The Metaverse is so much more than video games and entertainment. Other sectors are applying its capabilities in ground-breaking, highly disruptive ways. 5 of the most exciting are medicine, travel, training and education, retail, and fitness. From a strategic standpoint, the Metaverse can enable businesses to:
– Compete in other sectors in ways they never could before
– Save huge sums of money through process changes
– Provide far better results and benefits for customers from their products and services
Matthew Ball in his excellent book The Metaverse, describes this massive, only partially understood and rapidly evolving area as “A massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds that can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments”.
Here are some of the most exciting applications of the Metaverse in those 5 areas, through both VR and also AR, and how it’s disrupting industries.
In the metaverse, fitness is increasingly able to compete with video gaming, travel, and sports entertainment. Fortune Business Insights projects the global VR gaming market to grow from $7.92 billion US dollars in 2021, to $53.44 billion in 2028, a 31.4% CAGR. Much of the growth will come through virtual gamification called “exertainment” that combines music, visuals, wearables, instructors/influencers/coaches, and brands.
Les Mills takes its BODYCOMBAT VR app, the world’s most popular martial arts workout, into the Metaverse through an exciting, gamified workout. It furthers the company’s mission to “create a fitter planet”. According to the authors of Welltodo’s 2022 Consumer Wellness Trend Report “It’s time for fitness brands to stop thinking about fitness as a siloed offering, but instead as an entertainment lateral”.
In the Metaverse, top fitness instructors can be simultaneously translated into different languages making them global stars and reducing talent costs, since fewer are needed. Supernatural, a VR fitness app, immerses users in live classes anywhere… from remote desserts, to the moon or the Amazon rain forest. Users look forward to all the cool environments they can do classes in, further motivating usage. 3D virtual tours of exercise facilities help sales conversions.
The Metaverse is increasingly transforming gaming from a sedentary activity into workout, with huge, positive health benefits. Video games have better monetized people’s emotions than the fitness industry has, with better storytelling to motivate players and the fitness industry is adopting its playbook. The key learning here is to look outside your immediate industry for innovations that can strengthen your own offering.
The Metaverse can help people decide where to go and what do when they get there. A great example is the Hub Hotel in London, from Premier Inn, the U.K.’s largest lodging chain. Each room has an AR map on the wall. Guests point their phones at different spots and points of interest light up with useful information.
In April, Qatar Airlines became the first to introduce a “MetaHuman cabin crew” with high fidelity digital humans in the “Qverse” VR experience on their website. Passengers can experience their Hamad Airport first-class check-in, and special features of first class and premium class cabins. Onboard, passengers get their own PEDs (personal electronic devices/VR headsets) and can watch VR documentaries, destination tours, meditate, play games, or watch 3D movies.
The Metaverse will increasingly provide “taster content” so travelers can make more informed choices and better evaluate hotels, restaurants, attractions, and transportation. As an example, the Louvre Museum in Paris allows VR visitors to see exhibits, hear concerts and stroll around the museum.
Mytaverse Inc. provides a 3D platform for businesspeople to create their own avatars to attend meetings, virtual trade shows, and training sessions, saving significant time and travel expense.
For older individuals, people with disabilities, and those with limited budgets, the Metaverse will increasingly be a way to experience travel they otherwise couldn’t.
Booking in the Metaverse will be more fun, informative, and quicker than booking on a website or dealing with travel agents and conversion rates will increase. When travel company Thomas Cook provided a 5-minute VR excursion of Manhattan, bookings increased +190%.
AR and VR are helping consumers make choices they’re happier with, improving post-purchase satisfaction and retailer brand image. The new IKEA AR app, launched in June 2022, lets users scan their current rooms, delete the furniture, and visualize what different placements of IKEA pieces would look like in 3D.
With Instagram shopping, consumers check out items on brand or retailer webpages and virtually try them on. 2 examples are L’Oreal’s ModiFace, and Lancome’s L’Absolu Rouge Drama Ink Liquid Lipstik virtual try-on with 20 different shades. Virtual try-ons encourage experimentation in ways real life can’t. In real life, it’s hard to get all the lipstick off your lips to see the true colors when trying on many shades. Virtual try-ons allow shoppers to try more products and more accurately see the colors.
Using AR virtual try-on filters on Nike Air Force 1s, consumers can change the colors and materials of 13 different parts of the sneakers, virtually see what they’d look like on your feet, and then seamlessly push the buy button. It enhances the personalization experience, increases brand engagement, encourages creativity, ownership satisfaction, and social sharing of unique pairs.
Gen Z and Gen Alpha are used to spending money in online experiences like video games and virtual concerts. In 2021, an estimated $40 billion dollars was spent globally in games on skins to graphically change the external appearance, outfits and accessories of their avatars.
Virtually all retail brands, from high to low end, are developing stores in the Metaverse (Nike, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, Balenciaga, Burberry, Gucci, Vans, Zara, Adidas) where avatars can try on clothes and then buy the real ones or virtual goods. A digital version of Gucci’s Dionysus bag, create for the Roblox marketplace sold for over $4,000, more than the price of the physical version. After Bumbleride added 3D models of its strollers, sales conversion increased 33%. Brand fans can also watch runway shows that preview new collections, greatly expanding the audience that can now do so. Even financial retailers like JP Morgan and HSBC are setting up shops in the Metaverse.
Retailers can increasingly experiment with experiences, unconstrained by building costs and construction limitations. Virtual stores can be customized based on each shopper’s demographics, psychographics and prior buying habits.
The metaverse will partially replace the role of malls as place to meet, spend time and have fun.
Medicine & Healthcare
The VR health care industry is projected to increase almost 10-fold from $1.2 billion in 2021 to $11.7 billion in 2028, a CAGR of 33.8%. Some of the most exciting areas include:
· Rezzil sports training games that provide virtual drills and rehab for professional athletes that with advanced data and tracking tools can monitor progress and make adjustments.
· Applied VR treats back problems and pain with a VR headset, controller and mouthpiece that lets users do breathing and meditative exercises in far more calming, therapeutic environments than traditional doctor’s offices.
· SyncAR gives surgeons an immersive view inside the body part they are operating on based on CAT and MRI scans.
· VR patient digital twins make it easier for doctors to devise customized treatments, and predict recovery times and potential complications.
· Remote medical consultations are expected to shift from video calls to Metaverse experiences. Medical reports will use high-res 3D modelling and distance IOT monitoring of heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar will be done from patients’ home devices. Remote doctor visits for kids will be more entertaining.
· People with conditions like agoraphobia (fear of crowds), glossophobia (fear of public speaking), and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorders) will be able to practice overcoming their fears in a progressive series of safe immersive environments.
OssoVR allows medical students and doctors to virtually train for surgeries and other medical procedures, instead of using more costly cadavers, and it’s far easier to repeat tasks to get the training right and improve decision-making. In the event of future pandemic-type situations, VR can provide training opportunities when in-person is not an option.
Education & Training
Numerous studies indicate retention rates improve dramatically with immersive learning compared to other approaches like lectures and online training sessions. According to a study by Deloitte National Training Laboratories, VR soft skills training has on average, a 75% learning retention rate, versus 5% for classroom listening, and according to studies by PWC, VR learners are up to 275% more confident to act on what they learned after training—a 40% improvement over classroom learning and 35% higher than e-learning.
The SkillsVR Enterprise-Grade Training Platform from New Zealand offers scalable, high-quality enterprise soft skills training for topics like conflict management and diversity and inclusion. There’s a library of VR training content and it includes user-friendly administration, seamless hardware-to-software connectivity, and proof-of-impact analytics.
Learning is incentivized by scoreboards, awards, and customizable avatars in simulated realistic environments. Learning is faster and information is retained better and enjoyed more. Employees who trained in VR simulations reportedly learn 3-4 times faster than classroom learners and twice as fast as eLearners. Additionally, classes can be shorter (20 minutes vs. 1 hour) and less costly to give because the same content can be delivered much more broadly with on average higher, more consistent quality. Learning can also be very collaborative, and helpful for employees unable to meet offline.
Qatar Airways uses VR to train maintenance teams, cabin crews and baggage handlers. Vs. previous training forms, costs are lower with less need to tie-up actual aircraft. TransferVR creates simulations of factory floors and equipment for employees to train on, from carpentry to installing car engines.
Using AI & Machine Learning, courses can be customized and continuously improved for each individual. Classrooms, meeting rooms, and real-life situations can be created and progressively modified to optimize learning environments.
Key Take-Aways for Business Leaders
It’s the Wild West of the Metaverse, with infinite, unknown possibilities for companies and brands. How to get started and determine where to place bets can seem overwhelming. Suggestions include:
1) Benchmarking what relevant others are doing in the Metaverse for ideas and inspiration
2) Prioritizing which areas of the Metaverse can offer the most significant improvements in achieving the most important strategic objectives, such as:
a. Increasing conversion (virtual travel taster content, virtual try-ons)
b. Improving training & education retention rates for employees
c. Lowering training costs (training surgeons on virtual cadavers, certain airline crews on virtual planes)
d. Providing a better, more entertaining experience for customers, to increase social sharing and loyalty (Qatar Airways personal electronic devices, Hub AR room wall maps)
e. Allow more scenarios to be explored (digital twins to more easily analyze different supply chain systems, factory floor operations, retail environments)
Special thanks to my research assistant, Rithik Puli, for his help in researching this article.