11 January 2022

Realtime software, the metaverse and beyond…

Welcome to the metaverse! It’s the digital buzzword of the moment, but right now, as far as the international press is concerned, that means Mark Zuckerberg.

The king of social networking has staked his claim for ownership of the metaverse concept and development, by renaming the Facebook company… Meta. It’s provoked a lot of conversation as to whether the metaverse will actually be Zuckerberg’s Metaverse (with a capital M), or if a solitary organisation could own it anyway. But the race has really only just begun, and he’s facing serious competition.

Back in mid-2020, trumpet blasts sounded from Forbes HQ, proclaiming ‘The Metaverse Is Coming And It’s A Very Big Deal’. This was the financial bible’s rallying cry for marketing, communications and branding professionals to take notice of a potentially major investment opportunity. After all, with Microsoft, Niantic and Magic Leap already deeply involved, the metaverse was something that was, at the very least, worth exploring.

By the end of 2021, Forbes published a new headline – ‘Welcome To The Metaverse’. Yes, that again, but the article didn’t mention Zuckerberg at all – the focus was on the buzz in offices, and corporate boardrooms. The Metaverse is coming, so invest and prepare. Which rather raises the simple question, how do they do that?

The help comes from two areas. First off are the dedicated metaverse platforms like Decentraland. But the obvious favourites for the job are the gaming platforms, who own tried and tested toolkits for world-building in a virtual space. Nike has already got a cool trainer in the door by launching Nikeland on Roblox. Fashion brand for the fuller wallet Dolce & Gabbana has also marketed its first collection of unique digital tokens. They were alluringly linked to the real world by accompanying invites to swanky fashion events.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is talking avatars, and the mind boggles at the opportunities for their designer get-ups. Will they be able to wear digital replicas of the clobber we’ve paid for in cold hard cash? One free pair of digital Prada loafers with every purchase of the same brand jacket? You heard it here first.

While the concept is exciting, and has got everyone’s attention, there was a reality check from Raja Koduri at Intel back in December. “Truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time, will require even more: a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art.”

But this isn’t bad news. It just means that there’s more time to prepare, and more ideas to come before we get there. And for the Viz sector it means more opportunities than ever. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to imagine businesses recruiting in-house digital teams to manage all areas of their bespoke property portfolio in the XR world. As technology inevitably moves closer and closer to this vision of the future, this becomes increasingly likely.

Obviously, realtime software is central to metaverse creation, and is big news at the moment, full stop. It’s already involved in Archviz, XR, maps and gaming, and that’s just touching the surface. Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney has already plunged into the metaverse’s golden pool with Fortnite’s in-game concerts. Starring Ariana Grande and Travis Scott, the music press, usually only impressed by boozy backstage parties, were bowled over by a Godzilla-size Scott.

“Over the coming decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multi-trillion-dollar part of the world economy,” Sweeney said at a recent conference in South Korea. And with the capabilities of Epic’s Unreal Engine 5 hitting the market this spring, opportunities in the Viz sector are about to go Boom! in ways we can only imagine.

The metaverse isn’t coming, it’s already here. And it’s up to us to boldly go…

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