Is Your Company Metaverse-Ready?
The metaverse hype has now been around for over two years and although the technology is yet to go mainstream in a big way, major tech players are taking steps to shape the coming metaverse. The metaverse is ushering in a new tech revolution and technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality represents this next iteration of computing.
Although mainstream metaverse adoption is still a decade or so away, many forward-looking companies are already taking measures to make themselves metaverse-ready. Some have already embraced virtual reality training, virtual reality collaboration, nonfungible tokens, haptics, remote work, and other aspects of the metaverse. Just how primed is your company for the coming metaverse?
For companies looking to dip their feet in the metaverse or the proto-metaversal worlds in existence today, there are already cool immersive and interactive experiences such as Fortnite, Horizons, and Roblox. Although these games and platforms provide impressive experiences, they are still a far cry from what we imagine a true metaverse should offer. We envision the metaverse as a convincing and pervasive virtual world that we can strap on our headsets and immerse ourselves in to live, work, play, meet friends, shop, collaborate, and create a new dimension of life that feels real and fulfilling. It will be some time before we hit the technological sweet spot in terms of hardware, content, and standards that will enable the metaverse to evolve organically in the same way the World Wide Web grew into a pervasive online environment in which we transferred a considerable part of our lives.
The metaverse will only make sense if it offers mainstream end users rich, interactive, personalized, and engaging immersive content with consumer-friendly hardware. Unless that is realized, it will remain a technological niche with a small user base.
In spite of the slow and obstacle-laden trajectory of development for the metaverse, there are companies that are already moving in to leverage the fledgling technology. For many forward-looking brands, the metaverse offers a new frontier for experimentation. A metaverse presence also allows them to reach target user groups that are already spending a considerable amount of time in metaverse environments. This is still a small number. The best-performing VR headset has reportedly sold just over 15 million units compared to the billions of smartphones and personal computers already in use across the world.
For these companies, the metaverse is more than just a gimmick. Immersive environments and applications are already helping some companies to solve problems and cut costs.
Companies are already developing marketing images, ads, and catalogs in 3D in a scalable, cheaper, and sustainable way.
One of the early adopters of 3D content creation is IKEA which is currently producing up to 75% of its catalogs in 3D.
Ben & Jerry’s, an ice cream maker renders thousands of its product images in 3D and is able to accomplish this at just a fraction of the cost.
Beyond the content and experimentation, the metaverse will also need technological standards to flourish. For instance, the HTML standard in World Wide Web enables all web pages to behave similarly across browsers. The metaverse needs to achieve that level of standardization otherwise creators won’t pour in resources to create content that can’t be published across platforms hence with limited reach.
Work is already underway to standardize the metaverse. There is the consortium Khronos Group which brings together the leading players in the XR scene. There is also the Realtime Conference and the Metaverse Standards Forum. All of these bring together disparate players including hardware manufacturers, tech companies, retailers, and other players to begin formulating an open standards framework that will govern the metaverse. A number of standards for metaverse content are already under development such as the Universal Scene Description (USD) which has been dubbed the HTML of the metaverse.
The USD will enable 3D assets to be rendered and shared across disparate immersive experiences. There is also the glTF standard which has been described as the JPEG of 3D and allows for the compression of 3D assets to make them small and efficient to transmit.
Like the internet, the metaverse is also shaping into a commerce platform where people and brands buy and sell stuff. The difference with the World Wide Web is that the avatar, your virtual persona, will be centerstage in your metaverse interactions meanings billions of dollars will be spent not just to purchase physical goods but also virtual goods with which to equip your avatar alter ego. These could be anything from shoes to clothes, watches, necklaces, sunglasses, and even cars!
Already, systems are being put in place on how to buy or sell virtual and physical goods in the metaverse. The NFTs have already set the pace and given us a glimpse of what metaverse commerce will look like. One of the reasons why NFTs have been successful is that they are unique, offer proof of ownership, and are portable. They are easily accessible and transferable in the blockchain.
For the metaverse to be successful, ordinary human experiences will have to be created virtually and at scale. People are looking for up-close and intimate experiences even in the metaverse. They want to build communities and interact and transact with people they are familiar with. The metaverse promises to offer this intrinsic human need in a new dimension, free from the laws of space, time, and physics. It is a phenomenon that many believe is as inevitable as the internet in the 1990s.