Jan 15, 2024 - Technology

Davos' metaverse access

Illustration of hands reaching for each other over a desert landscape.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Accessibility is an unstated goal of this year's World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Driving the news: After a trial period last year, the non-governmental organization is relying on the metaverse in an official capacity to bring in more participants from around the world.

  • "If you're not able to make it physically, we can still have your voice be heard," Chieh Huang, president of the Global Collaboration Village — the name of the WEF's metaverse platform — told Axios in an interview on Sunday.
  • His role was newly created to widen collaboration and extend problem-solving conversations beyond the annual meeting.
  • "We think it's historic, not just for Davos, but in a sense that this is the first time that the metaverse is being used at this level of public-private collaboration and the breadth of what's being discussed."

How it works: Davos will host more than 30 sessions through its new platform built upon Microsoft's Mesh platform, which is currently compatible with Meta's Quest 2, 3 and Pro.

  • The village will eventually be accessible with any VR goggles. Virtual participants can also join on a computer for a 2D experience.
  • Panelists and participants from Davos and elsewhere will share virtual spaces together to discuss issues including climate change and supply chain.
  • "On Zoom, you're just watching a panel. In the global collaboration village, you're present in an environment ... as if you're in the same room," says Huang.

Why it matters: Critics call Davos elitist and "totally irrelevant."

  • Finding ways to open up the conference to more people may help combat that image and grow interest — especially among young adults and entrepreneurs.

Zoom in: According to a December 2023 poll from YouGov and Salesforce, Gen Z are more optimistic about Davos' power to effect change than any other respondents.

  • Climate change and sustainability top the list of topics they believe should be discussed this year.

Zoom out: The most important theme of Davos this year is rebuilding trust and fostering a spirit of global solidarity, says Huang, who joined last November.

  • AI, though further down the list, is on the minds of "probably every attendee," he adds.

Hope's thought bubble: While AI may have supplanted the metaverse in priority (even for Meta itself) for many organizations, the WEF's focus on the mixed reality platform underscores the challenge that all leaders face right now: Bringing people together in an ideologically and physically fragmented world.

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