Six trailblazing use cases for the metaverse in business

There are many potential enterprise and industrial applications for the metaverse.

Rapid technological advances combined with the growing acceptance of virtual working mean companies of all kinds are starting to use metaverse technologies to work faster, more efficiently, and at lower costs.

And while some of the emerging use cases are valuable for specific industries, others have wide, cross-industry appeal. Here are five that are already in – or close to – commercial usage today.

1. Product design and engineering

Streaming and working on 3D graphics - is an increasingly attractive option for companies keen to reduce product development costs and improve time to market.

Use of AR and VR visualisation allows designers, engineers and architects to visualize their own 3D CAD models and work collaboratively on them. You can visualize your data in an immersive purpose built space, and people can come together to interact on that design. They can complete design reviews, make assembly checks and even use it for training. 

One of the main cost savings comes from not having to build and transport so many real prototypes. That means designers, engineers and architects can evaluate designs earlier, and they don’t have to get together to do it, either. It means they can collaborate between different locations globally. It saves travel time as they can get together in their own private virtual space.

The durability of 3D graphics is a key driver of cost savings. While physical prototypes can break if they’re handled too many times, their virtual counterparts can be used repeatedly with no degradation.

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2. Hands-on training

One of the clearest and most widely applicable uses for metaverse technologies is training. It came out top in a recent Gartner survey of the most compelling metaverse use cases - see graphic). Virtual reality (VR), in particular, can bring people together without the expense and downtime associated with traveling to a central training location.

It’s a strategy many companies are investigating. VR is a natural progression from bringing people together on video conference tools. While training on video conference can be quite one-way, VR makes learning a much more practical, hands-on experience..

Imagine your own company learning space, a VR training environment built with a 3D engine for developing video games. It could be a room where people can learn under the guidance of an instructor. Learning programs could include how to install certain  equipment. Participants could go through the whole process, from unpacking the equipment to attaching the power cable, mounting it in the rack, switching it on and installing the software. And they get their certification at the end.And training in the learning space isn’t just a matter of virtualizing activities that used to take place with physical objects in a physical space. VR and AR training can go one step further and make the invisible visible for training purposes.

For example imagine a 5G base station: while in the real world the radio waves propagating from it are invisible, in VR and AR they can be made visible, so trainees can better understand capabilities like antenna beam-forming.

3. Surgery planning and support

In August 2022, a stunning VR-guided operation to separate Brazilian conjoined twins Bernardo and Arthur Lima showed the potential for metaverse technologies in healthcare.

While we’re still a way off from surgeons being able to operate remotely, surgery-focused VR and AR solutions are starting to prove their value in the operating theater.

We can use unique AI software solutions that can take 2D scans of bones and body parts and turn them into 3D objects. They use AR and VR to visualize these 3D scans and use them for training, so surgeons can better prepare for surgeries.

For now virtual training rooms where this technology is being used but when regulations allow it, AR will deliver value in live surgery. By having a virtual image of the relevant body part overlaid on the real one, surgeons can follow the incisions and movements they’d planned when preparing for the surgery. 

Streaming the VR and AR data from the cloud offers many advantages, including the ability to comply with data protection regulations. With streaming, the data always stays on the server side, It’s never stored on the access device, so it can’t be lost or stolen with the device.

3 ways to start preparing for the metaverse era

Get up to speed. Most companies — even many technology companies — lack institutional familiarity with the metaverse’s concepts, which are evolving quickly. Many may also lack the skills and processes to truly understand and trust their digital transactions and investments.

Develop a strategy. Identify gaps to close and long-term opportunities to build from the metaverse and its key concepts, then work on foundational measures.

Test the waters. Select a few opportunities available within the metaverse’s underlying trends today and develop some proof-of-concepts.

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4. Employee onboarding

Another pandemic-inspired use case for the metaverse is employee onboarding. With more teams now operating on a remote and geographically dispersed basis, it’s getting harder to make new employees feel welcome and included.

It’s an area where VR can help. It’s very difficult to create connections between people when the team is spread all over the world. This is where different types of metaverse experience, beyond the standard Teams or Zoom experience, can bring benefit.

For example running a 30-minute VR-only learning session every Friday: a metaverse update of the “lunch and learn” concept already popular at many companies. 

Unlike desktop-based video conferencing applications, this will be a much more immersive experience. Participants use VR headsets and can see other participants as avatars, while the presenter’s hologram is there with real facial expressions and movement.
As 5G-Advanced networks roll out, full 3D holograms can be projected on to AR glasses so that participants will really feel as if they are all in the room together.

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5. Virtual services for hands-on work

One very powerful use case for AR, in particular, is the provision of virtual guidance for people faced with unfamiliar and technically-challenging hands-on work – such as rescue workers, field technicians, or firefighters. Virtual overlays can provide them with vital information on what to look for, where to focus, and how to complete the task successfully.

One large industrial business, for instance, has developed an AR application that guides its after-market workshops on how to perform specialist maintenance and repair tasks on vehicles - such as readjusting driver assistance sensors after replacing the windshield. It estimates that guided assistance like this can reduce the time taken to carry out certain tasks by as much as 15%.

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6. Networking, socializing and creating

As we discovered during the pandemic, work means more to us than simply getting on with the task at hand. Many of us found we missed the social side of the workplace - from serendipitous encounters at the coffee machine to the chance to just hang out with work friends. Could the metaverse make work-based socializing more meaningful?

One thing that was neglected during the pandemic is this sense of social presence. Platforms like Microsoft and Meta are trying to create working environments that offer this social presence.”To test out the social capabilities of the metaverse for itself you might consider a networking lounge, interactive shopping space, or even a DJ booth.

The metaverse offers sustainability benefits as well as better ways to network and collaborate. Imagine getting on a 12-hour flight to deliver a half-hour keynote, then flying 12 hours back. You can do this online today. And there are no limitations in terms of audience. There's no impact on the environment, so it is better all around.

Get ready for the metaverse revolution to come

The use cases above show that the metaverse is no longer something we’re heading towards. It’s here today and already delivering benefits like lower costs, faster time to market, and a greater sense of inclusion.

And the most businesses are waking up: two-thirds of the B2B companies surveyed by Gartner said they’re currently educating themselves about its possibilities, while 5% revealed themselves as early adopters, already investing in metaverse technologies and expertise.

With new use cases emerging all the time - and the enabling technologies of the metaverse rapidly evolving, it may not be long until AR glasses are as ubiquitous in the workplace as notebook computers and smartphones are today. For enterprises and CSPs that want to be ready for the metaverse revolution around the corner, the time to start planning is now.