Right now, the metaverse seems to be both everywhere and nowhere, simultaneously touted as the next big innovation and criticized as over-hyped and promised too much† But what exactly? is the metaverse, and which end of the spectrum is closest to reality?
There are many different definitions of the metavers, but Gartner defines it as “A collective virtual shared space created by the convergence of virtual enhanced physical and digital reality.” In this view, the metaverse is persistent and provides enhanced immersive experiences, and once mature will serve as a device-agnostic ecosystem for further innovation.
The transition to the mature metaverse will be similar to previous technological shifts, such as the industrial revolution or the mobile era, in that its evolution will introduce a new set of technology leaders and possibly displace some from the previous era. The metaverse will be an evolutionary step in the development of the Internet, acting as a collective, shared space born of the convergence of physical and persistent digital content and experiences.
Therefore, there will only be one metaverse in the same sense that there is only one internet; just as no entity or organization owns or controls the internet, so will the metaverse.
The metaverse will evolve in three overlapping phases: emergent, advanced and mature. Here’s what technology leaders need to know about each of these phases and the distinctive technology, market, and product/service influences they will define.
Phase 1: Emerging Metaverse
The emerging metaverse is the stage we are in right now, consisting of today’s commercially available products and services such as social networking, online games, e-commerce, cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Depending on their application, these technologies may fulfill one or more of the characteristics of the metaverse (persistent, collaborative, decentralized, and interoperable), but the emerging metaverse is incomplete.
For example, there is no interoperability between different products and services currently marketed as ‘metavers’. This is not because there is a flaw in any of these offerings, but because there is no standard for interoperability. Therefore, all the existing technologies and applications today called “metavers” are in fact pre-metaverse, metaverse-inspired solutions or miniverses.
To gain mainstream adoption, any potential metaverse contender must support the functionalities these existing technologies provide in an easy and transparent way. For example, today’s immersive experiences with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) offer a glimpse into the walled garden of what the metaverse will look like. Such solutions are still considered pre-metavers as users cannot move content between applications, nor can they move between applications themselves.
In Phase 1, which will last at least until 2024, the key challenge for technology leaders is to create a sustainable and profitable business based on pre-metaverse use cases, such as AR and VR experiences. In this era, technology product leaders should focus on exploring and building precursors to the metaverse. Each of the four key attributes represents an opportunity and a challenge to define a metaverse product strategy. Current high-end use cases, such as AR and VR experiences, gaming and navigation apps, are promising metaverse precursors.
SEE: Metaverse Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Phase 2: Advanced Metaverse
Advanced metaverse solutions will be characterized by the convergence of emerging-stage technologies. This phase is expected to take place between 2024 and 2027.
This convergence will also inspire new technologies needed to enable mature metaverse solutions, such as methods to connect physical and digital spaces in a navigable way.
Spatial computing technologies are an example of this and will occupy a prominent place in this phase. This could be, for example, technologies to bind digital persistent content to the physical, such as digitally coloring Greek and Roman images, or to properly determine the location and orientation of a digital object in a physical space, such as a digital sign. on a street.
The technology that populates the information layer of the metavers will also develop in this phase. This includes innovations that capture, create and integrate digital content to overlay on the physical world, such as technology to sense and map people, places, things and processes. This also includes: graphic technologies that establish processes and relationships between these elements.
Several other independently developed technologies need to mature to support the advanced metaverse stage, including:
- Sensor technologies, sensor fusion and technologies that enable data integration. These will give systems a higher degree of context to make geopositioned and indexed content useful.
- Products that provide packaged business opportunities, such as APIs that provide platforms and product capabilities that other organizations can build on. This will enable composable metaverse offerings, moving away from the app-based, silo approach of ‘super apps’.
- Multimodal user interfaces: These will ease the transition to device-agnostic experiences while enabling new, intuitive ways to interact with a physical-digital mixed world.
- Edge AI and edge computing: These are needed for sensing (such as computer vision), interaction (such as natural language processing), and displaying high-volume or high-quality content.
In Phase 2, as the building blocks for the metaverse mature, technology leaders must develop product portfolios to support metaverse experiences, for example by working with standards and protocol groups to define and track interoperability. Since no organization will build the metaverse, it is important for providers to join or create an ecosystem of content and service partners.
SEE: Ethical Policy for Artificial Intelligence (Tech Republic Premium)
Phase 3: Adult Metaverse
The mature metaverse will see that most applications have features that enable collaborative and multisource experiences. Interoperable content in digital experiences will signal the arrival of the mature metaverse.
For example, consider having a dynamically updated digital note anchored to a physical object, such as a traffic light, that technicians can access and update. Citizens can access an extensive layer of this content to report details such as an outage, and since the content is digitally embedded, all citizens can see when the outage has been reported rather than double efforts.
Data decentralization also enables real-time localized content updates. By extension, city workers can mirror the failure scenario in a purely digital experience to simulate traffic and service interruptions to see the impact of the failure and repair process. This scenario can also be used for geographically dispersed stakeholders to collaborate in real time, enabling synchronous workflows.
Gartner expects persistent, spatially oriented, and indexed content to be adopted by early movers as early as 2028, but the market characteristics of a mature metaverse will evolve beyond 2030.
From 2028, the vision and potential for the metaverse will become much clearer and more manageable for both organizations and individual users. It will be built on inspiring use cases and applications discovered in Phase 2, enhanced by the maturation of adjacent technologies such as 5G, computer vision, immersive technology and digital currencies. As such, the aspects and functionalities of the systems needed to enable a mature metaverse will be understood, providing significant opportunities in the infrastructure layer, and vendors will compete to create the backbone of a transformational and potentially ubiquitous system. .
Technology leaders evaluating the growth and impact of emerging technologies and trends that enable metaverse experiences pay close attention to this evolution spectrum. Consider the interaction, content, and infrastructure capabilities available to determine what stage you are entering the market at. There will be many opportunities and challenges for product leaders to engage with customers and partners as these technologies mature, but it is important to consider the potential impact now as changes in business models may be needed to take advantage of them effectively. of future metaverse opportunities.
Tuong Nguyen is a senior principal research analyst at Gartner, Inc. which deals with immersive technologies (augmented, mixed and virtual reality), metaverse, computer vision and human-machine interfaces.