Research Hub > What is the Metaverse and What it Means for Business

March 21, 2022

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5 min

What is the Metaverse and What it Means for Your Business

The metaverse seeks to change how we collaborate as remote and hybrid work becomes more the norm for companies of all sizes.

Flash back 30 years to 1992: the Internet as we know today was still in its nascent form, but the fantasy of the metaverse was already alive. Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his sci-fi novel Snow Crash as a portmanteau of “meta” and “universe.”

What Does “The Metaverse” Mean?

The term “metaverse” refers to a persistent virtual reality world in which users can exist, interact, and purchase digital assets like NFT (nonfungible token) wearables or even digital cars and houses with cryptocurrency via AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) or a web browser.

Some are calling it "Web 3.0", theorizing it’ll lead to a similar paradigm shift in how people interact on the Internet akin the dawn of Web 2.0, which brought us modern social media and dynamically rendered content.

At this point, you may be thinking of a Futurama episode, the 2003 computer game Second Life, or the 2011 movie Ready: Player One when someone mentions the metaverse, and you may not be too far off, at least from what it may one day be. Much of the metaverse isn’t quite fleshed out yet, which has led to a lot of confusion about what the metaverse is, and it has become a tech buzzword. So rather than answering what the metaverse will be, we’ll attempt to answer what it is today.

What is the Metaverse in 2022?

With Facebook’s renaming to Meta, there has been a substantial pivot of their long-time business strategy into this burgeoning space. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard also reveals their focus on the metaverse, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella quoted as saying the acquisition of the gaming titan will “provide building blocks for the metaverse.” There’s no doubt that the corporate momentum continues to build around this nebulous concept.

“You and I will be sitting on a conference room table soon with either our avatars or our holograms or even 2D surfaces with surround audio. Guess what? The place where we have been doing that forever [...] is gaming.” – Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

There isn’t just one metaverse and you don’t even need a VR headset or AR glasses at this point to access it. Without the immersion of AR/VR, the metaverse looks like the game Second Life or VR Chat, where users have an avatar that can move around and interact with objects and individuals. However, these games only exist within their respective spaces -- the idea of the metaverse is that it’ll be the next iteration of the Internet, fully immersive and connected to your messaging apps, digital possessions, social media and much more we can’t foresee.

While companies like Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and more have/will have their own metaverses and no doubt have major impacts on the infrastructure of the metaverse, other metaverses are decentralized. They are not owned by any single entity. Morever, metaverses may be on different crypto blockchains altogether, analogous to how the Internet is decentralized today with several major companies influencing it with their proprietary tech like browsers and web apps.

Decentraland is one of the biggest of these decentralized metaverses on the Ethereum blockchain and is free to play as a guest within your browser, but the experience is limited unless you link your account with a digital wallet. Each metaverse has different governance and native cryptocurrency it uses—for instance, Decentraland uses MANA tokens (ERC-20), which can be purchased with Ethereum or USD.

Man presenting in meeting to metaverse virtual reality avatar coworkers

“You and I will be sitting on a conference room table soon with either our avatars or our holograms or even 2D surfaces with surround audio. Guess what? The place where we have been doing that forever [...] is gaming.” – Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

How Will Businesses Use the Metaverse?

The pandemic presented a major challenge in workplace collaboration. Meetings had to be conducted via web conferencing apps, and anyone who’s ever done a virtual meeting knows it isn’t as engaging as being in the same room as the other attendees. The metaverse seeks to change that as remote and hybrid work becomes more the norm for companies of all sizes.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented his vision for the metaverse for business and has been testing using the Oculus VR headset without a Meta account, as well as developing higher end VR headsets under Project Cambria. This new headset will include the ability to make eye contact in digital meeting spaces (which Meta deems “Horizon Workrooms”) and reflecting facial expressions and skin tone through your avatar via facial sensors, all within a headset that would be comfortable to wear for sustained amounts of time. This is rumored to arrive as early as Q2-Q3 2022.

Advertising and product placement will be huge as the metaverse builds its userbase. For instance, Nike could sell digital shoes for your avatar to wear and simultaneously promote the next physical Air Jordans or even a theoretical sneaker without the business risk of physically creating it. Disney is hiring for NFT experts to design and sell Disney-themed NFT collectibles you could own in the metaverse, with the NFT collectible market already blowing up in 2022 to much news and fanfare. The megahit game Fortnite has already held a virtual concert back in 2020, and cross-promotional events like this within the metaverse will create big opportunities for brands to expand their reach.

Not every business will have digital assets to sell within the metaverse or will be throwing virtual soirées, but there is no doubt the momentum is beginning to build. Major players are taking the metaverse and its possibilities as a revenue stream, promotional opportunity, or meeting space seriously. But what will it take to build the metaverse?

IT Infrastructure for the Metaverse

With the metaverse comes the need for an IT backbone to power it.

“For what we imagined in Snow Crash, what we imagined in Ready Player One, for those experiences to be delivered, the computational infrastructure that is needed is 1,000 times more than what we currently have,” - Raja Koduri, head of Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group

The processing power and IT infrastructure needed to support the metaverse may be the biggest hinderance to its widescale adoption, not to mention the cybersecurity concerns of an endless cyber universe

CDW has the tech you need to maximize your business’s potential and prepare for the future. From the latest AR/VR devices to complete cloud infrastructure solutions, we get what it takes to enter the metaverse. Worried about cybersecurity? We partner with the biggest cybersecurity vendors in tech to offer comprehensive coverage of every conceivable endpoint and device, plus cybersecurity services to shore up any vulnerabilities.

Summary

According to Todd Ketterman, Executive Technology Strategist for Collaboration & Workspace at CDW:

“This is an extremely exciting time for the evolution of technology and business to merge head on.  There is no longer a technology deficiency.  Finally, what we can dream we can achieve.”

The metaverse is primed to remake the modern workplace and provide a fully immersive experience without precedent. VR goggles and AR tools will become commonplace when joining meetings or having one-on-one video conversations. Businesses will inevitably reinvent themselves and develop new ways to reach their customers and provide next-gen platform for employees to collaborate. CDW is well positioned to help our customers design, deploy and support the IT infrastructure needed to support your future technology needs like the metaverse.

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