Regulatory changes and more augmented reality-tethered smartphones could have an outsized impact, members of Protocol's Braintrust say.
Good afternoon! In today's edition, we asked a group of experts about what they thought would be most improved about the metaverse in the next year. Questions or comments? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Principal at Deloitte Consulting
The possibilities of what will occur in the metaverse over the next year are truly endless and depend on factors such as standardization, market fragmentation, user interface and governance. However, there’s immediate potential to begin integrating the metaverse into traditional business settings. Utilizing the metaverse in common business practices will allow organizations to test out the metaverse’s capabilities without committing to foundational change.
Many improvements over the next year could result from testing out its potential across various industries. Companies could use the metaverse to improve their existing offerings — for example, retail stores using metaverse capabilities as a brochure for their products and services. This can be as simple as buying ads in virtual reality storefronts. Starting out this way is a great option to introduce companies to the metaverse without having to change their core business models.
In the coming year, as the enterprise metaverse evolves, we anticipate greater integration of previously siloed digital twin applications, which in turn will enable the next wave of business transformation.
While the opportunities that may exist in the future for the metaverse are tantalizing, it’s crucial to keep in mind that creating a fully developed metaverse is an ongoing effort, likely years away. As the metaverse continues to develop, especially over this next year, adopting a “test and learn” approach will help companies determine how the metaverse could fit into their everyday structures and which offerings will most help them naturally and effectively accelerate their business needs.
Vice president and GM of XR at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
The metaverse will improve drastically in the next year. First, we will see sleeker head-worn XR devices come to market that will allow people to experience a truly immersive metaverse. More devices will have video pass-through to achieve mixed reality (MR) for the seamless blend of the virtual and real world. And, we will have the global rollout of more augmented reality (AR) viewers tethered to smartphones to take advantage of a device that consumers take with them everywhere. These will have the most direct impact to everyday consumers, but thinking on a larger scale, we believe in the potential of the industrial metaverse. The reason for that is because cloud computing adoption is stretching across the enterprise landscape: think education, learning, training and 3D design. With the cloud economy we have right now and everything connected to the cloud, we can increase real-time collaboration or even create a digital twin which will translate into real-world cost and economic savings. We will see the rise of industrial metaverse early pilot programs in the next year and wider scale deployment in the near future.
Managing partner and co-founder at Tusk Venture Partners
The metaverse could improve the most in the next 12 months if regulators decided to try to understand what it is and do something about it. Rather than burying our heads in the sand like we have with privacy, antitrust and platform liability, we can start laying out the rules of the road for the metaverse — consumer protection, data portability, speech, taxation, government services — before the metaverse is built, launched and far more immune to change. Everything good about the internet today will be 10x better in the metaverse and everything bad will be 10x worse. If we don’t start taking clear steps now to develop the right rules and frameworks, the toxicity and harm we see online today will feel like a slap on the wrist compared to what’s right around the corner.
GM, Americas at HTC VIVE
VR hardware, software and the infrastructure to deliver content to end users are going to improve. This will enable scale and more ubiquitous usage of headsets for enterprises and consumers, no matter if they’re VR, MR or AR. The biggest driver for improvement of the metaverse is a convergence of different technologies — lighter VR hardware, smart content and faster content delivery infrastructure — which are now coming together to make the metaverse a compelling place to work, create, play and socialize.
This trend is already underway. We see adoption of VIVE Focus 3 across corporate, defense, health care, education and training. For corporations, there’s tremendous interest in procedural and kinesthetic learning. VR allows people to get through training modules 400% faster with a 75% retention rate — that’s compared to 5% for traditional lectures. They’re faster to train; their recall is higher; and their ability to apply their learnings is more effective.
If you’re process training a nurse or a future doctor in VR, you’re literally training them through muscle memory. If you’re teaching mechanics, or teaching drivers how to drive safely, or police officers how to handle tough situations in the field, you’re training in application, not just in theory. This primes them to be more effective in their roles while saving costs and time.
HTC’s also been innovating solutions to deliver VR content over a 5G network with our private 5G product Reign Core. This brings tangible improvements like higher security, higher data integrity and speeds that are consistent and scalable.
Founder & CEO at Strivr
Securing early wins through impactful use cases will be the most impactful evolution to improve (or advance) the metaverse. Said another way, effective applications of immersive technologies will help open the door for more initiatives by creating familiarity with connected, virtual worlds that will help drive both enterprise and consumer adoption.
These use cases are key, as they will drive engagement and ROI for immersive tech and enable proponents of the metaverse to prove its value. Some of the most successful large-scale use cases today exist using virtual reality (VR) for learning & development (L&D) in the workplace. Companies such as Walmart and Bank of America are using VR across thousands of locations to train and upskill their workforce faster and more effectively. The metaverse is also proving to have a place in the knowledge-worker world, with examples like Accenture’s digital office, the “Nth” floor, being used to onboard more than 150,000 new employees.
The other area of considerable improvement to come for the metaverse will be the continued adoption and advancement of the “enabling” processes and technologies that sit behind it … VR headsets, enterprise-ready platforms, change management practices and more. Leading the charge in these efforts will be the enterprise, and they will be driven by compelling use cases including hiring, recruiting, onboarding, collaboration and socialization. Collectively, this will bridge us closer to realizing the true vision of the metaverse.
CEO and co-founder at VNTANA
A big barrier to the metaverse is interoperability and lack of digital twins. There are multiple virtual worlds like Decentraland, Sandbox, Fornite, Roblox and more, but each require different specifications to import 3D models or digital twins. This puts more work on brands as they either need to just pick one digital world to start, which is limiting, or do tons of manual work to recreate assets for each end use case. As more of the metaverse companies adopt Khronos GLB standards, it will become easier for brands to create 3D content to sell and share in the metaverse across a variety of virtual worlds. This also makes digital assets more valuable to users. If, for instance, I can buy a Gucci purse in Roblox and then take it into Decentraland, Fortnite or whatever other virtual world I want then there is more value in the purse and I would probably pay more because it has higher utility. VNTANA helps brands automatically optimize and convert files so they can use them across platforms, but more integrations are needed to make it easy for users to take 3D files anywhere they want, which is essential for higher adoption.
Co-founder and chairwoman at MeetKai
The metaverse could be most easily improved in the next year by increasing accessibility to this technology. There are many current metaverse experiences that require immersive technologies to operate, such as the use of pre-existing virtual reality headsets and equipment. This dependence on physical hardware is costly and limits the experience to those who are both interested, and who can afford to be. Breaking down these barriers to entry will allow for more people to interact with the experience emerging out of this space. This will improve the state of the metaverse moving forward by ensuring that this next iteration is available to users across the globe and from any socioeconomic background, allowing for a more diverse and enriched user experience. With this in mind, we are building the MeetKai metaverse as a browser-based virtual world. Without the need to purchase costly headsets or controllers, MeetKai’s metaverse technology allows you to experience the real world wherever you are - your phone, in front of your computer, or on the go.
Global director at BCG Henderson Institute
For companies hoping to provide meaningful experiences and capture value in the metaverse, the critical question is, how could their ability to identify the right business models improve? Today, players from Big Tech to startups are creating competing metaverses with an eye toward dictating the industrial and market dynamics. As this battle plays out, would-be contributors need to monitor the key triggers that can build each vision’s momentum: technology, regulation and adoption. Hopefully, the next year will bring greater clarity to these areas — and to which vision(s) is likely to win.
Some visions will be highly dependent on the maturation of VR technology and whether the entry point to metaverses is specialized, high-end hardware. For more mature, decentralized technologies such as blockchain, progress on the development of standards and software might become a basis for content accessibility and interoperability — and give certain visions an edge. When it comes to regulation, it remains to be seen whether various new regulatory regimes will be extended to metaverses, for example, those governing data use, cryptocurrencies and the gig economy. At the same time, companies should watch for which long-anticipated “killer use cases” emerge to drive mass adoption. These could include highly tailored B2B experiences, such as office productivity tools, or uses linked to entertainment or the digital economy, such as gaming.
As they begin to see which metaverses will prevail, company leaders can assess the strategic alignment with their strengths and positioning — and make informed decisions about where and how to engage.
CEO at VictoryXR
VictoryXR focuses on metaversities - the build out of a college or university as a digital twin in the metaverse. Students attend class with fellow students and their professor on a campus and in a classroom that is a replica of the real thing. This is a great use case, but for wide adoption, we need to see a couple things happen. First, the world needs greater adoption of AR/VR hardware. In order for this to happen, the form factor (size and weight) needs to keep getting smaller and the price needs to remain reasonable. The ultimate goal is to build an AR/VR university where students are able to interact with an augmented world no matter where they are - on campus or off. This requires the hardware to both work in an enclosed headset as well as with a set of glasses. This will create a ubiquitous learning environment where knowledge, social interactivity and connection regardless of distance is a voice command away.
The other big piece of this is the interconnectedness of metaverse worlds. From a historic perspective, we are back in the 1600's in the age of the explorers. In that time, there were many countries and continents, but there was little knowledge about them because travel between them was so difficult. It's the same today with metaverse worlds: Horizon, Altspace, Engage, VR Chat and all the others are siloed worlds, with no easy way to move between them. International standards for traveling worlds will make the true metaverse a real thing.
Finally, avatar customization and personalization is important and will see great strides over the next year. In addition to Meta, other companies are building avatar systems that will work between worlds and this will make a big difference to the adoption of metaversities as well as the true metaverse.
See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Aug. 30, 2022).
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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