Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the only person waging big with the metaverse. Nearly every executive I know sees big potential with this technology and it could completely disrupt the way we do business in manufacturing, energy, automotive, retail, construction, healthcare, pharma, and beyond.
This is a conversation I had in late June with Lucia Mirabella, head of design and simulation systems at Siemens, and it is still very much a topic I am unpacking. The reality is different parts of a company are going to do different versions of simulation and these all may somehow get painted as either the digital twin or the metaverse. There are many layers to this.
“I see it the same way,” says Mirabella. “Here is the simulation model and all the math to solve it. And then there is another layer that takes the data from the field and … uses it to improve your model and keep it up to date. And then there is the way of using the digital twin model, which could be many different things, but the aspects of the metaverse that I mentioned today are what we are betting on that is going to make it more easily usable.”
What Exactly Is the Metaverse, Then?
The word metaverse is kind of like saying the internet. It is a wide and vast concept that means different things to different people. Let’s step back for a minute and break this down.
Meta is the Greek prefix for beyond, across, or after. Verse, in this context, is a shortening for the word universe. Quite simply, when many refer to a metaverse, they are referring to a simulated digital environment that uses AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) technologies to create an immersive online experience.
One of the early references to the metaverse was in a dystopian novel called Snow Crashwritten by Neal Stephenson roughly 30 years ago where he imagined and created a place where characters used headphones and goggles to enter this new world as an avatar where they can explore and meet with other avatars. The book was packed with adventure where the heroes had to save the world from an “infocalypse.” Flash forward, and the metaverse is everywhere: in movies, in books, and in our conversations. Some see big opportunities for gaming and entertainment. Others see big opportunity for business. Let’s dig in a little bit deeper to why exactly a business would even need a metaverse.
Why Do We Even Need the Metaverse?
The metaverse might draw an image of a digital destination where we hang out with our friends, turning traditional social media into something much more interactive, but the opportunities go much deeper for businesses. The metaverse has the opportunity to create a new world where we are able to work and collaborate in new and different ways—and the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the need for such a virtual universe.
But it also goes much deeper than this. When we combine the power of the metaverse with digital twin and other technologies we can solve things like our current hurdles with circularity.
Mirabella explains it this way, “Since you now can do it for multiple stages, you can let’s say I am now designing something, I am going to simulate how I designed it before, I am going to simulate how that design is going to be manufactured, I can simulate how I am going to recycle or decompose it. Once you have simulated, before even doing the developer step, you make a choice at the beginning, if you go with that without understanding the impact on the end of life, you are stuck. If you can simulate in advance, you can take action before.”
And, of course, this is simply one example. When we really give it some thought, the opportunities the digital twin and the metaverse offer could potentially solve some of the biggest challenges we face in our businesses today. We just have to get a little bit creative.
When Will Metaverse Arrive?
According to Precedence Research, the global metaverse market size is projected to be worth around $1.6 trillion by 2030 at an expanding growth at a rate of 50.74% from 2022 to 2030. That is a pretty large prediction, but 2030 is still several years away. Could we potentially see the metaverse come to industries sooner than that, like this year?
ABI Research says no, the metaverse will not arrive in 2022 or, for that matter, within the typical 5-year forecast window. One missing piece is an ability to connect all the diverse pieces that are supposed to make up the metaverse. While the internet is the logical connector, the reality is the 5G network is going to be the missing link to connect all the pieces, many of which are mobile in nature—smartphones, tablets, etc.
The good news is many technology providers are working hard on the connectivity, the interoperability, and all the technologies that would enable the metaverse. One thing is for certain: The future is artificial, which is going to add a lot of intelligence to businesses, if done right. More to come I am sure of this, as I have seen it firsthand.