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Into the metaverse: Everything we learned from our virtual tour

Constant distractions – and not much collaboration – make it hard to see the business use cases

My first interaction in the metaverse was with a black man in a bow tie. He didn’t say anything and after a minute talking to him I eventually realised he wasn’t a welcome party. He was the avatar I needed to customise. It was at this point I realised I might be the wrong IT Pro journalist to be reporting live from inside the world of virtual reality (VR)

This version of the metaverse had been built by the American IT specialist DXC, which had kindly invited us on a tour of its virtual campus. Once I had sorted out my face and clothes, my avatar was ‘teleported’ to the welcoming area, when I met up with the DXC media team and some fellow journalists. 

The DXC Metaverse briefing room

There were two instant red flags. Firstly, what the fudge is the dress code? I was meant to be “working” and this was a media briefing, but the tour guide wore a pink cowboy hat like he was leading us on a hen do. Secondly, there was a guy doing some sort of dance move. I found it totally distracting. In fact, the whole space was a distraction. I was spinning around looking at the virtual scenery and, quite frankly, I missed most of the actual presentation. 

What I did catch, though, was that DXC said it had been working in this area since 2018. Had they been using the term “metaverse” the whole time? We know it comes from the novel Snow Crash, which was published in 1992, but it wasn’t until Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook to Meta in 2021 that it became common parlance. 

The DXC Metaverse dance hall, from high up

“We’ve been calling it ‘immersive collaboration’,” a member of its presentation team told me. “But we have been using the term ‘metaverse as well, actually. Since 2001, we were already talking about working in the metaverse, way back before Meta changed its name. So it was not new for us” 

Whatever terminology DXC was using, I couldn’t fault its efforts because the world it had built was very beautiful. It was a sort of island with a beach area, a “soccer” field (it’s an American company) alongside a building with meeting rooms and a dance hall. I enjoyed it so much I was still running around exploring long after the briefing had finished. I wasn’t alone, as there were a few avatars dotted around the beach area, mostly loitering at the lighthouse, presumably trying to get the full view of the island. I tried making some small talk here, to no avail. I said “hello” a few times and even got my avatar to wave. I was ignored, though. 

Bobby Hellard in the DXC Metaverse

DXC probably could have made some kind of effort to get people talking to one another – this was supposed to be ‘immersive collaboration’ after all. I was keen to hear from the other guests and add more perspectives to this account of my first foray into the metaverse. Sadly you only have my thoughts and feelings and they’re largely negative. I mean, well done to DXC, it’s a great place, but what actual ‘work’ can I do there? I didn’t really meet anyone, I didn’t uncover any newsworthy info and, in all honesty, I wasted about two hours – I felt a bit guilty going for lunch straight after it. 

So, I had my fun – I even tried to drown myself in the virtual sea – but I left the metaverse still unsure of what use it has in the business world.

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