Everybody is scrambling to have a take on the “metaverse” since Mark Zuckerberg renamed Facebook to Meta.
But the “metaverse” is not new. It’s the virtual reality we’ve all been talking about for years. Heck, it was even heavily featured in William Gibson’s 1984 science fiction masterpiece Neuromancer, as well as in other speculative fiction. Virtual reality, as well as its close cousin augmented reality, will in the long term have a strong impact on the way we communicate, game, and interact with the physical world.
But here’s the catch. Nothing has changed other than Facebook getting renamed. Outside of talk culture, there has been no real-world change since the announcement. What we have here is the latest round of hype that conveniently forgets that it’s the same AR/VR that everyone has been blathering on about for years. Companies are trying to one-up each other; analyst and press organizations are adding “metaverse” to their litany of coverage. It’s a combination of grabbing onto the next piece of technology jetsam, and a very real fear of missing out (FOMO), which translates in the tech world as a fear of looking old and out of touch.
Metaverse – the brawl for it all
Who will dominate the AR/VR space? Honestly, it’s very hard to say. Of course, the aforementioned Meta (Facebook) is and has invested heavily in the space. There is also NVIDIA, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, the list goes on and on with the largest tech companies all vying for a spot in the new ecosystem, each one of them swinging for the fences to be the #1 vendor in the space.
Setting aside the gaming/consumer market, the smart money is not on grand and wide AR/VR schemes but is instead on those that concentrate on the proverbial low-hanging fruit in vertical market spaces. These technologies need real-world wide-scale proof of concept outside of the consumer space and outside of flashy demos. Advances in wireless technology and edge computing will make that happen, but with any really big technology it’s going to take time. Patience is key.
There is no real doubt that AR/VR will be important in a lot of fields, including medicine, repair, engineering, etc. It may also have yet to be discovered applications in a variety of verticals, including mental health. But we need to keep perspective when it comes to hyperbole like “metaverse” and it’s important that CIOs avoid getting swept up in the latest hype cycle.
Enterprises should keep an eye on what they can possibly do with AR/VR, keeping in mind how it can apply to their specific business model. But don’t let the hype push investment before the value and quality is clear for your organization.