As Bill Gates reflected on what he calls his “most unusual and difficult year,” the billionaire also looked ahead to 2022 and beyond with no shortage of optimism — including when it comes to our “more digitized future.”
In a year-end post on Gates’ personal blog, the Microsoft co-founder included a prediction about the future of work, and how it could be changed by the rise of the metaverse, the virtual worlds being built by tech companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft, where users will be able to work, play and socialize.
Gates notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has already “revolutionized” the workplace, with more companies than ever offering flexibility for employees who want to work remotely. “Those changes will only intensify in the years to come,” Gates writes, and he says remote working will only pull more people into the metaverse.
“Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids…to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars,” Gates writes in his blog post.
That two-dimensional, grid view Gates describes, and which he likens to the game show “Hollywood Squares,” is what you currently get with most video conferencing platforms, like Zoom or Microsoft’s Teams. Meanwhile, in the metaverse, you would have a 3D avatar that would be able to attend meetings in a virtual office space or other destination, where it could interact with your co-workers’ avatars. “The idea is that you will eventually use your avatar to meet with people in a virtual space that replicates the feeling of being in an actual room with them,” Gates writes. But — awkwardly — Gates says users will have to wear virtual reality headsets and or goggles to do so.
Gates, who stepped down from Microsoft’s board in 2020, adds that his former company is working on adding 3D avatars and other metaverse-friendly elements to its Teams workplace software. And Teams might even have a clear on-ramp to the metaverse now that Microsoft is partnering with Mark Zuckerberg and Meta to make the latter’s Workplace social network for businesses compatible with Teams.