Deloitte: Emergence of virtual worlds
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for virtual worlds in business. A new report by Deloitte states that as the world enters a phase of technology convergence it will be easier for organisations to develop, run, and access virtual worlds.
“The perfect technology storm is here,” says the report by Deloitte which points out how leaders are now seeing the potential for accelerating the development of virtual worlds in all sectors from conferences to trade shows and classrooms to sporting events.
But what is a virtual world? This is a computer-simulated environment that is persistent and enables user participation with the use of personal avatars that can, in turn, communicate and collaborate with each other in that environment.
Following the global pandemic more organisations are looking to operate within a virtual world as this digital environment allows users to meet without the expense of travel or the worry about social distancing.
Deloitte profiles how virtual worlds will evolve into a three-dimensional environment with potentially an infinite number of configurations and customisations which will deliver value to customers.
Brave new world
Outlined in the report; A brave new world with virtual worlds, Deloitte says, ultimately, virtual-world experiences demonstrate the greatest potential around delivering group collaboration and networking, especially during times when people are virtual.
As the world enters a phase of technology convergence, it will be easier for organisations to access virtual worlds.“3D modelling continues to be enhanced, lending to more realistic digital humans and content; voice recognition and artificial intelligence are enabling increasingly seamless interaction between user command and headsets,” outlines the report.
“AR is quickly advancing to consumer-based headwear; 360o capture is quickly advancing, especially with camera improvements on mobile devices and new technology incorporation; communication providers are rolling out 5G, enabling fast processing speeds; and hyperscale cloud computing enables processing at the edge and anywhere at any time.”
Conference and trade shows
Conferences and trade shows are flagged up as two of the most obvious applications for this virtual world. “With over US$300 billion of direct annual spending and over US$800 billion of economic impact in the United States alone (in a typical non-pandemic year), conferences and trade shows demonstrate the value of communication and collaboration,” says Deloitte.
The report outlines how virtual worlds would be ideal for group events bringing together a scalable virtual, audience in a unified virtual location.
“User avatars can navigate a digital campus as if they were navigating a physical event location; they can attend keynote presentations in virtual auditoriums, engage in question-and-answer activities by raising their hand, network with other avatars in virtual coffeeshops or on a virtual beach, engage in breakout sessions, and more,” highlights the report.
Virtual-world events have another advantage over their real-world counterparts - persistence – as virtual conferences can be “always on,” allowing attendees to engage with the content and each other at any time during the 24-hour day.
One of the first examples of this type of virtual event was the Immersive Learning Research conference scheduled for March 2020 – just as COVID-19 was spreading around the world. The committee voted to use a custom iLRN virtual campus. This proved popular. Originally set to take place in a few rooms with 80 attendees, the planning committee wound up with 3,500 registrants.
Virtual-world platforms offer an option for people to communicate new ideas and network, like the physical world. This can include:
- Sports and entertainment
Virtual solutions can help to bring fans and consumers closer to collaborative experiences. The National Basketball Association can broadcast in virtual reality (VR). “On the spectrum of what is possible for more collaborative events, the industry still lacks maturity but is heavily investing in experimentation in these technologies to meet rising user expectations,” says Deloitte.
- Classroom training and workshops
VR can train users in a safe and measured way. Studies across many industries show VR’s ability to enhance long-term information retention, aided by its ability for immediate feedback. Doctors learn new techniques and prepare for surgeries in VR simulations before operating on live patients.
Deloitte Greenhouse spaces
The Deloitte Greenhouse spaces are physical environments designed to help clients tackle complex problems by applying tested principles—including behavioural science and analytics to break through traditional problem-solving methods.
“In the future,” says Deloitte Greenhouse leader Kim Christfort, “there will be more tools to get people fully immersed in challenges. People process an abstract problem differently than one that they are experiencing not only intellectually but physically and emotionally.”
The report highlights that adoption of virtual-world technology will not only challenge technology but also have a knock-on effect for privacy, health (risks include a reduction in neural activity, nausea and digital addiction) and the psychology of the users.
“Many barriers to virtual worlds will likely fall, as 5G enables greater processing speeds and bandwidth. In the short term, to provide truly immersive experiences in a virtual world, AR and VR technologies would have to mature to ubiquitous consumer-ready products,” outlines the report.
With these converging technologies we will see a shift: from developing individual AR and VR solutions to creating customised, virtual worlds that allow people to engage with others.
“The perfect technology storm is here, the new reality of virtual worlds is being created and companies are taking interpersonal collaboration and engagement to the next level,” concludes the report.
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