A lot of investment is currently being made in the Metaverse, this alternative world where you can work, play and meet other people without leaving your home. But will the emergence of this vast virtual space blur the boundaries of reality and redefine the way we consume and communicate?
What is Metaverse?
Everyone only talks about the Metaverse and the concept may seem recent, but in reality the idea appeared in 1992 in a science fiction novel. It is difficult to define exactly what Metaverse means because the technology behind it is constantly evolving to include many aspects of virtual reality. In short, it is a global digital world that exists alongside the real world.
Somnium Space is one of the first “open source” Metaverse platforms to appear on the market. We spoke by video with its founder and CEO Artur Sychov to learn more about what it’s like to live, work and play in this alternative environment.
“When you’re in virtual reality [comme c’est son cas au moment où il s’adresse à nous]you are completely connected to the environment: I am here mentally and I have the physical perception of it,” he points out “Because with everything I see, my brain and my eyes make me think I’m inside this room.”
A growing economy
Somnium Space was one of the pioneering platforms of its kind, but many other competitors have emerged recently. Facebook has become Meta, with the idea of making the Metaverse an important part of its business strategy. But its counterparts Microsoft, Alphabet, Roblox and NVIDIA have also invested heavily in this virtual space.
The Metaverse economy promises a wide range of revenue streams: according to some estimates, this market could grow to $800 billion in just two years. This could bring $3 trillion to the global economy over the next decade.
But Metaverse is not all about entertainment and games. It can also allow companies to find virtual solutions that can be applied in the real world. These solutions are exactly what accounting firm PwC hopes to create thanks to its brand new technology lab in the Middle East.
“At PwC, we see Metaverse as evolution, not revolution,” says Rahaf Abutarbush, laboratory technician at PwC Middle East. “We are very agile with this concept, we are aware that things change, that our customers’ needs can evolve,” she assures.
Leveraging robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and more, PwC’s technology experts create innovative solutions in their EmTech Labs equipped with tools that can push the boundaries of the physical world without losing touch with reality.
In the Metaverse you can do almost anything: hold business meetings, organize large collaborations, give keynote presentations or in this case media interviews.
“Our clients are no longer satisfied with coming to see us for advice or Powerpoint presentations, for example,” explains Stephen Anderson, who leads PwC’s strategy and markets team in the Middle East. “They want to see things in action, and new technologies are important from that perspective,” he says.
What about security?
The popularity of virtual reality raises concerns about its impact on human interactions, social isolation and mental health. Children are spending more and more time online, and in the Metaverse, the lack of clear rules can make it a dangerous place. How can platforms tackle this problem?
Tami Bhaumik is the Vice President of Civility and Partnerships at Roblox, a global platform with over 40 million daily users.
“We are a technology platform that allows people to create experiences and publish them on our platform,” remembers Tami Bhaumik. “You have to have an environment where people are polite to fully express your imagination,” she insists. “Often parents ask us, ‘What is Roblox? How can I keep my kids safe? How do I know if it’s safe?’ I realized that there was not only a responsibility, but also an opportunity to inform, given the size of our community,” she acknowledges.
Tami Bhaumik says his company is committed to enforcing rules on these virtual reality platforms, but also to empowering its young users and their educators to take advantage of the virtual gaming revolution in safety.