Metaverse – a market with potential
The renaming of Facebook to Meta in October 2021 and the subsequent announcement by the social network giant to invest in the so-called “metaverse” was probably the last push that most tech and IT enthusiasts needed in order to read up on this fantastical virtual world. But is it really that fantastical? And what exactly is it, anyway?
The metaverse is essentially a virtual space in which people can interact with each other as avatars using virtual reality technologies. This way it creates a convergence between physical reality and virtual space in the context of a networked digital space. The difference between this and traditional websites and social networks is the immersive experience that the metaverse offers. A wide variety of activities, such as working, shopping, playing, and even traveling will be possible, albeit virtually. Many experts see this as a major development of the internet. The metaverse is decentralized, meaning that it doesn’t belong to one single entity and isn’t regulated by anybody, but rather decisions are made by participants through a bottom-up approach. It exists for everybody and is an open platform where users are also owners of virtual property.
Ownership is the core principle of “Web3.0”, or just “Web3”. Widely viewed as the third generation of the internet, Web3 allows users to not only read (Web1) and interact with (Web2), but also own part of the internet. Platforms like Decentraland, VR-based Somnium Space, and The Sandbox are all different metaverses that each enable people to buy and own plots of virtual land, clothes, and artwork, paid for with cryptocurrency.
Naturally, every new trend is accompanied by a lot of questions and criticism. What platform will be the standard in the future, and who will decide on this? By definition, the metaverse is supposed to be deregulated. But in order to function properly, humans need at least some basic set of rules. Who is going to provide these rules? Is the technology ready for “real” immersion? When will owning a VR headset become the norm? With the metaverse relying heavily on cryptocurrency, and environmental activists already criticizing crypto mining harshly, is a metaverse based on cryptocurrency even sustainable? The answers to these questions are hard to come by at this moment in time, but the metaverse market is nevertheless set to explode in the relatively near future.
This is enough to prompt investment by large companies. Salesforce, Adobe, Microsoft, Meta, Capgemini, KPMG, PwC, TCS, and Infosys have already started using the metaverse, with giants like SAP, Deloitte, Cognizant, and Wipro announcing very concrete plans to start soon. Siemens, for example, just announced the launch of its Xcelerator platform including a new SaaS – Building X – at the end of June 2022. It’s intended to be an open digital business platform to help businesses make their digital transformation easier, faster, and scalable. They have also announced that they will partner with NVIDIA in order to “enable the industrial metaverse and increase the use of AI-driven digital twin technology […]”.
Companies are quickly beginning to realize that the metaverse offers chances to virtually anybody. [MK1] Coworkers will be able to hold meetings and conferences in a virtual space across thousands of physical miles. New jobs will become available, such as a virtual shopping assistant for virtual customers, and freelancing or remote work will eventually become far more widespread than it is already. Manufacturers will be able to design and test their products in a virtual environment, prototyping designs without needing access to actual hardware. Sensors and robots will be able to test software and simulate integrations that will eventually be assimilated into the real world, while customers can be included in the product development process from the start.
These points emphasize the potential the metaverse holds. And they show that the metaverse is in no way fantastical. It is in fact very real already, and as companies begin to invest in and adapt to the next generation of the internet, soon we will see a lot more user-accessible, front-end products which will eventually lead into a virtual world in which we can all live, work, and play.