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10 Things We Learned about The Metaverse & The Future of Work

From The Metaverse & The Future of Work Webinar with Nouredine Abboud & Agustin Chevez

Since the rebranding of Facebook into Meta, the conversation around the metaverse has been hijacked by the tech giants, but the truth is that, not only have metaverses been around for decades (think Second life), there are many different metaverses with their own rules and experiences! Curious to learn how the metaverse will impact the future of work, we hosted a webinar on Wednesday, January 26, at 1:00 PM (GMT +4) about how these spaces will affect how we work and collaborate.

Marilyn Zakhour, CEO & Founder of Cosmic Centaurs, hosted Nouredine Abboud, CEO of Novaquark, a Metaverse Company founded in 2014, and Dr. Agustin Chevez, an Architect and Academic who has been researching the metaverse since the days of Second Life, to explore their visions of how the metaverse is going to contribute to work, human productivity, and creativity. Watch the full webinar here.

About the Speakers

Nouredine Abboud is the CEO of Novaquark, the Metaverse Company, founded in 2014, with offices in Paris, France and Montreal, Canada. Novaquark has developed the pioneering online game Dual Universe, featuring a persistent and shared universe, made with next-generation voxels. As a true precursor to the Metaverse, the game world is fully editable, and the game experience entirely driven by its players. As Dual Universe reaches the final stretch leading up to launch, Nouredine is focused on taking the company’s unique voxel expertise and technologies to a wide audience and to an array of projects.

After first-hand experience of the digitalization of the banking and the music sectors, Nouredine has served as General Manager at BETC Interactive, a pioneering web agency during the era; CEO at Interactive Revolution, a gaming & tech startup; and Executive Producer of the Ghost Recon gaming franchise at Ubisoft.

Nouredine is an advocate for active policies to reduce the digital divide, from personal experience to think tank participation. He holds a Master in Management from the HEC Paris Business School.

Agustin Chevez is a returning speaker from our Future of Teams conference, which took place last summer. Agustin has been an Honorary Fellow of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne since 2019. He is an Architect and an Academic who dedicated his career to discover the notion of work and uncovering environments that best support our working lives. His work has been presented at various international forums and published in both academic and industry publications.

About the Topic

In the last few months, the metaverse really took the world by storm, with both Facebook’s rebrand into Meta, and Microsoft's announcements around their vision for work in the metaverse and their recent $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a video game company. It was the highest price ever paid by a U.S. tech company in an acquisition!

In this webinar, Marilyn, Nouredine, and Agustin, explore what exactly is the metaverse, what one can do in those spaces, what made a decades old concept suddenly emerge, who have been its early adopters (both in terms of businesses to customers and B2B sectors) and the enterprises that are exploring the new horizons of work.

The conversation focuses more specifically on the roles the metaverses will play in the future of work. Will they allow for more facilitated remote work? Would they help remote team members connect and bond better? What does the office water cooler look like in a digital simulation, and what does it all mean in the context of creating stronger, more resilient, and happier workplaces? Marilyn, Nouredine, and Agustin discuss these ideas and more in their conversation.

Here are ten things we learned from their conversation: 1. What is the metaverse?

Defining a metaverse is complex. In Nouredine’s words, the definition of a metaverse is “at a minimum, a virtual space, and at a maximum, it’s about how all of us think about how we are going to access it”. Meaning, in order to be classified as a metaverse, a digital space needs to be a shared, social, cyberspace, and a world which can be accessed. Usually, those worlds are built on voxels (voxels represent a value on a regular grid in three-dimensional space), which are a capacity for changing the world itself.

“I will define the metaverse more like connecting an expression of our curiosity, an expression of our humanity, of creating an alternative reality, with different consequences”, said Agustin. According to him, although metaverses can be defined by their technicalities that make them evolve from being solely virtual worlds, he prefers distinguishing them by their social aspect.

2. Metaverses: Closed or Open Spaces?

Marilyn noted that Gartner’s definition of a metaverse, which implies that a true metaverse should be interoperable with other metaverses, conflicts with the Facebook/Meta metaverse, which is a centralized and closed space. She explained, “interoperability means that you're able to carry some of your characteristics from a metaverse to another, such as an avatar for example”.

Nouredine shared that having an interoperable metaverse is a goal many people in the field want to achieve, but its technicalities are extremely difficult to master, hence why decentralization is not that common. In Agustin's words “the opportunity to create a new world, comes with the hope of reflecting the values of what we want a better society to be”. He elaborated that inclusivity, for example, might be difficult to achieve in the metaverse, but for different reasons than in the “real” world, such as technical difficulties.

Webinar Host Marilyn Zakhour, CEO & Founder of Cosmic Centaurs, with moderator Tala Odeh, Senior Consultant at Cosmic Centaurs, and guests Dr. Agustin Chevez, and Nouredine Abboud

Webinar Host Marilyn Zakhour, CEO & Founder of Cosmic Centaurs, with moderator Tala Odeh, Senior Consultant at Cosmic Centaurs, and guests Dr. Agustin Chevez, and Nouredine Abboud

3. What Put the Metaverse in the Spotlight?

For Nouredine, the push definitely came from the COVID-19 global pandemic. “If you look at the fact that all of us were starting to be more interested in technology as a result of the pandemic, I believe this is the most important parameter in this acceleration”, Nouredine said. He also believes the rise in popularity of blockchain played an important role. Agustin had a different perspective, because although Second Life had revamped its space, no one really jumped to work from there. “What drove people’s interest in the metaverse is a synergy of technologies, blockchain, cryptocurrency, things that can happen by dialogue over virtual and real worlds, that have a bigger influence than the fact of working”, stated Agustin. He expressed that the fields of fashion, gaming, and e-sports will have a comeback on the metaverse before work.

4. Working in the Metaverse: Creating & Socializing

Nouredine shared that a determinant factor in the rise of metaverses, is that if they provide the ability to build and create - such as Minecraft and Roblox which had a spike in popularity. This element would also significantly contribute to the role of metaverses in the future of work.

“I believe that the more the users are going to understand how they can actually create things themselves in the metaverse, not just consume or not just socialize with others, the more people they would consider having factories in the metaverse, and therefore the more likely the future of work can be in the metaverse”, said Nouredine. For Agustin, socializing is a key component of work. One of the main issues Second Life faced, especially in becoming a workplace was that their platform could not convey emotions. “The role of emotions in work settings, especially shame, is very important, as it moderates behavior”, he said.

Agustin continued, “If we don't have the social parameters that allow us to communicate the social fabric upon which the construct of work is built, we can have beautiful renders and we can have things that we built, but on the downside, we don't have that underpinning way in which our brain makes sense of the world”.

Agustin also mentioned that talking about the future of work in the metaverse implies what would have humans do actual work, and what tasks would be automated, since automation is a big topic in the digital world.

5. The Future of Education

The potential for the future of education in the metaverse has a lot to do with the ability to be active in that space.

“The biggest way to have people engaged, which is the biggest way to have people learn, is to have them be active”, said Nouredine.

Nouredine is also surprised that there isn’t a big boom in tech education. It could either be because parents do not really see the potential of technology in kids’ learning, or that because companies create tools that seem easy to use, people don't understand how important it is to code.

6. Behavioral & Moral Implications in the Metaverse

Agustin pointed out that the metaverse can shape our behavior in different ways that we are used to, and gave two examples of what that means to us:

  • Digital leadership, the way we send cues on transference between leaders and followers is different, and that doesn't mean it's better or worse, but in order to make the best out of it, we need to understand how behavior evolves.

  • There has been an assault case in Second Life, which was followed by the authorities, and raised certain questions about the nature of interactions in those spaces. Agustin said “What type of rules are we going to create? Do we create the same ones? When we talk about values, we want to put all the positive ones, but what happens with the rest of human behaviors which are not ideal?”

Agustin concluded his ideas with a suggestion to focus on what we can do in the metaverse that can only be done in the metaverse.

7. Consumerism & the Metaverse

Marilyn observed that a lot of luxury and consumer brands have leveraged the metaverse, with buying spaces, releasing visions of what selling on the metaverse would look like, and creating items that your avatars can own, as well as releasing NFTs. Nouredine interprets that wave by the fact that it’s normal for brands that aim is to interact with consumers, to go to the new place where consumers are. But consumerism in the metaverse is also political. While some might consider the metaverse as the perfect opportunity for B2C, others might want to explore different directions. “The metaverse is just another field of opportunities, it's only going to be defined by

what we do with it”, stated Nouredine.

8. How does B2B Look Like in the Metaverse?

Bringing up PWC’s virtual headquarters and Mesh for Microsoft Teams, Marilyn mentioned that most B2B recreations in the metaverse have to do with recreating the office (and other physical elements of work) in the virtual world. Agustin said that in Second Life, when they built work environments, they did their best to mimic what work looks like, and had tools such as whiteboards and podiums. Those recreations can be grouped within the term of skeuomorphism, which means replicating an object in the digital world with properties that people are familiar with.

That is important, according to Agustin, because it allows us to be immersed in that reality, exhibit the behaviors that we are expected to have, and be provided with adequate social cues. Similarly to how B2C brands have thought of new ideas in the metaverse, the B2B sector needs to be more creative and explore different ways of thinking in what they can do. “The way I imagine the future of all of the workplaces in the metaverse is first, it will try to replicate what we have, to see how closely we can get it. Then it will try to be similar to the digital twin of what we're experiencing here. I hope we will try to explore new ways and learn new behaviors so we can work differently, not do the same that we can do here, but so that we can work in different ways in the metaverse”, said Agustin.

9. Future of Work, or Future of the Workforce?

When talking about the future of work in the metaverse, Nouredine believes that it’s important to distinguish between work as an exchange of ideas, and work in production and content creation. For communicating ideas, the metaverse can actually make the process slower by the very nature of its 3D dimensions, which lags the transfer of information (unless you are sharing information through a demo, or a visual representation). However, if the nature of work involves building or producing something, then the metaverse can be a great tool to leverage. In general, similarly to the field of education, the more people know how to use the metaverse, the more they will be able to benefit from it. “The more the workforce is able to understand the technologies and the freedom in the metaverse, the more we'll be able to produce 3D content together, and the better it will be because the less the fate of the metaverse will be left in the hands of other people, and the more we'll have our own DIY approach to what we're doing”, said Nouredine.

10. What about the digital divide?

Concerning the digital divide, Nouredine is confident that the metaverse will take the shape of where the agencies developing it would be, which is what happened with the blockchain (it is very much advanced in some countries where it wasn’t expected). The disparity in access to the metaverses, according to Nouredine, will be more between the people who didn't make the effort of understanding it and others. In agreement with Nouredine, Agustin added that it’s likely that people in less developed countries will try to understand the metaverse more, because they can use it for primary needs, as opposed to people in more developed countries, who might consider the metaverse a luxury.

We’re hosting another webinar on LinkedIn about the metaverse and the future of work on Wednesday, February 22nd at 1:30 PM (GMT +4): The Microsoft Metaverse & Hybrid work: What to Expect? With Vesa Nopanen, Principal Consultant @ Metaverse & Future of Work on Microsoft Cloud.

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