Few, if any, emerging technologies get as much hype as the metaverse. That’s the excitement that 40% more companies called ‘metaverse’ in their company filing documents in the first quarter of 2022, according to researcher GlobalData.
These statements follow in the wake of Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s high-profile dedication to the metaverse† What once seemed like a shiny distraction now determines the future of the companywith Zuckerberg putting in tens of billions of dollars to build the metaverse.
Other technology companies are also trickling in, with Microsoft and chips specialist Qualcomm focused on how they will develop hardware and applications for this space and how their customers can benefit from it.
In its simplest terms, the metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds that leverage technologies — such as virtual and augmented reality — to help people connect in richer ways than is possible on the traditional, flatter internet.
While tech companies have been at the forefront of early developments in the space, blue-chip companies are also beginning to explore the concept, even if something approaching widespread implementation may be a long way off, with GlobalData noting that a mainstream B2B metaverse “will be at least a decade away.” to be”.
Gaming and entertainment are among the most obvious first opportunities for metaverse-style technologies. At Merlin Entertainment, CTO Lee Cowie says his company is keeping a “watching brief” and exploring how the technology could be developed.
One of the attractions the company recently launched at Legoland Windsor has augmented reality built into a mobile app. Merlin also drives virtual reality rides.
These tentative steps in the burgeoning metaverse show the likely direction of travel, Cowie says. But we’re still a long way from a full reconnaissance space.
“It’s too early to understand if the metaverse is going to be something big or if it’s just another buzzword and marketing exercise,” he says.
“But I suspect it will have enough momentum for it to become one thing that we will be interested in.”
That also seems to be the general consensus among other industry observers.
While the money invested by Big Tech means the metaverse is likely to be successful eventually, no one should expect to collaborate with colleagues and friends in a rich virtual space tomorrow.
Distinguished Gartner Analyst Mark Raskino suggests that the challenge of filling the human field of view with realistic and immersive image space is an incredibly difficult problem to solve.
“I do believe that one day business will be done in a fully immersive 3D visual metaverse. But it won’t happen in the 2020s, it probably won’t happen in the 2030s.”
In fact, the slow pace of development that some companies believe is that there is no great requirement to run headfirst to metaverse pilots.
Milena Nikolic, CTO at Trainline, says her company hasn’t found the right use case for the metaverse yet, so she continues to look inward from the outside.
“Obviously it’s the buzzword of the moment. I’m sure people want to travel by train in the metaverse and I’m sure Trainline will eventually be there to enable them to do that. But for now, we’re not at it.” explore it,” she says.
So the key message from business leaders is that their organizations are interested in the metaverse, but their boards want a strong use case before investing money in research.
Tobi Ajala, creative director and founder of digital agency Techtee, is an industry expert who has spent time working with major brands to help them explore metaverse applications.
Ajala, who spoke on Vodafone’s Connected Consumer event earlier this year, her work says, suggests that people will start using some of the metaverse’s tools, such as VR and AR, in their everyday lives — and not in the ways commonly perceived in the media.
“I do believe we’ll end up spending a lot of time in the metaverse, but it’s not what you think — it’s not about sweating, having a comfy chair, and sitting in front of a screen 18 hours a day,” she says.
“It’s about using smart technology in your daily life. There will be a series of connected systems that will make your physical life easier.”
One area where these developments can pay off is education, where the technology can help develop an immersive learning experience for students†
Mark Bramwell, CIO at Saïd Business School, says his IT department has had “early exploratory conversations” with the marketing department about how the metaverse can be used to deliver lessons through augmented and virtual reality.
Bramwell says they have considered concrete applications, including helping people on Saïd’s MBA course – which includes 340 students from 60 different countries – to prepare for a move to the UK.
“We started thinking about how perhaps the metaverse could provide a virtual introduction that would give students a way to meet their cohort in a gamified way and explore the business school in a virtual world,” he says.
“So, it’s a little less scary and a little less scary the first day when they’re physically with us. And who knows — thinking outside the box — maybe one day a virtual university of the future exists in the metaverse where it’s all online and virtual.”