ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, people began shifting to shopping and work online, leading some companies to begin preparing for an eventual move into the “Metaverse” – or virtual reality.

“If I’d imagined this technology when I was younger, it would have been the stuff of science fiction, to put a headset on and be able to interact with environments,” said Ged Trias, the director of design at Larson & Darby Group, 4949 Harrison Ave.

Trias says virtual reality allows his team to build a project in virtual reality before embarking on real-world construction, and saving costs.

“They can see how that space is actually going to feel and look when they put the headset on and we can kind of have a more interactive session with them,” he said. “By moving things around with them in real-time, moving a wall around or changing a paint color, changing a carpet color.”

Trias says virtual reality technology has enhanced his company’s work and made it more cost-efficient.

“I think it has some amazing possibilities, in terms of allowing us to reach a larger audience, to be able to communicate at a global scale, without all the issues usually associated with that, like travel,” he said.

Facebook’s parent company recently rebranded itself as Meta, and plans on getting heavily involved with virtual reality in the future. The company already acquired Oculus and markets its VR headsets.

Meta held a workshop in Rockford on Friday to introduce local businesses to the platform, which allows users to interact with virtual 3D environments, objects, and other people, via avatars.

Lori Moylan, public policy manager for Meta, says the technology will change the way people will shop and socialize online.

“You can imagine doing shopping and things in virtual reality, visiting stores, and going to concerts and doing tours, and things like that,” she said.

Moylan says Meta wants to encourage businesses to start preparing for the Metaverse, which she says is expected to become the defacto platform of commerce and social media in the future.