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Playing With Reality - Episode 3

What is the benefit of the metaverse to corporations in both the IT and non digital sectors? Could these spaces become the best new way for organisations to interact with their consumers? Find out on this week’s episode of Playing with Reality.

 

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As ideas for the metaverse and other online communities and spaces continue to grow and become more developed, it only makes sense that major companies and corporations now want to get in on the act. Of course, everyone has heard of Meta and the billions they have invested, but who else is doing exciting things in this space? What is the benefit of it to corporations in both the IT and non digital sectors? Could these spaces become the best new way for organisations to interact with their consumers? On this episode of Playing with Reality, we explore how companies of all sizes are looking to tap in to this exciting new technology.


Today’s Guests


Joe Pine

Joe is an author and management advisor and the cofounder of Strategic Horizons. He has also been a Visiting Scholar with the MIT Design Lab and a Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam. His books include “Infinite possibility” a multiverse taxonomy of reality, and “The Experience Economy”, which shows how goods and services are nice for companies to have, but that the economy nowadays is run by experiences.

 

Jerry Eitel

Jerry is a Partner Emeritus in the Tax Departments of the accounting group, Prager Metis, where he also serves as the Chief Metaverse Officer for their Metaverse office. With 35 years experience in the accounting profession, Jerry now oversees expansion and planning for Prager Metis’ Metaverse clients, and his responsibilities include managing the organisation of strategic partnerships within the Web3 and metaverse spaces.

 

 

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Episode Transcript

Speakers: Menno Van Doorn & Joe Pine & Jerry Eitel

[Music playing 00:00:00]

Menno: If you went into the metaverse today, who would you find? Avatars? For sure. People dancing on VRChat? Definitely. But how about a metaverse for corporations? The corporate metaverse.

So, is the corporate metaverse here today, and how can companies best utilize this new economy of experiences?

Welcome back to Playing with Reality, with me, Menno Van Doorn, a new podcast series from Sogeti, the home for technology talent.

[Music playing 00:00:47]

The corporate metaverse is a tricky thing to define, but it all seems to boil down in the different ways we can experience reality. When we ask ourselves, whether something like virtual offices will become the norm, we should focus on the experience.

Will employees soon be on boarded in a VR headset? It depends on the experience. But more than this, I want to know what the true benefits are for companies who want to get into this space. Could this all just be a vanity project for Meta, or is there any real corporate value?

So, to find out, I got in touch with a few people who work and write about this very thing.

First up, we'll hear from my good friend Joe Pine. Joe is a man of many talents. He's an author, a management advisor, and co-founder of Strategic Horizons. He's also been a visiting scholar with the MIT Design Lab and a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam.

His books include Infinite Possibility, it's a multiverse taxonomy of reality, and of course The Experience Economy, that's a classic. That book shows how goods and services are nice to have, but the economy nowadays, are run by experiences.

I started off our conversation by asking him about these books and what they mean for the corporate metaverse.

Okay. The corporate metaverse is what we are going to discuss, and I can't think of a better person to have this conversation with, but Joe Pine, who I know for many, many years. So, I would like to say, hi Joe, welcome to our podcast, Playing With Reality.

Joe: Hello Menno. It's just a pleasure to see you again and to be on your podcast.

Menno: I think it will be nice to circle around two of your books. I would also call it two of your big ideas.

About 25 years ago, you coined these words, “Experience Economy.” Back then, you said that the future of organizations is all about staging memorable experiences. Would that be the purpose of the metaverse? Like creating memorable experiences, the whole thing?

Joe: I would say not the whole thing. I would say the primary thing and the initial thing, and certainly, that would get people on metaverse, is that they have a different experience than they can have in reality.

In virtuality, as I like to call it, you can do things that you can't do in reality. You can have an avatar that flies around, just as one simple example.

But if you get to what people envision for the future of the metaverse, where we spend a vast amount of time, in some cases, like the original ideas is like almost all of our waking time in a metaverse, well, then you're going to have many things there that are very quotidian, that are sort of the natural things that are part of life that don't rise to that level of memorability.

The more time you spend on there, the more you will get those things. So, you won't buy physical goods, but you'll buy virtual goods on the metaverse. So, you'll see sort of all economic offerings that play out on the metaverse, even though the initial and primary reason will of course, be the experiences that we have there.

Menno: So, let's move to what we now may call the corporate metaverse. Let's try to get a little bit better understanding what that could mean. And therefore, I would like to go back to another of your books called Infinite Possibility. I think it was 2011, subtitled, Creating Customer Value on The Digital Frontier.

And there in this book, you explained something that's called the multiverse. Maybe you can just sketch out for the ones who are listening what a multiverse is.

Joe: Absolutely. So, what it recognizes is that if you think about reality, all of our experiences in reality happen in our physical universe. Our physical universe is made up of three dimensions; time, space, and matter. And experience design is the design of time, and it's in a physical space that we have using objects in that space of matter.

But what digital technology does is it allows you to flip each of one of those. It's the most easily understood as, think about going from matter to no matter, from atoms to bits, from digital substances to material substances.

And we can now use digital technology to enhance the physical experience. Augmented reality is basically taking a reality experience of time, space and matter, then adding a layer of digital bits on top of that where you can see objects that don't exist in reality.

So, we can use those digital bits to be able to enhance our experiences and create new experiences. It's a virtual world that we can go into and immerse ourselves in some way, in our mind, and have wonderful experiences there.

And then finally, there's time and no time. Time is the actual events that unspool before us, moment by moment by moment. No time is any way that you play with those events.

So, the multiverse recognizes that we have these three dimensions with the six endpoints. Again matter/no matter, space/no space, time/no time. And now, we can use all of this as design elements, as things that we can design into our experiences with the ultimate being, not having a reality experience on one side and just the virtuality experience on the other side.

But the fact that we can now fuse all this together, that we can do all of this at once and fuse the real and the virtual.

Menno: Let's say the metaverse versus the multiverse, I would say there's a lot of value of a better understanding of a multiverse as opposed to a metaverse because the whole thing about the metaverse and the definition being one interoperable world with everything converged, and there's a lot of utopian thinking around that versus, I would say-

Joe: As it was with the internet, 30 years ago, all the utopian thinking that has not really come about.

Menno: So, it now seems for me, although very conceptual, your multiverse is more practical actually.

Joe: I exactly agree with that, because when you think metaverse and all you think is metaverse, you think of it as, what I call virtuality. It's a virtual world that you inhabit. And when you go to that virtual world, what do you do? You automatically leave the real world. I mean, not physically, your body's still someplace, but you are leaving what's going on in there.

But when you recognize that no, you don't have to leave the physical world in order to have wonderful virtual experience, that you can really fuse these.

So, for example, if you were thinking just of metaverse, you never would've come up with Pokémon GO. One of the biggest phenomenon over the last five or six years is Pokémon GO. And what did it do? It took a video game and brought it out into the real world.

Menno: So, Pokémon GO should be sort of inspiration for corporates that want to move to the metaverse, you would say?

Joe: Yeah, I absolutely think so. I think that many businesses can take that type of approach. And even on the corporate side, think about your own employees. Think about them being able to meet each other, both in physical reality and through virtuality.

So, they're in different places, but they can see what's going on. They can share things. And that's part of the vision of the Microsoft HoloLens. Is that we can work on digital objects from remote places, but we're seeing each other as part of that, whether in the physical room or someplace else. And there's huge advantages to that.

[Music playing 00:08:19]

Menno: So, Joe's idea of conceiving the metaverse as a thing in space, time, and matter, was really helpful. It helps to situate the metaverse as an experience. Something which his work can help to shine a light for the business world.

Using Pokémon GO as a blueprint for how corporations can engage with the metaverse also seem like a good place for companies to start. Making it both fun and interactive is surely the key.

But how do companies make sure that their metaverse is not just a flesh in the pen, like Pokémon GO was? How do they maintain that popularity for a longer period? Well, they might need to get themselves an executive whose sole job is to oversee the implementation of their metaverse product. Someone like Jerry Eitel.

So, Jerry, let's start with your new role, the Chief Metaverse Officer. Now, I think that many of the listeners wouldn't expect a business veteran, if I may call you, a business veteran to jump into an avatar suit and lead the company into the virtual future. Can you explain what happened?

Jerry: I think I can explain it. It kind of just happened. I retired, we knew some young guys that went into the metaverse and we were very progressive, so it was pretty natural extension.

And I've always been, just a little, I'm going to say out there. But the firm itself, we're all accountants, but a lot of us come from different backgrounds.

Menno: Jerry Eitel is a partner emeritus in the tech department of the accounting group, Prager Metis. But more importantly for this conversation, he also serves as the Chief Metaverse Officer for their metaverse office.

With 35 years of experience in the accounting profession, Jerry now oversees expansion and planning for his company clients. And his responsibilities include managing the organization of strategic partnerships within the Web3 and the metaverse spaces.

It was quite a change of job role for Jerry. So, I started asking him about what a Chief Metaverse Officer actually does.

Jerry: So, now, I'm in the metaverse. So, after dealing with some regular problems from the retirement world of accounting, then I started talking to some of the more creative types for the most part in the metaverse world. Because what I'm finding is that … first we were just doing regular stuff, like buying virtual land and things like that.

But now, I'm actually in the nitty gritty and I'm actually working with some of the creative types that we've been involved with on some advertising campaigns or NFT campaigns or going into our virtual office, what we're going to set up.

So, I'm just dealing with people, pretty much, different people though.

Menno: Different people, maybe different technology, buying virtual lands is different than buying real estate, I would say. But you jumped in this new position, and I'm still fascinated by that name. Let's call it that name, the Chief Metaverse Officer.

And I know your son is working for Google, and how did he respond when you told him that you would be the Chief Metaverse Officer?

Jerry: He was pretty bemused actually. He's always been into crypto himself and whatnot, and his friends, because he's so much younger than I am.

So, I think he was pretty surprised. He may have been a little proud, frankly, that his father's a little … maybe not like ready to go off into the pasture of the world. And oddly enough, I think he might be competing with me a little.

Menno: How come?

Jerry: How could his father be cooler than him or something like that.

[Music playing 00:12:22]

Menno: Clearly, the idea of a Chief Metaverse Officer is something companies are still figuring out. It's such a new position that they are still creating a framework for what the role actually entails.

But one thing is certain, it means spending a lot of time in virtual and augmented worlds, whether it is buying virtual land, as Jerry has been doing, or setting up virtual offices and even helping to put together NFT collections.

But let's take a step back. I wanted to ask Joe what he would do in Jerry's position, as someone who has been thinking about these things for a long time, what are some of his recommendations for corporations looking to take their first steps into the metaverse?

Let's move to some of the dos and don'ts, corporate-wise. So, what's your perspective on the ultimate impact on businesses, let's say 5, 10 years further on?

Joe: Yeah, I think 5 and 10 years from now, it's going to have an impact, but it's not going to be huge. I think it's going to take a little longer than that.

Let me ask you this question, Menno — so, you're talking about the corporate metaverse. So, what do you actually mean by that? Is it something where just our employees are working together virtually, or we are there with our customers, or we set it up for our customers to be in? How expansive is it in your mind?

Menno: Well, in my mind it's many different things. It could be based on a layer of, let's call it a multiverse, so many different applications like augmented reality, virtual reality, but also the use of 3D cameras.

Like I was on a tour to Denmark with a tour guide walking around over there. I was sitting here, there were 160 people joining. We could ask questions, and in the end, we had a fantastic experience and maybe memorable experience, I would say.

If I would ask someone on the street, “Is this the metaverse?” They would say, “No,” but I would say, “This is part of a 3D experience.” There's so much utopian thinking that I don't like. People think the whole world will change because of this, but I'm getting old also, maybe.

Joe: Right, exactly. We're old cranks now, Menno. These young whipper snappers with their metaverse stuff. Yes, exactly.

But I agree, it's what's proven out, time after time. And I think it has the possibility of making a huge difference.

I think education, like you said, is one important thing, and it's not just like let me learn knowledge virtually that then I can apply later. But it's things like doing it in real time, being able to use augmented reality to like overlay exactly what you're looking at, like a car engine.

I know nothing about cars and could never repair a car engine. But imagine you've got augmented reality and it's actually telling you step by step, being able to show exactly what you do on top of your own car. Then that's something you can do.

So, that time aspect then is important. Some things we want to learn to be able to enhance the future, some things we need right now in real time.

Menno: Now, I'm listening to a very experienced person, a very wise person who has worked with very big corporations, so I must ask you this question; what should corporations never do in order to be successful looking at these technologies?

Joe: Today, I would say the number one do for corporations is explore, is they need to explore. They need to test, they need to try things out. They need to do things even without knowing what the full value might be.

If anybody has an inkling that this might be value for them, then it’s something you should explore. And the don't is, don't commit. I mean commit to a particular technology, commit to a particular way of thinking about the metaverse or the multiverse.

Thinking about particular things, you cannot commit too early. As you're doing through that exploration, guess what, new technologies are coming around.

[Music playing 00:16:22]

Menno: I think Joe is right. The most important thing for anyone working in a space as fast moving as the metaverse is to commit to explore, not commit to a particular way of thinking. And that goes for committing to hardware as much as anything.

Remember what Jason McDowell was saying in a previous episode about race is for AR goggles, and that the pair that would break through still isn't on the market.

But moving forward, I wanted to know which sort of companies should be getting involved into the metaverse. For tech companies like Google and Facebook, sure, it makes sense. But Jerry works for an accounting firm, why would they want to get involved into the metaverse?

You already explained a little bit about how an accounting company gets involved into the metaverse, but can you maybe elaborate on it? What does the company want to get out of all this?

Jerry: Okay, so it's almost like opening an office in another country or another state. We're just expanding our business into another land. Some of our clients that are already in this space, the entertainment clients maybe, to see that we can offer certain services, because you have to be in it to really understand it.

We're known now, for doing this because we have — you can't get more expertise than when you do something.

Menno: I agree.

Jerry: You see the problems, and that's really why we did it, to understand it more than anything else.

Menno: You already told me that you have an office, it's like normal office, but different, a virtual one. It's somewhere in Decentraland, it's called. The Decentraland, what made you choose for Decentraland and not for another place to open an office?

Jerry: Well, the people that we’re involved with that really brought us into this space, they focused on Decentraland, and if anything, it's more business-related. It's not as gamey as some of the other metaverses or sandbox or whatnot. It's fairly easy to build a scene and to have an office made. It seemed to be the easiest way to do this actually.

Menno: Yeah, I saw it. And it looks pretty cool. And I can imagine that you don't want to open an office in Roblox, like Nikeland, for instance, it looks very childish, but for an accounting office. But it also looks bit science fiction-like, or very modern. It's not something that I would associate with an accountant office.

Jerry: The way these offices are in general, they're multi floors. You go in, you have stuff on the walls that are NFTs or that some of them can be very valuable, believe it or not.

And then you go into kind of a portal that takes you up to the top or to different floors, or you can walk up to the floors, as an avatar of course. And then you can go into theoretically, a meeting room where you could have a projector and do a show or something like that. It's very interesting. It's a movie within a movie.

Menno: Tell me more about the NFTs. So, are these real NFTs? What are they?

Jerry: The way it works is, when we build the office, you have a designer, she helped design the space and we have frames, and you could pop any NFT into these frames.

Basically, when you buy land, you assign the rights to build on that land, or you assign the rights to do some software programming on the land. And then they kind of design the space.

You give them your logos and we want to still have some of our corporate logos floating around in our various entities. But generally, you just pop NFTs into the frames and it looks kind of cool.

Menno: So, you are working for the creative industry people in the music scene, and then there's NFT involved. So, what are you doing? So, as a company, what do people need to know?

Jerry: Okay, so the first thing that happened when we opened this office was everybody — well, not everybody, a lot of people came to us because we knew how to do things. We knew how to go and buy the virtual land and pay and the crypto, and we knew about wallets and all that.

And we saw how hard it is to work in the Blockchain. So, we had a lot of people contacting us, and we do do audits of crypto-related industries. We handle a very large exchange. We do some funds.

So, we do do traditional accounting work in the Blockchain, crypto industry in general, as metaverse, and we’re metamorphosizing or whatever the word will become. I'm somehow flowing more into the creative space or to the agency-type space.

Menno: I understand. So, you are metamorphing (I like that word by the way) into another industry, creative people, NFT. So, what's the kind of piece of advice that they're looking for?

Jerry: Well, first of all, we brought Absolut into the metaverse, and they did it with a concert, Coachella. And that was a pretty big deal. I actually ended up buying the land for Absolut. So, I did that acquisition. Of course, I moved it to somebody's wallet and stuff like that.

But more recently, actually a family member, an artist, he’s a fairly well-known pop artist, we’re doing a huge campaign for him, and we’re bringing him into Web3. And he is a very well-known artist in the pop world, but we're bringing his stuff to life in 3D.

[Music Playing 00:22:14]

Menno: The entertainment world has always been at the forefront of everything to do with Web3, whether it is buying virtual lens for Absolut to launching Coachella, or even bringing a famous pop star into the world of NFTs and crypto.

And as this continues to grow, more and more industries will be sucked in by their orbit of counting firms included. But what sort of industries will follow suit and how long is it going to take for them to jump on the bandwagon?

I went back to Joe to find out.

If you look at the future of the metaverse, you already said some things about time-wise, 5, 10 years, maybe longer. What do you think is the timeframe for companies for adopting these technologies?

Joe: Well, I think a lot of adoptions will happen in the next five years. But I don't think we're going to be anywhere near seeing the end of where it's going until even beyond 10 years, that we won't be able to understand exactly what the end game is.

If you're a Henry Ford in 1905, you know what the end game is. You're making cars and you got to make them cheaper and faster and create the system of mass production to be able to do that.

Now, there's limitless possibility out there, and it's hard to see where the possibilities are. You've got to keep your options open, and you got to be willing to embrace the new technology as it comes in. So, I think that for at least another 10 years, that'll be the case.

Menno: And do you think that digital companies will be the first one making advantage of the metaverse technologies, or is it for every kind of company?

Joe: Well, if you speak specifically about metaverse, then that's probably the case. If you think about the multiverse, where it's about fusing the real and the virtual, well, if you're a reality-based company, you should have as much chance of doing this as a virtuality-based company.

And maybe the merging of those will get some merging of some company to be able to do it. Amazon is probably the most effective today in creating value both in the physical world and in the virtual world. But they're not creating experiences out there.

They've got Amazon Explorer, so you can go book your own experiences, but they're not out there creating experiences that like Meta wants to do, and Fortnites and Robloxes, Minecrafts of the world and so forth.

Menno: Do you fundamentally see the metaverse as something which will be good for not just companies, but consumers too?

Joe: I do, I do. I think that most all new technologies enable things that were not possible before. The fundamental — I got this term from my colleague, Kim Korn actually, he says, “The basic purpose of business is to enhance human flourishing.” It is about human flourishing, and does digital technology allow us to flourish in ways that we are not? And the answer is yes.

Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken, you remember that? She's sort of the mother of alternate reality games or ARGs, and she made the point and others have as well, that for many people, virtual worlds are a better place to be than their physical world because of where they are in that world.

And so, it opens up new vistas, again, of possibility that I think will create better lives for us and allow us to flourish even more.

[Music playing 00:25:43]

Menno: Enhancing human flourishing is certainly a great phrase. It's one which all companies should be thinking about when they are interfacing with their customers, whether they're in the metaverse or not.

And the technologies that Joe describes could do just that. Any company that deals in experiences for the customers or employees could have a place in this new virtual world.

But how, what are the dos and don'ts? I asked Jerry about the mistakes he has made and about his takeaways.

So, now, that we have sort of better understanding of why and what you're doing and how it evolves, let's go back to your role. What do you think of the things you think you should do being a CMVO? Is there something on your agenda that you think, “These are the things that I must do?”

Jerry: Well, I think the main thing would be; you got to listen to the people that really live in the space. You have to do a deep dive and pay attention to what they're doing. And you have to really listen to them and to learn.

And you almost have to be a sponge, as in my role, because it's not like I'm a 30-year-old kid or whatever that's been here. You have to actually listen to some of these people.

That's the main thing. You have to be able to navigate how to approach things, because it's very easy to make mistakes, and yet you can't be afraid. That's the second thing, I guess, would be you can't be afraid to make mistakes because, it's almost impossible not to make a mistake here.

Menno: Where do you think things are heading to?

Jerry: I guess I would start with the regular stuff, the enterprise type business. I think that more and more, hopefully the technology will get better and better, but assuming it does, like meeting rooms will be really virtual, training.

I think there's a company that we once worked with, they did a good job, ChalkBites. And what they did was, they sent us virtual headsets trying to show us what's going on. And they create virtual meeting rooms or virtual, you could repair a big machinery. So, the companies are already doing this.

Menno: I hear you talk, and I hear the humor maybe, or the fun that you have, but at the same time, I'm a co-author of a book called Real Fake, published October last year. And when you talk about these kind of things, so what is reality? What is fake, what is real? And people tend to get afraid. What's your opinion on that? Do you think we should also worry the fakeness of this new media?

Jerry: I worry about everything. I’m like fairly pessimistic in a sense. I'm optimistic and I'm pessimistic, meaning I can laugh at my pessimism. I always know that like the worst can happen.

But at the same time, I think in the metaverse, there's a lot of good things going on too. There are a lot of like foundation type situations, people getting involved in communities. And the communities share certain values.

And getting back to this artist, so we establishing a community that will just tell him or discuss what kind of works he would like to do, or maybe lead him or be involved in it.

But there are other communities that — like we worked with Female Quotient for female empowerment. There's environmental communities. There's a lot of good that can be done as well.

And I actually think there's a lot of young people, a lot of idealistic situations, and I think that's a positive. It's not everybody that's trying to get rich here and destroy the environment. It's probably the opposite.

Menno: So, Jerry, thank you so much. Normally, I end up by saying let's meet in the metaverse, but you're actually opening, I think you have a grand opening of Decentraland. Is anyway, any possibility that I get the tickets for your opening?

Jerry: Absolutely. We'll get you in there.

[Music playing 00:30:06]

Menno: Jerry is right on a number of levels. The enthusiasm and energy of the young people involved in this space is exactly what will be driving it forward as an industry.

But as said, Jerry is a business veteran. For becoming a CMO, it doesn't seem to matter. And Jerry is also right when he says that other sectors will soon be moving into this space.

But currently, the corporate metaverse remains in the realm of entertainment companies and those in digital technologies. If accounting companies like Prager Metis can move in, others will soon follow.

And some final advice, well, Joe and Jerry's assertion that companies should live in the metaverse as much as possible is vital. They have to live and breathe these virtual worlds so they can see what works and what doesn't. Do that, and the corporate metaverse could be everywhere sooner than you think.

That's all for today. Thanks so much for listening, and a big thanks to Joe and Jerry for sharing all that knowledge about this exciting new field of Web3.

If you enjoyed this episode and want to let us know, please do get in touch on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, and you can find us at Sogeti.

And don't forget to subscribe and review Playing With Reality on your favorite podcast app as it really helps others to find our show.

Next week, we'll be taking a step back to look at the growth of the metaverse more generally, seeing how the world went from this early versions of Second Life to the amazing things that exist right now.

Do join us again next time on Playing With Reality.

[Music playing 00:32:02]

Contact
  • Menno van Doorn
    Menno van Doorn
    Director of VINT
    +31 6 51 27 09 85
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