Asynchronous shadows are the fusion of 1) low/no-code platforms for automating employee activities or programming bots and 2) avatar technologies developments. The avatar, being a continuation of a specific person within the company or outside it (including in the NPC format for other environments), becomes partially autonomous.
Although it can be expected that such solutions will emerge from niche startups, platform players are closest to delivering them, embedding the first and second functions into a third one - a corporate messenger.
Of course, we are referring to Microsoft Teams, which will include Microsoft Mesh and Power Platform. (We hope we haven't revealed the terrible secret of secret roadmaps. 🤐) But similar steps can be expected in the future from the Slack / Salesforce.com bundle and, with some stretch, from Mark's Workspace/Horizon Workroom.
🔮 Insight. Guru and coaches by subscription
3rd party NPCs become part of the Corporate Metaverse experience as a follow-up of training, upskilling events, and inspirational meetings.
The corporate education market strikes with a new development over the "outside-in" practice. In past, smart gurus used to come to you, tell you how to live, sell books, answer a couple of questions, and, waving their hands, fly away "to their fabulous forest." Now, in addition to lectures, seminars, and workshops, you can also purchase a subscription for an NPC character assembled on the unique wisdom and philosophy of your trainer and animated on the next version of GPT.
In early versions, it will be just a plug-in bot for a corporate messenger with which you can chat. But over time, it will get a facial avatar and become part of your corporate metaverse, and employees will be able to access it asynchronously at any time.
Of course, this will happen only after your security services mentioned in the risk section below have checked everything and made sure that everything is safe and might be trusted. In practice, this will prove to be a non-trivial task, because, ideally, the guru's shadow also wants to evolve and pass questions that they could not answer well enough to the live source of great wisdom. And this is already going beyond the boundaries of the security contour by exposing internal issues and risking disclosing unreliable and unstable employees to external agents.
But on the other hand, if it's going to be guaranteed by a big reliable vendor or you feel like you have nothing to hide, then why not? After all, the imaginary avatar of Tony Robbins connected to the cloud service is no worse than the digital twin of an oil refinery connected to a VM instance deployed in the same public cloud. Remember to grant a bonus and raise the headcount for the information security service. Salute!🥂
⚗️ Experiment. It was the 27th hour of the working day
Employees use no/low-code to program their avatar's shadowing behavior to allow async scenarios.
Employees practice exchanging asynchronous communications: classic email is supplemented with meeting recordings, available and transcripted almost instantly, synthesized voice applied for internal corporate materials (wanna hear them in the author's voice before the meeting?), automatic summary generation with action items extraction, and contextual voice and video commentary and discussions. There are more and more guides on setting up asynchronous communication.
With the simultaneous development and implementation of avatars and no / low-code platforms, all this plays in a new light. One day, your employees discover that a new version of the avatar platform has been released and now they can create "shadow" behavior for their virtual representations through a simple visual designer of reactions and dialogues.
To begin with, avatars can be "animated" so that they properly react (autonomously) to different events. For example, they might pretend to think or listen carefully during a meeting that you physically missed but your avatars had your back. Or they might voice text messages with your characteristic facial expressions.
But then you will allow them to answer calls and questions, performing autonomously the simplest operations: accept an appointment in the calendar, go to a company-wide call or lecture, where you just need to listen and write out key theses for yourself, based on your department's knowledge base provide advice and guidance. You will not notice how you grow yourself a second virtual head that replaces you in social communications.
⚙️ Practice. Look better, work better, and require less!
Some employees are never seen by their colleagues as real people (non-avatars).
An urban legend circulates along the corridors of the Corporate Metaverse that some of the employees are not real. You start to sort through your interaction experience and realize that you have never seen a colleague live or even through a webcam. It was always an avatar. You don't know how old the person behind the scenes really is, what gender they are, or what they look like in real life.
Perhaps once it was a real person, but all those who saw the employee alive have long since quit, and since the avatar feature was introduced in Microsoft Teams, the story is a dead end. You conduct an undercover investigation and find out that the suspect avatar is working almost 24/7, responding extremely politely, patiently, and quickly, but at the same time, it does not repeat itself. It seems to be a bot, but it has a convincing cover story, and the calls sometimes "leak" fragments of personal life. Avatar is up to date with the latest news and has a dog. Perhaps virtual. HR refuses to tell you the truth.
Suddenly, a dystopian thought occurs to you that an avatar communicates in the Metaverse instead of you as well, and you are needed only as a carrier of the "legend" and a line in the company's balance sheet - a kind of social tax. In horror, you take off your helmet, wipe your sweaty forehead, look at the dusty old monitor standing in the corner, and sadly remember the old days' phrase: "Hello, colleagues, do you hear me?" 😱
🚸 Risk. Social Engineering in the Metaverse
Avatars of NPCs and remote employees are hacked for social engineering.
The news is spreading across the net that another company has been "hacked" using NPCs and avatars of remote employees for social engineering. Of course, the company makes excuses that hackers didn’t steal anything, they just learned a couple of corporate secrets and plans for the next product releases, which the company was going to reveal tomorrow anyway, not a single bit of user data was compromised.
But the internal security service has already put a memo on the CEO's desk that they have long warned that these meta-coaches will not bring them to good, and their report on the risks of social engineering in the Metaverse clearly no one has read it. The CEO bashfully rummages through the stack of papers on his desk and finally finds a red folder with slightly yellowed analytical notes. "It's good that it's not on punched cards," the head of the company reassures himself.
You remember the horror stories that in moments of downtime, NPC bots whisper with the shadows of your corporate avatars and only Mark knows what they are conspiring about. Dear Mark, please, forgive us for using your honest name as an imaginary reference.
In this series of posts, I share pieces from the Corporate Metaverse report (v2) written by Constantin Kichinsky and based on the original research on the topic done by Constantin Kichinsky, Aleksei Kalenchuk & Ekaterina Filatova in 2022.