to Create Something Amazing

The metaverse looks to be an amazing tool, especially now that we are blending in AI. It may create a world where working from home is as good as -- or better -- for employee interaction and career advancement.

SIGGRAPH is an amazing event that focuses on the visual aspects of computing. One of the most fascinating visual platforms is the metaverse, the virtual world that companies such as NVIDIA and Facebook are trying to make more real. Although the Facebook effort has fallen short of expectations so far, the industrial metaverse is advancing rapidly and is being used to fully model everything from factories to the planet.

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You can get a real sense of where the technology is today by watching the last 22 minutes of Jensen Huang’s keynote at SIGGRAPH, particularly the last video which provides a visual timeline of how much progress has occurred since the 1970s. Interestingly, it also showcases that the technology back then wouldn’t have been sufficient to fake the moon landing. This timeline takes us from the extremely basic video capabilities we started with in the late ‘70s all the way to the incredible advances coming in the next few months (rather than decades), implying that by the end of this decade, the metaverse will exceed our expectations.

Part of what makes these future capabilities fascinating is that they allow us to experience finished buildings before any construction begins, and to make modifications virtually that could save thousands of dollars on manufacturing change orders or post-construction corrections. Such technology can also be used to better anticipate problems and massively reduce the time to get a new product right (in my experience, it takes three versions to get a product to even begin to reach its full potential).

Let’s talk about the potential for the future metaverse and why AI is critical to getting there.

Remote Collaboration

Currently, remote collaboration isn’t working out very well. We know that because Zoom, one of the leaders in video conferencing software and a company that gained dramatically during the pandemic-driven push for remote work, just began to reverse its work-from-home policy. This sends a chilling message to the market. If a company that makes its living enabling remote employees cannot make remote work feasible, then one could argue no one can. This makes me question Zoom’s longevity. When a company that makes its money out of a very narrow market begins to damage that market because it seems to no longer believe in it, that company’s not long for the world. Zoom is clearly a dubious source of work-from-home advocacy because of its revenue source, but it’s a massively effective detractor for that very same reason.

One of the reasons video conferencing doesn’t work is because remote employees are not engaged to a level that on-site employees are. Side conversations, visibility, management face time, company friendships, cultural immersion, and out-of-meeting collaborations are less effective when employees are remote.

Zuckerberg was on the right path with Meta. He believed that the metaverse would eventually become the place where individuals meet and would replace existing social media platforms. He made his move a bit too early, and he took too much of the project on himself instead of creating a collaborative effort such as those highlighted at SIGGRAPH.

The metaverse technology highlighted at SIGGRAPH clearly showed you could create realistic virtual offices where employees could engage virtually. Objects could be scanned and remain constant using the OpenUSD standard backed by the Alliance for OpenUSD.

This should allow us to create avatars that look like our best selves, use virtual elements in the metaverse that remain standard across metaverse instances, and collaborate in the metaverse much like we might have collaborated in person.

The AI enables us to make the environment feel real and to create realistic proxies for employees, something we do not have now. These proxies will be more like advanced digital assistants that can answer questions and even potentially engage with other AIs or employees when the source employee or executive is otherwise engaged. For instance, a remote employee could chat with the CEO’s avatar, allowing the CEO to reach far more people than he or she would normally.

This would both free up their time and significantly help remote employees feel as if they were engaging and foster a stronger feeling of belonging by restoring some of the interaction they lost when they went remote.

The amazing part of this is that this technology could offset the current trend of forcing employees back to the office and create a better alternative where the employees could remain remote while making them feel more like they are at the office.

A Final Word

At SIGGRAPH I saw the future of the metaverse. It’s a far more photorealistic cloud capability that could allow remote employees to feel as if they are at the company and make remote work better for both employees and their managers. In addition, this technology’s use of AI will result in far more accuracy in the metaverse, deeper engagement regardless of time or availability, and a far greater ability to anticipate and correct building and product problems before either arises.

Advancements over the last decade are simply incredible, making me wonder and anticipate where we will be in the future. The metaverse looks to be an amazing tool, made even more amazing and capable now that we are blending in AI. It has the promise of creating a world where working from home is as good as -- or better -- for employee interaction and career advancement than going into the office, and that would be a serious game changer.

About the Author

Rob Enderle is the president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, where he provides regional and global companies with guidance on how to create a credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero-dollar marketing. You can reach the author via email.

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