Under the umbrella of the digital revolution, we have come a long way from supercomputers to desktops, telephones to smartphones. Now we’re taking an inevitable slide into the next big thing, the metaverse. In this article, we will walk through the metaverse – What it is? How useful it can be? And how much will it cost your business?
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is an entirely new concept that holds the potential to be a game changer, especially in the world of business. In 2021, the market size of the global metaverse market was USD 40 million, and it’s expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 50.74% from 2022 to 2030. Moreover, statistically, the metaverse market for 2024 is predicted to reach $800 billion, with an estimated 74% of adults joining the metaverse to escape their physical environment and experience something unusual, such as AR gaming, live events, and social ads.
In layman’s terms, the metaverse is a comprehensively immerse digital world. It’s simulated virtual space where people are present as an ‘avatar’, experiencing a semi-real-world experience. This is particularly important in today’s globalized world, as more and more people use virtual spaces to connect, due to the physical challenges of meeting friends, dispersed interest groups, and communities in the ‘real world’.
Consequently, it’s inevitable that the metaverse will change the course of how people connect to one another, and how businesses communicate with their audiences. The metaverse is gathering pace and sooner or later, it will be landing on your doorstep as a paradigm shift in the way the world works.
Metaverse from a business perspective – Think e-commerce on steroids
Let’s understand the metaverse a bit deeper from a business aspect, by comparing it to the concept of e-commerce. A couple decades ago, our purchasing habits began to gradually shift towards online shopping. Consequently, high street shopping has tumbled. The metaverse today is where e-commerce was in the late 1990’s—explorative, but highly promising. It holds an imminent potential of infusing both digital and financial transformation into ‘something new.’ It gives a video and audio experience through augmented and virtual reality. From a business perspective, it has the potential to drive payments via digital currencies (such as cryptocurrency) and digital purchases.
An infusion of different realms
Tech giants like Facebook (now meta group) are highly motivated to adopt this technology. Unfortunately, whilst it would be simpler in this case, there isn’t just one technology platform or standard of the metaverse. It’s a new pioneering space, most of which has originated from the gaming industry—which means few suppliers can agree on anything.
The commonality of standards in operating systems, identity management, and communications protocols, etc. that had to take place before the Internet, mobile computing, and cloud computing could scale like Topsy hasn’t yet happened for the metaverse. More and more spaces are expected to be created within it, thus giving the user an entirely multi-dimensional experience, by slowly diminishing the meaning of the word ‘reality’.
Use cases you should take note of
The metaverse will have its application in various fields. Here are some examples:
Events and meetings – With even more people employed as knowledge workers and working from home, it’s no surprise that businesspeople are excited by the potential of the metaverse to provide a more engaging collaborative experience for meetings, webinars, and virtual events.
Onboarding new workers – Already, metaverse applications are being developed to make it easier for firms to onboard workers and contractors. The state of the labor market is changing, and the frequency of new people taking on new jobs is growing significantly. The metaverse has the potential to reduce the cost and risk of onboarding, while improving the onboarding experience for workers.
Education – It’s easy to imagine that an interactive, visually stimulating environment is an ideal place to learn new things. The metaverse promises to introduce a revolution in distance learning and make it more exciting for students.
Shopping – The opportunity of the metaverse for shopping is big and broad. Not only does it offer new ways to advertise and engage with buyers, new ways to try out new products and services, etc., it also offers new product and service opportunities (i.e., serving the aspirations and buying needs of the ‘virtual’ you). In addition, we can expect the metaverse to come up with new crypto and digital payment solutions, taking the payments industry ever further into the virtual world.
Healthcare – In medical science, doctors are already examining patients with telepresence, making it easier for patients to consult doctors remotely.
Travel – In the travel sector, the metaverse will allow people to visit expensive and far-off places simply by paying a mere token to visit a tourist site, which will be something new in the realm of travel technology.
e-Commerce – In the e-commerce sector, one of the many benefits of the metaverse will be ability for people to try on clothing before purchase from the comfort of their home. Now, you no longer need to wait in lines for those stinky and suffocated fitting rooms to try on a pair of jeans.
There are too many examples to mention of how the metaverse brings value. It has the potential to transform the design of entertainment, gaming, and even fitness.
What is the cost of the metaverse?
It’s often said that everything comes with a price, and the metaverse also has its own set of costs.
Platform and ‘rig’ pricing
It’s not yet clear what suppliers plan to charge for the use of their platforms. At this stage, there is no pricing rule book, there are no ‘industry standard terms’—so everything is up for grabs. While some providers will look to cash in on a ‘clicks to cash’ model and offer services for free, others are likely to set subscriptions and entry-point pricing before allowing users to access services that offer out-of-the-box intrinsic value.
In addition to the serviced platforms, what we also don’t have a clear grasp on yet is what the typical cost will be of a ‘metaverse rig’ and all of the advanced headsets and tools you will need to invest in. Everyone who joins the metaverse will need their own kit, and it’s not clear whether the same kit will support every metaverse platform into the future, thereby presenting a risk of your early investments becoming redundant over time. This is not news for gamers, as they remember having to ditch their PlayStation every time a new console came out. Nevertheless, for a broader ‘nongaming’ audience, it’s not clear how this will play out.
However, not all costs are monetary. With the metaverse, you are giving up more than hard currency.
The metaverse, as a technology, is a two-way street. Its existence relies on data provided by users. This means, metaverse platforms collects more that your generic personal data. They will also gather information of your habits, behaviours, interests, etc. And with a company like Meta Platforms, Inc, who already has a reputation for harvesting personal data, are you ready to trust such a company with your highly sensitive data?
More than the data protection, what is disheartening about the metaverse is its potential impact on our real identity. What about us? We know for a fact that the metaverse has the capacity to alter our world, our experiences, our feelings, and our thoughts, and moderate them as per its liking. But what about our natural processes – our daily habits of spending time with friends and family, pursuing hobbies, and experiencing real touch… The metaverse cannot provide a suitable alternative to the real world.
The metaverse is arriving ‘pre-standards’, making it an investment nightmare for businesspeople. And it isn’t a perfect solution to anything—it presents both positives and negatives.
Already, it has become a love-it or hate-it subject. Some point to the positive impact it can have on gamers, encouraging them to move about. Others point out that it brings the world ever closer together without a consequential ‘Airmiles’ environmental impact on the planet.
At the end of the day, the bigger story here is that we don’t know yet how society and businesses will make use of this technology. What will the platform providers do to minimize its negative side effects? Is society ready to pay a hefty price for this technology? I expect within a decade we will know the answer to these questions.