- Public acceptance of metaverse technologies for gaming, social media and learning is expanding, according to a report released Tuesday by KPMG. The firm polled 1,000 U.S. adults in July.
- Interest in virtual work metaverse applications was cited by 65% of respondents, and three-quarters said the metaverse could improve job training and higher education.
- Despite majority interest in the metaverse, four in five respondents cited privacy and data protection concerns.
The metaverse is not starved for cash — or company hype.
Major brands like Gucci, Chipotle, Vans and Nike have tested its digital waters, opening virtual stores and branded locations in the world-building online game Roblox. Facebook’s parent company Meta has invested an estimated $21.3 billion in its Oculus products and into developing metaverse technology over the last decade, according to a December Goldman Sachs report.
Ahead of enterprise adoption, what’s lacking is a clear definition of what the metaverse actually is, along with a solid sense of whether the metaverse actually exists.
“Forrester's call is that the metaverse — which we define as a future 3D experience layer of the Internet — doesn't exist today,” J.P. Gownder, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, said in an email. “What we have now are precursor experiences that will evolve into a metaverse.”
Maturing the metaverse is going to take time and innovation, but the process is underway. Gartner forecasts 2030 as the likely due date for a fully functional, interoperable metaverse with its own virtual economy.
In the interim, adjacent and supporting technologies — environmental mapping for robotics and autonomous navigation, edge computing and digital currencies — will lay the groundwork for what the metaverse will become.
“There are protocols that have to be agreed upon, technologies that have to be invented and bandwidth and latency challenges — a lot of unsolved problems that are going to present themselves in very rapid succession, one of which is security around AI and protecting self-learning systems from data poisoning attacks,” said Cliff Justice, KPMG’s U.S. Leader of Enterprise Innovation.
Early indications are that user comfort level with metaverse technologies will grow as virtual and augmented reality applications proliferate. Prior experience with metaverse technologies reduced but did not eliminate personal data security and privacy concerns among those surveyed.
“The security aspect of this is going to have to evolve along with everything else,” Justice said. “It’s not just about protecting the perimeter; it's also about protecting the data that the systems are ingesting and processing and learning from.”
Enterprise applications for metaverse-adjacent technologies have already taken root.
VR and augmented reality platforms that facilitate collaboration in 3D environments and digital twins that simulate processes in manufacturing, medical device development, construction, power plant operations and other complex systems provide glimpses of the metaverse’s potential.
The deployment of immersive technologies to provide virtual tours in real estate is an example of a customer-facing use case that is gaining traction.
“The biggest use cases are probably training, meetings, and collaboration,” Justice said. “The equipment, the connectivity and the bandwidth that you need to have really great experiences in these environments are improving quickly.”
Most companies don’t have a metaverse line item in their budgets currently, but CIOs should explore metaverse precursors “as extensions of existing emerging technology platforms,” Gownder said.
“All in all, this isn't a time for companies to be taken in by hype,” Gownder said. “They should explore tangible scenarios, not vague promises.”