Extended Q&A with Head of Enablo Reality Labs Nathan Bazley. Comments originally appeared in The Australian Financial Review article ‘New dimensions of reality about to transform the world of commerce’.
What are some practical applications of AR/VR for business?
Up until now, the use of AR and VR has mainly focused on entertainment.
But we know the thing that drives adoption is utility, so it’s exciting we’re now finally at the point where this tech has refined enough that its utility can take center stage.
Looking ahead, it’s easy to see the massive benefits that will flow, but identifying pockets of potential utility now isn’t always easy.
Enablo Reality Labs works with teams around Australia and the US to help them plan for the next wave of computing, this ‘metaverse’ concept we’ve all heard so much about.
One of the processes we walk organizations through is identifying, scoping, and implementing innovative immersive projects with a high potential ROI. These practical projects can then act as a gateway toward fully utilizing this technology in the future.
So far, most of these opportunities have centered around training and onboarding because it’s a natural fit with proven impact and obvious cost savings.
However, other use cases, like facilitating more effective discussions within VR apps like Workrooms (from Meta) or collaborative 3D design sessions, are gaining popularity too.
We use Workrooms from Meta for a few key meetings weekly, allowing us to chat live via avatars in our VR team space. Aside from helping us keep abreast of the latest improvements, meeting in this way enables a more natural flow to conversations than we would experience with video conferencing, and engaging presentations where we can use our hands to communicate more effectively, point out information, whiteboard responses, and facilitate Q&As.
Another effective application I love is rapid 3D scanning, allowing virtual site visits, stock display sharing, or compliance checks without the usual time and travel costs. Most iOs devices have inbuilt LiDAR sensors for 3D capture, so deployment is easy and cost-effective.
Finally, we’re even starting to see Quest 2 VR headset deployments for employee mindfulness and exercise, as the benefits of those experiences become better understood and employee retention becomes a bigger issue.
And that’s just the internal side of what’s possible now; the applications for immersing customers in your ‘brand universe’ are, in many cases, more mature and more numerous.
What’s the potential of the Metaverse for business?
In our briefing sessions, I’m often asked to compare the potential of the metaverse to the potential we’ve seen realized via the internet over the past two decades. I expect exponential growth because it’s the same technology, just with new superpowers.
Rather than being some mystical new tech, the metaverse is an evolution of the internet that will allow digital experiences to live within three explorable dimensions rather than be restricted to two. It will also benefit from the added energy and vibrancy that comes from interacting live with others. And unlike the internet, the metaverse will be built to take full advantage of the new, more immersive hardware we have to access it – VR headsets and future AR glasses.
I believe the biggest impact of the metaverse for businesses will be on how we work, not the end result. Default hybrid certainly isn’t going away, but the existing tools we have to facilitate it aren’t fit for purpose in terms of authentically replicating the in-office experience and sense of engagement.
The metaverse will allow us to create true equity between the physical and digital work experience and allow both to blend and contribute more successfully.
What’s Enablo Reality Labs doing right now in this space?
Enablo has been in the employee experience space for more than five years, helping businesses around the world to optimize their internal systems for the demands of hybrid work. Most of our current focus is ensuring businesses take advantage of the most future-ready communications and organizational tools available today, like Workplace from Meta and Asana.
Considering many still see email, a technology older than the internet itself, as the best way of ensuring everyone is pulling in the same direction strategically and culturally, there is plenty of room for improvement!
But alongside that, Enablo’s Reality Labs team is also busy building a new metaverse product that will help organizations recreate their physical workspaces digitally, giving them a professional and accessible hub for communication, collaboration, onboarding, training, and more.
At this time of rapid change, we see investment in digital infrastructure as necessary as physical infrastructure. And at a time when many businesses are looking very critically at the ROI of their existing offices, it’s worth considering how some of that investment could be better deployed digitally.
What should businesses be doing to prep for the Metaverse?
While the metaverse’s benefits still seem a way off, my first piece of advice would be to start planning now.
Decide how you want to operate in the future, and start identifying the people in your organization who will be responsible for helping you get there.
Then, it’s all about working closely with experts to identify discrete projects or pockets of your wider business that will benefit most from innovating more rapidly. These projects can be used to test assumptions, iterate and demonstrate value while helping role model where you’re going.
One of my favorite sayings is that you ‘can’t be what you can’t see’, so your staff must start to see these technologies used regularly and effectively.
It’s also worth zooming out to look holistically at how you work today and ensure you’re not just using a system, platform, or process just because that’s what you’ve always done. Making no decision is still making a decision. And there’s no better time to make a big decision than today.