Do you think the Metaverse already exists?

Exactly 20 years ago, I unknowingly prepared myself to contribute modestly to 2 of the 6 blocks of the Metaverse: I was finishing my studies as a telecommunications engineer, and on March 6, 2001, I started my internship at the Australian National University, where I had to explore the limits of Virtual Reality, which already fascinated me at the time. Since then, my common thread has never stopped being closely linked to the digital.

A few months ago I published in Harvard Business Review France an article that detailed the convergence of three ingredients at the heart of the Metaverse.

Since Facebook’s announcements, much ink has been spilled on the subject. The majority of published articles and reports feed many fantasies. Through a series of articles based on an in-depth study we conducted on the Metaverse, Arthur D. Little offers you to go beyond imaginations, help you see better through this technological fog, etc. help you make the right business decisions!

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This article aims to provide an answer to the question “Does the metaverse already exist?” To answer this, it is essential to define what we are talking about. We therefore offer you a definition, and we would very much like to know your definition or how you would like to request ours.

In the 90s, Internet users were prisoners of their access provider

When I think of the Internet in the mid-90s, I think of the mythical sound of the 56k modem. I also think of AOL and its famous “you’ve got mail” (and I’m sure some of you are thinking of the original English version 🙂 ). Once connected to the Internet via AOL, it was possible to access a wide variety of mysterious things. I especially remember “the cats” – which I pronounced in French (meow!). Unfortunately, this door to the Internet was really just a door to a proto-Internet surrounded by impassable walls. A walled garden, without walkways to other gardens. An internet bubble that is not connected to other bubbles. Unable to exchange information or communicate with other walled gardens such as Compuserve, Prodigy, etc.

Towards the end of the 90s, it became clear that the web browser should allow communication and exchange of information with any other user, regardless of their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Internet Service Provider ISP in English. The uses have been overtaken by the walled gardens and the internet has become interoperable (to some extent).

The metaverse (tomorrow) will be at the convergence of a set of proto-metaverses (present) or will not be

The Metaverse is in the same state as the internet in the mid-90s. Today, there is not a metaverse, but a whole set of proto-metaverses. Walled have Metaverse embryos. Most companies, such as Roblox, Epic, Nvidia, Microsoft, Decentraland, and Meta, that want to develop Metaverse are actually developing non-interoperable proprietary platforms. This means that today it is not possible to exchange virtual assets or simply to communicate from one platform to another. Until there is interoperability, there will be no Metaverse – and we will not discuss this critical uncertainty in depth in a future article.

But despite this embryonic state of the Metaverse, it is interesting to look at the definitions and long-term visions that these companies have. Despite the heterogeneity of what they market today (and even the heterogeneity of the industries they come from), there is a strong convergence:

So how do you define the Metaverse?

First of all, you’ll notice that I use the term “metaverse”; and this indicates 2 things. First of all, we use the determiner “the” to emphasize the fact that in order to talk about the Metaverse, a great deal of interoperability will be necessary to leave the walled garden / proto-metaverse of the era. So, just as we use the term Web or Internet in French as in English, we use the English term Metaverse to emphasize the fact that this is the proper name given to this object.

Here is the definition we send you for Metaverse:

The Metaverse is the future version of the Internet, further blurring the boundaries between reality and virtuality, at the convergence of immersive spaces, social and collaborative experiences, and the creator economy.

“Future version of the Internet” emphasizes the fact that this is a new evolution of the Internet and not a paradigm shift or a specific private platform. “Who further blurs the lines between reality and virtuality” aims to highlight that what we call reality is and will be increasingly augmented by layers of digital information. Moreover, our definition seeks to emphasize the fact that the Metaverse is at the core of a great convergence. So the future version of the Internet:

  1. Will be spatialized and increasingly immersive and will take advantage of 3D environments from games and simulations and digital models from industry (digital twins, etc.).
  2. Will enable more and more social experiences and will increasingly facilitate remote collaboration.
  3. Will increasingly exploit creative economy[1] (user-generated content) and marketplaces will increasingly sell physical and digital assets.

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What do you think of this definition? Does it match what we observe around you? Would it apply to your industrial context?

In the next articles, we will elaborate on the three pillars above, and we will present the bricks that make up The Metaverse, in order to analyze the obstacles that must be overcome to allow the emergence of the Metaverse. Finally, we will offer you concrete axes to seize real business opportunities now.

[1] The Creator Economy is an economy facilitated by apps and platforms that allow creators to monetize their creations (virtual and real).

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