Famed futurist sees potential of metaverse for enterprises

The pandemic has spurred the creation of a variety of use-cases for the metaverse — both for the consumer and enterprise sectors, according to Tomorrow CEO and futurist Mike Walsh.

Tomorrow CEO and futurist Mike Walsh addresses delegates at the Asian Carriers Conference 2022 in Boracay

In his keynote speech during the first Asian Carriers Conference (ACC) held in Boracay Island, Walsh presented the opportunities of leveraging on the metaverse to enhance the business models of organizations.  

“It wasn’t until 2020, during the pandemic, this moment of crisis, when a number of factors came together. We were stuck at home and started picking up virtual reality headsets, the cryptocurrency boom began, Web 3.0 started to emerge as an idea. Suddenly, in 2022, people are now talking about that this could actually be the dawn of an entirely new world – the dawn of the metaverse,” Walsh began.  

According to Walsh, although the metaverse is more than just a virtual world that is an upgrade to today’s world, leaders should not be fixated on its definition and instead ask what can be made possible from real-time synchronous massive scale fully-rendered virtual simulations.  

More than consumer applications and games, he believes the metaverse will become a business-to-business enterprise platform that is poised to change how organizations work, collaborate, and communicate.  

“The metaverse is not a place. It’s a set of protocols. You can think of the metaverse as a massively scaled decentralized blockchain-enabled computer. This network not only makes possible new kinds of digital experiences, it also allows for the creation of entirely new business models,” he explained.  

Walsh cited a few examples of enterprises leveraging on metaverse technology to add new value to customers and redesign how they interact internally and externally. In 2020, game publisher Epic Games debuted American rapper Travis Scott’s latest track via the Fortnite video game platform. 

“In 2019, Travis Scott earned $53.5 million from running multiple tours across the country. In a 15-minute slot, they were able to earn almost half the amount they spent a year trying to earn — in a single metaverse event. This is more than just a platform for marketing and promotions, it’s a legitimate business in its own right,” Walsh remarked. 

Another example is Nike’s collaboration with the sandbox game Roblox where the lifestyle brand generated its own virtual world showcasing athlete and product integrations, and players can freely dress their avatars with Nike’s products and eventually traverse “Nikeland” using physical sensors that mirror their movement in the virtual environment.  

“The ACC conference in five years’ time, we may all have some kind of augmented reality glasses. I may be on stage, but I may be speaking a completely different language that only you can get, where there’s essentially a digital twin of me,” Walsh added, describing how the metaverse could change how organizations could host events in the future.  

Beyond digital versions of products and services, Walsh also shared how new technologies like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can be integrated with traditional types of products so businesses can tap into a new consumer base. He also stressed that one important aspect that the most successful digital companies are focusing on is not solely running a campaign, but building an active community of customers.   

“A lot of companies still think it’s about an extension of remote work, which means it’s a distraction. The real opportunity is to see it as an extension of Industry 4.0 and some of these areas of the AI-powered data-driven enterprises. It’s the next step in a more agile, high-speed and high-velocity organization,” he said in a separate interview with Newsbytes.PH.  

In the past, Walsh said that the convergence of the digital and real world paved the way to the emergence of evolving and more sophisticated devices, decentralized blockchain and AI platforms, and soon what will be considered immersive experiences that will be indistinguishable from reality. 

“The consumer’s side is harder. It’s harder to make money on virtual worlds but the productivity payoff should be easier to reach on the enterprise side,” he advised.  

This paradigm is illustrated by the existence of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) which Walsh says is how the majority of metaverse companies are run. They represent a different form of organization which traditional companies should watch out for since they’ll be competing for talent who are now used to an unstructured but effective way of working.  

“For the longest time, technology has been used to change our point of view. In the early 90s, there was a virtual reality (VR) boom, but despite the hype and the movies, VR fell into disrepute. Two decades later, it took a kid in a trailer with some smartphones and second-hand parts to give the industry a reboot,” he shared during an episode of his ‘New Rules for a New World’ online series.  

He ended his talk by challenging the delegates to build and nurture an innovation and partner ecosystem where the younger next generation talent can experiment on how extended reality (XR) devices can benefit their organization, allowing them to prepare for the broader integration of emerging technologies and organization design.  

“If we don’t do anything, we’ll be left behind. The demand for data is getting bigger. If you look at the ACC, it’s not just all about the carriers coming in. It’s also all about the different companies who are into fintech (financial technology), digitalization, and IoTs (Internet of Things). It’s a host to all these new technologies that I think will be pivotal in the next five to ten years,” PLDT Global president and CEO Albert Villa-Real said in a separate interview.  

The recently concluded ACC 2022 was the first iteration held in Boracay, Aklan, following 18 years of being hosted in Cebu and two years of temporary suspension because of the pandemic.  

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