From internet, to mobile, to meta
The way we work and interact has changed dramatically, particularly in the last few years leading up to 2022. The metaverse is set to further transform how we work, with virtual reality and augmented reality being a new way of connecting with people, bringing the technology from where it started in gaming, into the workplace.
The internet has been around now for over 50 years in the United States. While there wasn’t a single inventor of the internet, it was originally created by the government, as a weapon, during the Cold War. It was used by scientists and researchers for years, as a way to communicate with each other and share data. Fast forward to today and it has been adopted globally and is used so widely, that many don’t know how to operate without it. This is especially true of the younger generations who have grown up with tech at their fingertips.
Today, almost one-third of the world’s 6.8 billion people use the internet regularly.
Although the first mobile phone with internet capability was produced in 1996 by Nokia, it was in 2007 when Apple launched their iPhone that the internet was made accessible to the world through mobile. Fast forward to 2022 and we see the mobile phone has replaced the computer as the primary means of logging onto the internet.
A study by Perficient, shows that mobile devices drove 61% of visits to U.S. websites in 2020, up from 57% in 2019. Mobile traffic to U.S websites in 2020 was at 61% compared with Desktop at 36%. The numbers are even higher on a global scale.
What seems to be the intended or driven path will be what takes us from internet to mobile to meta.
What is the Metaverse
According to Wikipedia, a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. In futurism and science fiction, it is often described as a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets.
Some metaverse iterations involve integration between virtual and physical spaces and virtual economies. Demand for increased immersion means metaverse development is often linked to advancing virtual reality technology.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a metaverse as a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.
In simple terms, the metaverse is a collective virtual shared world.
It is a fusion of physical, augmented, and virtual reality. The Metaverse could be considered as a public virtual world that users can access via the internet. For the user, it is designed to simulate a ‘human’ experience with emotion and gestures, but in a ‘virtual world’ setting.
The metaverse is not limited in its application. It encompasses the entire social and economic structure that exists in both the actual and virtual worlds. Avatars, content, and goods may all travel around freely. It’s always ‘on’.
Metaverse and the workplace
As with any new technology, there are certain legal aspects and ramifications that need addressing. It is likely we’ll see new regulations come into place as a result. Some key areas to address include:
- Information privacy,
- User addiction
- User safety
These are challenges already being faced by social media and video game industries as a whole.
Employment legislation has seen many changes over the years, in response to technological advances, digital transformation, gig economy and more. Most recently we’ve seen changes in relation to remote working, hybridized workforces and worker classification.
The adoption of Metaverse in workplaces (and societally) will raise further issues to be addressed. In particular, with staff creating Avatars for themselves to use in the Metaverse, it could bring up identity related issues. Here are some of the questions to be considered:
- Is the worker in the Metaverse considered a legal entity? If so, would the worker have its own unique classification?
- Would the worker in the Metaverse be subject to any legal framework enforced by the employer?
- Would they get to choose their own Avatar or would they be assigned one by the company? Would it even be legal for an employer to exert any influence on a worker’s Avatar?
- How will interactions in the Metaverse be monitored?
- How is the data treated in terms of privacy and security?
- Will there be different laws between countries? How could that affect the workers interacting in one country, but physically in another?
No doubt technology can be used to bring us closer, enabling remote workers and global teams to connect in a virtual world. However, clearly there are many questions and legal ramifications to be considered before a company decides to embrace the Metaverse in their workplace. Much of the development of the Metaverse is still underway, so we will likely see much more discussion about these topics in the coming days.
Regardless of the type of worker, the Metaverse will impact an organization’s entire workforce, domestically and globally.
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