Commercial realities of extended realitiesJanuary 5, 2022
In July 2021, in The beneficial (and frightening) implications of virtualising reality, we placed a spotlight on some of the worrisome implications of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). The timing of that article’s publication was fortuitous to serve as background information for developments that accelerated substantially not even four months later.
On 28 October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced the new name of his company, Meta Platforms. “Meta’s focus will be to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses,” he said.
Zuckerberg believes that after desktop-based and later mobile experiences, “the next platform will be even more immersive – an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build”.
He added: “In the metaverse, you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine – get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create – as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today.”
First things first. What actually is the metaverse? The question is difficult to answer – and that is likely the reason why definitions tend to be conspicuously absent from most articles. In truth, the metaverse is better understood as layers of extended realities.
Therefore, business opportunities abound, depending on the layer you want to work in, the applications you want to address and the technologies you want to employ. The commercial potential of the emerging network is so large that it is easy to see why most industries could benefit one way or another, directly or indirectly, as provider or as user of the metaverse.
By now, even casual readers of technology and business media will have become aware that the term metaverse originated in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. The novel featured a rather disturbing future society, in which such a virtual network exists in a dystopian real world. Perhaps the choice of the term for today’s emerging network is therefore problematic, hopefully not prescient. In the novel, the metaverse constitutes a virtual reality-based environment in which avatars interact with each other – a sort of advanced internet.
The metaverse, at the most basic level, enables connectivity of users that can interact with virtual assets or avatars in an immersive fashion. Everything else – in my opinion – is negotiable and depends on design, purpose and applications of such environments. The metaverse should be treated as a general idea rather than a concrete definition. Any attempts to define the metaverse in detail inevitably will only limit the potential of what types of environments could emerge and therefore miss associated business opportunities.
Similarly, the internet of today is a means for communication and collaboration, but also for entertainment…