Schrödinger’s metaverse: both hype and reality

Schrödinger's Metaverse: Both Hype and Reality - Perspectives

Image: Midjourney, invited by MIXED

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Some preach metaverse while others have nothing to do with it. What are the experts saying? I was at the Gartner IT Symposium 2022 and here are the trends for the next few years.

Dr. Rolf Illenberger is the CEO of VRdirect, a speaker and media expert with decades of experience. As a Fellow of the World Economic Forum, he focuses on “Governance and Value Creation in the Metaverse”. He was at the Gartner IT Symposium 2022 in Barcelona and summarizes his impressions for us.

Few topics have had such a rollercoaster ride this year as “the metaverse.” Led by Meta, which even put the metaverse in its name, a veritable gold rush developed at the start of the year. At trade shows in the United States, even LAN cables had “metaverse ready” stickers on them. About a year ago, the washington post quoted me as follows about the metaverse:

“2022 will be a ‘race to the metaverse’ as big tech companies fight for slices of an emerging market. Google, Microsoft, and Apple could introduce their own headsets and operating systems for the Metaverse, like their PC and smartphone counterparts.

Nearly a year later, the vision for the metaverse is still unclear to everyone. What’s it gonna be? A new Internet? The beginning of a cyberpunk world with Ready Player One accents? Or just a marketing vehicle for NFTs and crypto speculation?

As an IT consulting and market research firm, Gartner is known, among other things, for the Gartner Hype Cycle. Despite fallout from the stock market bottoming metaverse as well as Meta’s mixed picture, it entered the “Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies” for the first time in August.

The Metaverse in the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Tech 2022. | Image: Gartner

I was at the Gartner IT Symposium in Barcelona, ​​hearing about Gartner’s latest ideas and insights on the metaverse and talking with leading innovation experts. How do you think the subject will evolve in the years to come?

The Metaverse: In Search of a Good Explanation

Gartner defines the “metaverse” as a collectively shared virtual space created by the convergence of virtual augmented physical and digital reality. It is “the next level of interaction in the virtual and physical worlds”.

Persistence is a key factor here, according to Gartner, because virtual spaces and objects would be permanently connected to reality. Decentralization and blockchain technology (Web3) can also shape areas of the metaverse, such as finance or services.

The idea that youthe metaverse should be interoperable. The ability of the real and digital worlds to interact smoothly – for example in digital twins, goods and currencies – and between the different “metaverses” of technology companies, is crucial for acceptance. Access should be as simple as using a browser capable of browsing any website on the Internet.

For Gartner, three domains constitute a complete metaverse:

  • Transportation: The possibility of immersing oneself in a virtual world.
  • Transform: Bringing the digital world into the physical world. This enables access to real-time information, collaboration and experiences in the physical world through augmented reality capabilities.
  • Treat: The economic foundation of the metaverse facilitated by cryptocurrencies, NFTs and blockchain.

Evolution instead of revolution

Since the launch of commercial virtual reality in 2016, there is constant talk of a mass market. The virtual reality breakthrough is just one “killer app” away. Standalone VR will automatically ensure that everyone puts on a VR headset. Cloud streaming will make photorealistic VR possible for standalone VR headsets.

Even though the technology has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years, especially in the corporate sector, it will still be some time before VR and later AR generalize. Gartner therefore speaks of an evolution that will take place in three phases:

  1. emerging: Pricing based on app, device and access
  2. Advanced: great applications, natively spatially aware experiences, the beginning of interoperability
  3. MatureTiered, standards-based, device-agnostic, highly interoperable experiences

Gartner IT Symposium 2022 Gartner Metaverse Timeline. | Image: Gartner

Gartner sees the “emerging” phase lasting until 2027 inclusive. They expect the “advanced” phase to accelerate from 2025. They expect the metaverse to be complete and “mature” for the period after 2029. The timeline largely coincides with Statements by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerbergwho doesn’t expect a real “return on investment” for his company’s metaverse spending until the 2030s.

In the business context, these developments would impact employee experiences and workflows. New ways of collaborating, new markets, more efficient processes and better employee motivation are gradually changing the world of work.

The idea of ​​​​multiplying VR meetings also holds at Gartner. The main advantage over video conferencing is higher engagement and no “always on camera fatigue”. However, this thesis has not yet been proven on a large scale and may still require significant advances in hardware and software. The trend towards mixed reality, and thus the merging of virtual and physical experiences, is also likely to be an important element.

Gartner and the Metaverse: Obstacles, Opportunities, Results

Gartner divides the metaverse into the following areas and lists the respective challenges the technology currently faces:

  • Spatial computing: technology, especially for AR glasses, is still very limited
  • Games: New and quality content is expensive
  • digital humans: limited possibilities, only emerging
  • Virtual spaces: Complex and expensive to scale
  • Shared experiences: Unequal access to tools and networking
  • Tokenized assets: cybersecurity and fraud are big issues here

The Gartner Metaverse wheel from the Gartner IT Symposium 2022. | Image: Gartner

Nevertheless, Gartner believes these hurdles are worth overcoming and predicts that metaverse technologies (such as augmented reality) achieving tangible results in the years to come. These include improving workplace safety and increasing retail sales, for example, through VR training or mixed reality.

Revenue opportunities through persistent assets should open up new revenue streams, and employees will be better connected, able to collaborate more effectively, and be more effectively integrated into business processes.

Metaverse Recommendations: Learn, Explore, Introduce Carefully

Gartner boldly predicts that more than 40% of large enterprises worldwide will use a combination of Web3, spatial computing, and digital twins in metaverse-based projects to increase revenue by 2027.

Nevertheless, investments should be made with care and caution, as it is not yet possible to predict which areas will become relevant in the long term. In the next one to three years, companies will therefore first and foremost have to prepare for the metaverse.

Specifically, Gartner recommends:

  • Expand Examples how metaverse use cases align with core business operations
  • Develop business and technology strategies to participate
  • Pay attention to investments in specific metaverses

The metaverse needs a lot of education

Many people confuse crypto and web3 technologies with the metaverse. While there are possible touchpoints and benefits in terms of persistent digital assets, secure commerce, and finance, groundless speculation without fundamental economic data on NFTs and cryptocurrencies is a loose basis for concepts significant.

Metaverse as a buzzword still suffers from blurry vision and often inappropriate communication. This even if we already know and take advantage of the advantages of immersive technologies such as virtual reality. VR has long since left the experimental phase and is creating new work processes. Examples include remote collaboration in 3D design or routine configuration through training.

Nevertheless, according to Gartner, we are still in the innovation and early adoption phase. For metaverse and metaverse technologies to “grow”, more needs to be said about the results of the innovation phase. The benefits should be seen more broadly.

For example, why is virtual reality useful and how does it benefit my business and me? In any case, the impressive technology as well as the first “wow” effects are not enough as an end in themselves – certainly not in business.

Laying the groundwork for the metaverse

According to Gartner, the metaverse will touch all areas of life, from technology to environmental issues and from politics to social and cultural spheres. The foundations are now laid. Companies that start with virtual reality are now thinking about their work and production processes for the metaverse, focusing on VR content and introducing employees to the new digital age. This makes them more attractive to young talent.

The metaverse is also a point in time, namely when we start using virtual reality and augmented reality more than traditional screens in our daily digital lives. When that time comes, VR-aware businesses will already be ready for the metaverse, like businesses that had their first website online before the big internet boom.

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