Metaverse and Microsoft Technologies-Building a Futuristic Digital Workplace

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Recent times have seen a massive change in modern workplaces, with digital or hybrid models replacing conventional physical offices. Be it the pandemic effect or technology adoption, there has been a massive shift towards remote working, where employees connect digitally. Traditional boardroom meetings have given way to online conferences, connecting employees across diverse locations.

The digitalization of workplaces has also seen the adoption of new technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality, where employees can virtually connect in a simulated office environment. Let’s explore how technology has redefined the modern workplace, giving rise to the adoption of the “Metaverse” model, which is fast becoming the new norm for digital workplaces. We shall also explore Microsoft’s upcoming Metaverse solutions which mark its foray into the Metaverse realm.

What is Metaverse

The definition of the Metaverse is a virtual world where people can work, play, socialize, explore, and shop in a simulation on the internet which closely resembles the physical world. Technology advancements have made many aspects of the Metaverse already in place. There is a huge focus on developing capabilities that enable people to increasingly engage themselves in a digital world for personal and professional activities.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, the Metaverse is just not about a location but a period when immersive digital worlds become the primary place where we live and spend our time.

The current digital world is yet to reach there, but the stage has been set by new technologies that are working in the direction of creating versions of the Metaverse, which will so engage people that they would not want to leave.

The Digital World in the Current Times

The current versions of the digital world are the precursors to Metaverse, with virtual and augmented reality features that enable users to experience a simulated environment. They are more seen in virtual games, online communication platforms, and social media.

The scope of digital worlds is also adapted in virtual conferences, where people can connect and share knowledge in a single platform while being in diverse locations.

What is Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is a digital creation of an environment that makes users see objects and scenes that appear real and immerses them in virtual surroundings. It is perceived by using special gadgets and makes the user a part of the virtual space. Virtual Reality is often seen in games, but its usage now has also been in educative and business spaces.

Augmented Reality, often confused with Virtual Reality, is where the actual surroundings of the users are included with objects and scenes, making it a simulated natural environment. Both Virtual and Augmented realities are often combined to give a hybrid model, which includes both aspects of a simulated world and forms the base for a virtual world.

What does Metaverse mean for Workplaces

For modern workplaces, which are becoming increasingly virtual, a Metaverse would mean a virtual 3-D workspace, complete with digital boardrooms and office spaces and employees being avatars that can communicate with each other. This effect is hybrid reality, where users wear a special type of goggles, motion sensors, and microphones to enter the virtual workspace.

A typical Metaverse version of a workplace will include the below aspects:

Move towards a Virtual World-A Futuristic projection

Metaverse will transform employees into a virtual office space, where they can connect with other remote colleagues across diverse locations. They can have virtual conferences simulated so that they feel as if they are sitting next to each other, giving the same effect as a physical workplace. This does away with the constraints of traveling to physical locations, saving time and resources.

Employees can have avatars that will reflect their current mood, body language, and gestures-which are quite essential in one-to-one conversations.

Move between Locations

Employees are always on the move in physical world-across boardrooms, leisure spaces, canteens, and other locations. Metaverse will enable them with different virtual screens that show various locations so that they can work from a place of their choice. This gives them flexibility in choosing their virtual space and working from there.

Mentoring and Building Skills

Metaverse will enable virtual classrooms, complete with all teaching equipment that will create a space from where users can learn new skills and attend training sessions-all with the look and feel of a regular classroom setting. This allows them to get the experience of a physical training session while being in a virtual model. This is very useful for a wide range of teaching requirements, such as with learning surgeries and attending design workshops, where there is an extensive visual element involved.

Using Metaverse will help students enter a virtual campus of their choice, attend classes, take tests, and get virtual accreditations validated by using blockchain technology.

Breaking Boundaries

Metaverse will break the boundaries that separate departments, senior leadership, and office blocks. Users can now enter a virtual segment of the location they wish to, carry on conversations, and collaborate. This does away with the typically siloed workplaces that are present in physical locations and enable employees to traverse anywhere in the office with just a few clicks.

Over to Digital Colleagues

Metaverse will introduce the concept of having AI-powered bots that work as office colleagues and used for a wide range of tasks such as customer support, data processing, and many more. This will add to the current capabilities of the office environment, with digital bots taking the load away from regular employees.

Microsoft-Creating the Digital Workplace

Microsoft has been at the forefront of creating a digital workplace, with Microsoft Teams being the most preferred solution for a virtual office. Teams takes communication and collaboration to the next level, with its easy integration with other Microsoft 365 solutions. It’s no wonder that Teams has approximately 270 million users per month and is still rapidly growing. Let’s explore two of the major Metaverse solutions that Microsoft is rapidly working on-Microsoft Mesh and Azure Virtual Twins.

Microsoft Mesh

Mesh for Microsoft Teams is an innovation that allows people to virtually connect with mixed-reality capabilities. Users can upload their hologram or use an avatar in a virtual mode. It enables users to communicate and collaborate with an extended version of Microsoft Teams. Mesh is accessed by smartphones, laptops, and with Mixed-Reality headsets, and facilitates the creation of individual spaces by organizations using the application.

The application gives an immersive virtual simulation that redefines digital communication. Mesh for Microsoft Teams facilitates virtual eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions. Mesh is built in a 3-D mode and includes a feature called “Holoportation”-where users can build their lifelike image to personify their presence in the virtual space. Mesh stands to gain from a deep focus on enterprise-grade security and privacy, which eases the common constraints associated with Metaverse.

Azure Virtual Twins

Azure Virtual Twins is an IoT platform that enables the creation of a digital representation of the physical world-be it places, processes, or people. It includes an Open Modeling language that facilitates the creation of digital representations of a connected environment, using the Digital Twins Definition Language. Azure Twins can integrate with a host of digital assets and IoT devices, by using Logic Apps, Azure IoT Hub, and REST APIs. The changes in the digital Twin get recorded on a live execution environment, which interlinks with other Azure services such as Azure Data Analytics, Azure Synapse, and Azure Data Explorer, with deep insights into the behavior of the modeled environment.

Technology has broken down workforce and workplace barriers, bringing in increased collaboration and communication. The current times have necessitated a need for remote working and digital workplaces, which are both secure and fully functional. The advancement in Metaverse will surely improve the efficacy of digital workplaces and give employees the freedom to have a personalized digital space in which they can work and explore. This brings radical changes in productivity and efficiency. The shift towards developing Metaverse solutions by leading technology giants such as Facebook and Microsoft will surely bring in a version of Metaverse which is closer to what it is defined as.