Meet us in Metaverse.

Large social media companies have it in their names, digital art worth millions and mega-concerts on gaming platforms are fueling the hype: the "metaverse". Possibly a new version of the Internet, Web 3.0 or a new digital continent - we asked around about its significance for business IT and found what we were looking for. Data glasses on, JoinXR platform on, and off we went: Dr. Mara Ortner, Modern Workplace Consultant AR/VR at Bechtle IT System House Karlsruhe, and Carina Kaiser, Product Manager Microsoft Surface and HoloLens at Bechtle, explain where the journey is headed and how companies can get started.

Hello, great to see you in mixed reality. To kick this off with a meta question, how much metaverse can we already see in business today?

Mara Ortner: The metaverse is already open for business 24/7 (laughs). We’re all here, after all, meeting face-to-face across a distance, yet in the same three-dimensional space. It’s something that more and more companies are taking advantage of, when they leverage augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology to enhance presentations, for ideating designs, or to tour the digital twin of a production site. The ability to eliminate geographies and also the boundaries set by the systems we use is playing a decisive role here. The way people engage becomes much more natural and memorable—with all the real-life benefits this brings.

Carina Kaiser: The market for AR/VR technologies has come a long way and is reflected in an ecosystem that’s also very much alive. HoloLens 2, for instance, is the result of Microsoft channelling years of R&D into a device that can bring added value to a very diverse range of applications. The metaverse is far from being a mere gaming trend or confined to the consumer market. Every step forward in the so-called Web 3.0 is a step forward for the industry as a whole. That’s what’s making it such a versatile and exciting topic to explore.

What are some of the most promising applications of AR/VR for companies right now?

Mara Ortner: When we look at the most common use cases, number one on the list is smart glasses for remote assistance. This allows instructors and other specialists far away to support users on the ground with the precise knowledge they need, because they see what the users see, in real time. This is a great benefit for service technicians working for global plant manufacturers, just as it is for companies that provide services to private customers. It’s really easy to achieve better quality in less time. In professional education, too, learning in a virtual environment is also highly effective and easy on resources. It’s also an exciting solution for onboarding new employees—and not just when we’re struggling with a pandemic—and also for virtual events and meetings in general.

 

Dr Mara Ortner

 

 

Carina Kaiser

 


When we look at the most common use cases, number one on the list is smart glasses for remote assistance. This allows instructors and other specialists far away to support users on the ground with the precise knowledge they need, because they see what the users see, in real time. This is a great benefit for service technicians working for global plant manufacturers, just as it is for companies that provide services to private customers.


Dr. Mara Ortner, Modern Workplace Consultant AR/VR, Bechtle Karlsruhe

Speaking of meetings, Microsoft has dubbed the recently announced Mesh for Teams a “gateway to the metaverse”. So does the key lie in advanced software more than anything else? What’s the role of hardware—smart glasses, sensors, cameras?

Carina Kaiser: Both are important and work together. The growing number of applications specifically designed for virtual environments make investments in new kinds of hardware such as smart glasses more attractive and worthwhile. At the same time, popular business apps such as Microsoft Teams can nudge user behaviour closer and closer to the experiences that are possible in virtual reality. The vision of a metaverse and the gateways to this new world hence include a large variety of different devices—PCs, laptops, smartphones, and of course AR/VR glasses—all connected in virtual spaces that will increasingly become “natural” workspaces. 

Will we be meeting each other as head-to-toes holograms in the foreseeable future?

Carina Kaiser: Microsoft is indeed working on making Holoportation a reality—the complete visual transmission of our body in real time, including facial expressions and gestures. But for the time being, we’ll be moving through virtual reality as three-dimensional avatars or similar representations of ourselves, which will, bit by bit, become more “personal”. And in terms of in-person experience, visualisation and focus, we’re well on our way.

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Microsoft vs. Meta
 

Get an insight into the ideas of the Metaverse from Microsoft and Meta. What are the similarities and differences?

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The idea of the metaverse as a persistent virtual space in which we work and live is expanding the concepts of a remote and hybrid workforce. What do you think, have the changes we’ve seen in the past few years spurred on a readiness to adopt these models?

Mara Ortner: The trend towards more flexible models of collaboration has been gathering pace for years. SMEs and large organisations are all active on a global stage, time to market is shrinking, and customer expectations are increasingly diverse. Still, the pandemic has certainly had a catalysing effect, as digital solutions have become indispensable in connecting companies and employees. This year, we’ve seen a spike in demand for AR/VR consulting, and since the summer in particular, our inspiration workshops have been very popular.

What are customers most interested in? Do they have specific use cases in mind or are they completely open to creative approaches?

Mara Ortner: Both. Some companies want to explore what the hype is all about and what’s in it for them, others have a very clear-cut idea of what they want to tackle, such as staff training or service delivery. In our experience, we can quickly establish the possibilities that exist in either case. For instance, it didn’t take long for a recent inspiration workshop to formulate the very concrete idea of a fully walkable virtual production line. Plus, we’re offering a special metaverse starter pack, enabling customers to trial the HoloLens remotely, assisted by our experts.

 


Microsoft is indeed working on making Holoportation a reality—the complete visual transmission of our body in real time, including facial expressions and gestures. But for the time being, we’ll be moving through virtual reality as three-dimensional avatars or similar representations of ourselves, which will, bit by bit, become more “personal”.


Carina Kaiser, Product Manager Microsoft Surface and HoloLens, Bechtle

How does the introduction of an AR/VR use case in a company unfold? Is this different from a more traditional IT project?

Carina Kaiser: There’s certainly more weight given to demos and a first-hand experience of the technology as customers are less familiar with the devices and applications compared to traditional IT solutions. After that, though, an AR/VR project evolves much like a digitalisation project—from planning and a proof of concept, to delivering the technology, onboarding users, and the eventual option of operating services.

Published on Dec 17, 2021.