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What Happened to the ‘Metaverse’?


From the start of 2021, speculation and a general buzz were beginning to grow around the metaverse. What is it? What can it do? Who is going to control it? Oddly enough, a couple of years later, the answers to these questions are still not clear and to add to that, the excitement seems to be fading. Here, we recapitulate what is understood so far about the metaverse and how it might evolve.



The metaverse is a term used to describe a virtual reality space where users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. The origins of the metaverse can be traced back to science fiction literature and films. One of the earliest examples is the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992, which introduced the “Metaverse” described as a vast, interconnected network of virtual worlds. Another cultural touchpoint for the metaverse is the movie The Matrix, released in 1999. In this film, humans are plugged into a simulated reality created by sentient machines to keep them under control. Although the concept of the metaverse in The Matrix is dystopian, it still introduced the idea of a virtual reality space where users can interact with a computer-generated environment.


With the dawn of the internet came improved interconnectivity, allowing users to interact with each other digitally. One industry that capitalized on this was gaming, where the ability to play alongside friends and strangers made games more attractive. With an industry worth $25.1 billion by 2010 and $196.8 billion today, game designers were able to invest into improving the realism of computer-generated environments, the virtual safety of their user base, and the overall quality of the multiplayer experience. For these reasons, companies like Roblox, Epic Games and Microsoft have had a healthy head start in conquering the metaverse space. However, other companies, notably Meta, are aware of the metaverse’s potential significance, and have invested heavily to keep up.


Levels of metaverse immersion

Today, the metaverse is most associated with virtual reality, a completely immersive digital experience that replaces the user’s real-world environment with a simulated one. VR technology typically involves wearing a headset (such as the Oculus Rift) that covers the user’s eyes, and often includes handheld controllers or other input devices that allow the user to interact with the virtual environment. Educators are beginning to use this technology to enhance the teaching of subjects from astronomy to biology with opportunities for virtual field trips for schools in remote areas. Elsewhere, in the retail sector, entire virtual supermarkets have been created to assess how packaging attracts the customer’s eye when shopping.


That said, augmented reality can also be used which refers to the overlaying of digital information onto the user’s view of the real world, often through the use of a mobile device or wearable technology like smart glasses. The user can still view and interact with the real world while also seeing digital content superimposed on top of it. The medical industry has investigated using this technology for AR guided navigation during orthopaedic surgery, and car navigation systems could too be bolstered with an AR overlay. A growing trend sees companies such as Shopify and Ikea using AR to allow their customers to view how products would look int their homes before they buy them.

In its simplest form however, a metaverse can describe any multiplayer game or environment that allows you to create a character and interact with others in a virtual space. This includes games such as Minecraft and Fortnite, the former of the which has had a multiplayer option since 2010.


How is the metaverse evolving

The COVID-19 pandemic played an important part in fuelling desire to grow the metaverse. Society became more comfortable with digital technologies, companies had to adapt to a WFH working style, and people could no longer socialise in person. In light of this, the metaverse provided a solution to improve interconnectivity and productivity and therefore gained traction. It has been described as the next iteration of the internet and could be a virtual world that mirrors our lives in the real world.


There have been some indicators that the metaverse is growing and will soon be used ubiquitously. In late 2021, Bill Gates claimed that the metaverse would host most office meetings within “two or three years”. Elsewhere in business, ARUVR works with Amazon and Coca Cola to utilise virtual reality for training purposes. Nike have real estate in the Roblox metaverse called Nikeland where users can meet and engage with the brand’s products. In the first 8 months, 7 million visitors had spent time in the Nikeland. To improve user immersion further, Eleven Labs are using a voice cloning technology to make text sound more realistic. Citi estimated in March 2022 that the metaverse economy would be worth $8-13 trillion by 2030 (McKinsey made a more conservative estimate of $5 trillion).

However, the development has been slower than anticipated. Meta claimed it would take 5-10 years to adjust to their metaverse, including the need for high speed internet and hardware, such as the headset. Another issue is the establishment of multiple metaverses, leading to a so-called multiverse. Companies are failing to reach agreements that might improve interoperability segmenting the userbase. Currently, companies such as Tommy Hilfiger have elected to launch their offerings (in this case a virtual fashion show) across the multiverse for maximum engagement. Ready Player Me aims to break down these virtual walls by allowing users to design avatars using their own faces and use said avatars across metaverses.



At present, the metaverse may seem to some like a failed concept, like 3D TVs or the MiniDisc player. Microsoft and Meta appear to be moving away from the metaverse, towards AI, and the latter of the two lost $10 billion in 2021 alone in their metaverse development department. However, it is important to remember that the metaverse is already here and is a gradual process of increasing immersion. Tightening budgets in today’s economic climate may give the impression that the field is running out of investment, but it is normal to see companies focus their budgets on their core offerings in such times. As technology continues to evolve to catch up with the futuristic public expectation of the metaverse, companies will have little option but to follow their customers into this realm. Already, Strategic Allies have been asked to find partners that are using the Metaverse to educate large and small organisations about cybersecurity.

Whether it be increasing engagement with their market audience, using the metaverse to train employees or understanding the effects the metaverse may have on their future business, Strategic Allies Ltd will be here to guide our clients towards maximum impact.

For more information or an exploratory chat contact john@strategicallies.co.uk