Metaverse: time for the first assessment

On October 18, 2021, Meta (parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram) announced creating 10,000 jobs in the European Union over the next five years, to invest in new talent and help build the metaverse.

A year later, Mark Zuckerberg announced the loss of 11,000 jobs causing the first wave of layoffs and accepting the most difficult changes in the company’s history.

However, a recent McKinsey report estimates 5 trillion dollars metaverse market by 2030, the equivalent of the world’s third largest economy after the United States and China. Investments are estimated at more than 120 billion dollars. The metaverse project exceeds the ambitions of a single company, however large.

Retailers and well-known brands such as Nike, Balenciaga or Louis Vuitton are positioned in these virtual spaces. Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon or Google have confirmed their investments. The situation being ambivalent, let’s decipher the changes in the perception of the metaverse and investigate the ingredients that may contribute to its success.

Why is the metaverse not achieving the expected success?

The first source of ambiguity relates to the simple fact that not everyone agrees on the definition of the metaverse(s). Metaverse is a concept under construction, and no one knows what it will look like, or even what should be included behind the term. of web 3, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain are all modern creations revolving around the metaverse. The lack of recognition of these technologies and the unclear boundaries between these concepts and that of the metaverse do not facilitate understanding by the general public.

In May 2022, Ipsos published the results of a inquiry showing that only 28% of the French were familiar with the concept of the metaverse. While large groups, states and the EU are investing, 62% of the French I still don’t see the point of virtual worlds. It is therefore essential to inform the citizens to better understand metaverse and related technologies.

of interministerial report of the development mission Metaverse published in October 2022 defines the latter as “an online service that provides access to real-time, shared and continuous 3D space simulations in which we can live immersive experiences together”.

This definition places the virtual experience at the heart of the matter. However, virtual reality headsets are still little adopted and have obvious limitations (cost, autonomy, weight). In a desire for inclusion, the main players present a metaverse accessible through a virtual reality headset, but also from a browser or a mobile application. While immersion is, according to some actors, necessary, according to others it would be a brake on the democratization of the metaverse.

An example of a metaverse: Roblox.
An example of a metaverse: Roblox

To date, several hundred metaverses can be identified, and the largest (Roblox, Second Life, Zepeto, Minecraft, Fortnite) include million users. The colossal numbers we see floating around are inflated by the success of online multiplayer games. However, one might wonder if the latter can be considered a metaverse. This question should be debated, especially as some articles have pointed out very low attendance platforms regularly cited as metaverse (Decentraland, The Sandbox). Although these figures were opposedwe are not reaching the expected level of engagement.

What does metaverse success require?

Adoption of the metaverse is very slow for observers. Expectations are high, as the top players showed up early and made a long-term bet. Despite the record level of 400 million users monthly active in 2022 (equivalent to the number of Internet users at the turn of the year 2000), mass adoption is a long way off. Only recently, during the DealBook Summit, Mark Zuckerberg hinted that the metaverse would not be profitable before 2030 at the earliest.

or Gartner study shows that 25% of people will spend an hour a day in the metaverse in 2026. His methodology cycle noise (the curve describing the evolution of a new technology) established the metaverse as an emerging technology. He estimates that his productivity plateau will be reached in more than ten years.

Businesses looking for better productivity can be a key driver of adoption. A large number of players believe that the metaverse is ready revolutionize remote work. The health crisis has greatly contributed to the acceleration of the adoption of this type of format. According to one the forrester reportat least three of the following four major solutions, Zoom, Slack, Webex, and Google Apps, will add metaverse-like functionality in 2023. A recent study by PwC found that 51% of companies are in the process of integrating virtual reality into their strategy or have already integrated virtual reality into at least one sector of activity. The institutions ofHigher Education also identified the beneficial effects of the metaverse.

Technology adoption patterns remind us of the importance of usability criteria as well as usefulness. To date, these have not really been fulfilled. Trying to enter the metaverse will no longer be an inhibition when our motivations are sufficient. For those who have taken the plunge, Capgemini shows that three-quarters still use it and will continue to do so.

Among the many conditions that allow for the large-scale deployment of Metavers, the following criteria are regularly put forward.

The metaverse must be interoperable. This means that designers and platforms that enable the creation of virtual universes must rely on common protocols in order to make it easy to change the virtual space. Ultimately, navigating from one space to another should be as simple as navigating from one website to another. This work is continuing with the efforts ofOpen the Metaverse Alliance (association with headquarters in Switzerland) or Metaverse Standards Forum (industrial consortium).

To get a satisfying experience, it is essential to be able to take advantage of a (near) real-time interaction. The number of operations per second is a fundamental limit. Rendering and timing of scenes are subject to technical performance. Therefore, the metaverse, in order to reach a large audience, will have to be supported increasingly efficient technology. This also raises the question of energy consumption virtual universes. The latter should fit as best as possible into the framework of digital prudence.

Technological developments will also need to find solutions to reduce cybernetosis (a term adapted from motion sickness – a mismatch between visual perception and the vestibular system that generates motion sickness) from which nearly 40% of users suffer, as well as fatigue visual, muscle and mental load. Likewise, data theft,digital assets or non-compliance with private life due to security or ethical issues may generate a loss of trust between users and investors.

Tools should be more accessible without introducing unnecessary complexity. Creating a cryptocurrency wallet, buying NFTs and creating virtual experiences will need to be more intuitive.

An expected advance is that of a finer grasp of our senses, including to touchthey young AND space sound. Haptic vests are starting to appear and help to feel virtual interactions in the physical world. They allow, for example, to feel the sensation of wind or even rain. of versatile mattresses lets you run, swim and move in virtual universes with real gestures.

Today, video games are a gateway to the metaverse, which has already won over the youngest, but struggles to convince other audiences. The metaverse is in the hands of the young, as in some virtual universes, nearly 51% of users would have under 13 years old. If the metaverse is regularly met with waves of skepticism, the younger generation seems already immersed in the virtual universe and participates actively in its construction.

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