A Journey… To the Metaverse and Beyond

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In 2008, Neal Stephenson published “The Diamond Age”. In the book, he spends a significant amount of time talking about a virtual reality where instead of browsing something on a monitor or television, you’re walking through environments that are almost indistinguishable from the real world. This is what we know as The Metaverse.

The Brews News has some more information about A Journey To the Metaverse and Beyond.

Tim Merel is one of the most important people in this space. Merel’s company Digi-Capital advises companies with investments in VR and AR sectors for over 30 years and he has been predicting rapid growth since at least 1990 when he predicted that VR would be mainstream by 2010 with revenues from the sector reaching $1 billion.

His predictions have been off in the past, but he has been correct enough times in a row now that I think it’s time to take him seriously. 

For the last few months, Merel has been predicting rapid growth in the VR space (an additional $5 billion investment by 2020) and he also predicted Pokemon Go as a watershed moment.

Here are some points discussed-

1. The Metaverse is coming.

Tim Merel predicts The Metaverse will appear in three to eight years. The Metaverse will be the culmination of VR, AR, haptics, and a seamless streaming world where we can visually experience anything from anywhere at any time no matter what device we are on.

Tim Merel points out that as immersive technologies become cheaper, more accessible, and more powerful simultaneously, it is only going to accelerate the growth of this space. If a similar pattern holds, the Metaverse will appear sometime in the second half of this decade.

2. AR is about to take off

The Metaverse will build on AR, and AR will be the differentiator. It will be more powerful than VR and comparable to haptic feeling as we are able to interact with objects in three dimensions using force sensors and robotics.

AR won’t arrive until at least 2020/2021, but it should provide a new immersive experience that is more affordable and accessible than VR. Merel points out that by 2025 there will be 100 million simultaneous users of virtual reality headsets.

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality will become indistinguishable

The Metaverse will blur the line between virtual reality and augmented reality. There will be a higher degree of quality in terms of visual perception, interactivity, and situational awareness than we are today. Differentiation between AR and VR is shifting, so it is going to be a more even mix of both categories over time.

4. VR will surpass AR in computing power

Today, VR headsets can support only basic two dimensional graphics, which are essentially flat 2D images. Merel predicts that by 2025 they will be able to support real-time 3D graphics at 30 frames per second or 1080p resolution with stereoscopic video at 120hz refresh rate.

The computing power needed to support this is an order of magnitude higher than the computing power needed for AR. This is why VR will have a faster growth trajectory than AR initially. The additional computing power can be delivered by a combination of better hardware, better software, and better algorithms.

5. Investing in VR is now cheaper than AR

The cost of entry into the VR system has gotten lower, but it has not caught up to the lower entry point for AR yet. Merel predicts that it will catch up in the next two years because at that point a lot of companies will start focusing on the optics side of enabling a wider field of view for low cost and designing them with minimum weight and volume constraints.

6. AR will have more penetration than VR

Merel predicts that by 2025 the AR space will have more than twice the number of users than the VR space. AR will be a larger market initially because it is affordable, accessible, and useful. 

It can augment everyday objects like a fork or plate in your hand, but it can also be used to make every object interactive. Think about making every surface touch-sensitive or taking away your keyboard and using a virtual keyboard instead.

7. AR has a wider range of applications

AR will have more practical applications than VR in the near term. This is because it is more affordable than VR, it requires less hardware, and most people will be able to use it without training. 

Companies who are making money on the user acquisition side have to focus on a large market of non-gamers because they can’t afford to wait for a critical mass of gamers.

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