Why the Metaverse Matters: Major Opportunities and Challenges
Virtual Reality has been in the news recently. With the recent launch of Oculus Rift, VR has also come to the attention of many tech-savvy gamers. Many implications could come from this development. One that has often been overlooked is the creation of virtual spaces shared by people worldwide—known as the metaverse. It could potentially change how we interact with each other. The creation of this new space will require overcoming numerous technical and social challenges. However, overcoming them will revolutionize how we experience social media and communicate with each other in general.
What is the Metaverse?
We can define the Metaverse as “beyond the universe”. For specialists, the Metaverse could well be the continuation of the Internet. However, it is a new version of the internet that is more advanced and immersive than we currently know. The Metaverse is a parallel world comprising a virtual environment where all users connect with 3D characters. It is a true extension of our real world which we can enter by creating our avatar (fictional or realistic). So therefore, it can achieve everything we can do in everyday life. However, you should note a major difference. The real world is full of constraints (geographical, financial, physical, psychological). However, the only limitation to this virtual universe would only be those of our imagination.
The History of the Metaverse
In his book entitled “The Virtual Samurai,” dating from 1992, Neal Stephenson invented the term Metaverse. He defined it as the virtual space his characters can go. This novel reported an apocalyptic world in which a very rich entrepreneur decided to build a parallel world to control the minds of its users. For some observers, this science fiction book would have been the main source of inspiration for the Metaverse project. Such an example is Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The film and gaming industries have also widely exploited this virtual world concept. This is particularly the case in the film “Ready Player One” by Steven Spielberg and “Matrix” by the Duo Wachowski, or even the first virtual world video game, Second Life. However, what changes with the Metaverse is that you are no longer a spectator of such content. Here, you are the main actor, and you can interact with other people to carry out all kinds of activities!
The Focus of Microsoft, Facebook, and Google on Augmented Reality
In Microsoft’s vision of a mixed reality world, your physical surroundings seamlessly blend with your digital content. Rather than rely on devices to provide augmented or virtual reality experiences, these companies are looking to build support for their services into modern operating systems. Apple has also been looking at augmented reality as part of its ongoing effort to design an AR headset that it could sell to consumers. In 2017, it acquired a startup called Vrvana. They developed a mixed-reality headset called Totem that features VR and AR capabilities. Facebook is working on something similar. Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) chief scientist, Michael Abrash, leads their AR efforts and develops technology that will allow users to overlay 3D objects onto real-world environments captured by cameras. Google takes a slightly different approach by focusing on so-called augmented reality rather than mixed reality. The company’s strategy centers around making smartphone cameras smarter. So with that, they can identify objects and places around you without connecting to any other device.
What Philosophy does the Metaverse Advocate?
As a major digital innovation of the 21st century, the Metaverse is full of promise. The Metaverse wants to offer a new vision of the world articulated around different issues, including the following:
- Connecting the real and virtual worlds for the first time
- Creating interconnection between everyone, without geographical limits or borders
- Removing cognitive biases, fear, shyness, and psychological boundaries
- Proposing a hedonistic approach to the world, favorable to epicurean profiles, for whom everything would finally be possible
The Metaverse as the Future of Digital Technology
If the internet has revolutionized our lives in recent decades, it has also undergone profound changes to become more complete and essential. We first knew the informative web, also called web 1.0, mainly built around searching for information through Internet access. The participatory web, or web 2.0, then appeared. Its aim was to connect people with the birth of social networks and online commerce. The Metaverse now proposes to enter a new era: the intelligent web and the unique convergence of the real and the virtual. Katy Hackl, futuristic speaker and expert in Metaverse strategy, explains: “After connecting information with Internet access, then connecting people through social media, the Metaverse will establish itself as the web 3.0 by connecting the physical world and the digital world.”
Some Opportunities that the Metaverse Offers?
Everything that is done in the real world will be able to be done in the virtual, without any limit. For example, once our virtual twin has been created, they could manage procedures, follow training courses or attend meetings in this parallel universe. Other opportunities include:
Invest in real estate by buying land, housing, or even a shop.
For example, between November 22 and 28, 2021, more than 100 million dollars were spent on Metaverse real estate. They were mainly through the 4 main resellers (Sandbox, Decentraland, CryptoVoxels, and Somnium Space). To date, virtual land has even been purchased for $4.3 million.
Buy virtual clothes
Nike, Adidas, and Balenciaga already offer it, and many brands are still trying to explore this. Users will be able to acquire their avatar and then equip it with clothing from the biggest brands!
Attend unique virtual shows
Concerts of this kind have already taken place. This includes Marshmello in 2019, Travis Scott in 2020, or even Justin Bieber in 2021. Its specificity is an immersive experience where users can connect to four corners of the earth and directly interact with their favorite artist.
Take courses remotely in a classroom
The onset of the global pandemic has transformed the traditional educational world since everything was done in physical rooms before. Since then, the courses have been partly delivered remotely with videoconferencing or e-learning solutions. Tomorrow, classes will be able to be done in a hybrid way. Students will be able to attend classes online from their various homes.
Attend professional meetings in a customizable room
With the arrival of the Metaverse, Microsoft Mesh announces an upheaval in the organization of corporate meetings. From now on, it will be possible to hold meetings in a 3D environment which will be customizable according to needs. For example, it will be possible to model the outline of a car in a specific space.
Simply meeting people in various places
As in the games “Second Life” and “The Sims,” the universe of the Metaverse will multiply the possibilities of interactions, certainly virtual, but detached from geographical constraints, even health as currently. It is possible even to erase shyness to make it easier to approach an unknown person. In short, the Metaverse should offer a range of breathtaking actions and perspectives. Its development is dazzling and should increase since its current market value estimate is about $30 billion in 2021 and should soar to $280 billion in 2025!
Challenges of the Metaverse
Despite its advantages, the Metaverse is far from unanimous and could see certain excesses hatch. Indeed, we already live in a world where the attention deficit is chronic, technology having absorbed a large part of our time and opportunities. Moreover, some specialists, psychologists, and anthropologists worry about the addictive effect of such a universe where everything is possible. Similarly, we can rightly wonder to what extent the Metaverse could divert its users from the real world, thus creating social or even economic disruption. Finally, the fear of a virtual world completely controlled by companies and their advertising messages is often mentioned at a time when our real world suffers from overexposure to information.
Controversies: Market Domination isn’t Likely
The lines between virtual, augmented, and augmented reality are starting to blur. This trend is similar to how products like smartphones or mp3 players no longer distinguish whether technology is mobile or personal entertainment. Even though VR and AR have not yet reached mainstream markets, it’s predicted that new markets will be a battleground for growth in The Metaverse. With companies like Magic Leap raising hundreds of millions in funding, we’re only just seeing what kind of impact they can make on The Metaverse. With both established players (Oculus) and up-and-coming startups (Magic Leap) fighting for their stake in these new markets, we must wonder who will win and how each player will stand out from one another. As tech giants try to predict which company will lead in Augmented Reality, there’s already speculation about Virtual Reality being led by Facebook. However, these two technologies are still so young, and even if these predictions come true today, it doesn’t mean anything for tomorrow. In addition to market domination challenges, the Metaverse faces many other challenges today: bandwidth limitations, human interface considerations, HMD production costs & logistics issues, and privacy concerns surrounding facial recognition technology.
Last Thoughts: New Markets are Becoming the Next Battlegrounds
Creating a new market space is often a painstaking, uphill battle. The early stages are very different from when your product is well-established in an established market. Creating and convincing others of the value of your offering in novel environments can be extremely difficult. However, it can also be very rewarding if you succeed. New markets will continue to emerge as technology advances at rapid rates, so anticipating where they’ll pop up next is one way to ensure that you find success with whatever comes next. For example, VR has created opportunities for video games on platforms like SteamVR and Oculus Rift. In addition to video games, VR has been used in architecture, medicine, advertising, and more. As VR becomes more commonplace, it will undoubtedly create opportunities for new types of business models we haven’t even thought about yet! So keep your eyes peeled for emerging technologies that could create whole new industries or disrupt existing ones.
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