4 things you need to know about the metaverse this month

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Cathy Li, Head, Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment & Sport; Member of the ExCom, World Economic Forum

  • This regular roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the development of the metaverse.
  • Below you’ll find insights and opinions on how this emerging technology could transform the way we work, make purchases and spend our leisure time.

1. Business schools venture into the metaverse

The M in MBA does not stand for metaverse, but you may soon be able to study for an MBA via a virtual reality (VR) headset. That’s because more and more business schools are graduating from bricks-and-mortar classrooms to pixel-and-MR (mixed reality) ones, with French institutions leading the pack, according to Harvard Business Publishing.

It says that ESSEC introduced VR-based classes last year, INSEAD is using VR in its executive education and degree programmes, and NEOMA has created a completely virtual campus.

“To transform the MBA now, it has become necessary to experiment with learning experiences outside traditional formats and campus settings,” says Harvard Business School executive fellow Vijay Govindarajan. “The goal is to learn how to use digital technologies in innovative and targeted ways to foster deeper learning. The aim is not to replace traditional courses with VR courses, but to explore how these nascent technologies can augment the learning experience.”

WU Executive Academy in Vienna, Austria, is working with edtech start-up Tomorrow’s Education on developing a Professional Master of Sustainability, Entrepreneurship and Technology programme to be taught fully in a virtual campus. “We need to think about the next generation who will grow up in the metaverse,” the institution’s dean, Barbara Stöttinger, told the Financial Times. “Eventually, it will be a must for us to be there. This investment makes us future-proof.”

Milan’s Polimi Graduate School of Management is working with another edtech start-up, Fadpro, to develop VR business trips. It also plans to teach students on its International Flex Executive MBA about business opportunities in the metaverse.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the metaverse?

Experts believe that the metaverse will come to represent the next major computing platform, transforming consumer experience and business models across industries.

Fashion brands are one example. Over years, apparel companies have perfected the design, manufacture, and distribution of clothing to anticipate consumers’ wants and needs in line with seasonal changes. But today, most of their revenue is surpassed by the $3bn worth of sales of digital cosmetic items in Fortnite, which have a cultural significance that extends far into the physical world.

This is one of the economic opportunities of the metaverse – the possibility to “assetize” digital content, creating a framework of digital ownership for users. If it is replicated at scale and across sectors, then entire industries will be reshaped by changes to their traditional value chains.

However, the promise relies on the advancement of several key technologies, including augmented, virtual and mixed reality (collectively known as XR), as well as blockchain, connected devices and artificial intelligence. How should these be governed in a way that promotes their economic upsides while protecting individuals’ safety, security and privacy?

The World Economic Forum is bringing together leading voices from the private sector, civil society, academia and government to address this precise question. Over the next year, it will curate a multistakeholder community focusing on metaverse governance and economic and social value creation.

It will recommend regulatory frameworks for good governance of the metaverse and study how innovation and value creation can be strengthened for the benefit of society. Updates will be published on the World Economic Forum website on a regular basis.

2. Gender inequality is happening in the metaverse

The metaverse may barely exist yet, but gender equality is already a fact of life there, according to McKinsey. It says the gender gap in the metaverse is similar to that at Fortune 500 companies, where less than 10% of CEOs are women.

This is despite more women than men visiting the metaverse, and women spending more time in the virtual world. McKinsey says that 35% of the women it surveyed are metaverse “power users” – meaning they spend more than three hours a week there – compared with 29% of men.

On top of this, women are leading more metaverse-related initiatives at the companies they work for, with 60% of the 450 female executives surveyed having pushed plans forward, compared with 50% of men.

“The reality is that women are spending more time in the protometaverse than men are and, according to our data, are more likely to spearhead and implement metaverse initiatives,” McKinsey says. “However, just as in the tech sector as a whole, women represent a minority in the metaverse economy.”

Male-led companies have also received 95% of the total funding secured by metaverse firms in the past five years, according to McKinsey.

3. Want to be a chief metaverse officer? This is what the job looks like

We reported back in October that more non-tech companies are hiring chief metaverse officers (CMOs). But what do they actually do?

US news website Axios spoke to three to find out – two of whom are women (as is Cathy Hackl, who has been labelled the “world’s first chief metaverse officer”) – and summarized the CMO role as a mix of research and strategy.

Talent agency CAA’s CMO, Joanna Popper, says she has been helping clients understand and find investment opportunities in the metaverse: “[We] very much see this as a moment to be aligning, testing, learning, experimenting and growing with the industry, but also making bets that are going to pay out over time.”

Sebastian Brauer, who is Head of Metaverse and Web3 at furniture retailer Crate & Barrel, has been learning about the space so he can educate his team about its potential. “I see the metaverse and web3 technology as not only having fascinating consumer-facing applications, but also as an important part of creating value inside of organizations,” he says.

Consulting firm EY, meanwhile, has been working with disabled, blind and neurodiverse people to try and understand how to make the metaverse as accessible as possible for them. The metaverse and virtual reality are seen as having the potential to elevate and expand “virtual mobility” – the internet’s ability to provide accessible alternatives to activities that usually require physical mobility.

4. Motion trackers could make metaverse avatars more lifelike

We’ll all have our own avatar in the metaverse, and making them as lifelike as possible will be key to boosting user interest and engagement.

Sony’s new Mocopi motion-tracking system promises to do just that. Consisting of six small tags for the head, wrists, ankles and hip, it will copy user movement onto their avatar in real time.

The sensors weigh 8 grams each, and the Mocopi system is wireless and has a 10-hour battery life. It is expected to cost around $360.

Such realistic mapping of human movements into the metaverse will mark a great leap forward from current avatars, which don’t even have legs. However, Meta has been working on rectifying this, with an AI platform that mirrors minuscule musculoskeletal movements.

More on the metaverse from Agenda

Most internet users don’t have a digital identity that they own. However, metaverse users will need one to allow them to move across multiple platforms. This means there will also need to be standards and regulations around creating digital identities.

How can companies make the right investment decisions in the metaverse? They’ll need to understand the competing metaverse visions that are being constructed, and closely monitor the key triggers that will determine whether a particular virtual world is gaining more traction than others.

The metaverse could be transformational for education. The World Bank outlines 6 ways that it could positively impact learning.

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