Admit it! When Morpheus offered Neo the blue or red pill on our movie screens—blue to stay in the Matrix, red to wake up to reality—all of us wanted him to go for the red one. What came next was a journey that redefined our approach to science fiction forever.
And now, let’s reverse the scenario. What if, instead of waking up in a dystopian future like Neo, we could augment our real-world experiences in a parallel digital universe? How would it feel to watch the sunrise across the Sea of Japan, go scuba diving in the Maldives, witness Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower and hear the roar of Niagara Falls—all from the comfort of your study?
Say hello to the “phygital” possibilities of the 21st century.
Welcome To The Metaverse
Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his 1992 best-seller, Snow Crash. He used it to refer to a three-dimensional virtual world, populated by the digital avatars of real people. While several other publications (some predating Stephenson) mention Metaverse-like systems, Snow Crash, along with Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Ready Player One, remains the most common reference point for enthusiasts.
Although many people view the metaverse as purely a gaming environment, it really refers to a whole new realm outside of our physical reality. The metaverse has emerged as an expanding network of real-time 3-D-rendered simulations and scenarios, combining a truly immersive presence into self-sufficient, virtual ecosystems.
Similar to the technology that allowed Neo to travel back and forth between the Matrix and reality, the metaverse today serves as a bridge connecting virtual and physical worlds. This has led us to relook at the way we interact, communicate and collaborate and has highlighted the growing importance of leveraging VR and AR in transforming the underlying experiences.
For businesses, the metaverse is a yet untapped revenue stream—one that promises to redefine all current paradigms. From the shop floor to the top floor, the potential of leveraging metaverse-driven solutions is immense, and we have only scratched the surface.
Understanding The Implications: A Three-Point Roadmap
As the world wakes up to the potential offered by a 3-D internet, metaverse use cases continue to emerge. As an engineering research and development (ER&D) company, we feel that this is the right time to get in at the ground floor and drive the development of applications and programs which define the road ahead.
Here are some of the key focus areas:
1. Design Prototyping And Showcasing: Working through the design process for a new product can become a lot easier when we can perceive it without having to spend time, money or materials on physical mockups. A leading automotive OEM did just that, developing a subcompact SUV for their Latin American markets by completely relying on virtual prototypes. VR technology allowed the team to work safely during the pandemic and drastically cut costs while meeting timelines. Again, VR delivers a far greater impact than legacy modes in product demonstration and showcasing. In a post-pandemic ecosystem, this also translates into wider reach and availability, setting aside limitations, including travel and cost constraints.
2. Driving Collaboration: Effective collaboration is another key benefit of the Metaverse. AR/VR opens up new avenues for driving an immersive interface both in-house and with customers, facilitates remote model demonstrations and minimizes the need for travel—key considerations in a post-pandemic world. Teams no longer need to rely solely on video calls, and can now collaborate seamlessly using VR headsets. This ability to engage in charrette-type scenarios could define work paradigms for years to come.
3. Delivering BIM Coordination: Building information modeling (BIM) represents an upgrade on the legacy CAD methods. VR helps take it a step further with robust digital twin modeling by replicating the target physical asset with an unmatched level of detail. Digital twins are a great way to drive the next level of design, installation, operation and maintenance for machinery, transforming the whole legacy approach to manufacturing.
Key Considerations For A Meta-Future
We feel that businesses that are looking to make their impact in the metaverse need to focus on two key considerations.
First, there’s talent. We will see a rise in the demand for skilled AR- and VR-focused software engineers and game designers for developing truly immersive virtual experiences. Blockchain engineers and NFT specialists will be required to help ensure security and reliability within the metaverse. Focused product managers would help drive social experiences, enhance remote presence and expand human connections.
However, finding the right talent mix could prove to be a task that may be easier said than done. Businesses need to be ready and willing to invest in skill-building and talent acquisition to meet the emerging requirements.
Secondly, there’s the lead-in time for returns on investment. The metaverse concept is about a year old. While its primary drivers, AR/VR and blockchain technology, have been around for a bit longer, it seems that we would need some more time for a matured business paradigm to emerge.
Companies looking to expand in the space would therefore have to be patient for a while before they start seeing returns on their investment. With global metaverse revenues expected to top $800 billion by 2024 through tackling live events and advertisements, the returns, however, seem assured.
Let New Stories Emerge
The internet revolutionized how we tell and share our stories. As the world embraces the “phygital” and our narratives evolve, great stories will no longer be in verse—they will be told in the metaverse.
It’s time to prepare for internet 3.0.