The year of the metaverse gold rush

“A lot of things that are physical today, like screens, could just be holograms in the future. You won’t need physical TV… You’re going to be able to go through these different experiences on all kinds of different devices, sometimes in virtual reality to be totally immersed, sometimes using augmented reality glasses to be present in the physical world too, and sometimes on a computer or a phone … Instead of typing or typing, you will be able to make gestures with your hands, say a few words, or even shake things up just by thinking about it. Your devices will no longer be the center of your attention… These are some of the basic concepts of the metaverse, ”explained Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the parent company of Facebook, about 10 minutes away from the 77-minute presentation that aired on October 28, 2021., titled “The metaverse and how we’re going to build it together”.

He also promised viewers that much of it would be generalized in five to 10 years. He then announced the renaming of the company he founded from Facebook to Meta, effectively positioning the company as a key architect of the long-discussed metaverse.

While Zuckerberg’s version of the metaverse may seem straight out of science fiction (indeed, the term originated from science fiction, having been invented by writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel snow accident), some items have been in use for years already and companies are taking action and bracing for profits.

The first metaverse

Fans of virtual reality (VR) games, such as those who use the Oculus Quest 2 millions and earlier versions of VR headsets, have already had a taste of the first Metaverse, where they can play plenty of games. immersive, use fitness apps such as Supernatural, as well as spending time and socializing in virtual reality environments.

As reported by many news platforms including Business intern, during the Christmas period of December 2021, the Oculus VR app, a companion app for use with Meta’s Oculus Quest VR glasses, topped Apple’s app store charts, becoming the downloaded app. number one in the US on Christmas Day and the 26th, becoming one of the top five apps in 14 countries.

Meta does not make sales figures for VR glasses public. However, in November 2021, Cristiano Amon, CEO and President of Qualcomm Technologies, a company that makes the Snapdragon chipset that powers the Oculus Quest 2 glasses, let slip that more than 10 million units had been shipped since the launch of the glasses in October 2020. While that’s a far cry from the billions of phones sold each year, these numbers along with the chart-topping app mark an important moment for the virtual reality, which has long struggled to achieve mainstream success through various iterations. It’s also an important moment not only for Meta, which bought Oculus in 2014, but also for supporters of the Metaverse (s) as the successor to the Internet as we know it today.

A glimpse of a profitable 3D future

Decentraland, a fully-fledged 3D virtual world and metaverse, launched in 2017 and accessible from a VR headset as well as a regular computer, allows users to build the world and purchase virtual plots in the platform as a NFT via the MANA cryptocurrency. The platform did metaverse news in November 2021 when a digital plot of land in Decentraland sold for a record $ 2.43 million worth of cryptocurrency. While far from mainstream, it does offer some insight into the profit potential of the metaverse through trading in fully digital environments..

Nike just did it

In October 2021, the sportswear giant Nike deposit several trademark applications, including, but not limited to “downloadable virtual goods, namely computer programs containing shoes, clothing, headgear, eyewear, bags, sports bags , backpacks, sports equipment, works of art, toys and accessories to use online and virtual worlds’ online.

While the move protects the company’s brand and intellectual property from potential use by other entrepreneurs in the Metaverse, it is not yet clear whether the company is looking to produce virtual clothing that users can purchase. to dress up their avatars. However, in a interview with CNBCTrademarks attorney Josh Gerben says it’s likely the company is looking to do just that. Says Gerben: “They are filing new applications for the company’s main brands, saying they will launch and start selling virtual clothing, headwear, shoes, in online and virtual worlds. That same month, Nike also job virtual shoe material designer vacancies as well as other virtual design roles.

A little over a month later, on December 13, Nike also announcement its acquisition of RTFKT, a virtual design company founded in January 2020, which according to its online profile, “was born on the metaverse ”and uses“ the latest game engines, NFT, blockchain authentication and augmented reality, combined with manufacturing expertise to create unique digital sneakers and artifacts ”.

Visitors experience an immersive art installation titled ‘Machine Hallucinations Space: Metaverse’ by Refik Anadol at the Digital Art Fair Asia showcasing digital art and NFT in Hong Kong, China on Sunday October 3, 2021. Image: Lam Yik / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Beyond the game: enter the immersive virtual office

While virtual meeting spaces aren’t exactly new, Meta took one more step toward refining existing technology when Zuckerberg introduced, when he presented Horizon work rooms. The beta version of the technology is already available to Oculus Quest 2 users. The idea is that users can wear their VR headset and meet in a virtual meeting space, such as a conference room, for a sense of presence. more complete. Each person is represented by an avatar. Where Horizon sets itself apart from the competition is its ability to bring your computer with you into virtual space by projecting your computer screen into the metaverse. Users can also use a virtual keyboard in the virtual space. The environment also has an infinite whiteboard space where users can draw or jot down ideas to share with all meeting participants.

For added presence, the app also uses manual tracking through the headset’s cameras, allowing users to use non-verbal communication signals by moving their hands and pointing in real time. At this point in the beta, the software is bugged in places, where the hands may not move as expected, and the avatars are very cartoonish.

However, Meta is working on a high-end helmet, which will launch in 2022. It is currently called Project Cambria. While Meta has yet to give full details of its capabilities, according to Angela Chang, the company’s head of VR devices, users of the technology can expect to include avatars who will be able to make natural eye contact and reflect facial expressions in real time. , as well as unlock mixed reality experiences where you can merge the physical and virtual worlds. Said Chang: “Imagine working on your virtual desktop with multiple screens while seeing your real desktop so clearly that you can pick up a pen and write notes without removing your headset. Or you do a workout with a virtual instructor in your living room.

Attention, Meta: Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens

Meta isn’t the only company knocking on your virtual office door. Over the past decade, Google and Microsoft have entered the consumer headset market without success; the first with Google Glass in 2013, Google Cardboard in 2014, and the Daydream headset in 2016, and the latter with the Microsoft HoloLens in 2016 and the HoloLens 2 in 2019. Neither has taken off with consumers, and both companies have since pivoted their headsets into professional niche markets.

However, in December 2021, and as reported on, Google hired former Oculus operating systems general manager Mark Lucovsky to lead the “Operating System for Augmented Reality” team at Google. In addition, Google has also announced several senior software development positions in its augmented reality divisions. Just under 18 months earlier, in June 2020, Google’s parent company Alphabet acquired North, a company specializing in the manufacture of augmented reality glasses.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is developing its Microsoft Mesh platform, mixed reality software that can be used with HoloLens as well as other VR headsets, laptops, and mobile devices. As of January 4, 2022, Qualcomm Technologies, the company behind the chipset that powers Meta’s Oculus Quest 2, announced a partnership with Microsoft to create custom augmented reality chips “to enable a new wave of glasses. Lightweight and energy-efficient ARs to provide immersive experiences ”. Much like Meta’s Horizon Workrooms, Microsoft aims to incorporate technology into the virtual workspace, allowing applications like Microsoft Teams to be much more immersive and collaborative.

Apple on the vine

Although Apple has been silent on anything to do with the Metaverse, rumors continue that the company has been secretly working on its own Metaverse for a long time, including a software ecosystem as well as the hardware to access it. From January 2021, Bloomberg reported: “As a predominantly virtual reality device, it will display a full 3D digital environment for games, video viewing and communication. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information on a real world view, will be more limited. Apple plans to launch the product in 2022. “

More recently, the website reported that “Apple has explored virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to more than 10 years on the basis of patent filings, but with virtual and augmented reality exploding in popularity… Apple’s splashing is becoming more and more serious and should lead to an AR / VR product in 2022. DM / ML


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