Saturday, September 23, 2023

Metaverse: open for business? † MIT Technology Review

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The metaverse is already an increasingly part of companies’ merger and acquisition (M&A) strategies. In Dec 2021, Nike has announced the acquisition of digital design studio RTFKT, which the sportswear company says it hopes can explore the possibilities of the metaverse. In January 2022, Microsoft has announced It plans to acquire game developer and interactive entertainment content publisher Activision Blizzard, which the software giant says it hopes will “provide building blocks for the metaverse.”

As an experiential medium, the metaverse was most prominent at the consumer level. For example, luxury fashion house Gucci has started selling items on gaming platforms with a digital version of a famous bag costs more than the physical model. Building on a history of live horse racing, Stella Artois has worked with Zed Run to create a 3D Tamagotchi-like experience crossed with the Kentucky Derby.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), precursors to the metaverse, were also initially targeted at consumers through gadgets such as Google Glass or Oculus. But these never quite got off the ground. It was in corporate environments, such as manufacturing and healthcare education, that augmented reality really took hold by empowering employees to do fundamentally new things and increase productivity, collaboration and efficiency. The same dynamic continues in the metaverse era.

In January 2022, Hyundai, in partnership with Unity, a 3D content producer, has announced plans to build a platform for a metafactory to solve problems remotely, test new facilities, and provide simulations for consumers. BMW has partnered with AI firm Nvidia make a demo digital twin of a BMW production plant that allows 3D design teams to collaborate simultaneously in multiple software suites in a shared virtual space.

The market for digital twins – virtual representations that serve as real-time replicas of a physical object – is expected to grow to $86 billion by 2025according to business consultancy Grand View Research, which includes: UnileverBoeingand Siemens Energy among the adopters.

A ‘health metaverse’ is also emerging. 8chili – a deep technology company building the underlying infrastructure for creating and distributing metaverse content –started a partnership with digital therapeutics company Aventyn in March 2022 to develop a virtual reality platform to enable virtual training, patient engagement and health coaching. In the UK Virti, a remote and augmented reality training agency, is working with the NHS to train and retrain staff, including during the pandemic, when many health workers had to transfer to different units and functions.

The financial services industry, which is already heavily using blockchain, is increasing its interest in payments and advisory services in the metaverse. JP Morgan became the first major bank to enter the metaverse when it opened a “lounge” in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland at an event in February 2022. The Wall Street bank said it believes the metaverse is a dazzling $1 trillion annual revenue opportunity for companies in all sectors. JP Morgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon believes: a virtual real estate market could emerge with associated services such as loans, mortgages and leases.

Across all industries, the metaverse provides businesses with new opportunities for managing meetings, video conferencing, training, and broader workforce development in the post-covid hybrid world. In terms of future potential, global provider of digital services Infosys believes that the content creation and delivery space will see “enormous innovation and competition” for the metaverse, citing digital twins of theaters, studios and meeting rooms, which will enable “near-to-reality experiences” for users. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates thinks virtual meetings will be moved to the metaverse in the next two or three years – Meta and Microsoft are already running them internally.

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