By Matias Rodriguez, VP of Technology, Globant Gaming & Metaverse Studios
The future is literally changing right in front of our eyes. After decades of preparing for virtual and augmented reality to become mainstream, miniaturized wearable displays and chips have combined with evolution in online game platforms to give birth to the Metaverse – a persistent digital space linked to the real world, connecting multiple virtual experiences developed by thousands of creators.
Though much of the infrastructure and countless experiences have yet to be built, early adopters can already visit parts of the Metaverse. Developers are using Unreal Engine 5 and Unity 3D game engine to create persistent virtual worlds that users experience through VR headsets, high-end AR glasses, smartphones, and game consoles. Fortune Business Insights already estimates the Metaverse market’s 2021 size at $63.83 billion, buoyed by game, eCommerce, and social media developers, while predicting that it will grow from over $100 billion this year to $1.5 trillion by 2029.
Metaverse technologies aren’t just for games and communications; they’re reinventing everything, including how we work and learn. As Globant’s Metaverse Sentinel Report notes, companies are already blurring physical and virtual work lines by offering remote and hybrid work environments. Intel found that 94% of trainees using VR hardware wanted more of their training to be virtual – and discovered that VR was dramatically better for safety training than prior solutions. Adopting virtual work and training technologies are just early steps in a society-level digital transformation that will play out over the next ten years.
Still Under Development
Although there’s no shortage of enthusiasm for the Metaverse, the reality is that it’s still under construction. As Forrester’s State of the Metaverse report indicates, it will appear in stages over the next decade rather than being “ready to visit” all at once.
Despite the last five years of improvements, Metaverse technologies still aren’t quite where they need to be. For instance, while we have made major strides in providing developers with Metaverse-building tools, organizations and governments are still figuring out how to best leverage them.
The cost of entry is still an issue for enterprises and consumers. Experiencing the Metaverse still requires the purchase of individual VR headsets, top-of-the-line smartphones, or relatively high-end computers, to say nothing of the software’s additional costs. While expenses are decreasing as technologies mature and proliferate, they’re not low enough yet.
Safety considerations for the Metaverse are also still being worked out, and consumers aren’t fully comfortable with the guardrails. According to the Metaverse Sentinel Report, only 29% of respondents believe the Metaverse is a safe place to interact with others; individual harassment has already emerged as an issue in some virtual spaces.
It will take time for the Metaverse to be fully built out, and not every element will receive the same level of attention simultaneously. Fortune Business Insights expects Metaverse’s business outlook will markedly improve thanks to the growing popularity of online shopping and gaming, suggesting that these areas – and blockchain technology – will form the initial foundations for Metaverse’s expansion.
We are already seeing nascent examples of Metaverse gaming experiences in titles such as Fortnite and Roblox, immersive movie and community experiences in BigScreen and VRChat, and eCommerce-inspiring brand engagements in Metaverse destinations including Decentraland. Today’s actual Metaverse use happens only in a handful of spaces due to infrastructure limitations and corporate ambitions, but within the next two years, we expect increasing entertainment and commercial opportunities will expand the Metaverse’s horizons.
Much Bigger Than Entertainment
Over time, the Metaverse will impact every major industry, including everything from healthcare to retail, manufacturing to finance, and entertainment to defense. Organizations in each industry must prepare now to evolve, so they can stay ahead of both competitors and growing consumer demand.
In the healthcare sector, fitness software and mental health apps are already benefiting people with weight loss goals, physical therapy needs, and anxiety disorders. Connecting these apps to the Metaverse will empower people to virtual jog or ride bikes through cities, and meet with remote therapists from afar for physical or mental coaching.
Fully virtualized retail experiences are close to becoming reality, as well. Metaverse users will be able to select outfits they want to wear, try them on, buy them, then receive physical versions to wear in the real world.
That said, user adoption rates must rise to encourage greater software development and investment. While 73% of Globant survey respondents say they can access the Metaverse, only 26% claim to have actually experienced it. It’s true that people have had ample opportunities to sample the Metaverse through Meta’s Quest 2, retail store VR displays, and free smartphone/PC options. Unfortunately, none of these options make the Metaverse easy to access, and the most immersive onramp – a VR headset – still isn’t as small or simple as it needs to be.
Attracting more people requires other considerations. Beyond following Metaverse safety standards, the next wave of software will need to be designed with the Metaverse in mind – and leverage brands people already engage with, including iconic elements from clothing and music to movies, games, and pop culture. As Metaverse users build digital versions of themselves, they’ll want to represent their passions, fandoms, and styles. Fortnite and Meta have dabbled with these themes, but haven’t reached the point where they’re drawing the most mainstream users.
How You Can Prepare
As your company prepares for a future where the Metaverse will certainly play a larger role, there are a few steps you can take to position yourself for what’s to come.
1. Think Metaverse first. Build your next programs, events, and UIs around the idea of customization, leaving room for brand integrations when planning. [JH1]
2. Think fun. The Metaverse isn’t bound by physical limitations, so when building digital experiences, don’t just recreate what exists in the real world. Use your imagination to create experiences that aren’t otherwise practical or possible. The ideal embodiment of your “king” focused retail brand might not be easy to build in a mall, but everyone can enjoy virtual castles and royal treatment in the Metaverse.
3. Think socially. The Metaverse will be all about socializing and expressing yourself, across anything from gaming to working or “traveling” between destinations. Deeply consider communications and expression as you build experiences.
Following these principles will help you retain current users and attract new audiences as the Metaverse increases in popularity. They will also increase your chances of developing a viable Metaverse business outside the gaming space while offering practical, safe, and fun engagement opportunities to users.
About the Author
Matias Rodriguez, VP of technology at Globant, is a design & engineering leader with 18+ years of experience helping teams deliver products including Video Games, Interactive Experiences and Telecommunications Solutions. At Globant, Matias works closely with teams to help create robust solutions, with a focus on innovation and R&D in Cloud Computing, Mixed Reality and Web 3.0. Matias is also a co-Inventor of a patent that combines Video Game mechanics in the Oil and Gas Industry and is credited in different AAA video games including Turtle Rock Studios’ Back 4 Blood, Phoenix Labs’ Dauntless and several EA Sports titles like Madden, NHL and FIFA.