The rumors of the metaverse’s demise have been overhyped, very similar to the Internet in the 1990s where we’d regularly see headlines of how “it’s doomed to fail”…
The rumors have been stronger than ever, with people believing that Facebook and Microsoft sidelined all of their ambitious metaverse projects to direct their efforts around the current hype encircling AI and its generative, human-like capabilities.
But the rumors and pessimism carry little weight and reflect the current state of disillusionment, following the classic gartner hype cycle waves.
The metaverse is inevitable and it will continue to transform how we experience the digital world. We will explore several points backing our claim, but before that let’s put the rumors to rest.
Since Meta has been one of the biggest players in the metaverse market, people tend to attach Meta’s decline and subsequent layoffs to the metaverse’s death. But that’s all the shallow brooks making noises.
“A narrative has developed that we’re somehow moving away from focusing on the metaverse vision, so I just want to say up front that that’s not accurate,” said Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta. “We’ve been focusing on AI and the metaverse, and we will continue to.”
Similarly, the rumors of Microsoft shelving its industrial metaverse project and investing a whopping $10 billion in OpenAI’s ChatGPT are not wholly true. A Microsoft spokesperson spoke to CoinDesk on the same,
“Microsoft remains committed to the industrial metaverse. We are applying our focus to the areas of the industrial metaverse that matter most to our customers and they will see no change in how they are supported. ”
The Metaverse Market is Growing at a CAGR of 39.44% Each Year
Though the biggest use cases of the metaverse are currently seen in gaming and virtual platforms like Minecraft, Sandbox, Roblox, etc., the focus is now shifting to wider use cases in marketing, e-learning, online shopping, and social media.
The global market value of the metaverse market stood at $47.48 billion in 2022 and is growing at a CAGR of 39.44%. Today, there are nearly 800 million registered users that dwell on all the metaverse platforms combined, with the largest chunk of users on Roblox at 230 million, followed by Minecraft (140 million), and Fortnite (400 million). Of course some of these users are likely the same, but this scale still demonstrates a massive market, with gaming generating over $200B last year, which is significantly more than music and film combined.
The metaverse is not just a niche driven by startups. Epic Games, Google, Meta, Apple, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Roblox, Unity, etc., are still some of the biggest names investing in the metaverse.
Most people today misconstrue the idea of the metaverse as a spatial world accessible only through AR/VR headsets. The metaverse is best defined as the way we will be experiencing the digital world while we shop, learn, socialize, or play rather than any traditional 2D infrastructure.
The metaverse will be accessible as superior 3D images on flat screens, in real-world environments around us, and via headsets. Some of the biggest names, including PwC, JP Morgan, Samsung, etc., own a piece of land in the metaverse. Barbados became the first sovereign state to have its embassy in the metaverse.
Musicians and artists are holding concerts and exhibitions in Fortnite and brands like Ikea, Tanishq, Nike, Vans, H&M, etc., are amping up the user experience by giving customers a virtual tour of the products in their very own metaverse space.
Metaverse marketing is focused on NFTs, web3, crypto, and blockchain. Whereas, none of these concern the core idea of the metaverse. Unless this confusion is cleared, the understanding of the metaverse as a concept will remain restricted and the industry will continue to struggle.
The metaverse is the natural extension of our lives into the digital world.
Think about this – Did the people in the 1990s have any idea of the impact the internet was going to make in their lives? No, most of the naysayers would have dismissed it as a fad but today it is an inevitable part of our lives.
Similarly, we are used to experiencing the online world through flat, 2D screens, images, and text. But at our core, we are visual beings. Until people experience the immersive world, it’s hard to fathom the extent and scope it holds for our digital future.
Humans are programmed to experience the world in the first person and eventually, we would be employing metaverse capabilities for perception, exploration, and interaction within the online world.
Dr. Louis Rosenberg, CEO of Unanimous AI and the Chief Scientist of the Responsible Metaverse Alliance (RMA), says,
“The true metaverse—the one that will transform our lives—will be rooted in augmented reality, enabling us to experience the real world embellished with immersive virtual content that appears seamlessly all around us. That is by far the most natural way for us humans to bring the digital world into our lives. For that simple reason, the metaverse is inevitable.”
While we agree with this quote, we also know that virtual reality and virtual worlds will play a significant role in the metaverse. We already see this happening with the gaming platforms mentioned above. Ultimately, the metaverse will exist on a continuum from VR to AR, and all the way down to mobile devices powering thse 3D worlds.
Though big players are jumping in on the AI bandwagon to prioritize shorter-term projects, this doesn’t mark AI and metaverse as two competing technologies. On the contrary, AI forms a part of the set of technologies that will power the capabilities and features in next-generation metaverse projects.
With AI in their arsenal, metaverse platforms can reach new heights in creating immersive experiences that would have been impossible otherwise. From providing new levels of interactions, to making decisions based on user behavior, to creating content using AI’s generative capabilities – the list is vast.
AI can enable the simulation of realistic environments in the virtual world. Beyond that, AI can help in developing personalized user experiences and automated monitoring of virtual environments to help in the creation of responsible and ethical virtual spaces.
Meta’s visualization of the metaverse as the ultimate socialization and working environment is still early, despite the company’s decade long investment and ambitions in the space. It’s a typical pattern and process. If we consider Gartner’s hype cycle for emerging technologies, the metaverse seems to have slipped from the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ to the ‘trough of disillusionment.’ There’s still time before it climbs upwards and attains its ‘plateau of productivity.’
Awareness is the first step toward adoption. Though Google search topics surrounding the metaverse have increased over the years, only 38% of US adults believe that the metaverse would make their lives better. It’s very likely that the remaining 62% has yet to even understand the true meaning of the term, nonetheless the purpose and utility behind the metaverse.
Amara’s Law states that we tend to overestimate the impact of new technology in the short run, but we underestimate it in the long run. We believe that is exactly what’s happening with the metaverse.
With two out of every three people on the planet using the internet and mobile devices – to the tune of 3.6 devices per person – computing devices with enough power to run 3D worlds will become more common, enabling billions of people around the world to make it part of their daily lives.
A Gartner report predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least an hour working, shopping, and studying in shared virtual spaces. Another report estimates that the industrial metaverse, which lets users virtually design, manufacture, and interact with physical objects, may become a $100 billion market by 2030.
A Bloomberg report states that metaverse tech platforms may become an $800 billion market by 2024. The transition and adoption are bound to happen soon to a far broader extent than we can imagine today. Until then, we watch as the core use cases expand and the charm of the metaverse trickles into more people’s lives.