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AI escalates amongst ‘experienced’ metaverse businesses

Our recent ‘Metaverse at work’ research, in partnership with EY, revealed that the importance of AI escalates amongst experienced companies. We look at how the pairing of AI and XR technologies delivers exponential potential across industry.

In the New York office Harold accesses a perfect digital replica of the manufacturing plant in Sweden. In crystal clear XR it shows the factory floor, individual pieces of machinery, and even a visual model of its business processes. Amongst many immediate advantages it enables Harold see things that were previously hidden and spot problems before they get expensive. The secret sauce is AI.

AI may have hit the headlines recently, but it has been quietly working away in the background of businesses for over a decade. And while new advances in generative AI have certainly seen it catapult to fame – or infamy – beyond meteoric advances in the technology itself, its real ability is to combine with technologies like XR to supercharge data and drive exponential change in businesses. 

This is becoming increasingly obvious in the burgeoning metaverse space. Before the digital twin of the Swedish factory existed, for example, it wasn’t clear exactly how it would be used. But as this XR model has developed and made many invisible inefficiencies obvious to everyone, it has gradually taken on a life of its own, with different AI applications rapidly emerging.

Experienced metaverse businesses rank AI more importantly

Our recent ‘Metaverse at work’ research, produced in partnership with EY, showed that AI and its subset machine learning (ML) are ranked higher in importance by respondents with metaverse experience than those only in the planning phase. 

It’s still only early days for the metaverse at large but the difference is a full nine percentage points. With 74% of experienced businesses ranking AI “very” or “most important” compared to 65% of those yet to implement a project, this gap seems likely to increase over time as it is hard to predict how something will be used until you start using it.

One of the standout features of our research study with EY has been the wealth of varied potential metaverse use cases across industry. And interestingly, while uses are wide, AI was quite consistently deemed “very” or “most important” in every industry we surveyed. In parallel with this, AI was also universally seen as a key technical enabler for the deployment of industrial and enterprise use cases.

And it’s not only our study that shows this. In a recent virtual Real Talk event we ran, Vincent Douin the Principal of Business Consulting TMT at EY said these findings were consistent with other industry studies his team had run over the last few years. He highlighted EY’s annual Reimagining Industry Futures Study where “every year” AI has ranked as one of the top “foundational enablers for digital innovation in the enterprise space”.

This point was also seconded by his colleague Jerry Gootee, the Global Advanced Manufacturing Lead at EY, who spoke at a sister event we ran to deep dive into the industrial goods and manufacturing vertical. Gootee said that it is very “early days” for AI in his sector as “many manufacturers are still assessing the use and the value” but that none the less “it is the hottest capability discussed by every client”.

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The message is loud and clear: companies know AI is going to be important, they want to get in on the action, but they still don’t realize quite how important it will be until they trial it for themselves. 

So, to return to the digital twin of the Swedish factory example, the initial anticipated benefits of AI may simply be around optimization and future planning, with the imagined outcome being to better predict problems and protect the bottom line. But other surprising AI-related advantages might surface over time, such as improved data modelling spinning out a whole new product line.   

What has become evident from our metaverse at work study is that the business journey to the metaverse is only just beginning and those forward-looking companies investigating how it might pan out all know AI will be key. And as any virtual world has data at its heart, the data crunching abilities of AI will likely drive the future of business in surprising – perhaps not yet thought of – ways. 


The metaverse at work surveyed 860 business leaders in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Japan, and South Korea across four key industries: automotive, industrial goods and manufacturing, transportation, supply chain and logistics, and power and utilities. Conducted by EY teams in collaboration with Nokia, there are five reports available for download, covering the global findings along with one for each industry.