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Ideas Metaverse2022-05-24

Could B2B and remote workers be the catalysts the metaverse needs?

Joshua Eubanks

A Meta Horizon Workroom
Above: A Meta Horizon Workroom

In 1991, Geoffrey Moore authored “Crossing the Chasm,” a blueprint for technology companies to reach the mainstream. In it, he wrote; “Entering the mainstream market is an act of burglary, of breaking and entering, of deception, often even of stealth.”

In a way, that’s what’s happening with the metaverse at the moment. Despite the tailwind of the pandemic and the explosion of gaming, obstacles like hardware adoption and absence of robust VR experience continue to hold this technology back. In its present form, the metaverse fails to deliver experiences that live up to the exponential expectations of the modern consumer. Add in the post-pandemic economy and inflation, and it could be tempting to assume the momentum of the metaverse will stall out and it will soon be seen as a passing fad. 

But I have learned never to bet against technology’s continued evolution. With big-name brands in nearly every industry engaging in the metaverse, coupled with market research indicating strong belief that “it is the future” and “will be life altering,” its development seems inevitable. As it materializes it will reshape and color our interactions with the world, just as social networks did with Web 2.0. 

But what’s going to prompt consumers to follow in the footsteps of brands and embrace the experience? Could something drive them to take up headsets and enter virtual realms the way that tablets and mobile phones opened the doors for Boomers to take to Facebook?

Business-to-business brands might just be the key. These companies are emerging as catalysts with the financial means and business acumen to carry the metaverse across the chasm of fantasy to reality, infusing the necessary hardware into the daily routines of  1 billion knowledge workers around the world.

Game on

While blockchain technology has become a little more tangible and cryptocurrency and NFTs have become part of dinner conversations around the world, the metaverse currently remains tethered to its gaming roots. It can be seen as simply the continued fragmentation of the media ecosystem and a viable media channel for brands looking to capture the hearts and minds of the various youth, early adopter, and tech affinity tribes actively engaging in the metaverse of today.

There is no denying the impact the pandemic had on the gaming industry. It not only increased the amount of time people spent gaming, but also diversified player demographics. It enabled eSports to reach new audiences and brought new in-game experiences.

Like a lot of things during the pandemic, sales of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets exploded with an estimated6.4 million consumer headset sold in 2020 and according to theIDC, headset sales nearly doubled (92.1% YoY) in 2021 with shipments reaching 11.2 million units. Emarketer forecasts global shipments of headsets will hit 16.5 million in 2022.

In isolation these numbers are impressive, but to put things into perspective Netflix saw thirty-six million new subscriptions, Apple sold over one hundred million air pods, and there were 268.9 million smart TVs sold in 2020. Furthermore, with 7.8 billion people in the world over the age of 20, 11 million AR/VR headsets is but a fraction of global adoption. 

While the boom is encouraging, it is clear the hardware needed to enter and experience the metaverse has ground to make up to truly enter the mainstream.  

Adoption catalyst

That’s where remote work might come in.

When the world stopped and employees everywhere were sent home, it ignited a revolutionary change to how the world works. B2B brands stepped to the plate offering Web 2.0 solutions to maintain productivity everywhere. Through this experience, organizations and knowledge workers recognized that the idea of spending 40 hours in an office environment needed to be re-imagined. But for hybrid or remote work to remain, solutions that enable greater presence and collaboration that sustain attention are critical. With their HoloLens and Meta Quest headsets, Microsoft and Meta are two brands emerging as catalysts for mass adoption.

Mesh for Microsoft Teams combines mixed-reality capabilities enabling people to share holographic experiences andMeta’s Horizon Workrooms lets people come together to work in the same virtual room. While each solution will be initially available in both virtual reality and web experiences, VR’s ability to immerse users into virtual environments can eliminate the countless distractions remote workers face daily.

Another driver is the virtual workspace environment, from workspaces with unlimited monitors to customizable virtual offices with water features that may or may not include Niagara Falls. Our need for laptops, monitors, and countless other accessories, not to mention commercial real estate, could be made obsolete. 

The opportunities are endless and create a rich environment for B2B creators to emerge. While success is contingent on the experience, if Microsoft and Meta can successfully deliver the hardware into the hands of millions across the globe, B2B may very well be the source of the metaverse's next growth cycle.

Crossing the chasm

We must acknowledge that much of what represents the metaverse today is hype and hyperbole, but as B2B solutions come to market and AR/VR headsets penetrate the homes of knowledge workers around the world, the visions of the metaverse can manifest into reality.