Bill Gates Says Metaverse Will Be The Norm For Virtual Office Meetings In 2-3 Years

Bill Gates VR
The latest buzzword is 'metaverse' and over time, you might get sick of hearing about it (if not already). It seems inevitable as major tech firms have latched onto the term—Facebook even changed its name to Meta (not for the social network, but for the overarching company brand, like Alphabet is to Google). Does the metaverse have a future, though? You can add Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as being among those who think it does.

In a blog post, Gates offered up an analysis of what has been a "difficult year" and his "reasons for optimism" going forward. One of them is the "acceleration of innovation" that is specifically tailored to bolstering virtual experiences, an area that the metaverse plays directly into. As such, Gates made a somewhat bold prediction.

"Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids—which I call the Hollywood Squares model, although I know that probably dates me—to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars," Gates says. "Both Facebook and Microsoft recently unveiled their visions for this, which gave most people their first view of what it will look like."

The metaverse is happening, whether the label sticks or not. While the specifics will change and evolve over time, the metaverse is basically the next iteration of the web (or part of it, anyway), sometimes referred to as Web 3.0. It's highlighted by digital interactions in virtual spaces with 3D avatar representations. And of course it requires specialized hardware—some kind of VR/AR headset or goggles.

For that reason, it feels ambitious to predict we'll see 3D meetings replace Zoom-style interactions in just 2-3 years. But then again, none of us have created a multi-billion dollar company that transformed the world of computing like Gates did (he's uniquely qualified, in other words).

Gates does acknowledge the hardware side of the equation, though, adding that motion capture gloves will play into the experience as well.

"Most people don’t own these tools yet, which will slow adoption somewhat. (One of the things that enabled the rapid change to video meetings was the fact that many people already had PCs or phones with cameras.) Microsoft plans to roll out an interim version next year, which uses your webcam to animate an avatar that’s used in the current 2D set-up," Gates points out.

He also notes that there are a "ton of companies working on 3D avatars," and he's been "super impressed" with some of the prototypes he's had a chance to test. He's especially encouraged by the advances in spacial audio.

"You don’t realize how unusual it is to have meeting audio only coming from your computer’s speaker until you try something else. There’s still some work to do, but we’re approaching a threshold where the technology begins to truly replicate the experience of being together in the office," Gates says.

It's an interesting perspective for sure, and you can read more of what Gates thinks about the metaverse (and other topics) in his lengthy blog post.

Thumbnail/Top Image Source: Bill Gates (via Twitter)