The definition of the metaverse varies, as do predictions as to when it will actually arrive. Because for the moment, the metaverse – in the global and unified sense that it is supposed to underlie – is not a reality.
What is the metaverse?
As is often the case when discussing an IT subject in the making, Gartner’s definition pretty much sums up the main characteristics of ongoing “innovation”. For the consulting firm’s analysts, the metaverse is a 3D environment:
- persistent and immersive;
- collective and shared;
- created through enhanced digital and physical reality;
- accessible via any connected device (smartphones, PC, VR headsets, tablets);
- powered by a blockchain-based currency.
What are the different variations of the metaverse definition?
The metaverse can therefore be defined as a completely virtual space in which people interact through avatars.
But in a broad sense, the metaverse can also be a mix of real and virtual experiencesfor example spectators who attend an otherwise very real concert from home and who can see, hear and interact (via their avatars) with the other people present on the site or who “visit” the metaverse.
In both cases, the metaverse can include the possibility of making transactions with non-fungible tokens (or NFT for “non-fungible token”), cryptocurrencies or with any other digital currency that relies on a blockchain. A metaverse therefore also makes it possible to buy and sell products and services, and to offer a new customer experience (CX) through 3D reconstruction.
For some, this ability to transact is part of the definition of metaverse, but not for everyone.
Ultimately, a fully realized metaverse will rely on major advancements in three areas:
- the ability to be transported easily and to evolve in another space;
- a faithful 3D representation of a physical world (even if it is conceptualized);
- and the emergence of a Web3 type economy (successor to the web and web 2.0).
Do metaverses really exist?
“These three elements are already appearing, but it’s when they come together that we will see a real metaverse,” anticipates Marty Resnick, VP of the Technology Innovation team at Gartner.
For Jeff Wong, chief innovation officer at consultancy EY, the metaverses we hear about today are neither a single destination nor a fully realized specific space. Rather, for him it would be a collection of emerging digital worlds, a suite of small metaverses, some of which are public and some of which are not, each constructed for its own purposes.
Although the advent of a unified metaverse is not expected for another decade, a number of companies are piloting versions of what such a universe could be.
IT or video game giants – such as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta (ex-Facebook), Roblox, Nvidia, Epic or Unity – are already fighting to get their share of the metaverse and determine the axes on which they could become dominant.
But they are not alone. Manufacturers or distributors – such as Nike, Carrefour, Walmart, Heineken or Ferrari – are also crossing what is presented as “a new frontier”.
In other words: rather than a single metaverse, a number of metaverse-like projects are in development.
Marty Resnick compares this to the early days of the Internet, when players each had their own services, companies created their own islands of the World Wide Web, and those parts were not interoperable. The fact that the concept of metaverse does not have a truly unified definition is a sign of its immaturity.
Today’s technology is also simply not ready to support a fully immersive and shared metaverse. Interoperability, computing power, protocols, networking capability, and degree of sophistication do not allow for a true unified space with mature UX.
An ecosystem of interconnected virtual worlds, powered by the cloud computing, will require interoperability and a strong partnership between service providers. But today metaverse development looks a lot more like competition than cooperation.
Note that metaverses also present a multitude of risks (read below). The CIOs who will try the adventure will have every interest in involving their colleagues from cybersecurity and legal.
What are the technologies of a metaverse?
The most important technologies behind a metaverse are:
The 3D modeling. More and more companies are working on building 3D environments and virtual objects. Some are already using digital twins for different tasks, ranging from improving supply chain management to predictive maintenance of complex industrial machinery.
NFT, blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The blockchain is a decentralized technology that makes it possible to dispense with trusted third parties to buy, sell or prove the exchange of an asset. NFTs are based on this blockchain technology. They are a virtual title deed for goods, usually also virtual. They make it possible, for example, to certify the identity of the owner of a digital work of art (in JPG or GIF format), of the master of a song (in MP3 or FLAC), and even of a tweet that would have been sold (like when the Twitter founder sold his very first tweet for $2.9 million).
Artificial intelligence. AI will be used in several ways for the creation of metaverses, including to manage non-human characters and to facilitate realistic experiences with digital reality.
The Internet of Things. The IoT is already used to connect and share data from a wide range of objects in the physical world. In the metaverse concept, IoT is essential to connect physical places and real objects to 3D simulations, especially for real-time simulations.
What are the use cases and B2B opportunities for metaverses?
The concept of immersive reality, characteristic of the metaverse, also presents various and very distinct use cases. Some applications will, for example, be aimed at employees (immersive hybrid work), while others will target customers. Some will help training and collaborative processes. Others will target revenue generation.
Because the metaverse is also another way to create, sell and experiment with content and applications. However, the potential seems there. “Each year, 54 billion dollars are [déjà] spent on virtual goods, which is almost double the amount to buy music”, figures the report of the financial holding JPMorgan ” Opportunities in the metaverse: How businesses can explore the metaverse and navigate the hype vs. reality “.
JPMorgan began positioning itself on the metaverse in February by opening its Onyx lounge in Decentraland – one of the first virtual reality platforms where users can purchase virtual land with NFTs (which are backed by Ethereum). In January 2022, Carrefour bought a piece of land on Decentraland (for €300,000).
As Gartner’s Marty Resnick reminds us, most companies have two presences: one in the real world (store, office, etc.) and one online. According to him, “the best possible recommendation for CIOs today is this: be prepared to add a third site [le métavers] to your physical sites and your websites”.
This – still relative – intensification of the activity of groups in metaverses indicates that at least some companies attach importance to them.
Here are some use cases of a metaverse that CIOs can consider in the more or less near future:
- immersive entertainment
- commercial operations (virtual shops, etc.)
- training improvement
- improved CX
- increased staff
- advertising, branding and marketing (by analyzing customer data in the metaverse)
- digital locations
- new sources of income (sale of virtual objects, etc.)
- immersive hybrid work
What are the risks and limits of metaverses?
No innovation is without danger. Metaverses are no exception. Here is a short list of pitfalls to be aware of in order to avoid them:
- environmental concerns;
- cybersecurity issues;
- legal issues;
- harassment of all forms;
- confidentiality issues;
- disinformation ;
- effects on mental health (lowered self-esteem; increased sense of isolation).
Likewise, the metaverse creates new considerations on compliance issues, data privacy, risks and security requirements.
At the same time, concerns about environmental sustainability are growing. A metaverse can be computationally intensive to generate a huge 3D space. And if it is based on a blockchain, some are particularly energy-intensive. This or these new spaces can therefore have a significant carbon impact.
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What does Metavers (metaverse) mean? – Definition IT from Whatis.fr
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