The metaverse is the digital future we all have been waiting for. And what’s more, it’s here already. Within five years, it is estimated that 70% of all businesses will have a presence in the metaverse, and 25% of all adults will spend at least an hour of their day in it, according to this Gartner study.
As individuals and businesses transition from the physical to the virtual universe, we need to understand what the metaverse is about and what our place in it might be.
Here is everything you need to know about the metaverse and why it’s the next big thing in tech.
What exactly is the metaverse?
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the newly rebranded Meta – one of the leading companies investing heavily in building the metaverse, described the metaverse as “an embodied internet where you are inside of” where self-expression is via avatars and digital objects. He claims this will lead to “entirely new experiences and economic opportunities.”
Roblox is another pioneering company invested in the metaverse. The company creates three-dimensional virtual worlds where users can explore and interact with each other. Their Vice President of brand partnerships, Christina Wootton, described the metaverse as “an immersive place where people can come and connect and have shared experiences. They can do things together, such as work, learn, play, shop, and experience entertainment”.
Going off the words of these two industry leaders, we can try to sum up what the metaverse entails – an exciting technology that aims to blur the lines between the physical and digital worlds, the next generation of the internet where we can replicate all our physical interactions. As Christina Wootton said, we can work, play and do all the things we would do here in the physical world.
What would the metaverse look like?
We are still a long way away from the actualisation of a true metaverse. Still, implementations of mini-metaverses already give us an idea of what the future might look like.
Companies have taken various approaches to building their vision of the metaverse. Meta, for example, is focused on building an immersive virtual social environment in the metaverse, Roblox is building gaming worlds, and Microsoft is looking to develop virtual professional workspaces. These often varied approaches are why there needs to be more clarity in explaining what the metaverse would look like in the future. Is it one single digital universe where all these different platforms are integrated, or would it just be an aggregation of multiple independent mini-metaverses – a multiverse of metaverses?
Whether there would be one single metaverse or a constellation of metaverses, what remains sacrosanct is the transformative potential of these virtual worlds.
What are the companies already active in the metaverse?
The metaverse is poised to become the new internet, with the market for it expected to be soon worth trillions. Not unexpectedly, tech companies are racing to gain a foothold in the metaverse space, investing heavily in building digital infrastructures and platforms for the new virtual order.
Here, we take a look at a few of them.
“We will be Metaverse-first, not Facebook-first,” Mark Zuckerberg declared in October 2021 while announcing his company’s rebranding from Facebook to Meta. True to his word, Meta has been the foremost company trying to create a social platform in the metaverse, spending up to 10 billion dollars each year ever since on metaverse initiatives.
The company produces Virtual Reality headsets – Meta Quest, for navigating the metaverse. And shortly after their rebrand in 2021, they launched Horizon Worlds, a platform marketed as a synchronous social network where creators can build engaging virtual worlds.
Roblox is a metaverse gaming platform that facilitates a creator economy where users can create virtual interactive environments.
The Roblox metaverse is an early metaverse project that has already gained traction and popularity, especially among Gen Z users. The platform has about 47 million gamers who use the platform to socialise and create new virtual spaces. The platform also organises virtual events to engage its users, like the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in 2021 and the Roblox Metaverse Champions event.
Other big brands that have seen the buy-in and popularity of Roblox are also building their own virtual spaces within the platform. Nike, for example, created a virtual environment – ‘NIkeland’ in the Roblox gaming metaverse.
NVIDIA, known as a manufacturer of graphics processing units, is now one of the leading innovators of the metaverse. It launched its metaverse product – the Omniverse, a tool that facilitates end-to-end design collaboration on creating 3D models of the physical world in a shared virtual space. A 2021 press release by the company reads, “NVIDIA Omniverse connects worlds by enabling the vision of the metaverse to become a reality.”
Decentraland is a decentralised metaverse platform that offers its users a unique 3D virtual world experience. Users may purchase virtual plots of land or customise their virtual experiences using the in-game MANA cryptocurrency. The platform is run on the Ethereum blockchain and is thus totally decentralised.
Microsoft is another tech giant taking bold metaverse initiatives. They have long been invested in virtual and augmented reality technologies; they released Microsoft HoloLens – an augmented reality / mixed reality headset, in 2016. They improved upon it in 2019 with the HoloLens 2.
While other companies focus on entertainment applications, they’ve decided to focus more on the industrial and business applications of the metaverse. They are now developing several metaverse applications with their Mesh platform. They recently partnered with Meta to bring the Microsoft app suite into the metaverse. Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 apps can now be accessed virtually with a Meta Quest device, thus expanding the work environment into the metaverse. This is an example of Microsoft’s productivity-focused approach to the metaverse.
Where are the opportunities for businesses in the metaverse?
The metaverse brings a tremendous opportunity for people and individuals to revolutionise how they have hitherto done things. Accenture’s Tech Vision 2022 Report noted that 71% of global executives see the metaverse as having a positive business impact on their organisations, and 42% say it will be “a breakthrough” or “transformational.”
Here are a few opportunities that the metaverse would offer businesses and why we believe you and your business should embrace the metaverse.
A new business experience
Metaverse offers businesses the opportunity to present their clients and customers with a novel business experience. Studies have shown that more and more people prioritise ‘experiences’ over physical products, especially the Gen-Z demographic – the largest consumer base of most businesses. This is why people still visit malls and fashion stores for the shopping experience despite the advent of online marketplaces. This is also why many millennials spend money to tour cities, go on hikes, and attend music festivals – all for their unique experiences. The virtual reality experience that the metaverse brings is a novel experience that excites and attracts.
Greater customer reach and engagement
When analysing a business plan or feasibility study, there is always a part where you identify your target customer demographic and where they are. Despite how interconnected the world has grown, this customer demographic is usually defined and limited by geographic factors. For example, 9 in 10 soccer fans worldwide would never visit the stadium and watch their favourite team play live. This is due to factors like location, transportation costs, and price. This means soccer clubs lose out on 90% of their potential customers.
The metaverse changes the game completely because businesses can now reach potential customers anywhere in the world via the digital universe. This means they can expand their customer base, interact and engage effectively with them, and thus improve their bottom line.
Remote working and enhanced collaboration
The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses around the world to redefine business practices. Remote working and virtual meetings became the norm. This will not change much, even in the aftermath of the pandemic, as the future will be an even more immersive version of that virtual working environment. Businesses would now create their own professional working spaces in the metaverse, and employees could work together, interact and collaborate more effectively.
Retain relative competitive advantage
The metaverse allows businesses to keep pace with their competitors in this fast-paced and cutthroat business environment. As new technologies emerge, businesses race to implement them in order to optimise their operations and gain an advantage over their adversaries. Several companies are already doing this with the metaverse. Other businesses need to embrace the metaverse and its potential to stay competitive and not get left behind by their rivals.
What are the possible risks associated with the metaverse?
With all its exciting potential and opportunities, the metaverse still has a few inherent risks that we need to consider. These risks include:
Data security and privacy
With the metaverse being a more immersive and addictive version of the internet, the potential for companies to collect people’s data and activity information is even more pronounced.
Is already rampant and has resulted in damages worth about $24 billion. If rigorous security measures are not adopted, it becomes even easier to steal identities in the metaverse because people will be interacting via digital avatars, and there might be no easy way to confirm the real identity of the person behind the avatars.
Deepening the digital divide
As it is, the metaverse and virtual reality platforms require devices like VR headsets and specialised gear, which are often expensive and not widely available. This could prevent low-income people from accessing the metaverse and its opportunities. So instead of bringing us to a more digital and connected future, the gap between people deepens as one group goes on to have a good time in the metaverse while the rest are excluded.
How can businesses prepare for this metaverse future?
We have seen in the previous section how the metaverse provides businesses with various opportunities for growth and sustenance. Now we need to examine how best businesses can position and prepare themselves to take advantage of these opportunities.
- The first thing to do as a business leader is to try and understand the basic concepts of the metaverse and how it could affect your business operations. This preliminary analysis is important to know how best your business fits in the metaverse. It also helps you develop a strategy to implement whatever changes the analysis reveals your business needs to fit in.
- The second thing to do in preparation is to train and equip the business workforce to use virtual reality technologies that are already present. Random training sessions or meetings could be held in virtual spaces using VR headsets and devices. This acclimatises the business and its staff to the coming future metaverse, making them much more receptive.
- Next, you can begin testing the waters by dabbing into low-risk metaverse use cases on the rise. You can create digital versions of the business’ product to market and sell in a virtual reality platform; you can also sponsor events or create a digital business space in the metaverse, just like Nike’s Nikeland in the Roblox metaverse. All this helps establish the business’s presence in the metaverse, which helps improve the business’s brand status and garner even more customers.
- Business leaders also need to preempt the risks that might come with this digital future – Issues like data privacy, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance. Thus their strategy also needs to focus on trust. The business needs to start implementing strategies and policies that tell their customers and stakeholders they care about data privacy and security issues. This is to engender trust early on so their transition into the metaverse future is easier.
The bottom line
The race to build the metaverse is already afoot. It is not a matter of if but when the immersive metaverse future will truly arrive. We have seen the progress and how it will impact businesses in the future. This means more and more businesses will be transitioning into the metaverse in the coming years.
If you’re excited by the idea of the metaverse and would like to explore a career in it, book a career consultation with us today to find out how to best position yourself for a future in this industry.