The metaverse is getting a lot of attention these days. One thing is certain: The more people talk about the metaverse, the more definitions we get about what it is and what it could mean for business.
The World Economic Forum has said the “term metaverse is evolving and will be redefined perpetually”. McKinsey agrees there is not a single view of what the metaverse is: “Right now, the interested parties cannot agree on any one definition.”
This is causing a lot of confusion. The term is being bandied about for a wide range of applications and no one is really sure what it is and isn’t. That could make businesses reluctant to include metaverse projects in their planning – but we believe that could be a mistake. The Metaverse is the future so we all need to start planning for it.
So, what is the metaverse? We can and have ourselves debated this. But in the interest of starting out on a common understanding, here’s what we’ve agreed on:
The metaverse is an immersive, 3D virtual space, where people can interact with each other and their environment, in a digital 3D replica of the real world or an imagined world. It can be accessed through a browser, a mobile app, or a headset.
Regardless of how you define it, we believe that core features of the metaverse include:
- Always on and exists in real time.
- Many metaverses and multiple platforms.
- People interact using virtual identities called avatars.
- Has its own fully functioning virtual economy.
While many of us associate the metaverse with Meta (Facebook’s parent company) it’s important to note that they do not own the metaverse nor did they invent it. They are building and participating in it like most of us will in time.
The metaverse is the next big technology platform calculated to be a nearly $800 billion market opportunity. Bloomberg
Internet Evolution Helps Create Metaverse
So how did we get here? A short history of the internet can help illustrate how our personal and business interactions have become increasingly digitized.
The Beginning Web 1.0: In the 1990s information was starting to become available to people online. This was how it all started and is sometimes viewed as the static web because it lacked interactive features. It was read-only.
Enter Web 2.0: It’s a term that was coined around 2004 and was the time we started seeing the internet used for connecting people across the city, country and around the world. It also signaled the start of websites and social media that emphasize user-generated content and participatory culture.
Connecting Things: By 2010 we started seeing more and more connected devices and the emergence of IoT. This enabled us to navigate the digital world seamlessly between our laptops, tablets, mobile phones, TVs, etc. In other words, the hardware was taking our experience of the web to new levels.
Web3: Is described as the democratization and decentralization of the web. It promises to give power back to users in the form of ownership, and cutting out the handful of large, powerful tech companies we rely on today. Everyone has equal access and ownership is distributed amongst builders and users. Web3 is how the metaverse is accessed.
The Metaverse “Stack”
We could spend a lot of time talking about the technologies underpinning Web3 and enabling the metaverse. For the sake of brevity and understanding, let’s highlight a few core ones. But if you really want to geek out, this detailed World Economic Forum report has some great info.
- Extended reality and human interface technologies: The Metaverse is all about experience. AR, VR and immersive technologies bring real or imaginative worlds to life and help users participate in the virtual worlds and interact with each other in digital spaces.
- Blockchain: As a distributed ledger operated through a network of independently run computers, blockchain operates autonomously, and enables multiple parties to conduct and record transactions without a central authority. Key to the promise of decentralization, all metaverses run on some variation of blockchain.
- Artificial Intelligence: Creating inclusive interfaces, digital avatars, and chatbot functions are just some of the ways AI will collaborate in the metaverse. AI is expected to help make applications more intelligent, facilitate data processing and support security functions.
- Cloud: As a decentralized platform, cloud is critical to the hosting and processing power required for metaverse experiences. With data requirements growing exponentially, cloud enables metaverses to scale to ensure user experience is positive.
- Digital Twins: Companies can create an exact replica of real-world assets like offices, buildings, infrastructure so they can interact with them in the digital world.
Business Opportunities in the Metaverse
This new metaverse age will disrupt and transform social and economic structures.
Will the metaverse be useful for every business? Probably not right away, but as knowledge and understanding grow, it will become more widespread. The possibilities are limitless:
- Imagine meeting colleagues in a virtual replica of the office lunchroom before you start work on the first day.
- Work in real time with an appliance specialist who can show you how to replace filters, cope with an error code or show you how a specific feature works using an exact replica of your fridge.
- You can try on outfits and order the right colour and size from the privacy of your home, when it’s convenient for you.
- In healthcare, surgeons are using immersive technology to practice technique in environments where they can see and feel the procedure before ever entering an OR.
- Military can practice maneuvers in a safe interactive space reducing training-related injuries.
- High risk work like electrical grid repairs can be taught in a virtual world where a misstep can result in vibration not electrocution.
- How about experiencing your favourite band, in concert from the stage?
VR simulation training is already being used in medical, military and workforce training. Consider how much more immersive and lifelike those experiences will be in the metaverse.
By 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social and/or entertainment. Gartner
Is the Metaverse Right For Me?
The more relevant questions might be “is the metaverse right for my customers and employees?”
We think that, like the early days of websites, the metaverse will be critical for some businesses and for others it won’t matter as much (at least in the short term). But the generation currently growing up playing 3D games like Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft will expect immersive experiences. And since they will eventually become your customers and employees, why not want to be in their space?
Big brands are already starting to take advantage of these virtual gaming worlds with advertising on these platforms as part of their omnichannel strategy. And Starbucks is beta testing Web3-powered interactive customer journeys.
If creating memorable, interactive experiences for customers is one of your goals, then the metaverse represents a huge opportunity for your business.
To create value throughout the enterprise, companies must take the time to think through the potential strategic implications of the metaverse for sales, operations, production, R&D, and HR. Organizations and brands that plan and execute now will benefit most from the future of the metaverse. McKinsey
Getting Metaverse Ready
Yes, the metaverse is coming, but the reality is there’s still work to be done figuring out challenges like interoperability, security, and governance. It’s going to take time to iron it all out, but the time to start planning is now.
While we are at the early days of the metaverse, it will advance very quickly. If companies don’t act now, they’ll find themselves operating in worlds designed by, and for, someone else. Accenture
One of the most important steps is to start learning about the metaverse and thinking about how it could extend how you interact with your customers, employees and partners.
Start including 3D modelling when you’re creating new content. This world is all about experiencing products and services in a virtual world so immersive content and experiences are needed.
Companies are going to want to explore metaverse possibilities and opportunities sooner rather than later. This medium isn’t going away and like many disruptive technologies, early adopters usually win the day.