Metaverse: Applications and Business Opportunities
Author: Dr. Metinee Jongsaliswang
Thailand Country Consulting Leader and Executive Director | Consulting
Deloitte Southeast Asia
Contributor: Tasada Sangmanacharoen
Consultant | Clients & Industries
The metaverse, the next evolution in technology and social interaction, is a hot topic of discussion in technology circles, and a growing number of consumers and consumer brands are getting on board. It is also increasingly becoming a topic for executives to address as they consider their companies’ growth, talent strategies, and opportunities.
The concept of metaverse first appeared in the Avalanche, an open, programmable smart contracts platform for decentralized applications, which envisions a cyber realm parallel to the real world, the Metaverse, where everyone in the real world has a digital avatar with whom they interact and live. 5G, AI, blockchain, content creation and other elements, are all part of the metaverse.
The ground idea of the metaverse is not complicated, it includes any digital experience on the internet that is persistent, immersive, three-dimensional (3D), and virtual, and not happening in the physical world. Its experiences allow us to play, work, connect or even purchase products.
The aim of metaverse is to continually optimize users' digital life experiences through XR (Extended Reality). XR-based digital services will gradually penetrate various scenarios and propel breakthroughs in the metaverse’s disruptive digital life experience.
XR is a mainly term for VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality). VR emphasizes real-time interaction of users with the virtual world and creates immersive experience; for example, in the medical industry, complicated surgery scenarios can be replicated without risking patient’s death. AR uses visualization technology to create virtual objects that do not exist in the real world, and accurately "place" them in the real world, such as assist professional training and products trial.
From Deloitte point of view, XR refers to creating a virtual man-machine interaction environment by combining the real and the virtual through a computer. The metaverse in a narrow term is the immersive experience, using a headset to enter virtual world, namely, as we have seen from a movie – Ready Player One. In a broader term, it creates better experiences through “digital twin” which virtually reflects a physical object where user can replicate a system’s various processes and thereby can run any number of useful simulations in order to study multiple processes.
Downstream application scenarios are increasing
There are two types of applications, B2C and B2B. The B2C engages to the mentioned examples. For the B2B applications, whether there is an application prospect for XR depends on three aspects: 1) Can the XR solutions be "scenario-ized", productized, and replicated? 2) Can it truly solve pain points? and 3) Is the scenario market space large enough to support technology development?
For example, in the industrial field, PTC, an industrial software, has integrated its core advantages in product design and product lifecycle management into its internal XR platform. The digital twin helps PTC build a digital mirror in the virtual space that is entirely equivalent to the physical world. By collecting and analyzing data in the dimensions of product development, manufacturing, and business promotion, it lays the foundation for the next vital steps of product design, production process and market launch.
Metaverse, a rising tide in business?
Currently, the metaverse is still in its initial stage, spanning 2021-2030. The mature stage starts from 2031, during which the independent metaverses from various industries gradually share data and develop unified standards, and accomplish integration. Deloitte believes that in this stage, there will be cross-platform and cross-industry ecological linkage. Unified data standards, payment systems and identity authentication are critical to achieving cross-platform development and integration.
From a business viewpoint, unlimited reality blurs the line between offline and online channels and represents rapidly growing opportunities in almost all industries from hardline products to services like education and healthcare. At the minimum, the metaverse will require edge computing capabilities and faster connectivity, which would, in turn, entail investment in next-generation chips, servers, and networking hardware.
In the near future, the metaverse has the potential to evolve traditional business models in several ways. Consider the scope of applications that can emerge as the metaverse evolves:
Manufacturing, logistics—Companies can use digital twins to emulate manufacturing and logistics processes within the metaverse, which may enable lower-cost predictive planning and maintenance. Industrial engineers can also test product designs in a mixed-reality launch pad.
Health, well-being—The current focus on telehealth can evolve to virtual care to recreate the in-person experience. The metaverse could unlock health care innovations, from mental health and pain management to surgery, fitness, physical therapy, and patient care.
Security, privacy—The metaverse likely introduces new cyber vulnerabilities and risks related to digital identity and fraud. Businesses and governments are likely to focus on protecting personal information while also identifying and addressing emerging cyber risks.
Technology investments—The investments in edge computing, next-generation connectivity, software, hardware, and talent to support shifts to virtual reality may be significant.
Taxes, ownership, regulation—A transactional, international virtual universe raises new uncertainties in tax, ownership, and regulatory issues that are traditionally rooted in geographic or jurisdictional boundaries. It also raises questions about policies and practices related to digital assets and digital currencies.
Safety, integrity, responsibility—The metaverse could introduce new challenges in areas such as trust, reputational risk, and even mental health concerns, some of which may not yet have been contemplated.
Talent, skills—The metaverse can enable people to reimagine aspects of how they work, and it can dramatically expand the talent pool for hiring purposes to the extent people can work from literally anywhere. It may also introduce skills gaps in areas such as three-dimensional design and visualization.
For the metaverse situation in Thailand, some leading companies have introduced virtual influencers as part of their marketing campaigns such as AIS announced Ailynn, Thailand’s first AI influencer, True Corp. introduced Imma, a renowned AI influencer from Japan. In addition, M Vision, which specializes in event organizers, is also entering the metaverse opportunity by working with a Singaporean partner to handle marketing and land trade management at Metaverse Thailand project, where virtual land can be bought, traded and developed. For banking industry, SCB 10X has already set up headquarter in The Sandbox, a blockchain-based virtual world platform, and expects to welcome public visits later this year.
Regardless of the ultimate trajectory of the metaverse, it’s clear that technology is evolving rapidly to make virtual interactions more immersive, more diverse, and more innovative. Business leaders can bring wisdom and calm to discussions about metaverse opportunities as well as other ideas about next-generation internet technology that may emerge.
Deloitte China: Metaverse report – Future is here Global XR industry insight
Deloitte US | On the Board’s Agenda: What’s all the buzz about the metaverse?
Deloitte US | A whole new world? Exploring the metaverse and what it could mean for you