There are huge expectations for the metaverse. Mentions of the metaverse are everywhere, new use cases both real, possible, and fictional are reported every day. But to be able to understand where we are right now, we need both a common understanding of what we mean when we say “metaverse” and how to parse that into manageable chunks.
The definition of metaverse is messy at the moment and likely to remain that way. The term is being used everywhere and predictably ‘meta-washing’ is everywhere (‘meta-washing’ refers to the practice of using a popular term to describe products and services, even when those are only very loosely associated with the idea). Just like the term ‘cloud.’ Cloud has been so over-applied that it essentially doesn’t really mean anything anymore and you must look to who is using the term for context. The metaverse as a term is suffering the same fate.
What defines the metaverse?
For purposes of this discussion, the ‘metaverse’ is a digital space accessed via VR (virtual reality) or a mixed environment accessed via AR (augmented reality). When thinking about the metaverse the simplest division to make is between consumer metaverse (CMV) and the enterprise metaverse (EMV). The use cases between these two markets are different and distinct.
Right now, the hype and momentum are clearly in the CMV space. Metaverse technologies are flowing from hardware manufactures whose VR and AR equipment is largely designed for the CMV. A good example of this would be Meta Platforms Inc, better known as Facebook, a consumer company. While normally technology starts in the enterprise and moves to the consumer space, in this case the technology will flow from consumer to enterprise. The EMV market will mature more slowly than the CMV with enterprises being more cautious and looking for actual business value rather than the flash that will suffice in the CMV.
Issues need to be resolved
There are numerous issues that need to be resolved if the metaverse is going to be the consumer paradise and enterprise productivity playground its being sold as. These issues include problems with personal space, complexities with accommodation for the differently-abled, and hardware maturity just to name a few. Furthermore, there is considerable confusion coming from those that view the metaverse as foundational and a vehicle for blockchain/cryptocurrency/NFTs. These proponents aim for artificial scarcity in a pure digital environment. For instance, the idea of digital real estate, in an infinite digital world, is both nonsensical and an attempt to monetize for the simple sake of monetization.
Mirroring the physical world into the virtual one gives up on so many advantages of a purely digital environment. Use cases that take the purely physical and just jam it wholesale into the metaverse is a massive failure of imagination and creativity.
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Metaverse needs time
All these factors as well as a complete lack of frameworks, regulation, and common technology means we need to slow down and let the technology mature, and let the hype die down. The metaverse needs time to settle down out of the massive money and fear of missing out (FOMO) hype cycle it’s in and get to realistic use cases that add value.
Home users, who’s financial commitment to do metaverse at home should be relatively small, can move a bit faster. But understanding that the experience offered today isn’t the one that everyone is talking about, that will come later. For enterprises, that time frame needs to be much longer, as their investment in these spaces is likely to be much greater both from a monetary standpoint and from a personnel standpoint. The metaverse will be amazing one day and change many lives. But its going to take time and careful thought to get there.