Could a virtual reality headset one day replace your desk? Dallas-based commercial real estate giant CBRE Group doesn’t think so, but the company is experimenting with ways the metaverse could help it bring employees together, oversee properties and work with clients.
Different people and companies have their own interpretations of what the term “metaverse” means and what technology in space can do. CBRE is looking at it in two ways, said Sandeep Davé, the company’s chief digital and technology officer.
One is the use of real-world virtual reality and augmented reality technology to help manage and operate buildings, which Davé describes as part of the “industrial metaverse.” The term was coined for the uses of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to aid workers in physical spaces.
The other is the more widespread idea of creating immersive virtual environments where people can interact with each other. CBRE is looking to potentially use them internally in various situations, such as during the onboarding process.
The company showed The Dallas Morning News what a virtual onboarding experience looks like at his new 131,000 square foot Richardson office in Galatyn Commons, home to his technology teams.
In addition to his virtual reality experiences, Richardson’s office is a playground for a variety of new collaboration technologies for hybrid workers, such as cameras that track speakers in conference rooms and whiteboards with tracking. in real time for remote meeting participants.
“The entire real estate lifecycle is evolving in many new, interesting, and different ways, and we’re applying all kinds of technologies to make it interesting, unlock efficiencies, and deliver results for our clients,” said said Dave.
Inside the virtual office
In January, the company began creating a virtual reality office replica, with design elements pulled directly from its physical offices around the world and a balcony with stunning views of a virtual downtown Dallas.
While virtual reality isn’t a replacement for home offices and physical offices for CBRE employees, it could help teams around the world collaborate without ever having to hop on a plane.
“We’re a pretty big team in global locations,” Davé said. “If everyone needed to be in a common space, then we have the ability to be in a common space without traveling and contributing to all those carbon emissions.”
The demo shows an example of what a virtual reality onboarding experience might look like. In the virtual office, employees can talk to colleagues remotely, watch screens about company history and culture, work on virtual whiteboards, and even sip a cup of coffee or a virtual cocktail drink.
That might be more engaging than flipping through PowerPoint slides, Davé said, but don’t expect employees to be assigned desks and chairs in a virtual office or work there full-time.
“What we’ve seen is that it augments and enhances the physical experience,” Davé said. “There is no intention of saying that someone has to log on and work five days a week in the metaverse.”
While the demo is fun to play, he said the technology isn’t fully mature yet. The mannerisms and hand gestures of floating avatars can be distracting, and using a virtual reality headset can be a learning experience for some.
With technology evolving at a rapid pace, Davé said he expects it to improve to the point where discussions in the VR world will be more productive.
“Today is a bit of a learning experience,” Davé said. “Tomorrow, I’m sure the technology will become much more intuitive.”
Bridging the digital and physical divide
Virtual reality and 3D models could be used in many ways throughout the construction, development, rental and sale of real estate.
For example, CBRE could show a client 3D models of different Dallas neighborhoods and overlay statistics on them during the tour, then move from property to property, neighborhood to neighborhood, and even other cities without having to move.
The company also plans to create 3D models, or digital twins, of physical buildings that would overlay information about every part of the property and even details such as the maintenance schedule. These wouldn’t even require a VR headset and could be viewed on a computer.
CBRE has been working with clients for a few years on the use of virtual reality headsets to monitor installations, even before the term “metaverse” was popularized.
Technicians working in one property can wear a VR headset to show a colleague in another office what’s happening there and overlay the information they need on what they’re seeing in the real world. It could help achieve environmental goals by reducing the amount of vehicles workers have to drive, and it could also ease the shortage of experienced technicians.
“As the industry evolves, there are fewer experts who really understand complex environments, and we’re seeing high turnover in the industry,” Davé said. “So how can we bring this expertise to more and more places? He was a driver.
A virtual land rush?
Davé said the company always works with its customers to leverage the best of technology, but in all cases the company strives to find the right technology to solve specific business problems rather than just trying. to do interesting things with the latest gadgets.
“We’ve applied use cases that meet today’s needs, and we’re also trying out meaningful use cases that we believe are likely to find traction in the not-too-distant future,” said Dave.
For this reason, he said, the company has not explored the idea of negotiating deals to purchase virtual land as there is no demand from its customers. Sales of virtual land in the metaverse topped $500 million in 2021, CNBC reported.
“When people really want to do a lot of transactions in this space and say, ‘Hey, CBRE, we need your help,’ we’ll be ready,” Davé said. “But today that’s not happening.”
Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban is one of the most prolific critics of the metaverse real estate market. In a podcast in August, he called buying land in the metaverse using a traditional real estate model “the stupidest thing ever” because there are unlimited volumes of it that can be created.
Nishant Batra, chief strategy and technology officer at telecommunications giant Nokia, said on a recent trip to North Texas that metaverse technology could replace smartphones as the primary form of communication by the end of this year. decade.
Batra highlighted several different current and potential uses of virtual reality and simulations in industries ranging from aerospace to manufacturing, mining and infrastructure engineering.
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