The Metaverse September 2021
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In common description, a metaverse is the convergence of real, virtual, and augmented worlds in a shared and persistent connected space. Within that space, people can socialize and participate in synchronous events. The sale of digital items and experiences would drive the metaverse's economy. Although the concept exists only in the confines of novels and films, companies are showing an increasing interest in making the metaverse—or at least their versions of it—a reality.
In April 2021, Epic Games announced that it had collected $1 billion from investors to fund its long-term vision of a metaverse. During the past few years, Epic Games has used the popularity of Fortnite to experiment with metaverse ideas, including real-time events, such as concerts and movie watch parties, synchronized across all 10 million users simultaneously.
Facebook Horizon, currently in beta, is a virtual world that allows people to socialize and have shared experiences. Facebook also recently introduced Facebook Workrooms to provide an alternative to video calls for remote workers and distributed teams.
The government of South Korea is leading a public–private partnership into the development of a metaverse ecosystem in Korea. The partnership already has interest from more than 200 companies, including Samsung, all three of Korea's major telecoms, and Hyundai.
The covid‑19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of video calls, remote work, and digital entertainment. These rapid changes have inspired companies to consider what a possible future could look like if these trends continue. A metaverse, accessible through computers and mobile devices but also through virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets, could represent that future. Development of a singular metaverse that allows users to move between environments and experiences that various entities control—and maintain their avatars and digital possessions—would require extensive industry collaboration, which seems unlikely given the behavior of large technology companies in recent decades. Nevertheless, the World Wide Web and email are examples of industry standards creating an ecosystem that allows users to interact with systems from a wide variety of companies using various software interfaces.
The metaverse could become a staple of the connected home by allowing people to work remotely, socialize, experience new activities, and shop, all from their homes. Although the metaverse is likely years away from development and popular adoption, companies should consider the potential opportunities the metaverse enables. Early example opportunities include the sale of digital versions of real world items and virtual stores for e‑commerce shopping.