One early morning in the near future, the C-suite executive awakens. Sensing movement in the dark bedroom, then visually scanning facial expressions and analyzing gait from floor sensors, the house artificial intelligence (AI) decides that a double americano is an appropriate wake-up beverage (after all, last night’s Worldwide Sales Award dinner — with localized and allergy-friendly dishes delivered by UberLyftDash drones to metamates’ homes or neighborhood “Fourth Places” at the appointed times — ran quite late).
The cheerful but stern “Appeleton” gym AI guides the exec through appropriate stretches and exercises by demonstrating proper form using the executive’s VR “digital twin.” (Nothing more motivating than comparing the idealized — but personalized — movements of one’s avatar with one’s efforts!)
Body safely, yet precisely, limbered up and coffee in hand, the executive walks the 50 feet to their office, which comes alive when the executive dons smart glasses. Room laser projectors read head position and gaze as well as interact with the eyeglass lenses to display customized augmented reality (AR) information that’s visible in the exec’s visual field. The same projectors also scan retinal patterns to biometrically identify and authenticate the exec to whatever private/decentralized (blockchain) identity credential store the exec signed up for (whose contents are the exec’s property). The exec’s credential agent then shares appropriate credentials with the organization’s decentralized credential store and negotiates access with the zero-trust security system.
First, the exec reviews overnight results from various worldwide business units (which each perform a “soft close” every 24 hours, plus feed real-time operational data into the federated hyperscale, cloud-based data lake for scheduled reports and on-the-fly analysis). Looking at graphs and charts doesn’t need total immersion, so there’s no need to don bulky headgear or gloves — the 5GB/second fiber network (or 1 GB/sec 6G mobile network when the exec is on the go) drives a virtual 96-inc 8K 240 frame/sec display visible in the eyeglasses.
The exec notices sharply reduced production at one location and runs an ad-hoc real-time analysis to understand the problem. It appears one of the production lines is malfunctioning. The exec has an engineering background, so it’s time to get a look at the situation in the plant . . . except the plant is nine time zones away, and the production line handles boiling acid. After a quick video chat with on-site plant engineers, the exec switches to the “Be Here Now” rig: head-mounted virtual reality (VR) goggles and “Waldos” (gloves containing sensors and actuators that allow the wearer to “feel” and operate remote devices). After the appropriate ZTNA (zero trust network access) credentials are presented and an on-site engineer issues the proper information technology (IT) /operations technology (OT) override, the exec’s eyes and ears are remoted into the body of a Hyundai (Boston Dynamics) spot inspection robot. The exec then inspects this distant, dangerous equipment with the help of experts from around the world. Together they uncover the issues, and local techs get right on the repair.
Leading From Now to Then
Yes, the above scenario is science fiction — at least it is today. But most, if not all, the things I described are in operation or at least being piloted somewhere. Think of the “Metaverse” as shorthand for “immersive experiences” built atop radical decentralization (of identity, of authentication, of money), insanely better communications, and the fusion of IT with OT.
When we add AI to a human worker, the combination makes smarter and faster decisions. Add robotic augmentation to that human (which includes sensors and actuators in addition to the mobile devices we usually think of as “robots”) and the combination gets stronger, safer, and faster. Add reliable, low-latency communication, and distance ceases to be a factor, making “augmented humans” far more productive.
Today’s C-suite and board needs to adopt a bit of “What if?” speculation when envisioning their augmented future organization. Imagine what smarter, faster, stronger, safer, and more productive employees can do to make your business better. Then imagine how the same tools and concepts also protect workers and even provide environmental, social, and governance (ESG) benefits to stakeholders (e.g., not having to fly experts all over the world reduces your carbon footprint).
I’ll end this piece with a common plea: Recruit QTE (qualified technology expert) board directors so you don’t miss out on huge strategic opportunities presented by Web 3.0 and the Metaverse.
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