Exploring The Synergy Of Metaverse And Metahumans
by Sonya Naboka on Nov 22, 2023
The concept of the metaverse, coined by Neal Stephenson, a science fiction author, has gained momentum as global brands embrace it as a new marketing channel.
The metaverse, a virtual space designed for people’s interaction through dynamic digital proxies, known as metahumans, offers broader customization of identity and larger expansion of persona-lities. It surpasses static images or profiles, enabling more extensive engagement with virtual environments and avatars. The freedom of digital embodiment and the immersive gamification of connection – that’s what makes the metaverse so special.
The global metaverse market, valued at USD 65.5 billion in 2022, is projected to experience a remarkable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.6% from 2023 to 2030. This trend emphasizes the growing importance of digital integration, poised to surpass the popularity of existing social media platforms and traditional internet communications. In this article, we’ll explore “what the metaverse is” and delve into how it constitutes a new economy.
What Is Metaverse?
The term “metaverse” stands out as a distinct evolution of the digital realm, an immersive and multifaceted digital environment that transcends traditional online experiences. The 3d virtual world ecosystem, facilitated by technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), artificial intelligence (AI) and cryptocurrency, coupled with the potential for utilizing virtual space in a multiplayer format, positions the metaverse as a unique platform for heightened social connections. From gaming, socialization, and entertainment to business conduct, buying and selling operations, among other activities, the metaverse blurs boundaries, allowing freedom of fantasy and expressions.
The tech-driven evolution of metaverse has been marked by several key milestones. In the 1990s, early virtual worlds and multiplayer games like Habitat (1986) and Second Life (2003) laid the groundwork for shared online experiences, marking the nascent stage of the metaverse. However, it was the 2000s that online multiplayer games gained true popularity. In the 2010s, augmented and virtual reality commercialization, as well as Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR signaled a pivotal moment.
According to industry experts, the COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed the development of digital reality, as the year 2021 witnessed significant investments in metaverse technology, particularly with Facebook. This highlights that the global lockdown specifically has sparked a technological evolution of digital societies. The advancements in Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the rising popularity of blockchain and NFTs, alongside technological advancements throughout the past decade, laid the groundwork for a synchronized evolution.
What Is Metahuman?
Metaverse exploration often requires a digital proxy, and that’s precisely where Metahuman technology comes into play. Metaverse avatars go beyond simple graphics. Enhanced by advanced rendering technologies and AI integration, these virtual identities vividly capture the essence of users’ chosen identities. Put simply, in the ongoing development of futuristic meta-societies, virtual existence brings about a broader freedom in choosing one’s alter-ego.
The concept of metahumans has its origins in the gaming industry, notably through the evolution of gaming avatars and characters. In the early 2000s, massively multiplayer online games such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft played a pivotal role in popularizing customizable avatars. The first decade of the 21st century marked a crucial development where character design became a pivotal link connecting players to cyberspace interaction.
Lately, within this digital transformation landscape, Epic Games has stood out as trendsetters. In 2021, Fortnite gaming platform, has garnered immense popularity, attracting 400 million users. The platform’s shows, featuring real-world celebrities like Travis Scott and his 3D-based avatar, drew in 12 million viewers globally. Fortnite’s engaged user base made it an enticing space for global brands to connect with their audiences. For instance, in 2021, Balenciaga became the first brand to release an NFT wearables collaboration there. This collaboration included virtual showrooms and a VR fashion show. Moreover, Epic’s tool, “The MetaHuman Creator”, enabling the development of highly realistic avatars, has set a new benchmark in futuristic human evolution and virtual community building, emphasizing the importance of digital creatures as pivotal drivers within the metaverse economy.
What’s Up With META’s Metaverse?
After 2014, when Facebook acquired Oculus, there was a notable surge in the popularity of VR devices. The notion that improvement in headset technologies would enhance accessibility and inclusivity within the metaverse culminated in 2021. Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse evolved, marking a significant milestone when Facebook announced its strategic META-goals and rebranded itself as Meta.
At Connect 2021, Zuckerberg articulated a vision of the metaverse as the successor of the mobile internet – a system of linked digital environments enabling experiences without physical limitations, and there, metahumans evolved. With the introduction of the new central hub, Horizon Worlds, Meta initiated testing for a social platform on Meta Quest.
Following the Meta Connect 2023, Mark Zuckerberg and Lex Friedman shook things up on Podcast 398 by chatting as high-tech avatars. These avatars, created using Quest Pro’s scanning technology, blew everyone’s minds with their super realistic expressions. Lex was over the moon about this, calling it the future of chatting that wipes out distance like it’s no big deal. Although Zuckerberg pointed out the tech’s limited accessibility, this avatar display got folks excited about Meta’s innovation again. It was a cool contrast to the somewhat subdued Meta Connect, which missed the mark on wowing us with visionary stuff.
Inside The Meta Economy
Now that we have a grasp of the development of digital reality and understand metaverse definition, including how digital avatars are utilized within, let’s delve into the entire system as an economy.
According to the World Economic Forum, the estimated economic activity within the metaverse had reached USD 200 billion in 2022, predominantly concentrated in gaming, enterprise, and retail sectors. During the same year, it’s estimated that there had been an estimated 300 million users engaging with digital assets within the metaverse. Cryptocurrencies serve as pivotal elements, enabling participation and the conduct of borderless exchange, while NFTs revolutionize ownership by certifying the uniqueness and digital assets, ranging from digital clothes to virtual real estate. Brands like Nike, Gucci, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, and others are increasingly invested in creating digital assets and immersive experiences, establishing stronger connections with their customers and their techno-spirituality.
The Analysis Group’s report, commissioned by Meta, illustrates the immense economic potential of the metaverse. It envisions a future where the metaverse could deeply impact global GDP growth, job opportunities, productivity enhancements, and improved consumer welfare across both developed and developing nations.
Metaverse And Consumer Behaviour
HubSpot’s 2022 Consumer Trend Report, explored the understanding and adoption of the metaverse among 1000 Americans, and findings revealed that 34% of respondents viewed the metaverse as the “future of technology”; 30% expressed interest in brands opening virtual stores, signaling evolving consumer expectations; 28% perceived the metaverse as an extension of reality. A significant discovery was that for half of these users, the metaverse represented a deeper connection to authenticity, “ they can more easily be their authentic selves in virtual worlds than in person”. This circles back to metahumans, embodying our identities, and the economic activity surrounding the acquisition of digital assets for identity customization, which hold paramount importance within the digital realm.
The idea of metaverse, conceived as an alternative reality, relies on achieving deeper immersion that engages all senses comprehensively. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies have secured a substantial 35.2% share of revenue in 2022, and rising adoption of Mixed Reality (MR) represents the most promising trajectory, poised to attain a remarkable CAGR of 42.6%. This surge holds the potential to significantly enhance immersion within the metaverse.
The Hardware segment, fundamental in shaping these immersive experiences, anticipates substantial growth. The AR & VR Hardware segment is forecasted to achieve an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2030) of 15.36%. By 2030, this advancement is expected to reach a market volume of around USD 3.3 billion, indicating increased accessibility of hardware for widespread use.