Demystifying the buzz around metaverse
The word ‘Metaverse’ has become the talk of the town and has been making headlines with big giants stepping into it every now and then. But, when you ask a layman about his understanding of Metaverse, it is all over the place and majority of the people still ask. ‘What is this whole fuss about?
It’s a simple question. However, explaining the metaverse is as tricky as describing the Internet to our grandparents. If you do a quick Google search for ‘What is the metaverse?’, it will take you on a journey that twists and turns, but doesn’t get very far. It’s confusing.
We all have a different take on the metaverse and the lack of a de facto definition is a product of the times. Till date, the experts have been trying to define something that hasn’t achieved its full potential yet – the paint is still wet so we can’t see its true colours.
Understanding the Inception of the Metaverse
To help you understand how the Metaverse came into being, let’s have a small walk into the memory lane:
- It all goes back to the Sci-Fi as the metaverse was mentioned in the science fiction novel, Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson in 1992. Then several multiplayer games consisting of avatars made their way followed by the rise of communities, services and gaming environments. A remarkable change was brought when Second Life offered a virtual world for users to hang out together and buy/sell virtual items to each other without any goals or objectives, hence establishing a “proto-Metaverse”. Entered Roblox in 2004 that transformed the gaming industry for good. All these events together mark the earliest footprints of metaverse.
- The timeline of 2006 to 2015 was majorly reigned by multiplayer online games. While Roblox went on to become a gaming giant, boasting millions of users, RunEscape on the other hand, reached the milestone of 1 million member accounts. Several acquisitions and mergers also took place – Amazon acquired Twitch, Microsoft acquired Minecraft and many more. All of these developments, introduction of the technology companies to multiplayer games completed the second phase of metaverse evolution.
- A new facet was introduced to the world of gaming with games like PokemonGo and Fortnite coming into being. Several other industries like music also ventured into gaming and the concert by DJ Marshmello in the wildly popular online game Fortnite, was a testimony to it. In 2020, Decentraland became the talk of the town when it hosted Metaverse Fashion Week with fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana. Other major events like Facebook changing its name to Meta, Microsoft Corp announcing plans to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc etc. led to the emergence of today’s metaverse.
Metaverse is Constantly Evolving
Well, all these developments aren’t the end of the story as the metaverse is evolving or in other words, ‘a work in progress’ – that will have a lot more concepts, updates and technological advancements unfolding in the near future.
Building the Metaverse is an interactive process. We are a few steps in but far away from the currently perceived end state.
Pew Research Centre and Elon University conducted a survey together to gather expert views about important digital issues. This canvassing of experts was a result of emerging debates in the early 2020s over the potential evolution and impact of extended reality tools like AR, MR and VR, as well as “the metaverse” or “metaverses.” Their report claims the following:
- 54% of experts believe that by 2040 the metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
- 46% experts believe by 2040 the metaverse WILL NOT be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
The Metaverse of Today
Let’s take a look at the Metaverse of today. It is an evolving collection of technologies that immerse users in a social network of commerce-enabled 3D worlds.
Since the Metaverse isn’t completely ‘ready,’ you might feel that it is a fad. But, it is true that words & definitions might change, but the roots are built.
There are no two ways about the fact that the metaverse paradigm shift is now. If the “meta” moment is now, it is quite easy to believe that companies are building on these immersive experiences, rapidly getting closer to the future vision of the Metaverse, drawing in billions of dollars and millions of users today to create a larger market than movies and sports combined.
Brands are slowly enabling themselves to join these worlds, sell goods and services virtually, reach different customers, build better revenue models, optimize work, and collaborate in new ways.
With the future already knocking our doors, there are countless companies shaping the Metaverse mosaic but the entertainment and gaming industry leads the way. Major console and PC gaming, such as World of Warcraft and Fortnite, have created a league for a generation of young people to play and socialize together in virtual settings from different locations. On the other side, newer gaming platforms, such as Roblox, let people create and play across immersive 3D worlds, often monetized by users.
While the gaming industry is just a tip of the iceberg, there is so much more when you dive into the metaverse. From training future doctors and retail associates to roll out product demonstrations, there is a long list of business applications that let the immersive environment of the metaverse take business use cases to the next level. The post-COVID-19 remote-working environments have also accentuated many of these virtual experiences and are likely to become even more relevant to how companies connect with their people and customers. Some of the most talked about companies that have stepped into the metaverse are discussed below:
- Baidu launched its first metaverse-related app back in December 2021, Xirang, which allows 100,000 users to join and chat with each other in a three-dimensional VR conference simultaneously.
- Hyundai Motors launched a new concept called ‘Metamobility’. It uses robots as conduits between the physical and virtual worlds to expand human reach. It has been created to allow what humans are seeing in a virtual world (through VR) to actually change the physical world.
For example, enabling workers or doctors to navigate a virtual experience while interacting with a robotic avatar that navigates the physical world. One of the use cases of this could be medical surgeries.
- Building on its Magic Band concept, Disney filed several patents for a virtual-world simulator that allows the company to create 3D interactive experiences of its theme parks.
This will birth new ways for consumers to experience the brand and products without being there in person. The growth opportunities of the brand multiplies with this particular step as it helps bring the experience to wherever the consumer is.
Sizing the Metaverse
Be it any business, large or small are investing heavily into the Metaverse resulting in market size speculations as high as $13 trillion by 2030. However, it is still quite difficult to assess a market that defies the definition.
Once again, it is best to think that the Metaverse is conceptually similar to the Internet. In the present time, the impact and pervasiveness of the metaverse is so enormous that it can’t be quantified meaningfully, yet can be evidently seen and felt.
However, the global Metaverse revenue opportunity could approach $800 billion in 2024 vs. about $500 billion in 2020, claims an analysis done by Bloomberg Intelligence Senior Industry Analyst Matthew Kanterman and Bloomberg Intelligence Industry Analyst Nathan Naidu.
Addressing the Elephant in the Room
By now, you must have made a thought on metaverse. But, it’s time to throw some more light on it from various angles.
The metaverse is a seamless consolidation of our physical and digital lives, creating a unified, virtual community where we can work, play, relax, transact and socialize.
Mark Zuckerberg defines it as. “A lot of people think that the metaverse is about a place, but one definition of this is it’s about a time when basically immersive digital worlds become the primary way that we live our lives and spend our time. I think that’s a reasonable construct.”
Furthermore, people often confuse the metaverse as ‘virtual reality’, ‘augmented reality’ or is also interchangeably called ‘immersive reality’. Check out the infographic below to have a clear understanding of how metaverse is similar yet not identical to any of what we call it.
However, the matter of the fact is that the metaverse is still early in its evolution, and there is no singular, all-encompassing definition to which people can turn. An interesting thing to know here is that there is no one virtual world but many worlds that are shaping up to allow people to deepen and extend social interactions digitally.
A Bird’s Eye View of The Metaverse Components
Numerous industry experts and participants have various views as to what constitutes a metaverse. But, essentially, it boils down to an evolution into a more immersive 3D internet with upgrades along five key factors:
- Devices/hardware: The key connecting factor or interface between the user (humans) and the metaverse. Our smartphones of today will evolve and add functionality over the coming years and/or can be linked AR/VR devices or could be a completely new dedicated hardware. In other words, devices are the first step in the staircase of the metaverse.
- Infrastructure: You can’t experience the magnificence of the metaverse without a good infrastructural facility. The network and devices that connect the hardware device to the content—5G networks, WiFi, edge computing implementations and eventually 6G play a very essential role in delivering the metaverse experience to us.
- Content: All the various types of software and content that the users would watch or consume form a part of the metaverse content. For example: gaming, metaverse fashion shows, automotive experiences, real estate auctions etc. The content in the world of metaverse is of paramount importance and companies are leaving no stone unturned to bring the most unconventional forms of content in the metaverse.
- Community: The inception of metaverse is an end-product of communities and also led to the development of various communities of today. All the various use cases with many individuals/users who interact and socialise within the platform and also across applications/platforms become a part of the metaverse community.
- Currency/settlement: Settlement is the last step in the metaverse journey. And you can use several methods to “settle” transactions for participation, content creation or direct commerce in the metaverse.
Metaverse is A Catalyst For the Future
And this is being made possible by an immersive, three-dimensional layer to the web, that is creating more authentic and natural experiences. In the near future, the metaverse would even facilitate accessibility from the comfort of the home, breaking down geographical barriers and decentralised access to key goods, services and experiences.
We are now at the onset of an era, where it seems that not a day goes by without a company or celebrity announcing that they are building a presence in a virtual universe. You will be astounded to know that over 500 companies are building the metaverse.
Metaverse has become an unavoidable part of our lives – whether you like it or not. And it is here to stay and bring a considerable metamorphosis in the coming years. As far as the exact answer to ‘What is the Metaverse’ is concerned, we’d suggest that you hold your horses and let time and technology unleash its own self at its very own pace.
Lastly, we at Rising Capital, have been making the best out of the metaverse of today and also supporting like minded metaverse connoisseurs that help trigger the onset of a decentralised and immersive experience for one and all.