Sunday, October 1, 2023

Does the metaverse matter?

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Bo Ilsoe is Managing Partner at NGP Capital. Bo is an investor and technologist at heart and has a Master’s degree in Electronics Engineering.

It’s been almost a year since Facebook announced it was changing its name to Meta and shifting its focus to the upcoming metaverse, and most of us are still not clear on what the metaverse is. What is clear is that we are in the early stages of the metaverse (version 1.0), so what does the current metaverse mean for businesses and investors? How can we expect it to change and evolve from its present form? What does the future hold and what, if anything, can we learn from the life cycles of other tech trends?

The future has arrived… or is it?

In November 1999 I thought the future had arrived. I was in Hong Kong and launched mobile internet with Nokia. We had a cool new phone, there was a new protocol called WAP, and there was a partnership with CNN to deliver content. What could go wrong? It was true that there was an early incarnation of the smartphone, but it wasn’t fully released until Apple launched the iPhone and Google launched the Android. The era of the smartphone required 10 years of evolution of semiconductors, software and other capabilities that could be packaged in an attractive consumer proposition. In 1999 we were very, very right, but we were 10 years too early.

Perhaps this is where we are with today’s metaverse. Like the 1999 version of the mobile web, the metaverse is generally tied to devices, including VR/AR hardware. I think we may have to wait 10 years or more before we see sufficient levels of development of semiconductors, optical devices, software and AI to deliver metaverse-ready devices for general use. There will also need to be plenty of early adopters ready to embrace what the early-stage metaverse has to offer.

Immersive AI

Technology becomes obsolete very quickly, supplanted by new software or hardware. But his function is not going away; it evolves into something new. Will the smartphone disappear like the PDA or Walkman? It’s hard to imagine right now, but I think there’s a good chance that smartphones will merge into or be replaced by something else. I expect technology to be more invisible and ubiquitous in 10 to 15 years, and I believe that immersive AI will play a fundamental role, shifting and redefining usage scenarios, changing consumption patterns and reshaping servants.

Immersive AI is a great untold story because it’s hard to see the real outlines of the impact it will have. Most public discourse reverts to doomsday predictions. But immersive AI is likely to reshape everything: it can write our software, handle our email, organize our lives, create pop icons, help our doctors, drive our cars, run our factories, and much more. It can also enable the disappearance of the smartphone.

For business leaders to adapt to these changes, it will be important to address the fear and anxiety that new technology often causes. We need to shift the very binary debate – good or bad, for or against – to a place where we can discuss how this technology can make us better as people and as a company. I would argue that immersive AI will provide huge opportunities for innovation and benefits, but in many cases will also be introduced through human-assisted systems. Whether it’s autonomous driving, healthcare, or education, people are likely to stay in the loop for a very long time.

The future of work: personal, virtual or both?

During Covid we were forced to accelerate our online presence, and we may not have fully understood the full impact of that on ourselves and society. After the lockdown, we have a newfound appreciation for changing environments, exercising, socializing and exercising for our mental and emotional health. But paradoxically, the pandemic-related rise of online socializing and gaming demonstrates humanity’s core need to connect, both in reality and in virtual space. Gaming is an area that continues to push the boundaries of technology: resolution, immersive graphics, social interaction, latency and connectivity. Who are we to say that a gamer immersed in World of Warcraft with his friends is not “really” participating in an activity? What the metaverse really asks us is: Is life more satisfying when lived in the physical world? If I’m a designer working on a 3D model of a house, am I not doing real work? If I chat with a colleague on Zoom, is that a real conversation or a virtual conversation? I believe we have reached a point where the boundaries between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ are slowly disappearing. And by the time we stop arguing about these terms, the metaverse will probably have arrived.

I believe the future of work will be a converged experience between in-person and virtual, for the benefit of all of us. Whether we call it the metaverse or something else is less important than what companies need to do to adapt to the coming future. This means adopting new workflows, redesigning office environments and working more efficiently. Not having to go to an office every day brings huge social benefits, including less time spent commuting and a greater ability to care for the family. However, we know from our Covid experience that social interaction, including personal ones, is still at the heart of our human endeavor. So companies will have to organize around these converged work experience patterns. Redesigning this work experience is just getting started and many companies are likely to emerge or achieve success to the extent that they solve these challenges. Immersive AI will be at the heart of this process, making it seamless.

And with regard to the current discourse on the metavers, remember the wise words of Richard Corliss: “Nothing ages as quickly as yesterday’s vision of the future.” Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

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