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There is no denying that the internet is evolving at an ever-increasing rate. Consequently, this has led to the development of advanced internet technology and, in turn, to the introduction of metaverse. As a quick explanation, the metaverse is a representation of an immersive 3D virtual world where users are able to interact with different spaces.
Just like the real world, the metaverse allows users to move around different metaverse spaces as their personal digital avatars. Metaverse is often referred to as virtual worlds where avatars can socialise, work, play etc. Similar to a Zoom call, these virtual spaces are always available and do not disappear when you have finished using them. Meta’s YouTube video on the metaverse offers its own synopsis of the metaverse - a digital world that uses a blend of technologies such as augmented reality (AR), Blockchain technology and virtual reality (VR).
Some of the initial ways that the metaverse is being proposed to have an impact include:
social interaction/ experiences
The origins of the concept of the metaverse date back to the early 21st century whereby using virtual reality headsets and interacting in an almost ‘video game-like digital world’ was the theory of the metaverse first introduced by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, “Snow Crash”. As this demonstrates, it is not a newly invented notion - it has been around for a while and is most certainly still evolving. Until recently, in October 2021, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, announced Facebook was to change its name to Meta. It is not only Facebook that believes the metaverse is here to stay. Microsoft has recently announced the largest acquisition it has ever made to acquire Blizzard Activision (paying a massive $68.7billion), and is looking to integrate its Teams platform into Meta’s Workplace platform.
One of the benefits which metaverse has the potential to address is that of remote work environments. According to Akash Takyar, CEO of Leeway Hertz, (which has helped build over 100 tech platforms for a variety of companies), the metaverse can help “the employer to resolve problems like productivity time theft and goldbrick at the workplace by keeping track of team productivity through their unique avatars”. Working remotely has been forced onto many due to COVID-19, and it has had its drawbacks - probably the most identifiable is that of being distracted and not working when you are expected to. To assist with this issue, the metaverse enables managers to effectively communicate with their employees, including reading body language and in-person interaction. Essentially, by more interactive monitoring this will hopefully encourage employees to be more productive, even at home, and offer a more engaging experience in which to communicate. Furthermore, metaverse allows organisations to create a virtual office and/or classrooms at home. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a heavy toll on all levels of the education sector. School and university students have been required to learn remotely, undoubtedly producing many challenges. Whilst platforms such as Zoom allow students to interact with teachers, professors and each other, there remains the physical barrier that cannot be overcome with such technologies. The metaverse aims to provide a ‘joined-up’ online experience in which a single avatar can move between spaces - such as from a lecture hall to a science laboratory. Since there is complete control over what students see inside the metaverse, visual learning makes it easier to communicate ideas and concepts.
Another exciting use for the metaverse is that it offers organisations the facility to carry out market research whilst giving consumers the ability to use digital products and services before they purchase physical ones. This experience allows the users to gain first-hand experiences about the feel of the products and how they will bring value into their lives. Every retail vendor will have the ability to engage with audiences all around the world and will be able to present their products without any restrictions. This concept has not been lost on global brands such as Adidas and Nike as they begin to unveil their initial forays into NFTs and the metaverse. Meanwhile, journeys to other planets or to other countries, or even visiting an underwater city, is possible in a metaverse. Although worldwide travelling is adventurous, not everyone can experience this and with the geopolitical uncertainty and higher airline tickets prices there could, indeed, be greater interest in what the metaverse offers to intrepid globetrotters through virtual travel. As the publication, Luxury Travel Magazine reports, travel “is already beginning to embrace the metaverse exploring new forms of marketing and new ways to offer better experiences, and travelers are beginning to reap the benefits”. By using the combined power of metaverse, AR and VR, an advanced virtual world is being developed which offers a 'first-person' experience to the users with a much-desired smaller carbon footprint and, equally importantly, is available for those both with or without a disability. The size of the metaverse market is undoubtedly predicted to grow with this technology, attracting social networks, online game makers and other technology leaders. It has been suggested that the global metaverse revenue opportunity could approach $800 billion in 2024 - a huge rise from the $500 billion in 2020 - representing a compound annual growth rate of 131.1%.
Metaverse market growth outlook
As ever, with any new technology the metaverse faces a number of challenges. Being dependent on VR and AR headsets (which are not lightweight, portable, or affordable), metaverse faces the dilemma of restricted adoption. Aside from this, there is a need for high-quality and high-performance models that can achieve the right retina display and pixel density for a realistic virtual immersion, so a strong and stable internet connection is paramount. This new digital avatar-based universe uses virtual reality whereby enabling users to interact, play games and experience activities as they would be in the real world. Metaverse helps in creating virtual office spaces and learning environments with real-time communication and in-person experiences giving us the potential to overcome the limitations we face in real life. But, as ever, the more the metaverse is used and embraced, no doubt there will be an abundance of uses in the future that today we cannot even begin to comprehend.