The term ‘Metaverse’ is sweeping through the tech industry, but what exactly is Metaverse and what makes it a noteworthy tech trend that captivates businesses from all industries?
Definition of Metaverse
Neal Stephenson, author of the 1992 science fiction book Snow Crash, is credited with coining the term metaverse. In his book, human avatars interact with each other in a 3D world.
Different groups have varying interpretations of Metaverse according to their use of the technology. The general consensus is that Metaverse is a meshed reality of the physical and virtual. Whether it be virtual reality, augmented reality or the internet - an extension of infrastructure is part of Metaverse.
The real question about Metaverse is not what it is but what it can accomplish. Let’s discuss the emergence of Metaverse in Fashion, Music, Education and Display.
Metaverse in Fashion
: Virtual Runway Shows
Used by millions of fashion fans, IMVU has become a community where avatars created by people coexist. But it is more than just a virtual space: According to Fashion Magazine Vogue, $14 million is spent in over 27 million transactions every month as IMVU’s virtual store features 50 million fashion items made by over 200,000 creators. This demonstrated a unique opportunity for brand expression online, which was why the platform recently hosted its first virtual runway show on May 27, 2021.
From collaborating with creators from the online community to purchasing avatar outfits, IMVU’s virtual runway garnered attention as more fashion brands take immersive experiences as an essential part of business strategy. Animal Crossing, a popular Ninetendo game, similarly has brands like Valentino, Anna Sui, and Sandy Liang create custom garments for the Metaverse. Vogue noted that all these virtual events have implications for the wider fashion community, stating that Metaverse “is not just a platform to attract Gen Z customers or to grow a new revenue stream; it’s also a proving ground for novel design ideas.”
Metaverse in Music
: Virtual Concerts
With 156 million views* on Youtube, Travis Scott's concert on Fortnite was the platform’s largest in-game concert attended by 12 million people live in April 2020. ‘Astronomical’ was the expression given by many to describe the scale and scope of the performance: Most media lauded and agreed that the performance could not have been replicated offline. Musicians like Marshmellow and K-pop group BTS also participated in Fortnite Metaverse events: BTS debuted the choreography music video for ‘Dynamite’ on Fortnite’s party royale island whereas Marshmello had 10 million people attend the concert live.
This is not just a western phenomena: One of the largest telecom companies in South Korea, SK Group’s SK Telecom hopes to provide opportunities for domestic and foreign K-pop fans to enjoy content via Mixed Reality. KT Corp., another South Korean telecom company, also announced its plans to develop "metaverse" services in collaboration with local virtual reality (VR) content and visual effects companies.
Metaverse provides artists with unprecedented freedom to experiment and interact with their fans virtually. Endless possibilities only seem to invite more musicians and media content companies working with artists to explore alternate reality and streaming in replacement of live concerts.
*As of June 10, 2021
Metaverse in Education
: Virtual Campus
Online learning boomed during the pandemic and accordingly Metaverse has also shifted a paradigm change within the education sector. With 202 million estimated monthly users in April 2021 reported by Gamespot, Roblox has garnered community members of ages of 9 and 15 as an online gaming and game-creating platform. The New York Times noted how most of the developers on the platform are teenagers, college students and young adults and they create more than 20 million new games a year for Roblox. Children program games and play games created by other users. This form of education is especially highlighted by Metaverse technology.
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) plans to build a virtual campus in Kenya, which will open by September 2023 in the Konza Technopolis near Nairobi. There, the university hopes to create a Metaverse - running classes and creating an immersive learning experience on campus utilizing virtual reality, augmented reality, image recognition and eye-tracking technologies. Another university in Korea - Soonchunhyang University - held a virtual welcoming ceremony for incoming freshmen to attend as avatars. This was South Korea’s first “Metaverse” ceremony.
With e-learning projected to cross $1 trillion by 2027 in market valuation as reported by Global Market Insights Inc., Metaverse will be a natural extension of the learning experience online.
Metaverse in Display
: “Window” between On/Offline Realities
Metaverse is being implemented in many industries, but the most anticipated usage is AR/VR display technology such as wearable devices. 3 out of 5 Forbes’ Top 5 list of the 2020 World’s Most Valuable Brands have invested in Metaverse display:
- Google: Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is a lightweight wearable computer with a transparent display used by DHL and DB Schenker.
- Microsoft: HoloLens 2 mixed reality device is used by various brands such as L’Oréal and Salvatore Ferragamo.
- Facebook: Oculus Quest 2 is a virtual reality headset popularly used on PC through Steam.
“Metaverse, which refers to all online and digital behaviors and lifestyles, will be accelerated by the new normal that has become part of our daily lives such as telecommuting and online meeting,” emphasized Samsung Display’s President & CEO JS Choi during his keynote speech at SID’s Display Week 2021. As Metaverse becomes more prevalent in various areas such as fashion, music and education, displays that support the immersive experience will be needed.
With technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, 5G and IoT transforming societies, “smarter” displays on smartphones/laptops/smartwatches/other devices that help people fulfill their desired realities will be needed to brace the future excitement. Delivering exceptional image quality, lowering blue light emission, and providing low-power display technology are all part of Samsung Display’s vision of being the ‘Display that goes beyond your imagination’. In the era of Metaverse, Samsung Display will continue to be the “windows connecting people” enriching the connection between people and technology.
We don’t exactly know when the metaverse will take over the world. But, according to Mordor Intelligence, a research firm in India, the virtual reality market is expected to expand from its $17 billion value in 2020 to as much as $184 billion by 2026. With its usage in fashion, music, art, education, and display industry, Metaverse is a tech term reflecting the changing norms of our society today. What makes Metaverse indispensable is the fact that it stems from human desire to humanize digital experiences with immersive technology.