Is the Metaverse only a Virtual Reality?
So… Metaverse = VR ?
Since Meta (formerly known as Facebook) launched the Metaverse, there are more and more concepts and platforms that present their very own Metaverse solution. And more and more companies are branding their solutions Metaverse. The term appeals, markets well and attracts attention. At the same time, the interpretations of what the Metaverse is supposed to be are quite different. Many Metaverse use cases take place in a virtual world. Virtual reality is often used as a synonym. And as soon as something takes place in a virtual environment, or virtual reality glasses are involved, the next moment people start talking about the Metaverse. In the same time – according to DEPT – only 16% of people say they understand what the Metaverse is. That together is easy pray for misunderstandings.
No wonder that many people relate the Metaverse to a VR. And it seems like the elephant is in the room, if the Metaverse is only a Virtual Reality? Let’s check in with that elephant and lets also look at how different companies interpret the Metaverse.
just fyi: We won’t cover if the Metaverse will make it or if and how people want to interact with it. This article is focused on the question if the Metaverse is a VR.
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The first impression of the Metaverse is a Virtual Reality
The Metaverse is supposed to merge our physical world with the virtual world in the future, enabling us to do entirely new things. Not long after Facebook’s supposed birth of the Metaverse, however, many questions remain unanswered. Nevertheless, the Metaverse is en Vogue. After all, it was brought to life by non-other than Mark Zuckerberg himself. And finally, he is investing several billion USD in the realization of the Metaverse. Not everyone is happy about the results, and the concept obviously still needs a lot of explaining not long after its launch. And the first impression of the Metaverse (Horizon by Meta) is playful, colorful and, how could it be otherwise, virtual reality.
Metaverse vs. Second Life – yet another Virtual World
As soon as the Metaverse was announced, it was immediately compared to the online game Second Life, which has been around since 2003. In Second Life, players can stay online with the help of avatars. They can contact other players, make purchases, and even trade property within the virtual world. Many people therefore perceive it as a kind of virtual world.
The pandemic was a turbo charger for VR and the Metaverse
During the pandemic, virtual formats experienced an extreme boom. Online collaboration and virtual events in particular are children of the pandemic, since personal contact was of course completely stopped for the time being. A bit of VR was definitely a welcome alternative during the time when many were just sitting at home.
There were music concerts in VR, like Astronomical. Or one could test drive a Ferrari in Fortnite. And although the contact restrictions have largely been lifted and the situation is normalizing, concerts continue to take place in the Metaverse, such as Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest in Decentraland. We are not rating the concert here. It’s just to give you an idea of what the Metaverse is all about. Or how marketers and brands make use of it.
You can find the Ozzy Metaverse concert here: Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest in Decentraland
An external opinion can be found here: Ozzy Osbourne “performed” in the Metaverse and it was comically horrible.
Every VR is being “metaversed”
So, post-pandemic, it just seems like everything is getting packed into the Metaverse. Every 2D scenario gets a 3D painting and then it’s called a Metaverse. In addition, every virtual world, no matter how small, is currently positioned as a “Metaverse”. This is quite appealing for marketers, because “Metaverse” simply sounds better than “Virtual Reality”. The Metaverse generates more attention and sells better than a VR use case. Metaverse just sounds better than a “replica in Minecraft”. So as soon as something brings a touch of virtual world or VR, it’s called a Metaverse.
Here’s what it currently looks like:
- Collaboration in VR = Metaverse
- Concerts in VR = Metaverse
- Other Events in VR = Metaverse
- Gaming in VR = Metaverse
- Learning in VR = Metaverse
- Trade shows in VR = Metaverse
- Product demos in VR = Metaverse
But is the Metaverse really just a VR or a pure virtual world – a few interpretations
When you look a bit closer, it gets obvious however, that the idea of the Metaverse is by far more than just a VR. And definitely far more than a VR with bad graphics. Let’s look a few examples:
Let’s take Meta`s statement first, as it’s the mother of the Metaverse
At its core, the metaverse is a place for social connection. It lets people around the world create and explore a set of interconnected experiences, regardless of their physical location. (Meta definition)
This sounds a bit like a VR, but when you continue searching, you find that also Meta sees more in it: … It will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into 3 dimensions or projected into the physical world—and seamlessly stitched together so that you can easily jump from one thing to another. … (Meta Let me explain episode)
This clearly includes AR as well.
Metaverse Shopping Mall for the Future of eCommerce at Alibaba
The Meta-definition of the Metaverse sounds very similar to what Alibaba just addressed. Tech giant Alibaba is driving the development of the Metaverse and wants to shape the the future of online shopping. For this purpose, Alibaba’s Taobao has built a fully immersive virtual mall for shopping in the Metaverse. It will blend information from the virtual and physical world, providing customers with a comprehensive shopping experience. Earlier this year, Alibaba Taobao also launched a ‘Metaverse Mall’ for China’s 618 Shopping Festival. The first impression – once again – is virtual reality. But if you dive deeper, you can easily discover more technologies, like AI, IoT and Blockchain, that play a role in the Metaverse.
Of course, Alibaba doesn’t want to miss a trend either and thus creates its very own interpretation of the Metaverse. More specifically, of the Web3 – the next generation of the Internet (Alibaba Metaverse).
NVIDIA Omniverse and Metaverse Platforms for industrial automation
Yet another interpretation can be found in the industrial context. These examples stretch their arms around a whole range of various scenarios and use cases. From planning to simulation, all the way to production and maintenance. Using real time data to enrich the physical world to create value is one of the core ideas. An overlay of digital information allows to make data tangible in an Augmented Reality layer. Quite similar to the Pokémon Go idea but of course far more complex. But VR and AR are not the only technologies that play a key role in industrial Metaverse scenarios. It is more the combination of various technologies, like IoT, Digital Twins, as well as AI.
Industrial Metaverse platforms allow a completely new type of user experience with industrial applications. These industrial Metaverse platforms are seen as the evolution of industrial automation. Autonomous factories are not a new idea, but the Metaverse hype certainly helps to market the idea. The NVIDIA and Siemens Omniverse partnership provides a nice example for this.
„Metaverse Technologies“ for business applications at SAP
As a leading business software company understanding the Metaverse and its potential is also quite important for SAP. And yes, we also work on various scenarios using primarily virtual reality. Like the virtual office showcase below illustrates.
We also explore the impact of virtual reality and the Metaverse on the future of work. And we need to understand the impact of such concepts on the business environment. Not sure if a colorful virtual world is the right answer in a business context. But it is necessary to look at the impact of such concepts on business networks and the collaboration across companies and the potential impact on different business processes.
When we look at business processes and the merger of the virtual and the physical world, it becomes obvious, that there are many more technologies involved. And that its probably more than just a virtual world. To make tangible, we created a small overview of digital technologies that could form the Metaverse.
- What is the Metaverse?
- Which technologies shape the Metaverse
- How you can use NFTs
- How Virtual Reality can be used in a business environment
- How technology scouting helps to stay ahead of new tech trends
- More related topics here: Digital Innovation and Technologies
Conclusion: The Metaverse is the Next-Gen Internet and goes far beyond VR
First thing – there is not THE Metaverse, but rather various Metaverse platforms that all have a slightly different interpretation of how our virtual future should look like. And at this point it is already clear that the Metaverse is far more than a VR. Even if virtual worlds are currently in the spotlight. The concept goes beyond that and combines various digital technologies. It is more a step towards the next generation of the Internet. And looking at how the Internet has changed our life and disrupted the analog world, the future of the Metaverse is exciting to think about. Be it in VR or not. And before we get there the Metaverse still has to mature and prove itself useful. At the same time, the necessary hardware, such as VR / AR / MX glasses, must also mature in order to seamlessly merge the physical with the virtual world.
But it will take some time before the Metaverse dominates our reality on a large scale, and a lot of money will have to be invested. After all, what do we get out of the most beautiful virtual world and the best digital apps, if we can’t get into it and use them? So, we better speed up and use the time to simultaneously close all the WiFi gaps and implement fiber-optic broadband networks…
For my part, I’m going to close my laptop now and go for a run in the forest and enjoy the real nature and the fresh air without any digital interruptions – #digitaldetox. 😊
Food for thought:
What if Meta didn’t announce the Metaverse? How would things be like today? What do you think?
And what if VR etc. glasses and the necessary hardware don’t make it? Will this mean the end of all those Metaverse visions?