Jack Kelly, Senior Contributor
Most people still think of the metaverse as Mark Zuckerberg’s cartoonish characters. Once Facebook took the sobriquet Meta, the move ignited a land rush into virtual reality. This Web3 space is becoming diverse in its offering, ranging from video gamers to sellers of NFTs, builders of buildings, purchasers of property and practical applications that are hard to conduct in the real world.
In an interview with VRdirect’s cofounder and managing director, Rolf Illenberger, he shared his vision of a more practical, business-focused metaverse. His group builds solutions. He sees the metaverse beyond gaming and into marketing, human resources, manufacturing, training, safety planning and the offering of 360-degree virtual showrooms. Basically, VRDirect helps Fortune 500 do business in the metaverse.
The three-year old startup software company offers smart solutions to some of Europe’s biggest companies. VRDirect’s software tools help large big-named organizations by selling the modern-day version of picks and shovels to the new virtual California Gold Rush miners.
VRdirect provides virtual reality solutions to the likes of Siemens, Porsche, Deutsche Telekom and Nestlé. Its white-labeled technology ranges from interactive showrooms, human resources onboarding programs, safety protocols and museum tours. The serious-minded Illenberger focuses on practical solutions to pressing corporate needs—and not on games or Bored Apes.
A study by PwC projects the increase in global economic output through virtual reality and augmented reality at over US$1.5 trillion by 2030. VR offers companies value by making processes more efficient with lower costs. For example, the use of VR and AR helps design vehicle concepts at BMW.
VR and AR facilitate training and learning how to successfully operate and work with sometimes-dangerous machines. Workers can first enact tests safely in VR before doing it in real life. The same applies to delicate surgeries. Imagine how productive it would be to conduct a mock delicate operations in VR before cutting open a live human being. A study shows that VR training for surgeons leads to a performance increase of more than 230 per cent.
There is an array of practical applicants. This includes VR-first working on maintenance of systems and machinery, factory production lines and bringing in all of the needed personnel into the room together.
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Forward-thinking companies are now preparing for the metaverse, Illenberger said. Instead of flying out to trade conferences, VR showrooms can highlight a new truck, car or recreational vehicle. The engineers, marketing, sales, financial and creative professionals can all collaborate together on a new product that’s in development.
The health and safety of employees is an important issue for companies, especially in industrial companies with complex systems and heavy machinery. Employees must be continuously made aware of factory security and occupational safety. Environment, Health and Safety training in VR and AR provides better insights into processes and safety measures.
For example, together with VRdirect, Siemens developed a virtual tour of an industrial plant. Workers can explore the interactive training environment and actively engage with the realistic factory environment.
Illenberger’s vision is that virtual and real goods will merge and be used equally in everyday life. He believes that we will look at virtual images on the wall through AR glasses. People will participate in social activities, as realistic avatars using VR glasses and work together as if they are in the same place.
Illenberger says that by the end of year, no executive can afford not to have an opinion about VR for their organization, for their business, HR, marketing, diversity and inclusion. He equates this time period to the early days of the internet. Back then, you needed a website—now it’s VR. Illenberger advises business leaders to pay attention so that they don’t get left behind.
He’s positive that wide adoption of VR will happen quickly, stating that we don’t think about how exponential tech grows at a parabolic rate. Billions are being spent. This space has grown from the “nerdy” corner to becoming fashionable. Illenberger feels that soon enough, we will see people on trains, playing with their glasses—and they’ll be cool.
Now with gas prices going through the roof, this alone makes the metaverse more appealing, as individuals have an alternative to their daily commute, business travel and vacations.