According to Gartner, by 2026, a quarter of us will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse.  “Vendors are already building ways for users to replicate their lives in digital worlds,” said Marty Resnick, research vice president at Gartner. “From attending virtual classrooms to buying digital land and constructing virtual homes, these activities are currently being conducted in separate environments. Eventually, they will take place in a single environment – the metaverse – with multiple destinations across technologies and experiences.”

Using mobile digital devices to access metaverse spaces will also become common. Already, AR is rapidly evolving as the technology needed to power these immersive spaces develop. “Enterprises will have the ability to expand and enhance their business models in unprecedented ways by moving from a digital business to a metaverse business,” said Resnick. “By 2026, 30% of the organizations in the world will have products and services ready for metaverse.”

And research from job search engine Adzuna reveals a marked increase in job vacancies for metaverse specialists. James Neave, head of data science at Adzuna, comments: “Hiring metaverse experts is the latest recruitment trend to show exponential growth. The last three months have seen a surge in job openings related to the metaverse both here in the UK and over in the US, with demand catalysed by Zuckerberg’s Facebook rebranding and refocusing exercise. Metaverse experts are the new hot ticket with related roles ranging from developers, to data scientists, writers, and creatives. It follows booming interest in crypto roles throughout 2021 and a tech sector that continues to go from strength to strength.”

To gain an insight into how the metaverse in the mobile space could develop, Silicon UK spoke with Rehab, a creative technology agency, working with major brands to deliver innovative digital experiences, and have recently worked with the likes of Facebook, Google and Nike. For example, they created ‘Nike Coach’, Nike’s first one-to-one voice experience.

Takunda Chikuku, Project Strategist, Rehab.

Takunda Chikuku, Project Strategist, Rehab.

Robin Hunter, Creative Technologist, Rehab.

Robin Hunter, Creative Technologist, Rehab.

Is the ultimate future of the Metaverse on mobile devices?

Takunda: “Mobile devices are a stepping stone into the future of the metaverse, they make sense now due to their ubiquitous nature. With around 80% of us walking around glued to them every day, you could say we’ve already been living in the metaverse.

“Those flying cars and dynamic billboards from the Jetsons? Look around you (or just at your phone) they are already here, it’s Instagram, Twitter and Clubhouse. Web 2.0 abstracted these ideas and contained them in our rectangular handheld boxes, with Web 3.0 and the metaverse it’s all about unbundling these metaphors into 3D tangible digital objects you can touch and interact within a physical space – where the world will start to seem a little closer to the Jetsons and Futurama.

“Being able to see people miles away right in front of you, and scaling objects to life-size, is an exciting prospect but the best form factor for that experience isn’t a mobile device; it’s our five senses: our eyes, ears, hands, and yes even our noses and taste buds.”

Is a fully immersive experience waiting for mobile digital technologies to catch up? Are we waiting for immersive digital glasses to arrive?

Takunda: “I think we are waiting for a breakout device that inspires and changes the average person’s understanding of what’s possible. When Steve Jobs came on stage and unveiled the iPhone, it shifted the paradigm and set the tone for the next decade. We’ve seen companies born and grown into megacorps off of the smartphone platform.

“A similar R&D and incubation period is happening now with immersive glasses which started a decade ago with the Google Glass & Oculus. However, they were too ahead of their time and were either ridiculed in culture or only found a small niche user base.

“For an always-on, immersive, metaverse experience, tech companies can’t just focus on the tech, these devices will have to be worn on the face, therefore they face a whole lot more challenges that will need to be addressed before mainstream adoption. They will need to pass the social acceptance test, be fashionable enough to wear constantly, deal with privacy, and fit in a device that’s slim enough to sit on your face all day.”

Is the 3D space that Meta envisages just one of the ‘types’ of Metaverse that will evolve? The Metaverse for your phone. The Metaverse for your desktop. And the Metaverse for your VR?

Takunda: “The Meta vision of the metaverse is indeed just one of these types of environments. There will be many more virtual environments from different players, with a varying scale between centralised and decentralised. However, that environment will be the same whether you access it on mobile, desktop, or through glasses. The devices are just an entry point into a persistent world regardless of the form factor, not isolated containers for different virtual environments. That’s where the exciting promise of the metaverse lies, picking how you marry the real and virtual, picking up where you left off with whatever device suits the context.”

Robin: “For me, what would make a ‘true’ metaverse would be a digital layer overlaid onto the world seen through a wearable smart glasses device. The Internet, as we know it right now, is “singular” – in that it’s the backbone that enables millions of servers to blast packets into space and back to transfer whatever it is that’s being transferred. The point is that having “Metaverse for Desktop” or “Metaverse for work” (or however it manifests), might be similar to how there are formal spaces online (like google drive) and fun spaces (like games). There could be one massive metaverse that houses and powers everything with a bunch of different “places” within it.”

Outside of entertainment, do we really need an immersive Metaverse, especially in the business space?

Takunda: Definitely. It frees you from being chained to a desk and screen and offers worldwide access.

Robin: “I am not sure. Although I can’t envisage going back to the office Mon – Fri ever again, drawing the conclusion that we’ll be 100% remote, strapped into a virtual space, seems a bit of a leap. Being in the same room as others is so key and powerful. If digital presence improves – then maybe it will all change.

“This week, I’ve been thinking about the internet and the pandemic more broadly. If the pandemic had hit 15 years ago, the “business tools” of the web probably wouldn’t quite have stacked up for use in schools or social life, and the pandemic probably would have affected society a lot more. However, our current tools (like G Drive, Teams, Twitter) were made and designed without a pandemic in mind, but have bailed us out in this lockdown. But these lofty aims of “digital presence” “digital self-expression” just aren’t here yet. If there were and the pandemic hit, would we even realise?”

Have strong business cases for developing some form of ‘Metaverse for business’ with available technologies come into focus yet?

Takunda: “Like some of the examples mentioned above, there are emerging business cases for developing an enterprise version or extension (since they might run on the same operating system) of the metaverse. Looking at enterprise devices like Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality glasses we can see how valuable it is for creators in the design field like architects and car builders to be able to try their designs in a virtual environment and make changes on the fly. Trimble, for example, allows builders to place their digital data onto the physical world with augmented and mixed reality solutions from mobile devices to the Hololens AR glasses promising fewer errors, improved safety and quality, and collaboration without boundaries.

“I think it will be those types of fields that deal with materialising designs into real-world objects that will drive the adoption of the metaverse for businesses as they see reduced design and production costs positively impacting their bottom line. Slowly, more and more business cases will emerge to where we replace or augment our office workspaces and enter the business metaverse.”

David Howell

Dave Howell is a freelance journalist and writer. His work has appeared across the national press and in industry-leading magazines and websites. He specialises in technology and business. Read more about Dave on his website: Nexus Publishing. https://www.nexuspublishing.co.uk.

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