Facebook recently announced its new super-brand ‘Meta’ encompassing apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp along with other 3D software and hardware divisions.
Whilst the news took many by surprise, the majority of whom may have never heard of the metaverse, the announcement had been a long time coming. Seven years ago, Facebook completed a $2.3 billion (£1.7 billion) acquisition of Oculus – a virtual reality (VR) gaming startup. Even back then, Facebook had clearly realised the future potential of the metaverse.
Since confirmation of the rebranding, the term ‘metaverse’ has been trending in the news, with companies including Microsoft Teams also announcing similar ventures into the metaverse. But what does the term mean?
The term ‘metaverse’ is widely used within the tech realm. Put simply, it describes the creation of shared, 3D virtual spaces that are linked to a virtual universe and access through different online tools.
The fact that one of the biggest and most recognisable companies in the world has changed its name to Meta its symbolic for two reasons. First, it demonstrates the metaverse is not a theory but an actual reality set to disrupt the way businesses and individuals engage with one another. Second, it is set to spark a new wave of public interest into the metaverse and how it can be used by businesses and consumers.
Metaverse for Business
As part of Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote speech, he focused primarily on the consumer, painting a picture of a future 3D metaverse and an immersive VR & AR world. Interestingly, he stressed that the metaverse could not be built by one single organisation, and called out for the support of developers and creators.
He also briefly touched on use of the technology in business, teasing a new headset codenamed Project Cambria and mentioning the Horizon Workrooms beta.
As we look at the buzz around the metaverse we are drawn to glossy pictures of a future game style environment with juggernauts like Facebook and Epic promising Hollywood experiences full of fashion, art, NFTs and player vs player gaming.
But there is a quietly expanding market in business that hasn’t been getting much attention. 3D is certainly the predominant media type for games. It is also the fundamental component of a swathe of industries for decades from construction to real estate, training and virtual conferences.
The “race to the face” has been going on for nearly a decade with well-funded tech giants throwing their hats into the ring. The metaverse is the next stage of this perpetual cycle.
The Metaverse is Part of a Tech Evolution Cycle
The metaverse forms part of what I call the “race to the face”. To date, every major disruption to the day to day use of technology has been driven by changes to ‘display’ technology – an output device that presents information in a visual form.
Think about it. First, we were locked at our desks with bulky monitors. This was followed by the birth of laptops which granted us greater mobility and then mobile devices which offers display technology that can fit in our pockets. Each of these iterations has propelled the tech sector forward. Now, we are finding that mobile devices have a limitation – they need to be small, and you need to look at them, breaking context with the real-world moment you may be engaged in.
While Facebook did not get involved in the mobile technology space, it did seek to take advantage of human computer interface disruption through smart glasses. Although smart glasses have received mixed responses, it is evident that 3D is the next natural iteration of display technology.
Importantly, the metaverse is the internet evolved, not a walled garden or application only limited to its members, like Facebook. Internet browsers have been adding to their capabilities to facilitate 3D functionality. According to one study by caniuse, 99.45% of desktop browsers and 97.48% of mobile browsers support 3D – meaning that roughly 98% of users are technically ready to jump into the metaverse.
I believe it is the next trillion-dollar industry.
3D is The Future
3D as a media type is now available in all web browsers and by extension on all devices (even VR/AR devices). This is the same tipping point that launched the use of video on the web. And businesses have been using it to provide real commercial value. This has borne open standards and interoperability allowing an ecosystem to exist. One that provides ROI well ahead of the consumer metaverse but is also on an inevitable convergence with it in the years ahead.
I call this the #MetaverseforBusiness – a term we are bound to hear more about in the future.
As society continues to learn more about the concept and its practical uses, I anticipate interest and demand for metaverse applications will rise. This is not limited to consumers – businesses and public organizations are also ideally positioned to benefit, using the metaverse to host events and conferences through to education and training simulations.
After years of development from tech companies exploring the application of the metaverse, Facebook’s rebranding is the beginning of a new era for the metaverse. As it shifts into the mainstream, it is up to organisations to explore how they could leverage the metaverse as part of their digital transformation.
By Danny Stefanic, CEO and Founder of MootUp, a 3D metaverse virtual events platform.