Reality as we know it is undergoing a historic transformation. Our world today stands at the threshold of a profound technological revolution that is taking the ‘real world’ we inhabit far beyond the limitations of physics and time.

Welcome to Extended Reality (XR), a new frontier of converging technologies shaping the metaverse of tomorrow – an immersive, interconnected 3D world in which Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies will redefine how we live, work and socialize.

The promise of XR is fueling predictions for an array of some once-unthinkable possibilities within the fast-emerging metaverse. By 2030, we could be spending more time in the metaverse than in the real world. People will be applying for jobs, earning a living, meeting with friends, shopping, even getting married using the virtual capabilities of the metaverse.

In the coming decade, higher education and job training may increasingly be provided in virtual 3D settings, along with boardroom and workplace meetings. Businesses and governments will rely on the power and reach of the metaverse to share information, provide services and collaborate as never before.

Say goodbye to your traditional workspace. You will likely be surrounded by surfaces that provide new interfaces and a new realm of instantaneous virtual connections to people, places and work settings. Modern tools will let you forge connections and manipulate 3D objects intuitively within the lifelike virtual space you are occupying.

By 2030, we can expect to see the emergence of brain computer interfaces (BCIs) that enable human thought to be tracked, recorded and shared. These XR capabilities may literally enable us to experience moments and memories from someone else’s life. Synthetic data generated from simulated worlds, meanwhile, will likely guide robots to problem solve and replace humans performing high-risk work.

As technology advances and converges immersing us in new virtual worlds, we believe the industry is at an inflection point. We are seeing investment and technological advancement soar as more businesses wake up to the vast realm of emerging opportunities. Facebook, for example, has changed its name to Meta and committed US$10 billion on metaverse technology development1. Microsoft meanwhile has announced a record-breaking US$69 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard, makers of popular multiplayer online games2. Make no mistake – as the metaverse continues to emerge, many businesses will find opportunities for change.

Reality goes ‘horizontal’ – and more inclusive

Simply put, the virtual future is horizontal. AI, VR, AR, blockchain and other ‘frontier technologies’ are already being designed to connect and complement each other, forging an ecosystem of technologies harnessed for multiple virtual environments. No single technology will likely rule this ecosystem – and future technologies and players that will enhance metaverse capabilities have yet to emerge.  

AI is going to really feed into VR. That’s why I’m really bullish on frontier tech as a whole because it’s not going to be any one industry as we’ve seen in the past vertically. It’s going to be horizontal. Blockchain is going to empower VR, and AR is going to be powered by AI technologies in the future.

Dan Burgar
Co-Founder of Shape Immersive, Co-founder/CEO at Frontier Collective, and
Founder/President of the Vancouver VR/AR Association

Within 5 years, hundreds of millions of virtual reality tools and platforms are expected to be embraced by consumers and businesses globally and these technologies could be more pervasive than phones by the end of this decade.

As access to the metaverse becomes more universal, we are seeing companies develop both all-inclusive and niche solutions with a wide range of users in mind. This broad network of emerging capabilities may help to overcome social and economic barriers to progress by toppling the gender gap, economic obstacles and other inequalities.

The power and reach of the metaverse can potentially eliminate many of the constraints and biases of today’s reality. 

Avatars will allow people to represent themselves beyond the limitations of status. There’s the opportunity to alleviate people’s identity beyond their wardrobe or how much money they have in their bank account. There’s more freedom to express themselves beyond gender, representation and social conventions.

Alexandra Neville
Artist and researcher at Australia’s University of Technology Sydney

As the wide horizontal reach of the metaverse reshapes almost every type of experience in our lives, businesses should be exploring their role in this new frontier. Consider not only the obvious – that employee, client and third-party interactions may take place in the metaverse – but also that as XR-based business transactions proliferate, your business could have a different value proposition. Early adopters will likely have a significant advantage, making it crucial that businesses start exploring and experimenting now as the pace of change accelerates. 

XR has the potential to bridge the gender gap and other inequalities. Firstly, by offering solutions at any price point for any experience level, but also by giving us an opportunity to be whoever we want to be and eliminating others’ perceptions and biases based on our appearances.

Una Softic
Co-founder of Tokyo-based technology developer Intertangible

A bold new world of opportunities – and challenges

While the outlook for metaverse’s profound and fast-emerging impact cannot be overstated, access remains a work in progress for now. Creating immersive content is difficult and current XR hardware and software can pose friction points for today’s early adopters and first-time users. But barriers to entry are expected to fade quickly.

I would be looking at an inflection point for the XR industry in the next 3 years to move beyond a very fast-growing market to a rocket ship. Two dependencies include a continued evolution of AR hardware and continued maturation of the software process to make it easier to develop content. You need these two pieces to see the market move in a compelling way.

Terrance Strom
VP at Vuforia Business Strategy, PTC

With NFTs you’re part of a club and with that comes membership and access to real world events. You’ll see bars, nightclubs and lifestyle brands built around specific NFTs. But if you’re a company trying to get in this space, it’s important to understand how communities are forming as a result of these NFTs.

Aaron Frank
faculty member at the UK’s Singularity University

While the emergence of virtual technologies and applications is accelerating, the recent rise of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and blockchain-based platforms such as Decentraland, The SandBox, Cryptovoxels and Somnium are serving as significant drivers to progress and encouraging people to make their initial foray into virtual environments.

NFTs are essentially a mechanism for aggregating a community. Companies should therefore make sense of the growing NFT space and develop a robust strategy around community building and management. Universities, for example, can use its capabilities to bring students from around the world together to work and learn inside virtual ecosystems.

Business leaders will ultimately need to understand how their organizations should adapt and evolve as the metaverse transforms industries and lifestyles. 

The best way to describe the metaverse is as a marriage of the world as we know it combined with a world where the laws of physics and space-time aren’t a limitation. Corporate leaders need to understand it’s not just about having a great reality architect. Industry leaders will need to now have professionals in C-suite senior positions – the Chief Metaverse Officer or Chief Realities Officer – set the tone for the language throughout their workforce to redesign how they monetize their core skills..

Scott O’Brien
CEO and Cofounder of Sydney-based tech startup Humense

What happens to privacy in the metaverse?

With hundreds of millions of virtual reality products expected to be in use in the next 5 years, experts believe it will not be unusual for people to spend 12 to 15 hours a day in the metaverse to communicate, work, learn, shop, capture data and more. It is also expected that people will have more than one avatar, or virtual persona, which may create a reality of billions of digital personas within a decade. But as usage explodes, what are the risks to privacy and identity security? 

Regulators and governments will need to invest in wide-scale deployment and testing of the emerging technology ensure appropriate security and privacy protection. Appropriate data management in the metaverse will need to address, for example, the differences between traditional business or public data and confidential personal data. 

If somebody stole your metaverse ID and was able to impersonate you in these virtual worlds and block you out, it’s much worse than losing your phone today. You can’t go to work anymore. You can’t go to school. You can’t go buy anything. You are essentially put in jail. So how do we protect users from that happening?

Alvin Graylin
China President of HTC

By the time you take a 5-minute walk down a virtual city road, we’re going to know what your sexual preference is, what your favourite colour is, what brands you associate yourself with – and this is without you even saying a word by utilizing eye tracking and biometric data. This is some of the type of data that’s emerging from immersive technologies, which I know is a scary concept and is something that’s going to need to be regulated. The real issue is regulation is always 10 years behind the tech

David Whelan
CEO, Engage

Key Takeaways as the metaverse explodes into view

As our journey into the metaverse races ahead, new opportunities and challenges will continue to emerge. It will be up to businesses, regulators and governments to help ensure we ‘get it right’ – making it imperative that business leaders get involved today in this historic paradigm shift. Businesses building out their XR ecosystem will need to make clear how this new frontier can add value to customers and all stakeholders. Key steps on the journey may include these initiatives:  

  • Map your organization’s value proposition on the metaverse. Start defining use cases that are clear and probable.
  • As the pace of change accelerates, reassess your value proposition on an ongoing basis and ensure customers recognize what your organization has to offer. 
  • Identify natural partners and ecosystems you’d want to join forces with in the metaverse and reach out today.
  • Rethink the employee experience and create a roadmap to bring employees closer through XR.

Look for tangible business outcomes that move the needle and create champions by the realization of business value. Use this journey and find proof points. Start small, scale fast and use established KPIs. Don’t let technology drive the conversation ¬– let business value drive it. The intersection of transformative XR technologies and realized business value is the fuel to drive this market further into the stratosphere.

Terrance Strom
VP of Vuforia Business Strategy at PTC industrial AR solutions