It’s time to get your tech skills ready for the Metaverse

By Simon Allardice, Principal Author at Pluralsight
The concept of the “metaverse” is increasingly in the spotlight, and may offer a technological future that revolutionises how the world works.

Despite the fact that a ‘perfect’ version of the metaverse may be many years away, organisations are already making investments into creating their own piece of the Metaverse. The most notable of which may be Meta rebranding its entire organisation to focus on delving deeper into the concept, working to provide its customers with VR experiences that transport them into new, virtual realms. 

For many technologists, it’s a reality that organisations will begin demanding that their tech workforce has the skills needed to help build out the metaverse through increased focus on AR, VR, and related technologies. In fact, two thirds of organisations expect to embrace these new technologies in the next two years.

Despite the eagerness to explore the space, the ongoing digital skills gap in the tech industry prevails, and unsurprisingly, metaverse skills are in high demand. But nearly three-quarters of workers do not feel equipped to learn the digital skills needed by businesses now and even more, 76% do not feel equipped for the future. 

For organisations to successfully establish their own piece of the metaverse, and remain competitive, they must first ensure that their workers are equipped with the right skills to do so.

How does the Metaverse look today? 

The metaverse is still in its infancy. Currently, it isn’t much more than a set of disconnected and proprietary AR and VR experiences - with a lofty vision of interconnectedness and immersion. Because of this, it’s easy to write the concept of the metaverse off as simply another technology buzzword. 

Only time will tell if the metaverse ever does live up to its name. For now, it is a useful shorthand way of describing the mostly predictive, mostly future-looking process of trying to combine all of these disparate technologies including VR, AR, artificial intelligence, pervasive cloud infrastructure, and multiplayer gaming. 

In order for the metaverse to function as a true digital world, there must be a great deal of cooperation between different organisations, and strides are being made in this area. In June 2022, tech giants such as Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Adobe, joined forces to create the metaverse standards forum

The forum aims to foster an open and accessible virtual world, and it makes the need for coordinated action and attention to the technologies of the metaverse all the more real. Now, it’s also up to innovative technologists to help turn this vision into a reality and for opportunities to be realised. 

The Metaverse needs new tech skills 

Though many of the fundamental skills that the metaverse requires will have significant overlap with other forms of coding, technologists should still expect to enter into a new era of software development. Twenty years ago, most developers were focused on building desktop apps, and a few years later they were expected to provide mobile versions of those same apps. That same principle applies to the evolution of the metaverse; upskilling in metaverse related technologies is going to continue to be important for technologists. 

In terms of skills needed to run the metaverse, many of the fundamental software development skills won’t change - particularly if you are working with the backend components. There’s no unique programming language just for the metaverse - languages like Python, JavaScript and C# will continue to play their part. But it’s increasingly important for developers to focus on speed with AR and VR. For the metaverse to be seamless, developers must find ways to reduce latency and get as close to real-time responsiveness as possible. 

The metaverse will also usher in new considerations for cybersecurity, data privacy, and digital transactions. Understanding the cybersecurity risks that massive VR and AR environments pose will be a huge factor. 

For front-end developers who want to be more involved in the actual creation of the VR experiences themselves, technologists need to start becoming familiar with the 3D engines that are typically used for creating immersive worlds. Upskilling in programs such as Unity and Unreal, and associated programming languages like C, C#, and C++ which have a lot of crossover with game development skills will be key. 

Ushering in an Immersive Digital World

We are far from being able to jump into an interconnected, open-source metaverse to complete our workday, catch up with friends, and engage in leisure activities using one singular virtual world. However, simply dismissing the metaverse as the future state of VR or AR isn't good enough. It doesn't describe the need for better connectivity, better availability, or ubiquitous access to a virtual environment.

In the present, AR experiences are becoming increasingly sophisticated. For instance, the latest VR headsets are more wearable, and real world items are increasingly being brought into this virtual space. Even smartphones have become powerful AR tools, with social media filters and apps helping to bring the virtual world into the real world. 

The future of the metaverse depends on collective buy-in to the concept and technologies, a clear framework for interconnectivity, and ease of use. In order for the metaverse to be enticing to the general public, it needs to solve a problem or otherwise make life easier and more enjoyable. These changes must be executed by organisations with a keen vision, and skilled technologists willing to create innovative solutions for the problems of the metaverse. 

At present, the metaverse still has flaws, but it also has immense potential to augment and improve our technological lives. There is real value in pursuing the metaverse, and there is an immersive digital world just waiting to be built. That said, businesses need to take a step back before diving head first into the space. Building the skills of existing talent within organisations to support innovation in this space will be key to its success.

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