Intelligent CIO Europe Issue 61 - Page 39

TALKING

‘‘ business

The Metaverse will generate exciting new opportunities for business and society . A large percentage ( 71 %) of business executives in a recent Accenture survey said the Metaverse would be good for the enterprise . Some ( 42 %) believe it will be ‘ breakthrough ’ or ‘ transformational ’. JP Morgan identified a market opportunity worth more than US $ 1 trillion in its report Opportunities in the metaverse , while a year ago , Bloomberg Intelligence suggested it could be worth US $ 800 billion by 2024 . Meta heralds the Metaverse as ‘ the biggest opportunity for modern business since the creation of the Internet ’. But you would be forgiven for feeling – excuse the pun – a little ‘ meh ’ about it . Chances are we ’ ve all seen social posts from Metaverse evangelists met with comments which range from sceptical sarcasm to unrepeatable criticism . What does it really mean for businesses and their customers – isn ’ t it just for gamers ? And is it time to invest in those AR goggles ?

What ’ s real , what ’ s virtual – and does it matter ?
The Metaverse extends human interactions into various digital worlds . It ’ s not just about a virtual utopia accessible only to a few people with pockets deep enough to afford the latest smart glasses . We need to think beyond VR goggles and quirky avatars , to a place where digital and physical worlds interact and generate extraordinary , meaningful connections . It ’ s less Second Life 2003 ( more on that later ) and more ABBA Voyage – a seamless experience which blurs the boundaries of physical and digital as concert-goers interact in person with astonishingly-lifelike ABBA-tars – holograms worked on by 1,000 visual effects artists . By the end of the show , fans are left questioning what ’ s real and what ’ s virtual . But here ’ s the important bit : it genuinely doesn ’ t matter . Concertgoers , just like your customers , want the very best experience – an enriching , memorable , joyful experience that makes them feel part of something special , relevant and ground-breaking . They don ’ t need to know the behindthe-scenes detail , what ’ s ‘ real ’ and what ’ s virtual . It ’ s about generating interactions and transactions . And – just as it has always been – the onus is on your business to understand and optimise the technology available to you , to improve your customer experience and generate revenue .
Pressure on digital infrastructure
Previous commercial interactions with the Metaverse began around a decade ago . Second Life , launched
in 2003 , was one of the earliest incarnations of an alternative Metaverse-type world to present commercial opportunities . Banks , entertainment companies and sports brands jostled for attention and sponsorship . By 2013 , Second Life exceeded 36 million accounts ( for context , Twitter has 450 million active users ). Then things went a bit quiet . In 2017 , Second Life ’ s makers – Linden Labs – released Sansar , a kind of connected group of Virtual Reality spaces , which sold to Wookey Projects in 2020 at a point when the world was in lockdown and much of our lives was spent online . Second Life enjoyed a resurgence around that time , driven by pandemicrelated restrictions and by advancements in hyperreal game play , as well as the rise in the number of gamers ( now reaching over 3 billion ) and – of course – mobile access .
But there ’ s another influence that has been – and will continue to be – critical in bringing the Metaverse to life : the rise in networking technologies and resulting access to fast , secure , affordable digital infrastructure . If you think about the Metaverse as layers of technologies built on top of one another , core infrastructure is the foundation .
In 2003 – when Second Life was released – BT launched a 1Mbps ADSL service for homes . Now , more than 90 % of homes with broadband in the UK take a super-fast package . Average speeds are 59.4Mbps . Interacting with the Metaverse places incredible pressure on digital infrastructure , requiring Gigabit speeds ; infrastructure with low latency and loss tolerance ; and high levels of Distributed Edge cloud compute . Some of the applications requiring the highest Bitrate according to Credit Suisse , include holograms ( 300 Mbps ); VR ( 200 Mbps ); AR ( 80 Mbps ) and 4K video ( 20 Mbps ).
Mirko Voltolini , Vice President , Strategy and Innovation , Colt Technology Services
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