What is the metaverse?
The metaverse, is part of the next iteration of the internet some are calling Web 3.0 — and it promises to upend everything as we know it. Within the next few years, we will all work, play, socialize and invest in this all-encompassing ecosystem, whether that means attending a professional conference at a virtual Four Seasons hotel, shopping for a new designer handbag for our digital avatar or swinging through the New York City skyline with Spider-Man. The metaverse is a seamless convergence of our physical and digital lives, creating a unified, virtual community where we can work, play, relax, transact and socialize. The metaverse is still early in its evolution, and there is no singular, all-encompassing definition to which people can turn. Themes of what the metaverse is and could be, however, are emerging. A key point is that there is no one virtual world but many worlds, which are taking shape to enable people to deepen and extend social interactions digitally. This is done by adding an immersive, three-dimensional layer to the web, creating more authentic and natural experiences. The metaverse even has the promise of facilitating accessibility from the comfort of the home, breaking down boundaries and democratizing access to key goods, services and experiences.
The metaverse is also the evolution of Digital Twins. Since December 2020, it has been possible to create digitally modeled environments using Microsoft’s Digital Twin Definition Language (DTDL). This can create models and be used without physical connection, in order to simulate ‘what if?’, ‘how will the model work?’ scenarios.
To quote Microsoft, “Metaverse apps are the culmination of the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge working in harmony together — at their foundation is digital twins”.
For example, the metaverse can augment Digital Twins, so that consultants and sales teams can create real-life simulations of the Digital Twin solution for your client’s shop floor. You can then monitor how quickly shop assistants fill the shelves, or how efficient the cashiers are . This could be further augmented for the customer if new simulation software written by STRIVR is used. Imagine how your newly modeled IoT/IIoT solution would handle Black Friday queues, or smart buildings and cities, or energy providers to an oil rig in the North-Sea. This concept will be explored further in our future blog, “Further exploration and demonstration of the augmented Metaverse”.
The concept of a metaverse is not a new one. In many ways this is a linear progression. Online, multi-player, role-playing worlds like The Sims or Second Life have been around for nearly 20 years, with players spending an average of 20 hours per week in these worlds.9 Modern equivalents like Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Fortnite have hundreds of millions of users, and huge supporting economies. We are now at an inflection point, where it seems that not a day goes by without a company or celebrity announcing that they are building a presence in a virtual universe. While the buzz can partially be attributed to attentiongrabbing headlines, there is a convergence of emerging trends. A number of new technologies have come together to enable this vision of the metaverse. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets have become cheaper and more powerful, improving the user experience. Blockchain has enabled digital currencies and NFTs. The new methods to transact and own digital goods are allowing creators to monetize their activities through tokens. In addition to monetization, and as a means to exchange value, token-holders can also participate in the platform’s governance (e.g. vote on decisions). This democratic ownership economy coupled with the possibility of interoperability, could unlock immense economic opportunities, whereby digital goods and services are no longer captive to a singular gaming platform or brand. From a social perspective, the development of more immersive virtual experiences is helping people to build communities based on shared values, and to express themselves in more authentic ways. Meanwhile, COVID-19 accelerated the digitization of our lives and normalized more persistent and multi-purpose online engagement and communication. It is this combination of technological, social and economic drivers that is resulting in the explosive interest in the metaverse.
It is not just business-to-consumer environments that will benefit. The metaverse will provide a massive opportunity for business-to-business enterprises. Take a manufacturer that is buying new parts for its equipment. Presently, the process involves receiving a physical brochure or an emailed PDF with static 2D pictures. In the metaverse, users could test the products in a virtual environment at lower cost. Imagine being able to build a complex digital twin of a factory or industrial space at massive scale, and test how robotics systems will interact with the physical environment. One of the great possibilities of the metaverse is that it will massively expand access to the marketplace for consumers from emerging and frontier economies. The internet has already unlocked access to goods and services that were previously out of reach. Now, workers in low-income countries, for example, may be able to get jobs in western companies without having to emigrate. Educational opportunities will also expand, with VR worlds being a low-cost and effective way to access training. With these developments there will also have to be clear governance. From a corporate perspective, there are opportunities to massively scale. Instead of having stores in every city, a major retailer might build a global hub in the metaverse that is able to serve millions of customers. Beyond retailers, the metaverse will turbocharge the shift in gaming, sports betting and gambling from cash to crypto. Companies such as Sightline Payments, that have built infrastructure to support cashless digital gaming for live sports and casinos, are ideally placed to capitalize on the opportunity as these industries rapidly transition to offering experiences to gamers in the metaverse.
Microsoft’s first offering in the metaverse is Mesh, a collaborative platform for VR which will be integrated with teams in 2022. This will combine mixed reality and HoloLens with meetings & video calls, where you can participate through animated avatars. This is attractive to those who feel they’ve had enough of looking at themselves through a webcam during the lockdowns. To create these avatars, Microsoft will listen to your voice and watch you raise your hand, animating the avatar accordingly.
The second leap is how we will demonstrate our Digital Twin/IoT/IIoT solutions to manufacturing and retail customers. This will not only include our simulations and Digital Twin models, but with AR and VR, we can demonstrate a real-life view of their premise, and the interactions and consequences of that action.
Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces is presently in and is a great tool to provide analytics with people and places. Through it, companies will be able to safely monitor and manage queues on shop floors. They can analyse customer traffic patterns and could even measure shop assistants’ performance, based on how long they take to serve a customer.
Virtual events have been increasingly popular in the previous two years. The metaverse provides critical support for enhancing integrated virtual event solutions.
Virtual event planners can create events that make participants feel as if they are physically there at the event using immersive metaverse experiences.
Fortnite is one of the most well-known examples of business opportunities in the metaverse with virtual events. Popular musicians like Travis Scott and Ariana Grande have performed at Fortnite virtual concerts.
The first advantage of the metaverse for creating virtual event business potential is its accessibility.
Engaging and Immersing Learning Experiences
Medical education, higher education, military applications, and various other fields could benefit from more immersive learning experiences provided by the metaverse.
Most importantly, organizations do not need to construct any infrastructure to enable an immersive learning experience because the metaverse already has it.
VR spaces and enabling layers of digital information over the physical world using digital headgear would be examples of metaverse applications in education. VR-based learning can improve how students connect with various concepts and ideas. At the same time, the metaverse can assist in quickly discovering problems and facilitating curricular revisions.
Most importantly, the metaverse’s educational business potential will provide immersive learning experiences free of language boundaries.
The metaverse’s immersive learning experiences can potentially be a valuable business opportunity for military use.
The metaverse’s virtual areas can mimic physically and emotionally taxing real-life combat situations.
On the other hand, the metaverse can provide a persistent network of virtual and real-world environments, which can improve virtual training possibilities.
Engaging and Immersing Shopping Experiences
The retail sector is the next major arena for experimenting with metaverse business opportunities. Metaverse-based immersive shopping experiences can benefit businesses in the retail sector. Furthermore, the metaverse can be an excellent venue for launching new and sophisticated products.
Imagine going to a fashion store in the metaverse as a digital avatar. You can browse the store and its merchandise in the same way you would in the real world.
You can dress your digital avatar in the clothes and accessories from the fashion store in the metaverse.
As a result, you can see how a specific garment or pair of pants fits you.
Metaverse technology could provide the perfect foundation for new immersive social media platforms.
As digital avatars in various virtual locations, users might communicate with other participants in social media metaverse platforms.
With its rebranding to Meta, Facebook’s aspirations for the metaverse present excellent prospects for the growth of social media platforms.
The next stage in the evolution of social media will most likely be almost real-life social experiences.
The metaverse could be used by organizations to enable virtual augmented workspaces.
Furthermore, the metaverse has the potential to improve employee engagement, connect with them, and inspire collaboration. The metaverse may be the most effective platform for encouraging employee collaboration.
One of the most well-known examples of using the metaverse to modify workspaces is Microsoft.
The Microsoft Mesh is rapidly evolving into a virtual workspace solution that allows users to access all Microsoft services from a single location.
NFTs Sales Services
It is the most widely known business model in the Metaverse. In the most common format, buyers purchased NFTs, and famous artists sold their works at auctions.
It would be possible for artists to set up a Metaverse gallery and sell their NFTs to consumers who needed 3-D models of their famous works.
Disrupt the gaming world
Gaming is probably the closest thing to Metaverse. The VR gaming experience provides a glimpse of what Metaverse would look like from our eyes.
We are probably less than a decade away when 99% of the games we play today would be obsolete and Metaverse will rewrite how games are played today. 2D screen and joysticks are already replaced by head mounted Visual device (VR gear) and move motion controllers, touch controller, sensors, and smart gloves.
Gamers in the Metaverse world would be able to play different games with the same avatar and use the same currency for all the games.
Media and User Experience
There is a great probability that Metaverse will change the way we listen to music or watch a video. With the VR, you could get inside a 360-degree video and experience the thrill of being immersed in an exciting environment.
There are already thousands of 360-degree videos available on the internet to give you a firsthand experience, but with Metaverse it will go even beyond that. There might be a virtual theater inside the Metaverse where you watch a play. Recently Travis Scott performed a concert on Fortnite making it the first Metaverse Event.
Digital Asset and Ownership
Metaverse is supposed to integrate the concept of digital asset commerce and ownership. Companies will be able to build, buy, sell, and lease items like real estate, a car or a song.
Since NFT would be a major part of Metaverse, it will protect the ownership of digital assets like a photo, music, video, or costume.
For example, an artist could release his album in the Metaverse, which users can buy to listen to while in the Metaverse. With the use of NFT, the album would be free from piracy or listened to illegally.
A shoe company could make virtual sneakers shoes, which could be sold on a virtual mall or shop with crypto. The user could dress up his avatar with sneakers he just brought. Recently, Decentraland sold virtual real estate for $ 2.4 million.
This is probably one of the major use cases of Metaverse. Microsoft Teams is currently working on its own version of Metaverse to make a digital workplace that fills all the gap of current remote working idea. Metaverse will allow interactive in-person meetings with immersive viewing. The use of body language and facial expression will make virtual meetings effective and expressive.
The possibilities are unlimited in the field of education with virtual schools in the metaverse in which students would be able to interact with teachers and friends just like in real classes. People could learn sports like cricket, football, or any other game that requires physical interaction to learn. What Metaverse could do is only limited by imagination.
Online education is growing more popular, with a particular emphasis on business training. Augmented Reality technology in the metaverse can be useful to boost real-life education, rather than simply reading books or taking notes in traditional learning contexts, is gaining significant popularity in the education community.
What’s your ‘metaverse strategy’?
In the metaverse, some of the existing services and business models we are familiar with will continue to exist, but the metaverse opens a whole new realm of ways to engage which we expect will lead to uniquely new services and business models. Not everything in the metaverse will be relevant for every business. However, there is little downside to taking the opportunity to explore.
Learn: There are many different interpretations of the metaverse, and various angles to learn about beyond the content here.
Assess: While the metaverse will scale across many industry verticals, evaluate if there are relevant opportunities for your business.
Create: Gain experience through internal development. Take the opportunity to explore creative consumer engagement through new channels, services, experiences, digital goods and assets. Start small and move fast. Test and learn. Connect Start building a network of metaverse ecosystem participants. The world is still small, so high quality collaborations and partnerships are still available at a reasonable level of investment.
Connect with a new generation and tap into alternative talent pools.
Establish: Get your business out there and position yourself to capture the hearts and minds of tech-forward sub-communities.
What about security? Read The metaverse is coming. Here are the cornerstones for securing it.