As technology advances and comes together and immerses us in new virtual worlds, we believe the industry is at a tipping point. We see investment and technological progress skyrocket as more companies wake up to the vast realm of emerging opportunities. For example, Facebook has changed its name to Meta and invested $10 billion in the development of metaverse1 technology. Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced a record $69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard, creators of popular online multiplayer games2. Make no mistake: As the metaverse continues to emerge, many companies will find opportunities for change. In addition to Nvidia’s Omniverse Enterprise, Meta’s Horizon Workrooms and Microsoft’s Mesh are also designed to enable work in a virtual world, both enabling remote collaboration between devices via mixed reality applications.
Decentraland, an online environment where users can exchange cryptocurrencies for 90,000 plots of land, has exploded in popularity lately. In November, $2.4 million Tokens.com paid out for a 116-piece property in the heart of Decentraland’s Fashion Street neighborhood, where the company plans to develop a virtual Fifth Avenue. “Instead of trying to create a universe like Facebook, I said, ‘Why don’t we go in and buy the plots of land in these metaverses, and then we can become the owners?’” That told Andrew Kiguel, executive director of Tokens.com, to The New York Times. Moreover, in the current phase of the metaverse as a concept, virtual reality headsets seem to be becoming an integral part of such virtual worlds. Almost every development company that works in VR develops its own cyberspace for its VR headsets like Meta and Steam. In the truest sense of the word, we have yet to venture into the metaverse of madness.
54% of these experts said they expect the metaverse to be a much more sophisticated and truly fully immersive aspect by 2040 and will work well for the daily lives of half a billion or more people around the world. “Imagine coming to New York when it was farmland, and you had the opportunity to get a SoHo block,” said Michael Gord of the co-founder of the New York Times digital real estate company Metaverse Group. Digital worlds such as Decentraland and Sandbox allow virtual developers to build and rent digital malls. One of those developers spent $4.3 million on a property they bought from gaming company Atari. Real estate transactions in the alternate universe have skyrocketed, and the new year will further intensify competition for location, although many are wary of the volatility of digital real estate. It should be noted that on June 21, 2022, Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, PlayStation, Sony, Epic Games, Adobe, and dozens of other large, medium, and small technology companies joined large open standards groups, including the World Wide Web Consortium, the Open Geospatial Consortium, the Web 3D Consortium, and others to announce the creation of the Metaverse Standards Forum, a group designed to ensure interoperability in the metaverse and, ideally, address some of the other concerns that experts have raised in this survey.
Despite all the headlines the metaverse gets, it’s not unattainable for everyday brands and our customers. Rather, we are at a tipping point where the right technology and a voracious appetite for immersive experiences are beginning to change our current business reality. When tech companies like Microsoft or Meta show fictional videos of their visions of the future, they often tend to overlook how people will interact with the metaverse. VR headsets are still very inconvenient, and most people experience motion sickness or physical pain if they wear them for too long. Augmented reality glasses face a similar problem, in addition to the not insignificant question of figuring out how people can wear them in public without looking like huge ones. And then there are the accessibility challenges of virtual reality that many companies ignore for the time being.
Alexander B. Howard, director of the Digital Democracy Project, wrote: “By 2040, we should expect positive applications of augmented reality in education, science, entertainment, production, governance and more, combined with virtual experiences that mix holographic avatars with people in ways reminiscent of the Star Trek holocuber. Mirror worlds are already taking a foothold in a number of process optimization activities and we are going to see tremendous growth in this technology/methodology, especially as tools improve. But the emphasis here is not on people or their interactions; many of the mirror worlds do not include people, or only include them in very simple ways. There are already really interesting developments in things like traffic planning, emergency modeling in large facilities or modeling the spread of disease using these tools. But again, this is usually simulation and modeling, very different from immersive spaces filled with people. An expert on the evolution of knowledge creation in a time of accelerated technological change responded: “Barriers are not primarily technical, but social, psychological and experiential. I find it hard to imagine wanting to live in an improved and disorienting world, especially considering the likelihood that, based on the current ecosystem (both in VR/AR and in the normal app space) there would be a limited ability to move between platforms and apps without constantly changing identities, avatars, and experiences.
These technologies will play a prominent role in helping users interact with the metaverse, especially in the early days. Remember when Facebook was just a website/app used to connect with people in different locations? Just as Facebook has built in several features, including ecommerce, Facebook no longer looks like a social media app. Facebook’s vision goes far beyond creating a virtual world where users can simply swipe through the digital closet to buy and sell virtual clothing. Facebook really wants to promote the sale of virtual assets, and that’s where Meta comes in. Although, to create a metaverse, there are several aspects to consider, including technologies, infrastructure, budget, and security, to name a few.
Several companies are already working on creating such representations of the entire planet. Nvidia’s Earth-2, for example, is a digital twin that aims to improve climate modeling capacity. One example is Upland, a virtual property NFT game where people buy, sell and trade virtual properties assigned to the real world, for example, a baseball stadium or museum in the real world.
“Changing the world? It will reinforce the existing cross-border unification and hyperradicalization of society that we have experienced over the past 10 years with the global mobile internet. Changing our lives? For the connected, more time away from real life, but this will also create a desire to disconnect, at least for retreats and vacations. Look for “Faraday Retreats” that use technology to digitally isolate guests from the “fresh.” The extremes will include Faraday communities (anti-digital communes) where people chose to live their lives in “the real world”, without getting fresh. “It’s no coincidence that early forays into VR have been marred by sexual harassment (see the experiences of beta testers for Meta’s social VR platform), or that increasingly sophisticated digital manipulation tools have focused on the sexual exploitation of women (e.g., wi. sites ‘deepfake’ and ‘nudification’ applications) and the escalation of political tensions. and yet, in the expanded reality space, large companies continue metaverso to treat security and privacy considerations only as an afterthought, if at all. “Will there be enough of all that to push the number of users in ‘fully immersive’ digital spaces above half a billion people? Probable. But will occupying those spaces be a “well-functioning aspect of everyday life”? No, not if those spaces are isolated in company silos with no real personal privacy and no more freedom of choice than corporate owners allow. “The rules of the game have so far been written by a few for many. Like other technologies, XR does not solve human problems, such as prejudice, fear, or violence. It accelerates and strengthens what is already present in society. Therefore, we may see an aggravation of isolation, echo chambers, and a dissociation of our bodies and communities. We’re already seeing sexual violence from previous online spaces and real life crossing over into more immersive XR environments. This is likely to spread and intersect with other targeted violence, or even mass violence or terrorism.