Metaverse, a combination of ‘meta,’ meaning beyond, and ‘universe,’ is a term coined by Neal Stephenson, a science fiction writer, in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Today, the term has a lot more than romantic appeal.
The metaverse refers to highly interactive virtual worlds — where land, buildings, and even personalized avatars can be traded — often using cryptocurrency. In the metaverse’s virtual environments, people can explore various places, make friendships, build virtual assets, purchase goods and services, and attend virtual events.
The metaverse concept has gripped popular imagination, particularly during the recent pandemic as lockdown measures and remote working policies compelled more people to explore online virtual worlds for both business and entertainment.
How Does the Metaverse Work?
Since time immemorial, humans have developed various technologies to derive interactive communication and entertainment by tricking our senses. From televisions, audio speakers to the recent technological developments like interactive video games, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) served this purpose very well. In the future, we may also develop highly advanced technological tools to trick our other senses, such as smell or touch.
The metaverse is the recent technological advance towards that futuristic objective. Powered by blockchain technology, metaverse platforms allow people to build, own and trade decentralized digital assets using cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In simpler terms, the metaverse helps to connect our physical world to our fabricated extensions of reality, that is, the virtual world.
The metaverse concept might organize our societies very well or could trigger new political and cultural shifts. These are within shared standards and protocols that bring a different virtual world experience and augmented realities into an open metaverse. It could help people to interact, collaborate, and to bring down duplication of assets and skills.
In addition, the metaverse is also an experiment to find ways to solve various societal problems and to enhance the productivity of the enterprises by blending smartphones, 5G networks, AR, VR, cryptocurrencies, and social media platforms.
The Metaverse and Enterprises
The rise of the metaverse is inevitable. Technology behemoths like Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are determined to embrace the metaverse well ahead of their competitors. Without a doubt, the metaverse has the potential to shape our society, politics, and culture. It also opens new markets, innovative social networks, advanced gadgets, new consumer behavioral patterns, and new patents.
The enterprise arena is fast becoming the key frontier for the metaverse. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international accounting and advisory giant, forecasts VR and AR technologies to bring a $1.5 trillion boost to the global economy by 2030, compared with $46.5 billion in 2019.
BMW, a German multinational luxury automobile maker, has partnered with Nvidia to build a virtual factory as a digital twin – a virtual representation of a physical asset, system, or process – using Omniverse, Nvidia’s metaverse platform. Microsoft has also created its ‘Enterprise Metaverse‘ with Mesh, a collaborative, cloud-based meeting application that can digitally teleport a person to a remote location for highly interactive virtual experiences.
The Benefits of the Metaverse
Most metaverse platforms run on blockchain technology — a decentralized database shared across a network of computers. Once a record has been created and added to the chain, it is very difficult to change or tamper with it. The network makes constant checks to ensure the authenticity of the data created in the database chain. Blockchain technology powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to purchase and trade virtual assets in the metaverse.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a new virtual asset representing digital items such as images, videos, or in-game property owned by users registered on blockchain. It allows NFTs to be collected and traded as digital assets with an intrinsic value. Some value its cultural significance, while others consider them as speculative financial instruments. The metaverse has fueled the growth and acceptance of NFTs on a wider scale. During the pandemic, the first half of 2021, the NFT market has witnessed whopping sales worth $2.5 billion. While a year ago, the sales of NFTs were a meager $13.7 million.
These statistics underscore global trust in blockchain technology and an optimism in the future growth of the metaverse. Blockchain-based platforms and currencies offer better transparency and credibility in interpersonal and business transactions.
Risks Associated with the Metaverse
While the metaverse offers a wide range of business opportunities in the post-pandemic world, the same old cybersecurity risks accompany it. The metaverse is a technology still in a nascent stage. The unpredictability that comes along with it also adds to the risks associated with it.
There is a greater possibility of technology behemoths’ battle for market dominance that intensifies market competition. Eventually, the laggards in the market track the market leaders’ progress to generate their potential revenue and improve their business operations. But, more than anything else, even beyond business adoption and competition, the metaverse is powerful enough to transform the way people play, shop, and interact with and access media.
All these possibilities point towards the significance of state-of-the-art cybersecurity and data privacy measures that have to be implemented by metaverse developers. The up-to-date monitoring of advanced cyberattack threats and the protection of highly sensitive private data such as biometrics may get ahead of the game compared to traditional cybersecurity measures.
The Future of Enterprise Metaverse
Since the metaverse is the combination of both the physical and virtual worlds, the behavior of consumers and their shopping preferences could be totally different in the metaverse than in real life. All these drastic changes in purchase preferences, consumer behavioral patterns, and ever-changing market conditions shatter, in coming days, the foundations of the traditional business models.
In the new business world where artificial intelligence and data science metrics determine the rate of productivity and profits; virtual assistants own the customer relationships, traditional ‘comfort zones’ turn into ‘danger zones’ for most of the enterprises all over the globe.
The metaverse ecosystem also demands that companies conduct regular tweaks to their digital marketing strategies and to do in-depth market research. It helps the enterprises to learn more about the ever-changing behavior of new consumers and safely surf unpredictable market conditions.
As of today, it is unclear to what lengths the metaverse, which completely simulates real life, is possible or how long it would take to develop. Many blockchain-based metaverse platforms are still developing AR and VR technology that will allow users to actively interact in the virtual space.
It can be said that Metaverse — by shifting most of the aspects of our lives onto a virtual universal platform — will extend the traditional cybersecurity issues to a deeper level. Without a doubt, the metaverse enables us to overcome the constraints of the physical world, yet in the process, only replaces it with constraints that the metaverse itself imposes.