The World Economic Forum launched a new working prototype of its own metaverse at its annual meeting, with the aptly dubbed Global Collaboration Village aiming to be a space where organizations can collaborate and take action on the world's most pressing challenges.
Built using Microsoft Mesh, an immersive and as-yet-unreleased version of Teams, the platform has a partnership with Microsoft and Accenture, with 80 other organizations already signed up as partners. The digital space will feature a town hall for sessions, meetings and workshops, as well as virtual collaboration spaces.
Organizations will also be able to create their own hubs where they can showcase their projects. For example, participants could learn about how marine ecosystems must be protected to preserve both life on land and in water at a virtual ocean hub.
"Supported by a unique range of partners from the public and private sectors, the Village will use the frontier capabilities of the metaverse to find solutions for addressing the big issues of our time in a more open, inclusive and sustained way,” said Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman.
The WEF told The Block it wanted to create empathy around causes through immersive learning, build unique partnerships and different perspectives through new kinds of collaboration and expand its reach by leveraging co-presence to generate real-world impact.
Better world or better meetings?
While the idea of a metaverse for collaboration and problem-solving might sound promising, there are questions about the effectiveness of a souped-up metaverse version of Teams for solving global issues. On Twitter, the news was met with some incredulity ranging from branding the move a "desperate and dystopian pivot" to wishing participants "all fall into the Matrix and never return."
The WEF's claim that the Village will be a "true global village" quickly faced questions about inclusivity and access to decision-making forums. The first question during a Q&A following the announcement was about how its metaverse would be accessible to partners in developing countries who can’t access the required technology.
Brad Smith, vice-chair and president of Microsoft, responded that more connectivity needs to be brought to the developing world.
But not everyone is quite as critical. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already announced that Saudi Arabia is on board.
"Saudi Arabia intends to build a house in the village opening a door to opportunities, investment, and collaboration between various national stakeholders and international entities ... Saudi ARAMCO, as one of Saudi's leading private sector entities, is the first company to build a house in the Global Collaboration Village," the ministry said in a statement.
The Forum declined to share how much funding had been allocated to the project and who was financing it but said it was a tripartite collaboration between the Forum, in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft. Accenture is supporting the refinement of the strategy and design of the virtual world while Microsoft is providing the technical grounding through its Microsoft Mesh early adopter program.
© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.