- Cristina J. Orgaz @cjorgaz
- BBC News World
What do we need to build the metaverse, this parallel and all-digital world that big companies like Facebook and Microsoft are working on?
This cloud-based universe based on augmented reality will require a lot of resources, years and the cooperation of companies from different sectors.
To read in particular on BBC Africa:
Creating a new world means expanding the economy through goods and services that do not yet exist and, probably, inspiring the generation of new businesses.
Experts agree that it is unlikely that a single company will be able to build and sustain the cyber world.
Bloomberg Intelligence estimates that the metaverse market could reach US$800 billion (465 trillion 137 billion 840 million FCFA) by 2024.
And Bank of America encompasses the metaverse among the 14 technologies that will revolutionize our lives.
“The metaverse will encompass numerous virtual worlds connected to each other and to the physical world,” the experts write in the recent “Bank of America Thematic Report: The 14 Technologies That Will Revolutionize Our Lives.”
“They will generate a robust economy spanning from work to leisure, while transforming long-standing industries and markets such as finance and banking, retail and education, health and fitness, as well as adult entertainment.”
“By the end of the decade – by 2030 – we will be spending more time in the metaverse than in ‘real life,'” said American inventor Raymond Kurzweil, a pioneer in the development of several technological breakthroughs, and since 2012.
However, the concept is actually not new.
Several online video games have been developing virtual worlds for decades.
They are not the metavers, but they have certain ideas in common with him.
“Metavers are nothing new. What’s new is the amount of investment going into them and the growing adoption of digital assets among an increasingly digitally native population,” said Benjamin Dean, director of Digital Assets at WisdomTree, an investment and research firm.
“The pace of transformation continues to accelerate, which means that the technologies (that we considered) at a distance and in the long term, are getting closer and closer,” he says.
“In industrialized countries, in recent years, the majority of people don’t remember what life was like before the internet. This demographic change will continue, especially in countries where smartphones are ubiquitous and where the population is younger,” says the WisdomTree -expert.
“Ten years ago I called this process the virtualization of the world,” adds Dean.
According to the explanation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “in the digital universe that will be the metaverse, you will be able to instantly teleport in hologram to be in the office without having to move, or at a concert with friends. or in the living room your parents to make up for lost time”.
But unlike today’s virtual reality, which is mainly used for video games, the metaverse should include entertainment, games, concerts, cinema, work, education, etc.
This concerns the development of new companies and technologies in these specific sectors.
Concerts, content and entertainment
Singers Ariana Grande, Marshmello and rapper Travis Scott performed in Epic Games’ acclaimed video game Fortnite, in a demonstration of what the future of metaverse performance could look like.
Up to 12.3 million players on the platform gathered in real time last April to witness the release of the song The Scotts, which the rap superstar composed with compatriot Kid Cudi.
And Mickey Mouse himself seems ready to interact in the metaverse.
Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney, says the entertainment conglomerate is gearing up to make the technological leap to a virtual reality world at its theme parks.
However, the experience would not be limited to them.
“It’s a real opportunity to extend the magic of Disney parks to homes,” he says.
“Gen Z will drive the shift to the metaverse and use of holograms, as well as the increase in content creation for virtual worlds. This could benefit the industry in the very long term,” according to the Bank of America report.
Content providers, be it movies (Disney), TV (Discovery Channel), sports (Fox Sports), music (Universal Music Group, Live Nation), platform providers (Netflix), or newspapers (The New York Times), have started immersive 3D test experiences.
Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson recently announced the sale of his special effects studio, Weta Digital, to an American software company looking to develop the metaverse.
An agreement that shows that things are moving very quickly in the sector.
“Offering immersive front row seats at a sporting event, concert or fashion show can be lucrative for businesses while increasing the accessibility of live events,” Bank of America said in its report.
Virtual office and presence
But if there’s one thing the covid-19 pandemic has left behind, it’s remote working.
Infinite Office is the workplace created by Facebook.
It has virtual meeting rooms where participants can use their real computers at the same time.
But Facebook isn’t the only major tech company developing such a concept.
Microsoft recently talked about creating a “business metaverse” based on Microsoft Teams, the meeting platform that has become popular during the pandemic.
It aims to provide virtual spaces for events, meetings and networking opportunities, the company said.
For consultancy firm PwC, the education sector has a lot to gain from a virtual office environment.
“Virtual reality is already driving training programs in a number of industries by opening up environments that in the real world would be expensive, dangerous or limited,” the experts say in a 2020 report.
They believe that an immersive and emotional experience, which can be much more exciting than traditional on-the-job training, can boost memory and be highly effective in teaching new skills and procedures.
Experts agree that there is still a long way to go before we see the metaverse become a reality.
Thomas Frey, a former engineer at IBM, points out that the Internet infrastructure, the ability to allow a large number of participants to communicate in real time, the language barriers and the latency issues (the time it takes to open a web page when clicked on is clicked) ) are the main challenges of the metavers.
It requires more powerful computers and more capable graphics and video processing chips, which leading companies like NVDA, AMD and Intel are already working on.
The development of all this technology means new business opportunities for all microchip companies.
Education is another promising sector for transformation.
“The fundamental idea is based on adaptive learning, which has been around for many years,” write Haim Israel, Felix Tran and Martyn Briggs, strategists at BoA Merrill Lynch.
“Lessons change based on students’ responses to the topic, such as tilting their heads or even falling asleep. Quizzes, videos, and additional explanations can be added to enhance understanding or liven up the lesson,” they add.
In the field of higher education, universities are likely to create their own virtual campuses, which could increase student numbers.
The possibilities are unlimited.
Astronomy students could stand amid colliding galaxies and art history classes could take place in the Sistine Chapel.
Medicine and remote assistance could have the opportunity to develop and set up new services.
Users are increasingly turning to digital healthcare solutions and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this trend.
The same happened with e-commerce.
Giants like Amazon or Libre Mercado have seen their sales grow and Bank of America believes the metaverse will drive consumers to buy more in virtual worlds.
For Benjamin Dean, all this new trading requires alternative currencies that will coexist with existing money: the dollar, the euro, the yen, the peso…
“The boundaries between physical and virtual reality have become blurred and will continue to blur for the next decade,” he says.