Facebook’s recent rebrand to ‘Meta’, and announcement that it is hiring 10,000 people in Europe with the sole focus of building the ‘metaverse’, signals a move away from simply social to something different – and well, more ambitious.
But what the heck is the metaverse? And what does it mean for those of us in L&D?
While we’ve yet to fully know how Zuckerberg’s vision will pan out, the vision is that the future of digital engagement is a blended life, where we exist not only IRL but in the digital realm.
Given our current environment, it isn’t much of a leap to accept his vision of this hybrid existence, where our lives straddle two different worlds.
But before we dig into the wild speculation of what this could mean for us mere mortal L&D professionals, a bit of context setting is always useful.
Interactive and world-building games such as Second Life, Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox all have elements of the metaverse.
The name ‘metaverse’ actually comes from the 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson, set in a futuristic and dystopian Los Angeles where the physical world is run down, lawless and where the wealth gap has reached stratospheric levels. Humans in this world are therefore driven to live their lives in the relatively safety of the virtual world, represented by avatars, and digitally go to work, events, bars, and everything in between.
There, users can work and collaborate, attend events and exchange real-world money for virtual goods and services. Thus far, however, these worlds have been largely self-contained.
So what exactly is the metaverse?
In short, it’s about engaging in shared virtual spaces, manifested as either 3D environments or immersive VR. It’s important to note that a key aspect of the metaverse is that there is an emphasis on active participation in experiences, which makes it potent for learning, but more on that later.
Whatever we may think of the term metaverse, what is clear is we are on the verge of something new, and even if the term ‘metaverse’ fades away into the archives of tech nerd-dom, the concepts being defined by metaverse will still continue to emerge.
Data is at the heart of this, too, making it powerful for targeting and analytics.
Technologies such as digital commerce (Cryptocurrency), buying digital assets (NFTs), a decentralized authority (Blockchain), accelerated distributed networks (5G), and exponential growth in reality simulation software (Unreal, Unity) are all exponentially growing to make ‘virtual spaces’ a reality in the mainstream.
Is immersive learning the centre of the metaverse?
There’s no doubt the pandemic has helped accelerate all of this. Through lockdowns, a lot of employees have been logging in to work from home and the idea of living virtually doesn’t really seem that strange anymore.
Teams meetings have supported an undercurrent of behaviour change and acceptance of not being together in person, and this will only accelerate the open mindedness of logging into a 3D virtual world where you can engage with people, objects, and spatial areas such as meeting rooms or social areas.
There’s in fact a number of newer, lesser-known businesses such as Decentraland and The Sandbox that stem from the gaming market that already allow people to host virtual events and buy or rent digital real estate. And yes, just like the real world, ‘land’ is more valuable depending on its location. The NFT boom has also been a leader of virtual events as people meet to visit virtual fairs and galleries. All of this makes one wonder if the metaverse really isn’t that far-fetched a concept.
Perhaps what we’ll see first is the continued evolution in our thinking and ways of working towards increased collaboration between people with a broad range of skillsets, industries, and across geographies. The Metaverse will also intensify what we perceive today as 24/7 (the virtual space is always on) as well as break down the ideas of local and regional, as physical location as a concept fades into history.
With that said, the L&D industry is in the exploration stage of what a metaverse-inspired model might look like in the near future.
What you can do now to future-proof your L&D program
The metaverse concept is almost inevitable, given the rise of social games and virtual reality. Immersive learning and gamification are now mainstream, and are being brought into the L&D strategies of organisations around the world.
And why not? These environments engage us in exciting and engaging ways that straddle our real and virtual lives. We can tap into emotions that are beyond our real world dimensions, to play, win and do things that are super human. Not to mention, that greatest learning experience of all: Freedom to fail without repercussions.
To talk about how you can easily incorporate immersive and gamification experiences into your eLearning program contact the expert team at ITC Learning here.