Do you think the Metaverse already exists?

Exactly 20 years ago, I was preparing, without knowing it, to modestly contribute to 2 of the 6 bricks of the Metaverse: I was finishing my studies as a telecommunications engineer and on March 6, 2001 I was starting my internship at the Australian National University where I was going to explore the frontiers of Virtual Reality that already fascinated me at the time. Since then, my common thread has never ceased to be intimately linked to digital.

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

From the Facebook ads, a lot of ink has been spilled on the subject. Most of the published articles and reports feed a lot of 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 fantasies, to help you see better through this technological fog, and so on. decisions!

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

In the 1990s, internet users were prisoners of their access provider

When I think of the internet in the mid 90’s, 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 whole host of mysterious things. I particularly remember the “cats” – which I pronounced in French (meow!). Unfortunately, this gateway to the Internet was really just a gateway to a proto-Internet surrounded by impassable walls. An enclosed garden with no walkways to other gardens. An Internet bubble, unrelated to other bubbles. Impossible to exchange information or communicate with other walled gardens such as Compuserve, Prodigy etc.

In the late 1990s, it became clear that the web browser had to allow communication and exchange of information with any other user, regardless of their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Internet Service Provider ISP in English. Uses have prevailed over walled gardens and the internet has become interoperable (to some extent).

The Metaverse (of tomorrow) will be at the convergence of a set of proto-metaverses (current) or it will not be

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

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

So how is the Metaverse defined?

First of all you will notice that I use the term “the Metaverse”; and this denotes 2 things. First, we use the determinant “the” to underline the fact that to talk about the Metaverse it will be necessary to have a great interoperability to get out of the walled garden / proto-metaverses era. So just as we use the term Web or Internet in French as we do in English, we use the English term Metaverse to emphasize the fact that it is the proper name given to this object.

Here is the definition we submit for the Metaverse:

The Metaverse is the future version of the Internet that further blurs the boundaries between reality and virtuality, at the convergence of immersive spaces, social and collaborative experiences and the economics of creators.

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

  1. It will be spatialized and increasingly immersive, and will exploit 3D gaming environments and digital simulations and industry models (digital twins, etc.).
  2. It will enable more and more social experiences and will increasingly facilitate remote collaborative work.
  3. I will take advantage of it more and more 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 correspond to what we observe around you? Would it apply to your industrial context?

In the next articles we will deepen the three pillars mentioned above and we will present the bricks that make up The Metaverse in order to analyze the obstacles to overcome to allow the advent of the Metaverse. Finally, we will offer you concrete directions to seize real business opportunities now.

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

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