More and more companies are discovering how they can use the metaverse, Internet 3.0, for their own benefit – for sales, collaboration or development. Large corporations like Facebook and Microsoft see it as the future and are beginning to align themselves strategically with it. But there is still a lot of confusion about what the metaverse is and what it is not.
Mark Zuckerberg wants to transform Facebook from a social media company into a metaverse company, Fortnite maker Epic Games is working on implementing its vision of the metaverse, and Microsoft wants to build an enterprise metaverse. The trend is clear: corporations see the future in the Metaverse. The metaverse is the third version of the Internet, Internet 3.0. You no longer just use it, you are part of it and move around in it. For younger people, especially in the gaming scene, it is already common practice to immerse themselves in 3D worlds and to use AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality). But it is also gaining in importance away from PC games: for companies, the metaverse serves as a virtual world parallel to the physical one. While a few years ago the technology was not advanced enough, and the graphics of 3D applications too poor for widespread acceptance, usability is now improving and the technology is thus becoming suitable for mass use – even in companies. It is becoming apparent that the metaverse will trigger a transformation, especially in the working world. Nevertheless, assumptions and misconceptions persist, such as the following five.
- There is only one metaverse.
That’s not true: There are already dozens of B2C platforms today, such as Sandbox, Decentraland, Meta Horizons, Roblox, or Minecraft. Some serve as worlds for multiplayer games, while others aspire to create a global virtual world. In addition, with partners like Zreality, companies are beginning to offer their own secure B2B metaverse to their employees and customers – as a protected framework for doing business that offers confidentiality and can ensure data privacy. So different platforms and apps are providing access to their respective 3D worlds of the metaverse. In the B2C sector, users can meet and communicate there or take on a role in a computer game. They can choose a platform with which they want to experience the Metaverse. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
- The Metaverse is new.
That’s not true either. In his science fiction novel “Snow Cash,” Neal Stephenson describes the metaverse as early as 1991 as a virtual reality that spans the world – the people are avatars. And in the 1980s, science fiction author William Gibson also created a metaverse – only he called it cyberspace, a term that has become synonymous with today’s Internet and its possibilities. But Metaverse goes further – it integrates augmented, mixed and virtual reality technologies. What’s new is the idea that you don’t just consume it from a screen as you did in the early days of Internet 1.0. It also reaches further than Web 2.0, where we can actively participate and create content ourselves – mostly on centralized Internet and social media platforms. Internet 3.0, the metaverse, makes us part of it – we are inside the social network, interacting, communicating and working. It’s a digital life alongside the real one. This social network approach is also new – early applications didn’t have to be designed for multi-user scenarios and could be standalone, such as a training tool for machines. Multiuser and interactivity, on the other hand, are the state of the art today.
- The metaverse is equal to NFT (non fungible token).
This is not the case either. A token is any asset in digital form, non-fungible means it is not exchangeable, i.e. unique. It therefore has an individual value and is interesting to own. A wide variety of valuables can be digitized with it – not only art, but also real possessions. NFT are based on blockchain technology as a decentralized database. All transactions in it can be traced back – and thus the ownership of NFT can be documented and its uniqueness proven.
There are many NFT platforms through which objects can be uniquely labeled, which prevents copies. In the metaverse of computer games, it is already commonplace for gamers to spend money on digital products – if they are unique, the incentive to own them increases further. NFT can indeed be interesting as a topic for B2C companies with an e-commerce focus, for example. However, equating it with the Metaverse is not correct. There are many Metaverse platforms that do without Web3 blockchain and NFT altogether. Especially, again, those from companies that employees and customers have access to. Also, platforms like Roblox allow virtual worlds to be built without NFTs or cryptocurrencies. The value of digital goods is therefore currently still limited to certain user groups. Here, speculation has done the rest and a hype has arisen.
- User adoption is low.
The opposite is the case: Metaverse platforms are growing explosively. Young people are already using virtual game worlds like Roblox or Fortnite as places for social interaction and communication. This puts them in direct competition with social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Facebook has recognized this and is therefore focusing on the metaverse with Horizons in order to offer the user base something different. There you can do numerous things – exchange ideas in VR chats, even develop your own worlds and games. Technology is making it possible with VR goggles and increasing computing power, and the younger generation, the workers of tomorrow, are fully on board. As a result, user numbers on the platforms are growing and preparing to enter companies on a broad scale.
- Metaverse solutions are expensive.
Companies shy away from investing in a metaverse because the initial development costs seem high. But the ROI comes quickly and it makes sense to put the costs in relation to the potential savings: Operations can save millions of euros per year with metaverse solutions. Virtual and location-independent work, including the development of prototypes, reduces expenses for travel, for the vehicle fleet and office space, or for the transport of materials. In addition, there are efficiency gains in daily work, as the time freed up can be spent on productive activities. What’s more, getting into the Metaverse is easier than expected – there’s no need to invest in expensive VR goggles, and there are also all-device approaches that allow access to the Metaverse via smartphones and tablets.
There are numerous misconceptions and unanswered questions regarding the metaverse – its definition, its properties and possible uses. Once these have been cleared up or answered, companies can tap the potential of this promising technology for themselves and take a step toward transforming the world of work.