Cognizant: Metaverse Literacy with Duncan Roberts

At The Metaverse Insider, we had the pleasure of interviewing Duncan Roberts, thought leader and futurist at Cognizant – a 330,000-strong technology services and consulting company.  

As a senior manager of the Cognizant research department, Duncan is responsible for researching and understanding how both emerging technologies and socio-economic trends will impact their clients and business. Thus, we were eager to hear Duncan’s thoughts on all things Metaverse and how Cognizant is approaching this ever-growing industry.  

The importance of education in this immerging industry 

With a lesser motive for completely transitioning brands and companies into the Web3 space, Duncan emphasizes the importance of educating clients on understanding what this space is and what it could mean for them. Cognizant is effectively acting as a mediator for helping their clients gain a greater knowledge of the industry to make sure they are making the right decisions:  

“The first step is always education – looking at what it means for that particular client because it can mean a different thing to everybody.” 

From a Metaverse perspective, Cognizant has had interest from various industries across the board. Many would presume there is greater interest from the likes of retail, consumer goods, media, and entertainment – however, Cognizant is working with many industries:   

“We see it in manufacturing, the automotive industry, health care; everybody and anybody is interested and wants to see where they come from [concerning the Metaverse].”  

Furthermore, a common misconception in this space is the interchangeability between Web3 and the Metaverse; they are intrinsically different concepts yet often used synonymously. Many companies and individuals frequently do this, and it is important to educate them on the differences. Cognizant are key players in educating companies on these differences – ensuring there is an understanding between what each concept can offer:  

“Web3 and everything around decentralization is often conflated with the Metaverse, but it isn’t the same thing.”  

What are the most significant industries that work with Cognizant?  

With an abundance of interest being shown, Duncan states that there is not a particular industry that is “necessarily leading the charge at the moment”. The message that Cognizant delivers to each client is tailored to their specific needs within this new space; banking and financial services are going to utilize different aspects of the Metaverse when compared to retail and entertainment. It is evident that Cognizant understands the importance of industry-specific use cases – all whilst educating them on how to best proceed.  

The Metaverse Insider was curious to know if there were any industries that generate a particular interest for Duncan – and as it turns out, industries that do not carry obvious use cases are some of these:  

“We don’t want to be talking about just literally taking their business and porting it into the metaverse. We have to think outside the box and think of them as enablers to these different virtual worlds and the interoperability that needs to be there – kind of seeing how the infrastructure is built around these [businesses] rather than just a marketing exercise.”  

It is very refreshing and exciting to see Cognizant approach these opportunities in a way that breaks the typical marketing hype cycle; not every industry can be approached in the same way.  

Strategic planning for the mainstream adoption of the Metaverse 

It is argued that the Metaverse is yet to exist; we simply work with a definition that proposes what the future will hold. This can make it exceptionally difficult to strategically plan for what it will eventually be – thus, leaving us with the concept of a fully interoperable virtual world. 

In this instance, Duncan acknowledges that we are in limbo concerning an exact definition and understanding of what the Metaverse will hold. Therefore, it is important to look at what is enabling the hype around it, and what value can be extracted from it:  

How can you use these technologies, these concepts that are driving the interest around the Metaverse and their convergence to get value right now – while remaining nimble and agile enough to transition and move as this space changes? So, building in that agility in whatever we work with, to however we work with clients is crucial.”  

Flexibility is truly a necessary trait in this industry; without being set on definitive outcomes concerning our technology, it is important to move at a rate that does not surpass our understanding – all whilst being able to adjust and change course in relation to progress.  

Introducing technology to support the Metaverse 

With various technologies from AR to VR, and WIFI6 to decentralized cloud HPC – there is an abundance of technology driving the various aspects of our ‘not so distant’ future. From the hardware used to experience immersion to the technological infrastructure required to support these systems, more and more will be brought in by these core pillars:  

“As important as the technologies [are], we see these kinds of concepts that are driving the use of the technology; if you’re just implementing a technology for technology’s sake, then it’s often difficult to find success straightaway.”  

Duncan states that it is very important to both acknowledge that these things are here to solve problems and create business opportunities – however, that it is done so within the ecosystem:  

“Interoperability for me isn’t just about interoperability between Metaverse platforms. It’s about interoperability between your existing ecosystem as a business, then social interaction – making sure these things are about people. It’s about a humankind sense of design and bringing people together.” 

Cognizant believes that rather than investing in a particular technology that is perceived to be the ‘winner’ in the Metaverse, it is important to understand how the technology will come together to create experiences. Therefore, how Cognizant can build and scale by bringing in those ideas to potential use cases.  

How to treat the Metaverse and what it can be 

An old adage in business, consulting, and technology is that we need to be solving problems and looking at what value it brings to the table. The same concept applies to the Metaverse; it needs to come from an enterprise perspective – which is exactly what Cognizant believes:  

“If you’re going ‘we need to do something in the metaverse’. It’s always going to end up as a gimmick. But if you go, ‘we have this opportunity to reach a new demographic of customers or give an amazing employee experience and improve our staff retention’, and then use the metaverse and its associated kind of things to solve those problems, then you’re going about it the right way.” 

It is quite clear that Cognizant is playing a significant role in helping businesses understand and properly utilize the Metaverse; there is no room for pointless gimmicks or money-grabbing hype-cycle schemes. In most of us wanting a fully-fledged, mainstream adoption of this technological phenomenon, we need companies like Cognizant to help pave the way for its success.  

Even after having discussions with Cognizant concerning the uncertainty of what the Metaverse will ultimately be, this is what Duncan had to say on the matter:   

“The Metaverse or whatever that may be, is a method to bring people together and interact in digital ways that is just more natural and more beneficial to us as people. Let’s concentrate on what we’re doing now and where it might go in the future rather than just kind of sitting back and go ‘Well, I think it’s going to be over there, and I think it’s going to be this monolithic space’. So, my personal opinion is that it will be more a suite of platforms and tools that we use in many centralized and decentralized ways.”

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