Building the metaverse: What is it, and are companies up to the challenge?


Editor’s note: Dr. Sarah Glova  is the Founder & CEO of the award-winning digital media firm Reify Media, and she is an international public speaker who has spoken from California to Qatar on topics ranging from business and entrepreneurship to tech trends and Smart City initiatives. Sarah has a PhD from NC State in Instructional Technology and previously taught technical writing to engineer and business undergraduates. She serves on the Board of Directors for Innovate Raleigh, an organization dedicated to making Raleigh one of the top five centers for innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.


RALEIGH – When I was in college, I knew a professor who was obsessed with the life simulation video game Sims. Sometime around 2007, he predicted we’d all be “living” in a Sims-style replica world within 15 years.  

Playing Sims did teach me a good life lesson—everyone should have a fire extinguisher in their home. But, other than that, my life hasn’t changed in the way the professor had prophesied.  

Sarah Glova

These days, a different buzzword reminds me of the cracks in his crystal ball—the metaverse. A catch-all term for visually-rich digital and/or VR worlds, the metaverse has been called “the new frontier”. 

The metaverse represents an exciting convergence of technologies and use cases, certainly—but some of the bold predictions about the metaverse remind me of my professor’s predictions about Sims in the early 2000s. 

My Sims-enthusiast professor was sure that, by 2022, virtual worlds would scale out of gaming, and much of our daily life would take place in a simulated space. Today, I hear similar bold claims—that a universal VR world is the place to buy real estate and plan events, or that expansive digital spaces will be the great economic equalizer to solve our socioeconomic disparities. 

Those predictions may be true eventually—but is it “the metaverse of tomorrow”, or the metaverse of quite-a-ways-to-go?

This metaverse—and all its opportunity and hype—will be up for discussion at the East Coast Gamers Conference (ECGC) this week. I’m moderating a panel, Building a Secure New World: History, Risks, and Rewards of The Metaverse and Related AI Tools.” And I plan to ask our panelists what it’ll take for the bold predictions about the metaverse to come true.

Building the metaverse means jobs – lots of them – and battle is on to recruit talent

There will be two major themes:

  • What does being “ready” for the metaverse really mean
  • Who are we going to hire to help us get there? 

Here’s an exclusive preview:

Who’s really ready for the metaverse?

ECGC was founded by Troy Knight, who is also the CEO of Raleigh-based firm BLDG-25. Grant Kaley, Chief Strategy Officer at BLDG-25, shared a little insight into why the metaverse is on the agenda for 2022:

“Metaverse and similar solutions are natural evolutions of digital transformation,” said Kaley. “While we are absolutely seeing the wild west, we are also seeing a lot of early adoption. It’s happening.” 

Kaley also said that early adoption from key players shows that industry needs to pay attention.

“With the likes of JPMorgan Chase or Hyundai carving out commercial presence, if you aren’t getting involved with even a proof of concept and platform evaluation, you run significant risks of being left behind,” said Kaley.

To help me prepare for the panel, I asked Ginna Lambert, Director of Content for Conscio VR, for her thoughts on the metaverse. Conscio VR is a Virginia-based startup developing therapeutic VR tools for healthcare, and they participated in the fall 2021 cohort of the RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP). Their current focus is VR-based approaches for substance use disorder education and treatment.

One of my questions was—who are the early adopters? Who is “ready” for the metaverse?

Epic Games raises another $2 billion from investors for building ‘metaverse’

Lambert mentioned companies like Cary-based Epic Games, which announced another $2 billion in funding earlier this month, and Blizzard, as companies that already have a customer base in their online communities. She also mentioned companies that already have social VR worlds, like RecRoom and Microsoft-owned AltSpace. 

I plan to ask the ECGC panelists this same question—who is “ready”? I also hope to challenge the idea of “ready”—do the panelists think there are any companies that are really ready for the metaverse at scale? 

“Being ‘ready’ for the Metaverse is a hot topic for all the people building these online worlds, and doing so ethically can seem like a David and Goliath task at the moment,” said Lambert. “Many Metaverse companies are primarily VC-funded at the moment, and those shareholders want a return on their investment.”

The ethical, legal, and health implications

Lara Abouelkheir, business journalist for, recently wrote, “As the physical and digital worlds continue to converge, a host of ethical issues, such as bias in AI, inequality in the tech industry, and a lack of regulatory frameworks, need to be tackled first in order for the metaverse to be a safe virtual space that transcends today’s communication and equity barriers.”

I want to know what the panelists think—are companies truly considering the implications of the metaverse—and all the data privacy, information security, accessibility, legal, and health complexities related to the metaverse? 

I plan to ask the panelists—who are they seeing do that work?

Lambert mentioned XRSI—the XR Safety Initiative run by Kavya Pearlman—as an organization working to, in Lambert’s words, “create a Metaverse that has the good of the individual, not the company, in mind.” 

She also mentioned Tony Parisi’s The Seven Rules of the Metaverse: A framework for the coming immersive reality, a framework with a focus on “building a Metaverse intended for the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Lambert mentioned concerns about “gatekeepers” to the Metaverse—specifically, companies that will not follow Parisi’s framework.  

What does the metaverse need for wider adoption—and who are we going to hire to solve those challenges?

For the record, I play a lot of Roblox with my 8-year-old. But what are the use cases beyond our family’s tower defense obsession? 

For us to see wide adoption, beyond those who love tech for tech’s sake, what will we need? What will it take for the metaverse to have a real impact beyond tech and gamer enthusiasts? 

My hope is that the panelists will address a breadth of foundational elements that the metaverse needs to scale adoption—maybe things like:

  • Increased bandwidth, or 5G as infrastructure?
  • Better technology, with well-designed UI and intuitive UX? 
  • Integration with our daily lives, with open VR rooms designed and built in our homes and offices, or out-of-the-box solutions for those physical limitations?
  • More inclusive technology that bypasses accessibility issues and addresses biases in algorithms? 

And, just as importantly—who will companies hire to do this work? (See sidebar.)

ECGC at Raleigh Convention Center April 19-21

Called “the largest conference for game developers on the East Coast,” ECGC was founded in 2008 and, according to its website, attracts 1,800+ attendees a year. This year, ECGC will be held at the Raleigh Convention Center from April 19-21. 

The Building a Secure New World: History, Risks, and Rewards of The Metaverse and Related AI Tools” panel will be held Wednesday afternoon. 

Joining the session are panelists: 

  • Phaedra Boinodiris, Business Transformation Leader for IBM’s Responsible AI consulting group and co-founder of
  • Dr. Tony O’Driscoll, Faculty at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
  • Ken Hubbell, Senior Manager, Instructional Design Strategy & Innovation, Wells Fargo

My hope is to balance metaverse opportunities and challenges—discussing both with these expert panelists. 

(I also hope to pick up some Roblox stickers. My 8-year-old will flip.)

Learn more about the conference at


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