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The idea of metaverse has been seeping into tech circles since Neal Stephenson coined the term in his 1992 novel Snow crash. This was the year after the World Wide Web was opened to the public and before general use websites became widely available. The idea is that many virtual spaces converge with the Internet to form a great virtual world where we can all lead our lives digitally. Epic’s Tim Sweeney has spoken on how games can evolve into the metaverse. And the Microsoft CEO characterized the digital twins of Azure and IoT as a metaverse in his earnings call In the past week.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg appears to be the most passionate proponent of the metaverse, acknowledging in a recent interview at The Verge that “I’ve been thinking about some of these things since I was in high school and just starting to code.” He sparked a lot of interest in late June when he announced to his staff that an overarching goal was to connect many of the company’s initiatives to help bring the metaverse to life. And he has outlined a number of factors that are paving the way:
- The concept of “presence” and being engaged with friends and colleagues more naturally with spatial references.
- Virtual reality and the investment Facebook has made to enable wide adoption of virtual reality with Quest 2
- The promise of augmented reality and the ability to seamlessly overlay digital data and images onto the physical world using comfortable headphones.
- The importance of being able to access content on any hardware, including PCs, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and XR headsets, and portability across all software platforms.
- The limitations of interacting with each other through the “little bright rectangle” of a phone screen (and, by implication, the limitations imposed by Google and Apple, which control the operating systems of mobile devices).
- The limitations of interacting with people through an infinite sea of small rectangles in Zoom
- The value of visually sharing multiple images or data sets simultaneously in a “whiteboard room” rather than one page of a document at a time in a Zoom call.
How will Facebook’s metaverse initiatives affect the business?
Facebook’s business model will evolve into the metaverse concept, and some of the stepping stone technologies Facebook is investing in will change the way companies interact with their customers and the way people on business teams work with each other. Yes. At some point, we may see the evolution of a metaverse that creates a new community with an improved presence, forum, and marketplace for content creators of various types and new forms of digital commerce. But this metaverse is unlikely to appear suddenly next year, sparking a new “land grab” and disrupting the existing advertising model on social media.
Instead, companies have time to prepare for this scenario. However, some of the springboard elements of Facebook’s metaverse journey are here today and can be used to enhance existing business product and service offerings and gain experience. Several of the factors that Zuckerberg has highlighted provide clues to future metaverse scenarios that can be valuable to start planning.
Adoption of existing metaverse building blocks
The Quest 2 is a self-contained unit with very good visual performance, spatial sound, and excellent hand tracking at a remarkable $ 299 price. The content available today is primarily for gaming, but the headset is also capable of supporting business applications. attractive. Provides an excellent display device for team virtual reality scenario or procedure training. The 360-degree video viewed through the Quest 2 provides the on-site experience for product demonstrations or museum displays. A Quest 2 headset can be shipped to a customer for less than the cost of a salesperson visit and used to demonstrate a product in a much more engaging way than a typical video or slideshow. Immersive VR advertising will be important in the metaverse, but there’s no reason not to experiment with it now.
Zuckerberg is correct that we weren’t meant to interact with each other through tiny rectangles on a mobile device or Zoom screen. Facebook Horizon is an initial effort to create “presence” by providing a virtual reality space where you can interact with the cartoon avatars of your friends. Presumably it will evolve into a social space where small groups of professional colleagues or client teams can interact more naturally.
In the meantime, prepare for the metaverse and embrace development platforms that make content readily available on PCs, mobile devices, and XR headsets. New development platforms make the cross-platform 3D content creation process more like creating PowerPoint than creating AAA game or movie. Some also provide the ability to develop applications collaboratively, with colleagues from multiple sites working simultaneously on the same editor screen. This recreates the experience of working together in a meeting room. It can be valuable to gain organizational experience in creating digital avatars, 3D content, and new collaboration tools.
Future metaverse building blocks
Augmented reality glasses are a key priority for Zuckerberg. Apple, Microsoft, and several smaller companies are also working on the challenge of creating a comfortable helmet that seamlessly overlays the digital world over the physical. Release dates are still uncertain, but important steps are likely to be taken in the next 24 months.
There are many more opportunities with AR than “presence” during a conversation with a colleague. The spatial and workflow applications in future AR headsets will be important productivity tools for frontline workers. Hands-free voice or gesture control provides a much more natural interaction. Using visual, acoustic and other sensors coupled with artificial intelligence to identify patterns can allow the parallel digital world to incorporate the current situation in the physical world and make it available to team members regardless of location. Get experience with these technologies now. They can run on mobile devices and easily transition to AR headsets as those headsets become cost-effective and comfortable.
Community, creators and digital commerce in the future metaverse
Roblox and YouTube already offer sample marketplaces for user-generated content. The future metaverse is expected to expand the role of creators to share and monetize content. Emerging platforms like ToneStone bring user-generated content to new markets, such as music creation. Gaining experience in channeling such content is valuable.
Digital commerce will evolve to incorporate more immersive experiences, AR and VR tools, and perhaps less reliance on specific platforms. Your organization can gain experience with these trends now and be prepared to take advantage of metaverse opportunities as they evolve.
A number of companies create critical tools for the graphics technology, gaming, computer-aided design, application development, and geospatial industries, which are likely to play an important role in providing critical elements for the emerging metaverse.
Facebook has nearly 3 billion monthly active users, Fortnite has 350 million active users, and Roblox and Minecraft have commanded 200 million active users. The scale of a potential metaverse as a more interactive and more detailed evolution of the world web has huge implications for the way we stay in touch, play, and work. While Facebook would like to control the metaverse, Zuckerberg acknowledges that a single company is unlikely to do so. Still, the company has provided some useful gadgets, capabilities, and observations that will likely shape the future metaverse. There is a lot to learn here.
David Brebner is founder and CEO of Umajin, which creates SaaS applications for mobile devices, AR / VR, IoT and AI. He previously founded the applications company Fingertapps and the user experience research company Unlimited Realities.
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