Metaverse - opportunities to explore new markets

Brian Lynas

06 Jan 2022

Tilix are delighted to repost this blog by our associate Brian Lynas.

The Metaverse was initially a term coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in 1992 to mean a computer-generated universe. Today it is understood to be an immersive shared virtual world where individuals can meet to participate in leisure and working activities. The key principle of the metaverse and its underpinning technology is to facilitate people to do anything virtually in the Metaverse whilst experiencing the exact same feeling and consequences, as if one did the same action in the real world.

A key early inspiration for the Metaverse has been the design aspects of computer games in terms of graphic technology and in terms of seeing the virtual gaming environment as both a reflection of the real world and a space to be engaged with. Many games also have succeeded in simulating real life experiences to a high level of realism. The simulation of the real world is a key concept of the Metaverse and the foundations were established within the gaming industry. Within these games participants can do many real-life activities, virtually through their in-game avatar. An early example of such a game is the widely played ‘SIMS’ game, which has now been adapted for mobile devices. Computer gaming is a key driver and entry point for the Metaverse and will continue to be so.

Many Hardware and software technology innovations are also helping to drive the Metaverse and make it an achievable concept. Technological advances include solutions such as Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and Augmented reality solutions (AR). These are key to developing the Metaverse still further. VR solutions use a separated displays to show each eye a different feed, creating a stereoscopic 3D effect with stereo sound whilst tracking the user’s position in the digital environment to orientate their perspective in the system. The global VR market is expected to increase from being worth $7.92 billion in 2021 to $53.44 billion in 2028.

AR involves overlaying auditory, or other sensory information onto the physical reality to improve user’s experience. Essentially augmented reality uses the existing real-world environment and provides additional virtual information layered on top of it to enhance user experience and understanding of the real world. This is quite different to Virtual Reality where users “inhabit” a virtual world created and rendered by computers – the two worlds do increasingly interact however and making this interaction seamless will be key to the success of the Metaverse.

It is clear then that virtual technology and gaming sector companies are well placed to be among the leaders in the advancement and expansion of the Metaverse. These sectors have proven experience in creating platforms for people to interact with and build virtual worlds, within which participants can relate with each other and create their own assets to be commercially traded.

There are however many other industry sectors becoming involved such as the social media global giants. Recently, Facebook has gained significant publicity surrounding their rebranding to ‘Meta’ to reflect their ambition to expand into being the market leader in the Metaverse. Facebook has an advantage in the market through the development of their own VR headsets - Oculus. Meta’s ambition is that users will be able to experience activities ranging from games to concerts, as if the users were physically present at the activities. The headset’s quality offerings are key to achieving this objective.

Additionally, founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates recently predicted that all business meetings will be hosted on the Metaverse within the next three years. Microsoft is currently leading the way on this path, building on the market dominance of Microsoft Teams for online business meetings. The technology giant is currently developing an idea called Mesh. Microsoft Mesh is a platform that allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences on many kinds of devices including VR headsets, smartphones and desktops. It includes features such as ‘Holoportation’ - this will enable users to transpose lifelike images of themselves into a virtual scene. Initially, projections will be in the form of animated avatars, but Microsoft’s goal is that this will evolve into photorealistic lifelike projections of users. Mesh is expected to be rolled out on Teams in 2022 reflecting the company’s focus on making business more immersive in a Metaverse.

But that said the gaming industry still is taking a key leader in the development of the Metaverse through companies like Roblox and Fortnight. Roblox is an online platform and storefront where users go to play games. What makes Roblox unique in the industry is that all the games on the platform are developed by its users. Developers using the platform can generate revenue in the form of the company’s in-game currency ‘Robux’ through users purchasing in-game artefacts. Moreover, users can create a virtual version of their real-life self through purchasing user generated clothing, hairstyles, accessories in the platform’s avatar shop. Clothing brands such as Nike and Gucci have taken advantage of the revenue creating opportunities provided by Roblox. Users can purchase virtual Nike Air Max trainers and Gucci sold a virtual bag for the equivalent of $4,115 on the platform.

Fortnite, which is owned by Epic Games, is mainly known as a game where players are dropped onto an island where they compete to be the last player or team standing. Like Roblox, it is also possible to purchase virtual clothing and accessories using the platform’s in-game currency, V-Bucks. Moreover, Fortnite has been attracting media attention for hosting non-gaming related experiences, including a film festival screened on in-game cinema screens and it hosted concerts including Travis Scott and Ariana Grande.

Even organised religion is establishing a presence in the Metaverse and holding services virtually. This can be done without the need or expense of traditional bricks and mortar buildings such as St Macher’s cathedral in Aberdeen, Scotland. It also facilitates reaching a global congregation.

In addition, to the major well-established companies mentioned above, many start-ups have been founded with the ambition of providing products and services using the Metaverse in industries such as healthcare and workplace training. For example, Swedish start-up Warpin has collaborated with Kry, a digital doctor service to help patients suffering from social anxiety. They aim to utilise virtual reality technology to allow patients to immerse themselves in virtual social scenarios which cause them anxiety with the ambition that this experience will result in them not feeling anxious when they encounter the scenario in real life. Moreover, businesses can use the same technology to allow employees to do training exercises virtually before doing the task in real life since errors in the virtual world will not lead to physical damage of property or injury. This is a particularly effective strategy companies can adopt to reduce workplace accidents particularly when workers must use dangerous chemicals and materials as part of their job. Often these use cases build upon ‘Digital Twin’ representations of real-life equipment, buildings and plants. Many ‘Digital Twin’ solutions in engineering and manufacture already include aspects of virtual reality that can be easily integrated into the Metaverse if needed. Blockchain technologies also help manage unique entities in the Metaverse and support transactional activities.

It is imperative that businesses looking to take advantage of the Metaverse develop the necessary cyber security and data communications infrastructure to facilitate their Metaverse deployment strategy. Technologies such as SASE and SD-WAN delivered by companies such as InfoQuick Global Connect are cost effective, secure and nimble to deploy on a global scale and are a key enabler for the Metaverse growth.

Overall and in conclusion, the Metaverse offers companies significant opportunities to explore new markets and improve their operational procedures. This article has highlighted just a few of the sectors and use cases where companies are exploring the Metaverse. Essentiality, as implied by its name, the opportunities of the Metaverse are limited only by the creativity of the participants and their adoption and integration of the necessary application, cybersecurity and data communications solutions needed to deliver their concepts to the end user.