We continuously see the involvement of tech giants like Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Apple, etc., in the metaverse. Slowly and steadily, the metaverse is working towards changing how people and organizations interact with each other and the world. This progress is forcing tech service providers worldwide to develop innovative strategies to keep up with the times.
In this article, we briefly look at the 3 phases in which technology product owners can exploit metaverse opportunities.
At present, the metaverse seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It is simultaneously being advertised as the next-gen innovation and criticized as over-promised. The metaverse has at least 10 years before it hits maturity. The evolution of the metaverse in these 10 years will occur across three, probably overlapping, phases—emerging, advanced, and mature.
The metaverse opportunities will pave the way for a completely new landscape of the internet, acting as a collective, shared space born from the union of physical and digital experiences. Similar to how there is only one internet, we expect that there will be only one metaverse. Like Gartner says, “just as no single organization owns or controls the internet, the same will be true for the metaverse as well”.
The emerging metaverse is the stage we are currently in, with commercially available products and services like online games, social networks, e-commerce, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs. Depending on their use cases, these technologies may satisfy one or more characteristics of the metaverse (e.g., decentralized, interoperable, etc.) but the emerging metaverse is incomplete.
For instance, there is no interoperability between distinct products and services that are presently being marketed as the metaverse. The reason for this is not a lack of use cases but the absence of a standard for interoperation. Essentially, all existing technologies and apps being advertised as ‘metaverse’ today are in actuality pre-metaverse.
The solutions in the advanced metaverse will be characterized by the blend of different technologies seen in the emerging phases. This convergence will inspire new technologies essential to support mature metaverse opportunities.
The advanced metaverse phase will prominently focus on spatial computing technologies such as defining the location and orientation of a digital object in a physical space e.g., a digital sign facing the correct way on a street.
The mature metaverse will be the stage of the metaverse where most applications have features that facilitate collaborative and multi-sourced experiences. The arrival of the mature metaverse opportunities will be announced by interoperable content across digital experiences.
To consider an example, assume a dynamically updated digital note affixed to a physical object such as a traffic light that the technicians could access and update. The citizens will be able to excess an extended layer of this content to report details like an outage. Since the content is digitally affixed, all citizens will be able to see when the outage was reported instead of replicating efforts.
The feature of decentralization will enable real-time localized content updates on this model. City workers will be able to illustrate the outage scenario in a digital experience, simulating traffic and service disruptions that may be caused by the outage and the repair process. Geographically distributed stakeholders can use this scenario to collaborate in real-time, ensuring a synchronous workflow.
In order to develop an effective strategy, tech product owners will need to calculate the growth and curve of the emerging trends and technologies that facilitate metaverse experiences at each stage.
Since there will only be one metaverse, with no single company owning, controlling, or developing everything, the aim for the tech product leaders will be to understand the evolutionary path of the metaverse and take some key steps such as:
Related Article: How to build a metaverse virtual world?
Each evolutionary stage of the metaverse opportunities for tech providers to develop solutions that provide content, infrastructure, and interaction possibilities across three main domains.
The first one is the domain of technologies required to build the metaverse. The second includes products and services that are; Necessary for delivering attributes of a fully-functional metaverse and enabling new markets and business models. Finally, there is the domain of market characteristics which will be completely overturned in a fully P2P environment.
Each phase of the metaverse opportunities evolves and thrives on distinct tech characteristics.
The emerging metaverse will see the development (and use) of smart devices and siloed apps and experiences in the interaction layer. These will be used to build social networks, games, e-commerce, sensor technologies, IoT, etc., in the content layer offering a seamless Web3 multiplayer platform in the infrastructure layer.
For the advanced metaverse, the interaction layer can consist of multimodal interfaces and immersive experiences such as AR, VR, and XR. This will lead to the development of digital experience platforms on the content layer in addition to persistent and geoposed data, digital tokens and currencies, and environmental mapping. The infrastructure layer of the advanced metaverse may see edge cloud services, digital spatial protocols, and the blockchain.
Related Article: The Inevitable Role of Blockchain in the Metaverse
In the case of the mature metaverse, the interaction layer will contain device independence in the form of advanced virtual assistants and smart spaces. The content layer will be endowed with graph technologies and spatial data integration. For the infrastructure layer, P2P services, spatial registries, and interoperability frameworks will be the highlight.
For tech service providers, the evolution of the metaverse presents a plethora of opportunities in the interaction, content, and infrastructure layer.
The emerging phase of the metaverse is expected to last till 2024. This will be a phase with limited direct opportunities. Interestingly, the majority of these opportunities will be driven by technologies such as environmental mapping for autonomous navigation, whose obvious purpose is not to create the metaverse. Yet, these will play a defining role in the development of the metaverse.
Most of the future use cases of this phase will be inspired by the current use like AR for frontline work and VR for high-consequence scenarios. Tech leaders may have to create a sustainable and profitable business on these use cases.
Predicted to be 3-year long starting from 2024, the advanced metaverse phase will present more direct opportunities for tech providers. Most of these opportunities will focus on the content layer, i.e., data, information, and foundation of the metaverse itself.
The most obvious development we can see happening in this phase includes tools and technologies that link the physical and digital worlds and help scrutinize the relationships between them.
The second phase of the metaverse evolution may also be the grounds for the development of technology that populates the information layer of the metaverse. This refers to innovations that capture, create, and integrate digital content to overlay onto the physical world e.g., tech that senses and maps people, places, things, and/or processes.
Phase 2 will primarily serve as the ground where the building blocks to the metaverse gradually mature.
Towards the tail end of this stage, we may witness the development of early infrastructure opportunities specific to the metaverse. This includes interoperability frameworks, protocols, and registries for the spatial web.
This will be a stage where both organizations and individual users will have a clear vision and potential for the metaverse. The innovations will build on the applications and use cases discovered in phase 2.
From 2028 onwards, we will have a better, clearer understanding of the aspects and functionalities of the systems needed to make a mature metaverse possible. This will open up significant opportunities in the infrastructure layer with vendors competing to build the foundation of a transformational and potentially omnipresent system.
How companies define the metaverse varies greatly, which is why it is exciting to see the many different areas that tech service providers can explore while entering the metaverse.
Given the way it is expected to evolve, we can safely assume that the metaverse will give tech service providers countless opportunities to grow. The metaverse will ultimately change the way people exist and interact with each other. To truly establish a firm standing in the metaverse, tech service providers will have to constantly engage in proactively strategizing their position and plan of action for each developmental phase.