Just as Sputnik kicked off a race for technological supremacy, Meta’s announcement last October has sparked a new competition between tech giants. Envisioned as the next evolution of the internet, the metaverse would bring augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) technology to create more interactive and immersive online social experiences. To highlight its commitment, Meta has announced multiple investments toward building developer tools, AI supercomputers, and digital infrastructure.
Competitors and companies providing public cloud hyperscale capabilities – that is the ability to achieve massive scale in computing – such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon aren’t sitting idly by, but are moving swiftly to develop their metaverse initiatives. The recent acquisition of Activision for $69B by Microsoft, continued development of AR technology by Google, and a new metaverse game from Amazon (a weird marketing exercise using avatars to explain how to use AWS) are all efforts to claim a piece of the new emerging market.
While the focus on the new exciting software and hardware devices will dominate the public perception of the metaverse, an equally important, if not more critical race to build the next generation of internet infrastructure is already in full swing. Here’s what is happening behind the scenes:
A multi-trillion-dollar prize at stake
Winning this race opens the doors to an emerging market estimated to be worth trillions of dollars with its enormous business opportunities and benefits. Everything from shopping, games and other social events could take place in the metaverse, which makes it a gold mine for data. This is why hyperscalers such as Meta, Google, Amazon, and even others in Asia such as Bytedance and Tencent are moving quickly to own the experience from the hardware to the software. Over the next decade, this competition will drive new advancements in technology with the ultimate goal of being the first to reach users.
The metaverse will physically reshape the internet
Put simply, our current digital infrastructure is not up to the task of supporting a metaverse. Connecting thousands or millions of VR headsets to an interactable digital world requires huge amounts of bandwidth and very low latency to enable a usable experience. The connectivity demands will only increase as the user base and the amount of data grows. At the center of all this infrastructure are data centers as they will be the engines providing all of the computing, graphics processing, and storage needed to power the metaverse. Companies will have to build more data centers and upgrade existing ones with new technologies such as AI chips, solid-state storage, and high-speed interconnect. Subsequently, we will see the acceleration of fiber optics being laid down in cities and neighborhoods to improve the connection between users and data centers.