The Multi-Billion-Dollar Black Hole
Following Mark Zuckerberg's announcement of the rebranding of Facebook into Meta, the "Metaverse" has rapidly become one of the most talked-about topics in the tech industry.
While Meta is not the only company creating this Metaverse, other tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Nvidia are also investing billions of dollars into the concept; the term is unclear yet.
From Meta building a VR social platform to Nike preparing to sell virtual branded sneakers, the future is yet to unpack. Many tech experts regard this lack of clarity as the incompleteness of the development of Metaverse as it is too new to define what it is.
Have you ever heard anything more bizarre…
“Yeah, there’s this thing we’re building but we don’t know what it is”
If your product manager came to you with this you might fire them on the spot!
That being said, let's discuss what Metaverse is - or what it is supposed to be and how it's being used, what companies are already embracing it, and what we can expect to see in the future.
A lot to cover so bear with me.
Defining the undefined…
Metaverse refers to a hypothetical future version of the internet that is fully immersive, where users can interact with a virtual world through a personalized digital representation of themselves or an avatar. It is often described as a collective virtual shared space created by the convergence of the physical and virtual worlds.
Imagine a portal to another world set in a virtual realm where you can live, work, shop, and interact with billions of people, all while lying on your couch in the physical world. That's what the Metaverse is likely to be.
Or maybe it becomes something entirely different.
In the Metaverse, users can create avatars and engage in various activities such as shopping, gaming, socializing, and learning.
According to Gartner, about 25% of people will spend at least an hour a day in the Metaverse for work, shopping, education, or entertainment, by 2026.
While the term has become an overnight talk of the town, the concept of the Metaverse has been around for decades, it was first introduced in Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash." – If you’ve not read this and pick it up now it feels like it was predicting the future.
The Metaverse combines virtual reality, augmented reality, and the internet and includes technologies like blockchain, telepresence, spatial computing, AI, IoT, extended reality, 3D modelling, and brain-computer interface. Almost every technology available is being used by companies to build futuristic and immersive environments capable of causing you to lose yourself in a real-life Tron movie
Many companies are now investing in the Metaverse, seeing it as the next frontier in online interaction and engagement. However, the Metaverse is still in its early stages, and many questions still need to be answered about how it will be developed, regulated, and governed.
Now I’m not one to throw sand on anyone’s fire so this week we’ll take a look at some of the exciting players in the space.
It’s not finished…
Whilst anyone can go pick up a VR headset and dive into one of these immersive worlds – the Metaverse is a largely unbuilt as of now. While some aspects of it have been realized in various forms of virtual reality, augmented reality, and online gaming, the full realization of the Metaverse and it’s full potential remains a work in progress.
The technology required to create a fully functional Metaverse is complex and multidisciplinary, requiring expertise in interoperability, immersive realism, the ubiquity of access & identity, and scalability. Significant technical challenges must be overcome, such as creating seamless and low-latency experiences that can accommodate large numbers of users in real time.
What companies are referring to as Metaverse nowadays is basically a pre-metaverse or mini-metaverse version. They are using a fragmented metaverse technology, primarily augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR).
"While the tools and technology out there today enable people to create their own mini-metaverses, (in many cases) they are not connected to other ones. Where I believe this ultimately becomes a true metaverse is when these things get interconnected", says Kelly Malone, the chief business officer at Taqtile, a provider of augmented reality and mixed reality work-instruction platform.
The billion-dollar blackhole…
Many companies, including Meta, Microsoft, Roblox, and Epic, are investing heavily in developing Metaverse technology and platforms.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is at the forefront of Metaverse development. It has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality technologies and has sold over 15 million Meta Quest (formerly, Oculus) VR headsets to-date. The company believes that the Metaverse has the potential to transform the way people connect, work, and play.
And I tend to agree – the experiences that are already available within these relatively compact headsets is nothing short of incredible.
However, this investment has been shadowed by Meta's other platforms, including Whatsapp, facebook, and Instagram, having faced highly-publicised layoffs of about 13% of the workforce.
Microsoft is incorporating Metaverse into Microsoft Teams, Microsoft's online meeting platform. The technology will allow users a holographic experience during a virtual meeting. The company is working on holoportation, a 3D modeling technique that will transmit high-quality 3D models of people.
Now, we’ve all seen this kind of thing in those futuristic movies in the past.
But simply put, you will interact with each other's avatars instead of the live meetings. Microsoft has invested in virtual and augmented reality technologies and has launched the HoloLens AR headset.
Another heavily invested company in the Metaverse is Roblox, an online gaming platform that allows users to create and share their games. Roblox has already built a vibrant Metaverse-like environment and plans to expand its capabilities.
The company believes (along with everyone else) that the Metaverse is the future of gaming and entertainment and is investing in its development to stay ahead of the competition.
The creator of the popular video game Fortnite, Epic Games, has already experimented with in-game concerts and events through virtual reality.
Epic Games has announced plans to build a "Metaverse engine" to enable developers to create their own experiences.
Decentraland is a blockchain-based virtual world that allows users to buy, sell, and trade virtual land and goods.
Besides these tech companies, many non-tech firms are also investing in Metaverse, or some part of its technology, to give their customers an immersive experience. For example, Ferrari, the luxury car company, showcases their models in augmented reality, enabling customers to walk around and check out the car's engine system.
Show me the money…
Though Metaverse promises a whole lot of potential, there are still many, many, many, many unknowns each having many, many, many, many of their own unknowns. Tech experts have been on both sides of the lines, with some believing that the Metaverse will be a tech revolution. On the other hand, some are still skeptical about whether it will be a legit transformation of human interaction or a mere extension of current technologies.
A Bloomberg 2021 report predicted that the metaverse market will be $800 billion by 2024.
As per a survey conducted in October 2022 among marketers in the US who know about the metaverse potential:
68% strongly agree that most brands will advertise in the Metaverse in the next five years.
Three out of four agree that consumers will spend more time on the Metaverse rather than social media.
81% of the respondents strongly agree that cryptocurrency will be a commonly accepted payment form.
According to a Pew Research Center and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center’s report, 54% of technology innovators, developers, and business leaders expect metaverse to be a fully immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for half a billion people globally. While about 46% think it will not be the case.
I’m coming too…
As the metaverse technology advances, we can expect more advanced social experiences, enhanced gaming experiences, virtual commerce, virtual events, education and training, healthcare, and more.
However, the technology is still very new and fragmented, and there is no way to say to what extent any investment will be worth in years to come. The companies, though cautiously, explore the metaverse to stay ahead of what is currently a “trend”.
I find myself very much onboard with the idea of being able to engage with candidates through the Metaverse. My own brain takes me on a journey to thinking we could assess the hard skills of product managers and engineers as well as developing AI to conduct culture-fit examinations based on the behaviors of an individual versus those of client teams.
Being able to construct our own environments and scenarios to enable a higher level of accuracy when presenting and placing product specialists in tech firms would be incredible to see.