The Metaverse as a Business Driver

In Authentication and Brand News™ May 2022, Francis Tuffy (Editor) wrote an article on the issue of brands and brand protection in the Metaverse. Here we look at the implications of the evolution of the Metaverse from the perspective of holography and 3D displays.

The aim of this article is as follows. First, we need to try and define what the Metaverse is from our perspective and who are the current players, as a route to defining the opportunities. This will lead us into a consideration of the potential deliverables for the holography and 3D community.

What is the Metaverse?

Describing the Metaverse is a challenge for a number of reasons that can be summarised under technical and business headings.

First, the technology is still evolving with technical challenges still to be solved.

Second, businesses are rebranding their offerings (or even their companies) to position themselves to optimise their shareholder value by capturing the zeitgeist.

The aim is that the Metaverse will look (and feel) like a 3D graphical experience connected via the Internet, and many pundits consider this combination to be the technology of tomorrow. At the moment, we have to recognise that the concept is still developing, but note that large amounts of money are currently changing hands as companies vie for position. This is where the opportunities could lie for our community.

One interesting part of these considerations is where the various aspects of the Metaverse are being discussed. Most of the topics directly pertaining to holography are discussed in the technical press, but the Metaverse is currently much broader. Relevant discussions on these aspects appear in the sociology and financial press, meaning that the research on this topic must be commensurately wider, especially when we consider what it could deliver.

What could it deliver?

There are many answers to this question which really depend on the discipline from which you are asking.

From a sociologist it is seen as solving what has become known as the ‘Zoom problem’, which has become apparent in the various lockdowns. The challenge that the Metaverse could address from a sociological perspective is in making human-to-human relationships at a distance more meaningful.

The financial press takes an interesting view on this topic. They note that players and investors in the technologies of the Metaverse have a lot of money at stake and appear willing to invest substantially to defend and/or build their position. While some of the technologies necessary for 3D display have existed for some years, there is the potential here for rebranding as core technologies for the Metaverse.

There is one further aspect to this that we need to consider. There is likely to be substantial competition for photonics graduates from the Metaverse related industries. Photonics in general is already seeing a skills shortage and this may exacerbate this, which may impact recruitment into areas of our sector.

Who are the key players?

There are some very big players vying for position and advantage on the Metaverse concept, and indeed attempting to define it in their fashion.

Meta (née Facebook) is probably the best example, where the name of the company has been changed to define the direction they wish to take – into the Metaverse. However, they are by no means alone in being a Tech Giant with intentions on the Metaverse.

Microsoft are working in this area with Mesh for Microsoft Teams, to enable ‘presence and shared experiences from anywhere – on any device – through mixed reality applications’. Like Meta with their Oculus hardware, Microsoft have their HoloLens headsets and with ‘Holoportation™, the aim is to project yourself as your most lifelike, photorealistic self in mixed reality to interact as if you are there in person’. With this, Microsoft is not only establishing a place in the Metaverse but is also reinforcing an association with the term ‘Holo…’.

It will now be interesting to watch where companies such as Cisco will position themselves. With their Webex video conferencing and their announcement last year of Webex Hologram, which ‘takes advantage of augmented reality headsets to combine feature-rich Webex meeting functionality with immersive 3D holograms’, they may well become a significant player. And another company in this field building an association with the term ‘Holo…’.

Where are the opportunities?

The rise of the Metaverse has the potential to generate a number of opportunities for companies and individuals in our sector. Companies rebranding themselves in name but also adding to the modern perception of what it means to be ‘Holo…’ which can be seen as an opportunity for the overall brand.

However, there are more substantial financial benefits to be considered too.

In order to develop the 3D experience of the Metaverse concept there is still a technology gap. Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets look set to be the core technologies to create this 3D experience. It is recognised that the technologies needed for headsets still requires development, and elements such as holographic waveguides are seen as playing a key part in this.

With large corporations willing to invest substantial sums in this area, this can be seen as a potential business opportunity for companies with requisite knowledge in the fields of holographic optical elements and 3D experience creation. It looks likely that these corporations will need to invest or acquire companies in a range of fields from holography to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gain market advantage. This is where the opportunities may lie for some of us.

In summary the holography community can consider the rise of the Metaverse as two opportunities. There is a need for technological solutions in the optical systems of AR/VR headsets and holographic optical elements may play a part in this. There is also a marketing opportunity in terms of business branding and product placement.

This topic will be explored in greater detail at The Holography Conference Online in 5-6 December 2022: