You will be going to office meetings in the metaverse within three years. Or at least that’s what Bill Gates thinks.
The billionaire Microsoft founder made a major metaverse prediction in his famous “Year in Review,” an annual collection of reflections and guesses about what will happen in the year to come.
“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 wrote.
Gates believes that instead of physically meeting in an office space, we will soon be using avatars to interact in a similar way, ideally using motion capture and spatial audio technology to make the metaverse feel like real life. It should be noted that Microsoft announced last month that it was launching Mesh, a platform for virtual teams to collaborate in a 3D space using customized avatars.
The metaverse is part of the internet and made up of multiple platforms dedicated to virtual world-building, which major companies have already begun to invest in. Meta (formerly known as Facebook) opened its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds to the public on Thursday, CNBC reported.
Gates wrote in his predictions that there have been some astounding recent developments when it comes to our digital activity, all spurred on by the pandemic, and there will be more to come.
“People shouldn’t assume that the quality of the software that lets you have virtual experiences will stay the same. The acceleration of innovation is just starting,” he wrote.
One of the most exciting technological innovations already in development, according to Gates, is enhanced audio to supplement 3D virtual communication.
“One of the biggest improvements over what we use now is the use of spatial audio, where speech sounds like it’s actually coming from the direction of the person talking. You don’t realize how unusual it is to have meeting audio only coming from your computer’s speaker until you try something else,” he wrote.
Goggles and motion capture gloves are still necessary for advanced 3D interaction.
Gates’ predictions come in the wake of both Google and Meta pushing back their 2022 return-to-work dates because of the unpredictable Omicron variant. Spotify announced a permanent “work from anywhere” program last February, allowing employees flexibility to choose where and how they work. And companies like Upwork and Pinterest are now completely “remote first,” permanently closing down one office each.
“Although most companies will likely opt for the hybrid approach, there’s a good deal of flexibility around what exactly that approach might look like,” Gates wrote.
Gates added that we’re at the very beginning of what is possible in a virtual working world, because the pandemic challenged how we define what is “essential” to a working space.
“The pandemic has revolutionized how companies think about productivity and presence in the workplace,” he noted.
Fortune’s upcoming Brainstorm Design conference is going to dive into how businesses are building experiences in the metaverse. Apply to attend the event on May 23-24 in New York.