Imagine, you are travelling on an airplane and watching a movie where lives on new planets are beautifully depicted. It won’t be surprising if you desired to visit such worlds. Well, decades later, it would have become a reality.
This brings us to the concept of the metaverse where people can visit a magical world of their choice for an amazing time. In the metaverse, a person can choose an interesting character— their avatar—and accessorize it to their liking.
In the metaverse, based on the underlying platform that powers it, one can fly around defying physics or, better yet, teleport to any virtual world. There will also be virtual worlds that could be spawned instantaneously on-demand or those that are available continuously for its virtual avatar-clad visitors unless a massive volcano wipes out internet connections in the real world. The whole new possibilities are being opened up in this space and it’s a no brainer, a lot of angel investment and venture capital has been flowing in the ecosystem.
DISRUPTIONS HAPPENING IN METAVERSE
The metaverse will change the way we live, experience relationships, and interact with our surroundings, becoming much more than a social platform and network.
Let’s take the example of a sportswear firm Nike, which recently announced its virtual world called Nikeland in the metaverse. It’s a space for the brand’s fans to connect, create, share experiences and compete.
Enterprises in the B2B space have also started adopting the metaverse for their employees to have productive conversations and venture capitalists have been betting on startups building products around this case. These virtual worlds are digital twins of their real-world facilities that enable easier employee onboarding, new equipment and process training for enhanced productivity, and finally, a breakout space for employees to engage with each other.
Reliance Industries is investing heavily in creating digital twins of its subsea operations so employees visiting those sites can hereafter become a reality since it requires a click of a button and no actual diving. More recently, Jio Platforms closed an equity funding round in “Two Platforms” founded by Indian born scientist Pranav Mistry. This startup funding round doune by Jio is also perceived to be done strategically provided Meta (formerly Facebook) owns 9.99% of Jio.
The metaverse also helps enterprises generate revenue, besides enabling sales training using role-play in realistic customer worlds. For example, Cisco’s Kalki platform allows sales training in the metaverse. It provides sales enablement by bringing the customer and the vendor sales team together inside a virtual world similar to that of the customer’s industry.
HOW AR INTEGRATED WITH VR MAY GIVE WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES IN THE METAVERSE
One of the earliest metaverses most may recall is the platform Second Life that allowed visitors to join and chat with each other using regular computers. Fast forward to 2022—computing devices are about eight times faster at a similar price point, and powerful computing devices can be handheld or even head-worn—and a new paradigm of how metaverses can be experienced has emerged, using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies.
When VR startups first came into play, several angel investors and venture capitalist were optimistic about its future. Today, several products are available in the market today, including Facebook’s VR headset Oculus Quest 2, allows users to get a fully immersive experience of the metaverse. While VR headsets provide a rich, immersive experience, AR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 enable users to feel disconnected from the real world.
How would one enter a metaverse using an AR headset and explore a new virtual world? What was apt for VR or for PCs need not apply in the same means for AR. While it is true that one can experience virtual worlds as well in an AR headset through gestures, it’s likely that AR headset-based metaverse experience is best enjoyed when users see a seamless blend between their real world and the superimposed virtual world. This will allow consumers to comfortably enter the metaverse from their living room or any physical space without the worry of losing a sense of surroundings.
Imagine you land at the Delhi International Airport in India with barely 15 minutes to catch your connecting flight from a different terminal. So, you’ll have to walk, book out cab, and then walk for some time more. Today, you just have one option: run, having no idea if you’ll make it in time or miss your flight.
But what if when you step out of your plane, your smart lenses scan the nearest gate number, search the airline database for the connecting flight’s gate number, and project directions on the lens itself using the airport’s indoor maps, also assist you in book an OLA or Uber, as well as display your estimated time of arrival based on your walking speed? GTA, right?
Wouldn’t it be nice if a regular pair of spectacles like an AR headset in the future allows you to switch between the natural world and the virtual world? While most of today’s all-in-one AR headsets are bulky, expensive, and have limited computing power, the smartphone-tethered ones are lighter and utilize the phone’s processing power. As of today, a powerful VR headset is about eight times cheaper than a good AR one, and thus VR will enjoy a good market share in the headset space. AR headset costs will eventually become affordable, but the enormous potential today is with a smartphone-based AR experience.
USE CASES OF AR METAVERSE IN PRESENT WORLD
Education at school and college levels has already witnessed a tremendous upsurge in the use of AR. A natural extension to the traditional AR experience is through the metaverse, where students can connect with each other in virtual labs through regular smartphones and learn content collaboratively.
In the manufacturing sector, employees at distant sites can collaborate using traditional smartphones via AR and work together on a holographic digital twin of a network of machines. Likewise, when it comes to sales, virtual customer experience centres can be made available with the click of a button for a customer and enable her to not just interact with the holographic display of products but also have a virtual discussion with the sales team from the experience centre.
Niantic, the parent company of the AR game Pokémon GO, is building an AR metaverse to enable a new era of gaming where users can create and share unique experiences with other members. It may be possible that every such experience can then be sold off as a non-fungible token (NFT) in blockchain-based marketplaces, thus creating a much larger value chain. There’s a clear evidence of these changes taking place in no time, and all of this is because of massive inflow of angel investment and venture capital in the startups working towards reoutlining how we see the world.
POTENTIAL MARKET OF METAVERSE
Epic, Grayscale, Meta, and a few other organizations have predicted the metaverse market to be worth $1 trillion in the next few decades. If this were to happen, VR is going to play an important role in enabling metaverse experiences while the smartphone-based AR metaverse experiences will need to take off, providing the thrust for the market to reach the estimated numbers.