The Accenture Federal Technology Vision 2022 analyzes four emerging technology trends that will have significant impact on how government operates in the near future. Today we look at Trend #1, WebMe: Putting the Me in Metaverse.
In the wake of the pandemic, people’s digital and “real world” lives are melding. Accenture research found that 70% of consumers globally report spending substantially more time online, and 38% of agree that their digital life is increasingly becoming their “real life.”
Alongside this, two distinct technology shifts are taking place: the rise of metaverses, and the arrival of Web3. Together they are driving a shift towards a more decentralized and human-centric internet. Federal leaders will need to prepare for this profound shift – and some agencies are already starting to dip their toes into this new future.
For example, the U.S. Army is building a Synthetic Training Environment (STE), which aims to revolutionize the Army’s entire training paradigm by allowing units and soldiers to conduct realistic, multi-echelon, collective training anywhere in the world. Currently scheduled to be fully operational in 2023, the STE will combine live, virtual, constructive, and gaming training environments that simulate real-world terrain in its full complexity.
Together, the metaverse and Web3 create tremendous opportunities for federal agencies, most notably around modeling complex interactions in real-time, whether they be on the battlefield, in major cities, in warehouses and other large facilities, or on public lands. At the same time, they enable more powerful collaboration, whether that be a training scenario or engaging with an increasingly digitally-minded audience. Together, these two developments are building a more immersive, more impactful digital world for government to explore and use to further its missions.
Breaking Down the Metaverse and Web3
With still-emerging concepts, it’s important to define our terms. We see the metaverse as enabling users to move beyond browsing, toward inhabiting and participating in a persistent shared digital experience. Web3 refers to the use of technologies like blockchain and tokenization to build a more distributed data layer into the internet.
In practical terms, we can think of metaverses as 3D digital environments where people can explore, play, socialize, experience, train, collaborate, create, and interact with others. A range of emerging creation tools, platforms, and technologies are taking this beyond the realm of video games to provide immersive experiences for consumers shopping, employees training, and more.
Web3 deepens that experience, introducing a data framework that generates the veracity, trust, and consensus that the virtual world has often lacked. By building services and applications atop often permissionless blockchains outfitted with open protocols and open standards, Web3 will allow for more freedom, decentralization, and democracy for individual users, content creators, and projects.
Many in government are already looking ahead toward the rise of the metaverse and Web3. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. federal government executives (64%) say that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their agency, with 25% calling it breakthrough or transformational. Of those anticipating the most significant impact, 94% believe it will happen in the next four years.
While both the metaverse and Web3 present interesting possibilities on their own, federal leaders should be especially attentive to the coming together of these two trends. Specifically, Web3 infuses the context, ownership and interoperability needed to transform the metaverse into a thriving community.
Federal Agencies are Helping Build the Metaverse
While this may all sound a bit fantastical, federal agencies are already exploring the possibilities.
The Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem Extended Reality Network is exploring new care models using extended reality for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other challenges. And the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is relying on AI and digital twin simulation technology in the metaverse to better understand wildfires and stop their spread. Lastly, the U.S. Air Force is pondering the creation of a space-themed metaverse and has even trademarked a name for it: SpaceVerse.
Perhaps one of the most compelling cases of a federal agency employing WebMe capabilities to design and create its own virtual environment is occurring at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles. The project team began scanning workspaces and rooms at JPL and then digitally reconstructing them. JPL employees can then wear Oculus Quest 2 headsets to attend virtual meetings in those scanned locations. The virtual space enables JPL employees to replicate the dynamic communication and collaboration needed for their complex engineering projects – even while working remotely.
Federal agencies can also leverage metaverse and Web3 technologies to optimize warehouse and logistics operations; mitigate vulnerabilities and improve resilience in industrial processes; better manage infrastructure elements; and deliver improved maintenance to weapons systems, equipment, and fleet vehicles — to name but a few of the possibilities.
Federal agencies need to start thinking now about what use cases might benefit from the immersive experience of a metaverse, and the verifiable data framework of Web3. Already, there are some standard metaverse use cases that agencies can leverage without high levels of risk. For instance, immersive technologies for training or productivity have been tested and experimented with for years.
Alongside use cases, they need to think about how they will do this: which human, technical, data, and other resources will they need — and which outside partners are best positioned to assist them — to move forward. Agencies will need to ensure they have both a solid technical foundation, as well as the skills and capabilities within their workforce to act on these opportunities.
Read Trend 1 of the Accenture Federal Technology Vision 2022: WebMe to learn more about the steps federal leaders can take to capitalize on the shift toward Web3 and the metaverse.
- Alejandro Lira Volpi: Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Financial Services Strategy Lead
- EJ Dougherty III: U.S. Federal and Defense Extended Reality Lead, Accenture Federal Services
- Kyle Michl: Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Chief Innovation Officer
- Christina Bone: Senior Innovation Architect, Accenture Federal Services
- Dave Dalling: Cybersecurity Chief Technology Officer, Accenture Federal Services
- Terrianne Lord: Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Salesforce Delivery Practice Lead