Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said that computers were like bicycles for the mind, expanding our ability to perform more efficiently and on a spectacular scale. According to some of today’s biggest tech visionaries, a similarly impressive game changer is on the horizon: the metaverse. But how will businesses be able to successfully harness this complex technology and what stands to impede its adoption rate among consumers?
Committing to building a virtual presence
Tech companies are staking out their place in what is widely seen as the next iteration of the internet. In fact, metaverse-related patents are being filed at an increasingly breakneck speed. Microsoft, with a focus on AI-related tools, holds more than 150 patents whereas Meta has filed hundreds of biometric tracking patents.
Why is there already so much investment in the infrastructure and tools of the metaverse? It’s simple: businesses across a wide range of industries foresee its potential. For instance, the metaverse could become a virtual space to test and experiment without risk and at low cost for the architecture and construction sectors, while retailers could leverage users’ biometric responses to measure product or brand engagement.
Given that building a presence in this new platform is expected to be complex, technology consulting firms have already begun to expand their services to offer metaverse support. These services are likely to be in high demand as businesses will need assistance in vetting and harnessing metaverse-related technologies as well as implementing and managing their roll out and maintenance.
Companies entering this emerging field will also need assistance to develop different finance, accounting, risk and compliance approaches and processes. While the metaverse is expected to alter the way many businesses operate, it is also notable that metaverse consulting is likely to become its own business support industry.
Overcoming the sensation barrier
The development of the metaverse does not only depend on financial investment and business support services: immersive technologies will also need to reach a high level of market penetration. And yet, VR remains a technological frontier zealously approached by few.
Today, VR is still in the attraction phase of the product life cycle. However, this stage is mutable: after all, cinema found its start at carnival grounds and videogames were first introduced at arcades prior to becoming cultural industries.
According to a study by the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (National Center for Film and Moving Images), 41% of French people used VR technology in 2020, compared to 21% in 2016. However, VR headsets are still a long way from commonplace in French households: less than 7% of households owned their own set in 2020, compared to 2% in 2016.
This low adoption rate is due in large part to the divide between what can be seen and felt in VR: sensory experiences are exclusive to the real world. This disconnect between perception and sensation remains one of the biggest hurdles to mass adoption of VR.
Companies are increasingly investing in the research and development of devices that create the experience of touch, known as haptic technology. At CES 2022, the videogame company OWO attracted attention for its vest that enables its wearers to feel some of the sensations their avatars experience in the virtual world. The vest currently offers its users 30 different sensory experiences, including the ability to feel wind, gun recoil, and a chest dagger wound.
As the gap shrinks between what can be experienced in the real world and through VR, and as the purchasing power and size of the digital native younger generations grows, an upsurge in the ownership of immersive technologies can be expected.
Businesses should not underestimate the impact research and development in immersive technology may have on our digital-first world. They should also be aware of the value in seeking metaverse-related support from tech consulting companies as it may enable them to grow and thrive in ways which could otherwise remain inaccessible. The tech R&D and consulting sectors are indeed likely to play a seminal role in the formation and advancement of the metaverse.