- This regular roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the development of the metaverse.
- Top metaverse stories: Apple enters the headset market; Industrial and enterprise metaverse ‘exceeding expectations’; and Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard takeover blocked.
1. Apple enters the headset market as Meta plans new Quest 3
Apple has launched an augmented reality (AR) headset, marking a shift forward in the technology that could help bring the realization of the metaverse a step closer.
Apple’s Vision Pro headset – the brand’s first new product launch in over a decade – is being billed as a “spatial computer” that “lets users interact with digital content in a way that feels like it is physically present in their space”.
The Vision Pro overlays real-world environments with elements of AR, and allows 100% virtual reality (VR) experiences. Its ultra-high-resolution display has 23 million pixels and a custom dual-chip design to prevent the kind of visual lags that would impair metaverse experiences. The price of Vision Pro will start at $3,499.
Apple appears to be pushing hard to make headway in the headset market. The news comes amid reports that the firm has bought US-based AR start-up Mira, which makes headsets for other firms and the US Army.
Meta will be launching a new higher-resolution headset at some point this year. The Quest 3 will offer VR and mixed-reality experiences and will feature “pancake optics” to improve visuals, as well as a next-generation chipset developed with Qualcomm Technologies to create smoother graphics. It will be priced from $499.99.
2. Industrial and enterprise metaverse are ‘exceeding expectations’
Developments in the industrial and enterprise metaverse are “exceeding expectations”, according to a new study by Nokia and EY.
Companies already using the metaverse for industrial and enterprise applications are seeing major cost reductions – up to 15 percentage points in terms of capital expenditure and six percentage points for operational expenditure, The Metaverse at Work report says. This is beyond what firms in the planning phases for these applications have been forecasting.
The most common use cases include aiding with design and testing, such as through virtual prototypes, and optimizing elements of production and delivery, such as supply chains.
Almost 60% of companies who intend to venture into the industrial or enterprise metaverses have already got at least a pilot programme running, the report says.
The US and UK are ahead in these metaverse spaces, with 65% of report respondents in the US and 64% in the UK currently beyond the pilot stage or having fully deployed at least one industrial or enterprise metaverse use case.
However, there are still hurdles to overcome, including the set-up of extensive technical elements, particularly in cloud computing, AI, and network infrastructure and connectivity. Finding people with the right expertise in these areas is also an obstacle, the report says.
3. News in brief: Top metaverse stories
- Microsoft’s planned takeover of video game developer and publisher Activision Blizzard has been blocked in the US and the UK. The $75 billion deal had been hailed as a game-changer for the immersive gaming sector and a potential gateway that could unlock wider metaverse use, as World Economic Forum Digital Editor for Strategic Intelligence, John Letzing, writes.
- Meta is allowing teenagers into its Horizon Worlds virtual space, insisting that a “robust set of age-appropriate protections and safety defaults” will be in place, including expanded VR parental supervision tools. The new rules apply to teens aged 13-17 in the US and Canada. Risks for vulnerable groups such as youngsters are one of the key concerns around the metaverse, as the World Economic Forum has discussed, with worries they could be exacerbated compared with the current iteration of the internet.
- The metaverse could help in the fight against global warming by cutting emissions from sectors such as transport, according to Cornell University. It says that expanding the metaverse could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the US by 2050, and lower global surface temperatures by 0.02°C by the end of the century.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) could also benefit from the metaverse, according to EY’s 2023 Metaverse Readiness Survey. Around two-thirds of respondents said the virtual world will give them a chance to reboot their approach to the workplace, making it more diverse and inclusive. EY says strong DE&I policies will be crucial to building trust in the metaverse.
- Many companies are not giving customers what they want from metaverse experiences, according to McKinsey. It says consumers are seeking “real-world applicability” for metaverse applications, meaning they want advances that connect the physical and digital spaces – such as workout classes or cooking classes – rather than futuristic offerings such as virtual events.
- Universal Studios is working on the integration of metaverse technologies into its theme parks. This includes merging rides with augmented reality experiences where visitors can compete in games against each other, according to Forbes. It says metaverse technologies could “completely revolutionize theme parks worldwide”.
- Other applications are also emerging in the tourism sector. French hotel group Accor is creating metaverse-enhanced experiences of Pompeii for guests staying in the city, enabling them to see what it might have been like before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Accor also says the metaverse could revolutionize training in the hospitality industry by allowing staff to learn and test out new skills in virtual environments.
4. More on the metaverse on Agenda
- AI is supporting the work of many industries in the metaverse, say the World Economic Forum’s Kelly Ommundsen and Jaci Eisenberg. From helping with research and innovation to facilitating collaboration and knowledge exchange, here are the ways AI is speeding up the development of the metaverse.
- The metaverse has the potential to be more inclusive than the offline world, but a comprehensive approach is needed to address inclusion at every touchpoint. Inter-organizational initiatives and individual ownership will be key to ensuring the metaverse moves in this direction.
- How will the metaverse alter our body language and other “Presence and Awareness Cues” (PAACs)? Around 90% of consumers rely on PAACs in their daily online interactions, but little systemic work has been done to develop standards and safety practices in this area.