She can maneuver through an exact replica of the brick-and-mortar Washington, D.C., office building her company left behind when it switched to remote work.
McDannald is CEO of Environments, an interior-design-turned-software company building so-called immersive work experiences in virtual reality, and it's testing its own product. Five employees work in the virtual office, each with their own avatar that looks (kind of) like them. The company takes care to make employee avatars resemble their human counterparts only to a point — too lifelike, and they get creepy. Too abstract, and the whole thing starts to feel unprofessional, McDannald said. Employees marking work anniversaries have tiny, celebratory icons above their avatars' heads, like in the computer game "The Sims." McDannald can walk over to an employee's virtual desk and check in at any time. Despite the ramped-up opportunity for managerial oversight, she said no employees have objected.
"I think there will be a merging of our physical and online personas," she said.
Buzz around shared, 3-D virtual spaces that companies including Meta are pitching as the "metaverse" may only get louder from here. This year's CES was spattered with companies billing themselves as metaverse tech, with ideas ranging from virtual customer service representatives to a food-delivery robot controlled by real people watching from a perch in virtual reality.