Everyone is meta-curious! The possibilities of a virtual and augmented reality feel nothing less than a utopian sci-fi novel or Netflix series. Except that, it’s no longer a far-fetched fantasy but a future that humankind is expected to arrive at by the year 2035.

Over the years, we’ve heard of things in bit(coin)s and pieces, crypto, NFTs, VR headsets, and Facebook’s huge rebrand into a ‘metaverse’ company, but how it all plays into our future format of life is still quite abstract and mysterious.

Experts say that by 2035 the metaverse would be an evolved, fully-functioning aspect of our daily life. That’s really not that far away – which means it’s high time for us to understand the metaverse truly, its characteristics, and how it stands to impact the future of business.

What is Metaverse?

Believe it or not, the word metaverse was actually coined by sci-fi author Neil Stephenson in his 1982 novel Snow Crash. ‘Meta’ means beyond, and ‘verse’ is short for the universe. He used the term metaverse to describe a virtual place where the characters could go to escape their totalitarian reality. 

Well, 30-something years later, here we are. 

Today, there still isn’t one concrete definition for metaverse; some define it as the next internet, a virtual world, a 3D-enabled digital space, or even a multiverse of metaverses. Accenture’s Technology Vision Report 2022 calls it a Metaverse Continuum-  an evolving and expanding continuum. 

So why do we have so many different definitions? Because people and corporations around the world are still creating the building blocks that will determine what this world would look like. Just like how the ‘internet’ wasn’t just about ‘websites’, the metaverse is still considered a living, growing organism figuring its way out into the world.

Having said that, two clear paths seem to be appearing that characterize this future:

Microsoft's Hololens

Augmented Reality (AR):

Augmented reality offers an immersive and interactive experience that blends the virtual and physical. Using devices like smart glasses, AR overlays digital elements onto the physical environment while still allowing you to be fully aware of your actual surroundings. 

Mark Zuckerberg’s glimpse into his vision for Metaverse

Virtual Reality (VR):

Virtual reality, on the other hand, transports you into an entirely virtual world, with the use of VR headsets and controllers, you can feel like a part of the simulated reality with a sense of presence and agency within the virtual space.

 

What are the building blocks of the metaverse?
Although AR & VR look amazing, for these technologies to actually come together and turn the metaverse into spaces and economies that actually function, there are a few other technological pillars required. This is where Web3 comes into the picture. Web 1.0 was the physical infrastructure of computers and servers that allowed us to connect with each other, mostly a ‘read only’ experience controlled by Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, and Google. Then came Web 2.0, a ‘read and write era’ where social media defined the meaning of being ‘online’, and where large monopolies like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Tiktok owned our content while making lots of money monetizing our data. This has led to the new dawn of Web 3.0 – a decentralized method of how information is stored, shared, and owned. It comes with the promise of a ‘read, write, and own’ environment. Web 3.0 and the Metaverse are said to have an intertwined future. Web3’s principles of a decentralized internet require these technological pillars: 

Blockchain: Senior Editor, Harvard Business Review, Thomas Stackpole, says blockchain is a ‘‘distributed ledger’ – a database hosted by a network of computers instead of a single server – that offers users an immutable and transparent way to store information.’ This security, transparency and decentralized infrastructure that Blockchain provides goes on to become the base for many use cases such as cryptocurrency, digital assets, smart contracts, and copyright protection.  

Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrency has been having a moment for some time now. This digital currency runs on permissionless blockchains, meaning they don’t rely on governments, central banks, or intermediaries. In the metaverse, cryptocurrency allows you to purchase and sell digital assets.

NFT: Non-Fungible Tokens are digital deeds representing ownership over a unique digital asset. These digital assets could represent objects like art, music, in-game items, and videos that can be bought and sold inside a virtual world that exists in the metaverse. 

However, many of the above still require massive advancements to be accepted as trusted technology in our daily life. Critics have floated very serious questions about its practicality, affordability, safety, and even its environmental impact!

Business Opportunities in the Metaverse

Despite the building blocks taking some time to materialize fully, the market is already ablaze with excitement! A Citi report suggests that the target addressable market (TAM) for the Metaverse economy could be in the range of $8 trillion to $13 trillion!

According to a McKinsey report, companies in the metaverse space raised over USD $10 billion in 2021, and in 2022 it jumped to USD $120 billion! The metaverse holds the potential to create a staggering $5 trillion in value by 2030.

Big tech players like Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, Apple, and Alphabet have all taken early action to position themselves as key moulders of the metaverse. If your company’s skill sets belong to any of these sectors, you should consider getting in on the ground floor:

1. Back-end engines like Roblox and Unreal Engine have broken the barriers to the creation of games. As a result, a larger audience of studios and creators now have the opportunity to craft advanced games and experiences. Roblox reportedly hit over 55 million daily active users in February 2022.

2. Edge computing has become instrumental in providing the necessary computing power to support the metaverse. It enables local data capture, storage, and processing, rather than relying solely on the cloud. If edge computing is your expertise, you could contribute to solving problems like limited bandwidth and latency to ensure a smooth experience in the metaverse.

3. Hardware Devices like Meta’s Oculus Quest headsets, which saw 20 million in shipments, are super important in bridging the gap between reality and virtuality. But it’s not just all about the glasses and headsets; take a look at emerging technologies such as gloves and bodysuits; those are gaining traction too!

4. Software development continues to serve as a driving force for creating metaverse applications built upon the underlying infrastructure. Microsoft is currently building and improving upon a number of metaverse enterprise solutions across the Microsoft cloud (such as Microsoft Mesh and Azure Digital Twins)

Industry Specific business opportunities in the Metaverse

In the coming years, the metaverse will infiltrate every industry and completely remodel customer experiences. So basically, we need to prepare for a massive shift in how we interact with our customers, how we deliver products and services to them, and their expectations of us. This is good news – that’s not just coming from us; it’s what 71% of global executives say in the Accenture report when asked whether metaverse would have a positive business impact on their organizations.

So let’s have a look at industries that can benefit to think metaverse right away.

Fashion
Avatars are at the heart of a user’s virtual identity in the metaverse, making digital self-expression very important to the experience. Currently, fashion brands like Faith Tribe and Metawear are playing key roles in shaping the metaverse by empowering and rewarding digital creators. Faith Tribe creates an open-source platform for fashion items, fostering a global creator ecosystem, while Metawear’s Metaverse Fashion DOME connects top designers and brands in one place for the creation, earning, and marketing of fashion designs. Luxury fashion brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana have launched digital clothing and NFTs as well!

 

Retail 
By 2025, 76% of consumers foresee using AR as a practical tool in their daily lives. Retail is set to be revolutionized with enhanced 3D immersive experiences, transforming the shopping experience. IKEA Kreativ has introduced AR by allowing its customers to create a complete 3D replica of their room to try on furniture. Amazon unveiled a Virtual Try-On for Shoes that enables customers to visualize how a pair of shoes will look on themselves using their phone’s camera.

On the VR front, you can expect virtual malls. Highstreet, for instance, is transforming renowned department stores like Saks, Selfridges, and Lane Crawford into gateways to Highstreet World.

 

Entertainment
From massive virtual music festivals on Fortnite to immersive VR tourism, the user experience is about to level up. Top-notch seats at sporting events, live betting, and NFT trading are just some examples of how people will consume events. Start-ups that can offer content to watch using innovative delivery methods could see rapid adoption in the metaverse. Ibentos, an Indian-Canadian startup, has already launched a metaverse event platform that enables brands to showcase their products and services and be listed in a realistic and immersive 3D environment.

Virtual Real Estate
A survey by GamesPad reveals that 45% of respondents are open to buying virtual real estate, with 14% already making purchases! Start-ups can consider scooping up prime plots of land as an investment for their metaverse locations! Currently, the major marketplaces in the metaverse include Decentraland, Voxels, Worldwide Webb, Treeverse, and The Sandbox.

Virtual Travel
In the metaverse, virtual travel knows no bounds. By blending endless virtual travel possibilities with the thriving tourism industry, the travel sector could be filled with lucrative opportunities.

Marketing and Advertising
Did someone say metaverse marketing experts? In the metaverse, marketing and advertising can reach insane heights. Companies can leverage virtual reality to engage customers and provide exclusive brand experiences creatively. Companies will need a fresh wave of digital marketing and advertising experts, virtual influencers, metaverse events, and metaverse commerce.

Miller Lite became the first brand to create a bar in the metaverse. In August 2022, Target brought the viral #GothTarget to the metaverse to celebrate Halloween.

Gaming
Gaming in the metaverse is exploding! Players crave immersive experiences with 3D graphics, VR titles, and platforms for creativity. With almost 3 billion gamers expected to join, the gaming industry stands to reap big rewards. Play-to-Earn gaming is particularly thrilling in the metaverse, capturing 44% of respondents’ attention. 

Education
By utilizing VR and AR technologies, formats of learning are evolving! Allowing online course providers to offer immersive learning experiences in various fields. This can not only enhance students’ interaction with information but also makes the learning process more engaging and exciting. Axon Park, a unique virtual metaverse platform, lets you build your educational campus digitally. Camp K12, an ed-tech startup known for its global online school focusing on 21st-century skills, has now introduced Hatch Kids—a free metaverse and AR/VR creation platform designed specifically for young learners.

Architecture and Engineering

The metaverse offers architects a boundless realm to explore. Applications in the metaverse that can help architects and engineers simulate and test building designs in a virtual environment before actual on-ground construction begins can be extremely lucrative! Nvidia’s Omniverse enables architects to collaborate, share ideas and design together from anywhere globally.

Manufacturing

VR and AR can revolutionize product and service design, reducing time, cost, and the risk of faulty decision-making. BMW has already taken it to the next level by running a full production cycle in a virtual simulation, enabling testing of changes without halting production. Below is a version of BMW’s Regensburg production line that only exists inside a computer simulation.

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