Predicted to be worth US$700m by 2030, metaverse technologies featured prominently in Gartner’s 2022 Hype Cycle, reflecting the sense of excitement around the technology.
But while the hype might have died down - replaced by generative AI as the technology of the day - at least 25% of people are predicted to spend at least an hour daily in a metaverse for either entertainment or work, according to analysis by Gartner.
As Partha Ghosh, Head of Consulting, Digital Experience, Europe, Infosys told Technology Magazine earlier this year, the metaverse is all about immersive experiences powered by experiential technology. The metaverse, he says, promises to bring together technologies to create a virtual environment that can help companies achieve efficiency and intelligence while working remotely.
“How we apply its capabilities is a play of our creativity and imagination. By 2024, there are predictions of over 34 million VR headsets installed around the world, potentially meaning that even public companies and government organisations might begin to implement VR headsets into their services, so you can expect to see them installed in numerous places.”
Metaverse is currently in its infancy
Today, the metaverse is still in its infancy. “Currently, it isn’t much more than a set of disconnected and proprietary AR and VR experiences - with a lofty vision of interconnectedness and immersion,” explains Simon Allardice, Principal Author at Pluralsight.
Because of this, it’s easy to write the concept of the metaverse off as simply another technology buzzword.
“Only time will tell if the metaverse ever does live up to its name,” Allardice comments. “For now, it is a useful shorthand way of describing the mostly predictive, mostly future-looking process of trying to combine all of these disparate technologies including VR, AR, artificial intelligence, pervasive cloud infrastructure, and multiplayer gaming.”
The hype might have died down, but organisations looking to harness the metaverse must ensure they have the requisite tech skills.
“For many technologists, it’s a reality that organisations will begin demanding that their tech workforce has the skills needed to help build out the metaverse through increased focus on AR, VR, and related technologies,” says Allardice. “In fact, two thirds of organisations expect to embrace these new technologies in the next two years.
“Despite the eagerness to explore the space, the ongoing digital skills gap in the tech industry prevails, and unsurprisingly, metaverse skills are in high demand. But nearly three-quarters of workers do not feel equipped to learn the digital skills needed by businesses now and even more, 76% do not feel equipped for the future.
“For organisations to successfully establish their own piece of the metaverse, and remain competitive, they must first ensure that their workers are equipped with the right skills to do so.”
The Metaverse needs new tech skills
As organisations globally continue to fight the ongoing technology skills gap, the metaverse will add further challenges.
“Though many of the fundamental skills that the metaverse requires will have significant overlap with other forms of coding, technologists should still expect to enter into a new era of software development,” Allardice says.
“Twenty years ago, most developers were focused on building desktop apps, and a few years later they were expected to provide mobile versions of those same apps,” he describes. “That same principle applies to the evolution of the metaverse; upskilling in metaverse related technologies is going to continue to be important for technologists.
The metaverse will also usher in new considerations for cybersecurity, data privacy, and digital transactions. Understanding the cybersecurity risks that massive VR and AR environments pose will be a huge factor.
“For front-end developers who want to be more involved in the actual creation of the VR experiences themselves, technologists need to start becoming familiar with the 3D engines that are typically used for creating immersive worlds,” Allardice adds. “Upskilling in programs such as Unity and Unreal, and associated programming languages like C, C#, and C++ which have a lot of crossover with game development skills will be key.”
Ushering in an Immersive Digital World
We are far from being able to jump into an interconnected, open-source metaverse to complete our workday, catch up with friends, and engage in leisure activities using one singular virtual world.
However, as Alladice concludes, simply dismissing the metaverse as the future state of VR or AR isn't good enough.
“In the present, AR experiences are becoming increasingly sophisticated,” he says. “For instance, the latest VR headsets are more wearable, and real world items are increasingly being brought into this virtual space. Even smartphones have become powerful AR tools, with social media filters and apps helping to bring the virtual world into the real world.
“The future of the metaverse depends on collective buy-in to the concept and technologies, a clear framework for interconnectivity, and ease of use. In order for the metaverse to be enticing, it needs to solve a problem or otherwise make life easier and more enjoyable. These changes must be executed by organisations with a keen vision, and skilled technologists willing to create innovative solutions for the problems of the metaverse.
“At present, the metaverse still has flaws, but it also has immense potential to augment and improve our technological lives. There is real value in pursuing the metaverse, and there is an immersive digital world just waiting to be built. That said, businesses need to take a step back before diving head first into the space. Building the skills of existing talent within organisations to support innovation in this space will be key to its success.”
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