How the metaverse can power business development

On Sept. 30, Charles Onstott and I held a capture meeting at CALIBRE Systems. It wasn’t like our other capture meetings because we held it in the metaverse. CALIBER Chief Technology Officer Charles Onstott worked with me, a director of business development and capture, and other participants to schedule our meeting in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms. We were excited to see what all the buzz was about. Anecdotally talking to colleagues in the government contracting industry, I have heard that this was the first time a capture meeting was conducted in the metaverse.

Charles and I have mixed views on the metaverse. In some ways, it seems like the most over-hyped technology of the year. In other ways, we can already see some direct applications and we can see some of the potential of the technology for future use. I think that augmented reality (AR) will win over virtual reality (VR)—especially in the business setting. I would bet that 80% of people will use AR and VR like the internet is used today. Another 20% of the people will fully embrace it and live in the Metaverse—similar to the gaming subculture today.

But Wait, What is the Metaverse and How Can It Be Used for Business Development?

Like many hyped technologies, there isn’t a clear definition of the metaverse. Metaverse is a portmanteau of “meta”—which means beyond—and “universe.” Many technology companies, like Microsoft, Meta, Nvidia and Unity, have their perspectives on what the metaverse is.

Then you have authors like Matthew Ball who in “Metaverse: How It Will Revolutionize Everything” outlines a very comprehensive definition of metaverse. Ball’s metaverse is like the “matrix” from The Matrix or even “the metaverse” from Snow Crash, another 3D world that is highly immersive, simultaneously connecting millions of people in real time. Cathy Hackl, a leading metaverse expert and author of “Navigating the Metaverse: A Guide to Limitless Possibilities in a Web 3.0 World,” argues that the metaverse is “a convergence of our digital and physical lives,” but admits that the definition is evolving.

Capture Meeting in the Metaverse

Charles and I donated our Meta Quest 2 headsets from our home offices and then had several other CALIBRE team members join from their homes through the Meta Horizon Workrooms web browser. We tried this approach to see the advantages and disadvantages of collaborating in a virtual space in order to advise CALIBRE’s clients on the use of the technology.

The meeting experience in Meta Horizon Workrooms—once we got everyone in the space—was actually pretty neat. There are a few bugs and it was not easy to enter the workroom. Charles and I felt that participating the workspace in a 3D headset made the experience much more immersive and real than a 2D web interface. Meta tracks body movements and facial movements to reflect that in the Meta Workroom so when you are looking at your coworker, you see facial expressions in real time. The Workroom enabled us to easily allow our headset-less coworkers to participate remotely. They essentially had a Teams meeting view into our Workspace and could see Charles and I sitting at the conference table.

In Workrooms, there is also a virtual whiteboard which Charles used to write some notes about the capture meeting objectives. This was done by using the Meta Quest 2 controller which turns into a virtual piece of chalk that you can draw on the chalkboard with. Just like in a real conference room, you have to physically walk to the board. For my capture briefing, I presented slides from my computer, and they appeared on the virtual whiteboard. It was a very engaging discussion and much more interactive than a normal Teams meeting as it involved walking to the whiteboard and being more engaged with your teammates in avatar form.

Charles and I are interested in having a capture meeting in the Metaverse again to see how the technology develops, but mainly because it is nice to have variety between in-person and Teams/Zoom meetings. Also, the Horizons Work meetings are immersive. Given that we live in a 3D world, it feels more natural than 2D web interfaces. If we get to the point in the future where this technology can help us create real relationships with geographically dispersed customers, then the potential and business case for our industry is enormous.

Overall, Charles and I could see some of the promise of the Metaverse, but this experience was reminiscent of the early days of web browsing. We could see how it will lead to something better, but it just is not quite there yet, but we are excited to see where it will go.

Ashley Nicholson currently works as a director of capture at CALIBRE Systems.

Charles Onstott is CALIBRE’s vice president, chief technology officer.

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