‘Metaverse makes cold technology human again’

Developments around virtual reality (VR) are moving fast, especially since Facebook has loudly claimed the term Metaverse with the name change to Meta. But Metaverse is much more than Facebook, and this virtual world also has enormous business potential. Rocking Robots spoke to Robert Mekking of GovXR about this. “Humanity is coming back.”

“To me, the thinking behind VR and the Metaverse is similar to the way we viewed the World Wide Web in the 1990s,” says Robert Mekking of consultancy GovXR. “At the time, we had no idea how big the impact would be. That also applies to VR. we are now in a phase where there is a great diversity of ideas about what it could do for business, and we are now seeing the first companies actually start thinking about what it could mean for their strategy.”

He sees one element as essential to the developments around VR: “The Metaverse humanizes the technology of the past twenty to thirty years. An email, app or post on social media lacks almost all the senses that we normally use to communicate with each other as humans. We have learned to deal with that cold technology, but it remains a limited form of human contact.”

Senses

With virtual reality, on the other hand, and in particular the social component of the Metaverse, this is about to change, according to Mekking. “We are now on the eve of developments in which more sensory experiences are added, such as photo-realistic images. It seems that technology has raced ahead of us before, and humanity is now getting closer to that technology again.”

He does not see the Metaverse as an exclusive world of Facebook: “We are in our own reality, and with the Metaverse you can add layers of reality. They are interconnected spaces built up in the virtual world. Within that you can have scenarios that are important to you, and communicate with others in them. The name has been around for several decades, and while Facebook now claims that name, virtual spaces outside of Facebook may also exist.”

Law enforcement

According to him, there is also an analogy with the WWW. The world wide web only became really interesting when we could get to each other’s pages, and communicate and interact with each other there. So you could also build a corporate private space in the Metaverse, for example to train employees or to provide customers with information. These could also be temporary spaces that could be used, for example, for the duration of an investigation. The latter is already happening, for example with the police, who sometimes build a virtual version of the crime scene.”

According to Mekking, the reason for the adoption that can already be seen lies in the human side: “Those human aspects make it much easier for people to adapt to virtual reality than it was to the internet in the past. It’s much more intuitive. That is why I am very optimistic about it.”

Wilder

In his daily consultancy practice, he sees that companies and the government are open to discussing the strategic application of VR in their organization. “The ideas they put on the table in those conversations are sometimes even wilder than I could have imagined as a consultant,” he says. “The technology is now good enough to convince our brains that you are in that virtual world. That only gets better if you have a photo-realistic environment.”

“Again, we are at the beginning. But I see that developments are going even faster than with previous technological innovations. There are very few restrictions left, and the ones that do exist will be resolved shortly. I therefore see many potential social applications, for example in the field of education and training, or sustainability. That potential is much more positive than many developments of the internet.”

killer app

In the short term, he expects that the killer app for VR will be in gaming and social applications. “That will ensure wider adoption. After that entertainment wave, the turning point will come towards realizing what virtual reality can mean for your daily life, for example when shopping. It is not a replacement for reality, but an addition to it. At most, it will replace the web store, which is already digital anyway. After that, the business will get bigger and bigger. The breakthrough will come when retail takes this big, which will lead to a kind of 3D internet.”

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