Overcoming Metaverse Analytics Paralysis | by UNIT9 | October 2022
The semantics surrounding the metaverse can be difficult to navigate. Marc D’Souza, head of our Metaverse Advisory department, explains how we see it at UNIT9.
Some say the metaverse is here. Others say we have a long way to go. While opinion may be split, what is certain is that several influential parties are betting big on the Metaverse today – and change is inevitable, whenever it fully occurs.
But how do we navigate a space when we don’t even have a consensus on what that space really is? How do you refrain from getting caught up in the hype without suffering from FOMO? On the other hand, how do you make sure you don’t get to the party too late?
We believe metaverse is more than a buzzword. More than a gold rush. Although in its infancy, what we are beginning to call the Metaverse is growing at a significant rate.
There will likely never be a definitive inflection point that signals the arrival of the Metaverse, but rather an ongoing transformation over time. Indeed, the technological change that will help usher in this new era has taken years to prepare.
The metaverse is not conceptually new; we’ve just coined a new term to describe the layer of experience that sits on top of an ever-changing stack of communication technologies. Like the telephone, television and the World Wide Web before it, the Metaverse will offer us a new way of exchanging and consuming information. But its exact definition is debated.
In order to have constructive discussions about the metaverse, we must try to avoid semantic misalignments by defining the term in advance. This definition may or may not be validated in the future.
Taken literally, the Metavers is a portmanteau, that is to say a word formed by the assembly of two words: ‘meta’ (from the Greek μετά, ‘meta’, meaning “after” or “beyond“) and ‘universe’. Adopted from the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, it has gained traction in recent times to indicate the future form and function of the Internet.
We believe the Metaverse is evolving, expanding, and augmenting the Internet as we know it. But we have to look at the internet through different lenses to speculate about what lies ahead.
Just as in the past (the waves of the information age), the future will be defined by the introduction of new technologies and their subsequent adoption.
Following the rise of the personal computer and Internet protocol (Internet 1.0) and the mass adoption of the Internet accelerated by mobile and cloud technologies (Internet 2.0), the metaverse (or Internet 3.0) promises to transform the way we access and manipulate information on the web, bringing the interaction into a 3-dimensional space.
“The Metaverse is not only transforming the way we see the world, it changes how we all actively participate inside. — Satya Nadella
The main thing here is therefore the transformation of the human-machine interface, i.e. How? ‘Or’ What we interact using technology. And we believe this transformation of user experience will be driven by a number of enabling technologies, including but not limited to AI and machine learning, real-time simulation (including rendering 3D) and blockchain (or distributed ledgers).
When we try to define the Metaverse, we often merge the underlying technology with the user experience. Let’s make a distinction between them:
Web3 (or a subset of it) along with other emerging technologies will form the infrastructure on which the metaverse (the interface or user experience layer) will be built. Not all of these converging technologies are essential. But blockchain, real-time rendering, machine learning, and geospatial are all technologies enabling the metaverse. The experiences (or experience components) they facilitate are avatars, immersive worlds, smart robots, smart contracts, and more.
This hypothesis of the metaverse and its components is not static. It’s a bundle of potential unfolding before us, waiting to be realised. What it becomes depends on the adoption of the underlying technology, and that adoption depends on the experiences built on it. People don’t care about technology per se. But they care about the experiences technology can give them. When technology works well, it should be invisible – a means to an end.
Suppose we were to come up with a shorthand definition of the metaverse as it stands today – it could be something like:
The metaverse is the evolution of digital communication, mainly characterized by a shift from 2D to 3D interaction. It can be seen as a fusion of virtual, augmented and physical realities that blurs the line between our online and real interactions.