Metaverse: New Reboot for VR/AR

The gaming world has known for quite some time about the possibilities and the appearance of additions, exclusives and customization, not only in the game and per game. See, for example, the Nintendo Miis, on the Wii, DS and Switch game consoles. But ordinary users are also involved: just look at Apple’s Memojis for iPhones and iPads. However, according to its promoters, the metaverse is more than just a game and a gimmick for chat communication.

Fall for the sales pitch

The metaverse can become the nexus of all human interaction; play, work, live. At least, that’s the selling point. That many people and companies now fall in love. In fact: what many people and companies fall in love with again. Because the expectations for virtual worlds were already very high at the beginning of this century: when Second Life emerged around 2005. In addition to the provider Linden Labs, large companies and traditional organizations also joined the digital dream.

Don’t just think about the creative sector, the performances of Dutch Di-rect and Duran Duran. Also think of institutes of knowledge such as the German non-profit Goethe-Institut and the Amsterdam Public Library. Or do business with ABN AMRO and Randstad, and even contact citizens of the municipalities of The Hague, Enschede and Zoetermeer. The latter was the first Dutch municipality in Second Life and spent €25,000 on a virtual plot of land with a virtual town hall. An investment? The islands themselves in Second Life were worth gold at one point. But that didn’t stop there.

Virtual land grab

Today, with the metaverse not quite there yet, it immediately looks like another land grabbing competition. This involves millions, if not billions of dollars. Taking territory refers to claiming a position in the market, for a future virtual land. And while real dollars and euros are being invested in the metaverse, there are also plenty of virtual funds in circulation. Not only virtual currencies, but also digital goods with purely perceived value, such as NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which themselves are just proof of ownership with a link and not the digital good itself.

Such fringe phenomena seem to fuel the hype, with a modern internet giant like Facebook’s parent company Meta, as well as an “old school” tech company like Microsoft, rushing to promote the concept of the metaverse. According to buyer Microsoft, the multibillion-dollar acquisition of game maker Activision/Blizzard is “building blocks for the metaverse.” How? That is not yet clear.

Working?

However, the maker of Windows and Office, Microsoft, already has avatars: floating, because without legs – displayed in its widely used Teams communication tool. From games to the metaverse and from Teams to the metaverse? Facebook also wants to move the world of work to the virtual world. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that his company will now be called Meta, because he fully believes in the metaverse, was very appropriate, in part at a virtual reality work meeting.

The question remains open for the moment, whether people and companies really want to do serious business with their own avatars in often playful environments. And they even want to live their lives. The answer is now quite negative, especially with the phasing out of corona lockdowns. However, history shows that this was once just as true for phone calls, emails, online purchases, video calls and chats.

By the way, the metaverse doesn’t have to be a purely virtual world. The current widely adopted definition, Wired writes, is that of an online world that is connected and even intertwined with the physical world. So a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality in reality: mixed reality, as investor Matthew Ball already described it in early 2020. Which, by the way, was a revised version of his vision of Fortnite as a virtual world for the future.

hype/trend/impulse

The current hype surrounding the metaverse goes hand in hand with that of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs and other tokens, web3, as well as older hype/trends like VR and AR. Buzzwords like 5G-enabled, AI, and edge computing may also be involved. Besides the fact that there is no metaverse at the moment, this accumulation of technological hype causes confusion.

There is much to conquer in this confusion. For tech giants eager to provide the underlying platform for the future. But also for groups and individuals who want to make their move in the uncharted world of the metaverse. Currently, it seems that the momentum of the metaverse is skyrocketing. Companies and people participate, because (other) companies and people participate. FOMO (fear of missing out) can be strong.

new sales market

In addition, there are also concrete income opportunities. In addition to Internet and software-driven companies, chipmaker Nvidia, for example, sees potential in the metaverse. Because it is also just a sales model; for computers, tablets, headphones. While chip shortages remain a cross-product issue, electronics makers and device vendors are already rubbing their hands. They see a new market. Microsoft CEO Panos Panay touts Windows 11 as a “gateway to the Metaverse,” at the end of his blog post about “a new era of the PC.”

According to investment bank Morgan Stanley, spending on VR and AR metaverse “components” will grow from $12 billion in 2020 to $72.8 billion in 2024. It’s not just the tech sector that’s looking forward to the metaverse . Analysts also see potential for art, retail, fashion, health care and more. The top people in those non-tech sectors want to know what to do with it, what they can do with it. The research firm Gartner lists the metaverse as one of five impactful technologies.

In the US, the supermarket chain Walmart seems to want to take the initiative with, for example, nutrition and fitness training workshops that take place in AR and/or VR. Walmart’s trademark apps hint at a virtual shopping experience. Meanwhile, KLM is now experimenting with metaverse possibilities in the Netherlands.

More than 8 years?

In a forecast published in early February, Gartner says that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least an hour a day in some form of the metaverse. The current hype will spill over into new business models that expand digital business, market researchers say. The metaverse is expected to get a lot of attention in 2022. When that will lead to full realization is a question that will probably only be answered years later. Gartner speaks in any case of more than 8 years. So will 2030 be the year of the metaverse? Or does the hype collapse, just like during the dot-com bubble? In that case, it will be a while before Second Life has a second life.

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