Metaverse December 28, 2022
What Is the Metaverse – Today?
The metaverse is a shared virtual landscape, an immersive internet in three dimensions. Or, as the new AI YouChat puts it: “The metaverse is a hypothetical evolution of the internet in which all aspects of online life are integrated into a single virtual reality space.”
That may well be, but what is the metaverse of today? What substantially happened in the metaverse in 2022?
Describing the metaverse is complex because it is a virtual world in its early stages of construction. It partly exists in practice, and partly only in our imaginations. When talking about the metaverse it is sometimes tricky separating the dreamworld from the virtual reality.
YouChat continues its explanation from above as so: “In this vision for the future of online connectivity, practically all services, platforms, websites, and applications would be accessible through a single VR interface (a headset, for example). Additionally, the metaverse could be used to link physical and digital worlds together, allowing users to interact with one another in a shared, immersive environment.”
A dream of the future
If you’ve read anything about the metaverse before you may already know that the term was first coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.
While Stephenson is credited with the term he was not the only author to cover this ground.
Also read: Who invented the Metaverse?
The idea of a shared virtual world was already fairly well explored by fellow futurists. Author William Gibson described an alternative vision of a “consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions…” in his 1984 novel Neuromancer.
Cyberspace or metaverse?
Gibson called this shared data hallucination cyberspace, a term we now think of as synonymous with the internet. But Gibson’s idea as described is arguably more similar to the metaverse than it is to the modern world wide web.
Through the lens of speculative fiction, the internet of today could be viewed as humanity’s first attempt at the metaverse.
Perhaps in the future, the legacy internet will be viewed merely as the foundational layer of the metaverse.
Steven Spielberg’s 2018 movie Ready Player One may offer the closest depiction in fiction to what the future metaverse (or part of it) might look like.
In the story, the protagonist controls an avatar in a vast virtual reality landscape called the OASIS.
To win a prize within the OASIS the player must compete against, or team up with, avatars of other players from around the world.
Making the virtual reality today
The metaverse is growing quickly at Fortune 500 companies. A report by consulting firm, McKinsey & Company says global investment in metaverse-related businesses topped $120 billion during the first half of the year, which was more than double what was recorded in the whole of 2021.
Gaming in particular is projected to continue growing with 3.2 billion people expected to be active players for 2022, spending a combined $196.8 billion, as reported by MetaNews previously.
However, the metaverse as imagined in science fiction is still a considerable way off, even if many of its constituent parts are already a reality.
There is a considerable amount of things that we are already capable of: we can already create fantasy virtual environments; make virtual recreations or “digital twins” of real environments; we can work and play in virtual spaces; control virtual avatars; and even receive sensory feedback with haptic technology.
Digital twin cities new trend
There are practical applications for metaverse technology in multiple industries that are almost too numerous to mention.
Digital twin environments can be leveraged in multiple ways for instance, such as to explore a building or even an entire city before it is built, or to reconfigure a factory floor to find efficiencies in design.
Holidaymakers can visit a virtual recreation of a potential destination, while students can visit companies at their virtual offices or factories around the world.
Islands, rather than unification
The rub is that as it exists today, the metaverse is not a single unified environment. The metaverse is instead more akin to a series of disconnected virtual islands without connecting bridges or walkways – a proto-metaverse.
Some of those islands include Meta’s Horizon Worlds, Nvidia’s Omniverse, and even Epic Games’ Fortnite.
Part of the reason for this is that in contrast to the internet, there is no standard language or protocol that can bind the metaverse together. One possible solution is Universal Scene Description (USD) which Nvidia has touted as the “HTML of the metaverse.”
The USD “HTML” forms a description of a webpage that can be hosted on the internet, and is retrieved and rendered locally by a web browser.
“The most fundamental standard needed to create the metaverse is the description of a virtual world. At Nvidia, we believe the first version of that standard already exists, writes Nvidia’s R. Lebaredian and M. Kass. “It is the Universal Scene Description (USD)—an open and extensible ecosystem for describing, composing, simulating, and collaborating within 3D worlds.”
Standard metaverse language
At present USD, originally created by the movie studio Pixar for its animation teams, is not quite up to the task that Nvidia has planned for it. That will take some work.
However, Nvidia and a host of other technology firms do seem determined to see the task of a unified metaverse through. The company along with the likes of Adobe, Autodesk, Epic Games, Unity, Meta, Microsoft, OTOY, Qualcomm, and Sony are working together as members of the Metaverse Standards Forum.
The role of the group will not be to build the metaverse together but to arrive at some consensus on what its virtual building blocks should look like.
If this can be achieved, the grand metaverse of human imagination will be one step closer to actual reality. Until then, the proto-metaverse still has a lot to offer.
Metaverse Experiences Must Be Worth Having, Says Stephenson
The success of the metaverse depends on the ability of developers to build quality experiences that “millions or billions” want to have. To do that the sector must attract, find, and financially incentivize the very top talent from related industries.
This is the verdict of Neal Stephenson, the man credited with coining the word metaverse in his 1992 novel Snow Crash.
Source the best developers
Famed author and futurist Neal Stephenson says the metaverse must find and attract the most talented people to make the sector a success. Stephenson’s comments came during an appearance at AWE USA 2023 convention on Wednesday.
“If we’re going to have a metaverse that’s being used all the time by millions or billions of people, then there have to be experiences in the metaverse that are worth having,” Stephenson said.
“That seems like an obvious statement but for me, there’s a glaring and frustrating lack of support for the kinds of people who make those experiences,” added the author. “Right now the skill set that is needed to create the metaverse is basically what you see in the game industry. People who know how to use game engines and how to create the assets that feed into those game engines. Those people by and large have jobs and other things they could be doing.
“We need to create the economic basis for [developers] to get rewarded if they succeed in creating metaverse experiences that a lot of people enjoy.”
Stephenson cited a number of ways that developers may be rewarded, but his personal vision is for a tokenized metaverse owned and controlled by its citizens.
In June last year, Stephenson announced Lamina1, a layer 1 blockchain infrastructure and open metaverse company. Stephenson co-founded the “batteries-included blockchain” with Peter Vessenes, reflecting their vision for an incentivized metaverse that, according to its website, could “empower a new generation of interconnected, immersive experiences across gaming, entertainment, fashion, music, and beyond.”
A tale of two metaverses
Ori Inbar, the CEO of AWE, hosted the conversation with Stephenson on what marked the opening of the 14th annual AWE convention. The latest event is running from May 31 to June 2 in Santa Clara, California. Those who can’t attend in person are invited to participate online.
In an entertaining introduction, a virtual facsimile of Inbar initially addressed conference attendees, only for the real Inbar to interrupt and reveal the entire monologue was written by ChatGPT.
Inbar then asserted that AI makes “original voices… even more valuable than before.”
Once Inbar sat down with Stephenson the pair discussed just how far technology is developing across multiple fields. Inbar asked Stephenson where he believed the metaverse was headed; to something dystopian or something utopian.
“I think it would be very early and premature to make announcements today about whether it is going in one particular direction,” said Stephenson.
To Stephenson, both the positives and the negatives of the metaverse can co-exist within just one reality – something he explored in his 1992 novel.
“Our initial exposure to the metaverse is a kind of very vast market, a lowest common denominator to include … the worst of television,” said Stephenson said as he described the surface level of the metaverse. “But later on, as we get farther into the book, we see that people have used it to make beautiful works of art. There are some people … who lavished a lot of time and attention on making homes in the metaverse that are exquisite works of art, both visually and in this sonic environment.”
That ambition of a deeper metaverse is worth striving for, especially as a driver of its long-term success.
Mark Zuckerberg Unveils $500 Meta Quest 3 VR Headset
Mark Zuckerberg has announced the new Meta Quest 3 virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) headset. The new version of the Quest will feature a higher-resolution display, a faster processor, and improved tracking, the Meta founder and CEO claimed.
In a blog post on Thursday, Meta revealed the headset also features a new design that is 40% thinner and more comfortable to wear compared to Quest 2, its predecessor. Quest 3 will be released later this year in over 20 countries, including the U.S., Canada, UK and Australia.
The 128GB headset starts at a price of $499.99 and users have the option to pay for more storage space. However, a lot more detail about the headset was left unannounced, including the full specifications of the chipset that will power it.
Zuckerberg said more information about the new Quest would be revealed at Meta’s “Connect” conference on Sept. 27. “Quest 3 will be the best way to experience MR and virtual reality in a standalone device. It’ll be compatible with Quest 2’s entire library…” he wrote on Instagram.
Virtual reality market heats up
The launch of Meta’s Quest 3 comes at a time when the virtual reality market is starting to heat up. Apple is reportedly working on its own headset that is expected to be launched on Monday during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
Also read: 3 Top Headsets to Watch: Samsung XR Glasses, Meta Quest Pro, Apple Reality Pro
The headset is rumored to be similar to the Meta Quest 3 in terms of its focus on graphics and comfort. According to industry reports, it will be used for gaming and social features. Other companies such as Sony and Magic Leap, are also developing new virtual reality products.
Earlier this week, PC maker Lenovo announced that its enterprise-focused ThinkReality VRX headset had gone on sale with a starting price of $1,299.
Meta did not discuss Apple’s imminent headset launch. But the timing of Mark Zuckerberg’s reveal suggests it may have been scheduled to beat Apple to market. For a long time, Meta, formerly Facebook, has looked to VR and augmented reality as the next big thing in tech.
It is all part of Zuckerberg’s grand plan to build the metaverse, a virtual world where people can work, play, and socialize. Quest 3 will be a key part of that strategy. The headset is the “first” that can provide both virtual reality and mixed reality experiences in a single device.
This means users can fully immerse themselves in virtual worlds, or they can overlay virtual objects onto the real world.
“Ultimately, our vision is to…[go] beyond the rigid classifications of ‘virtual reality’ and ‘mixed reality’ to deliver truly next-gen experiences that let you effortlessly blend the physical and virtual worlds,” said Mark Rankin, Meta’s vice president of virtual reality.
“Meta Reality gives you both the deep, immersive magic of VR and the freedom and delight of making your physical world more fun and useful with MR. We’re excited to see what developers and creators can build on the Quest Platform…”
The Quest 3 upgrade
According to Meta’s blog post, the new version of the Quest is a significant upgrade over its predecessor, the Meta Quest 2. It features a higher-resolution display than Quest 2, meaning that images and videos will look sharper and more detailed.
The Quest 3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, which Meta claims to be significantly faster and more powerful than the processor in Quest 2. Meta said the new chipset will allow for more immersive and realistic virtual realty experiences.
With a battery life of up to three hours, the headset comes with new controllers to help with how people can use it more effectively and efficiently. The new system is fully capable of AR gaming and users can still access over 500 VR games, apps, and experiences from Quest 2.
Meta said the Quest 2, which has been well received in the market since launch in 2020, will see its price drop to $299.99 from $400 starting June 4. The product will also receive software updates to boost performance and speed.
“Quest 2 remains our most affordable entry point to VR and [Quest] Pro is optimized for work use cases, with face and eye tracking for more authentic self-expression in meetings,” the firm said in its announcement.
“We’ll continue to sell Quest 2 and Pro alongside Quest 3, and we’ll keep shipping new software updates to make the Quest experience even better.”
Metaverse Gaming Market Expected to Reach $119.2 Billion by 2028
The metaverse gaming market is estimated to encompass $22.7 billion in 2023 and projected to reach $119.2 billion by 2028, according to a recent report from ReportLinker.
The metaverse has been a hot cake in the tech industry in recent years and was boosted by Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to change Facebook’s name to Meta. However, the market has been limping towards AI, which stole the spotlight from virtual reality.
“The global metaverse in gaming market size is estimated at USD 22.7 billion in 2023 and is projected to reach USD 119.2 billion by 2028 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 39.3%,” stated the report.
The growth of the metaverse in the gaming market is expected to be fuelled by several significant factors, including the dynamic and evolving landscape of adjacent technology markets “such as extended reality (XR),” which encompasses “virtual reality (VR),” augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).
Expectation of rapid growth
In 2021, the gaming industry experienced rapid growth, with billions of people playing video games globally and generating over $193 billion in revenue.
Gaming companies quickly became early adopters in exploring the potential of the metaverse. Looking ahead to 2023, it was projected that the metaverse will continue to reshape the gaming landscape.
A survey from last year shows that about 52% of U.S. gamers believe the metaverse will change the game industry.
“According to the survey, just over half (52%) of gamers believe the metaverse will change the video game industry and a plurality (41%) think that the metaverse will have a positive impact on the industry (vs. 25% who disagree),” reads the survey report of Globant and polling firm YouGov.
Moreover, 40% say the buzz around “metaverse gaming is warranted,” though nearly “one-third (30%) were undecided” on that subject.
Who are the big players?
The metaverse is not just a single platform, virtual experience, or game; it is an entire world recreated to provide an immersive experience. Gaming is one of the many experiences in the metaverse that is powered by AI, VR, and AR.
Whenever it comes to gaming, some of the giant games like Fornite, Unreal, and Roblox come to mind.
Read Also: Meta Seeks to Boost Its Metaverse Gaming Credentials
And those are expected to be significant players in the metaverse due to their existing influence and capabilities in the gaming industry, as a report from 2022 states.
“As gaming platforms like Fortnight gain functionality and evolve into technologically advanced social meeting places, it becomes more likely that a functioning Metaverse, with an independent economy, systems, and processes is in our future,” reads the report.
Fortnite has transformed into a social meeting place, offering interactive events and branded experiences.
Unreal’s powerful engine enables immersive media experiences, while Roblox’s user-generated content and virtual currency have attracted millions of users. These factors position them to thrive in the evolving metaverse landscape.
Europe expecting significant growth
Europe is expected to witness significant growth in the gaming metaverse market, with the second-highest CAGR during the calculation period.
The UK, Germany, and France lead the way in technology investment, while Russia and Spain are also adopting new display technologies.
“The substantial growth of the virtual world immersive interactive gaming industry in Europe is a crucial driver for the gaming metaverse market in this region,” stated the report.
The immersive interactive gaming industry in Europe, along with the demand for AR, VR, and MR technologies in the entertainment sector, serves as a driving force, indicated ReportLinker.
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Initiatives such as the European Association for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (EuroVR) and projects like Augmented Heritage and International Augmented Med (I AM) contribute to market growth.
With increasing startups in extended reality, particularly in Sweden, Europe is poised for increased growth in the gaming metaverse markets.
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