Just a few months ago, there was no definition in the Miriam Webster Dictionary for “metaverse.” Yet while the word has such a science-fiction ring to it, it’s being deployed already in emerging technology applications. Early solutions are already being used to enhance human capabilities and tasks using digital technologies. Often this comes in the form of apps that leverage mobile devices, but the upside is tremendous, perhaps reaching into the trillions of dollars. In the first of this two-part series, hosted by Geof Wheelwright, futurist Matt Griffin and Arm Director of Innovation Remy Pottier talk definitions, applications, digital twins, virtual real estate and more.
Geof: Today’s Arm Viewpoints podcast is about something I know you will have heard a lot about in the last year or two, the metaverse. In this episode, we have two very special guests that will walk us through what the metaverse means and then we’ll explore its full our first guest is Matt Griffin. Matt is a futurist and both the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a Global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070. Matt is also a returned guest to this podcast, so welcome back Matt.
Matt: Thank you very much. Great to be back and joining you again.
Geof: Matt in our discussion today is Remy Pottier, director of Innovation at Arm. Remy has more than 20 years of experience in strategy, new business, incubation, new business ventures, business development and marketing of high technology innovation.
His work involves looking at multi horizon innovation, from defining long-term futurist scenarios to the exploration of how these scenarios can emerge from the current. Welcome, Remy. Thank you. Thank you. So to get things started, why don’t we define terms? Let’s start with the word metaverse. So perhaps you could kick it off Matt and then Remy.
Matt: Yeah. Okay. So actually I think it’s a really good question, and when we actually have a look at defining the metaverse, I think it’s important for the listeners to actually understand that about six months ago, six months ago in the Miriam Webster dictionary, the word metaverse didn’t actually have any definition whatsoever. So on the one hand, this show is just how fast technology and trends actually evolve and come, come to fruition. However, if we are talking about definitions, my preferred definition for the metaverse is the coming together of the physical, digital, and virtual worlds in a way that eventually will seem seamless.
Geof: So Remy, what do you think of that? Yeah,
Remy: I like this definition and we’ve been spending a lot of time actually to create your own definition, to be sure that we include, all the inputs we get from our partners here. But I think the shortest definition I could come up with, the metaverse is the ultimate stage of digitization of every industry.
And I think there are two important aspects here. First, it says that it’s a continuation to the next stage it’s a continuation, an evolution of current digitization of or industries. So first aspect here, it’s not an evolution, it’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution. And two it’s for all industry and all type of experience, so there will be no one left behind.
So every work play, or live experience will have some form of metaverse component. So that’s where we come up with, but. In the end, it was not sufficient, so it’s not describing enough. So we’ve come up with another one, which is the metaverse is a massively scale, an interoperable network of real time render of virtual actual worlds where work, play, and live reality is infused by multimodal, immersive digital experience.
This one is a bit more longer and more difficult to follow, I admit. But, There are few words that are important here. So the first one is the metaverse is what we want to say. So it’s a reality today. Massively scale and interoperable network of real time, render the actual worlds .
It’s important. So the metaverse is a collection of worlds, not one world but maybe multiple world and the world the word world is important as well here because it’s not about situations where people are browsing some internet website. It’s about living an experience. And I think that, that’s pretty important aspect here.
And finally, influence by Multimodel Immersive Digital experience. What we want to say here is that special and 3D visually are going to be very important, but not exclusive and we probably will come up to that point later on.
Geof: I think you make a good point about the word is. Because I know there’s been a lot of media interest and coverage around the metaverse, but a lot of that seems to be hype, although some of it seems to be reality.
So maybe Remy you could speak to that. How much is today and how much of is hype and how much of it is just predictions about the future? So Remy, if you could kick that off and then maybe Matt you could tackle it.
Remy: Yeah probably we take three quick examples here. The metaverse is clearly a reality for certain market and certain company to pick industry or metaverse, where you have company like Autodesk, NVIDIA, BMW and they create digital twin, a full factory floor to train AI in this metaverse train robot in virtual worlds was educate worker, that’s very real, and it’s the journey started already few years ago, with industry iot and, industry 4.0. So it’s an evolution here. The second example is also very real for company like Roblox, unity, epic game. There are, there are experience creation platform and 3D engine are generating billions in revenues generally just from the platform itself.
And when, they’re just picking a small portion of the revenue generating of the platform, it’s pretty real business here. And the third one I will pick is think about brands and digital marketing. It’s new marketing channel where you can have access to your existing or potentially new customer base.
And it makes, I think, a lot of sense for brands here and specifically because it’s a very small step to switch, part of your digital marketing budget to metaverse-related budget. And clearly a place where you can reach new customer and in a different way for of course and even, some of them, I thought it was very interesting was they can test virtual product just before they go and they go and build it in the physical world.
So very interesting place to, to do stuff and very real for these people.
Geof: So Matt your thoughts?
Matt: So on the one hand, when we are, when we say today that the metaverse is real, it’s a bit of an idiom, let’s face it, because technically the metaverse isn’t real. That’s the whole point.
When we’re, when we’re having a look at, virtual real estate Yeah. Investors, last year put in what, £500 million pounds by seeing virtual real estate and everyone was going, but they’re not buying real estate. They’re buying stuff that doesn’t exist. So this is the fascinating thing about the metaverse. What we’re doing is we’re talking about a thing that’s only recently got a definition that technically doesn’t actually but that actually has real impact in the real world, so this is where, when we’re having a look at the merging of the physical, digital, and virtual worlds, we really get into some head bangers basically, when we talk about the art of the possible.
Now, as Remy mentioned, we already see brands that are creating virtual products. So I typically argue that we are already living in this world where there are actually three economies. So we have the physical economy. So for example, I can buy a real pair of ADIDAS sneakers. We have the digital economy where I can download and experience the ADA fitness app like Runtastic, but then brands basically can create virtual copies or virtual.
Additions basically of, they’re different products. They’re different physical products like virtual sneakers, which then means that companies like added ass, for example, can sell you a physical product. A virtual product and a digital product. So this is where increasingly when we have a look at product and product development, we get into this space of what we call five digital products.
So products basically that have ironically a virtual, a digital, and a physical component. Now, when we have a look at some of the things that brands are actually doing, I work with a variety of different brands. We’ve got brands that are creating perfumes in the metaverse, clothes, in the metaverse, handbags in the metaverse.
So what we see is we see all these different brands around the world actually experimenting with the potential that the metaverse gives them, so again, Remy mentioned BMW, when we have a look at an extension of the metaverse. The metaverse, we could argue is this simulation.
We are seeing brands that’s now using what we call creative artificial intelligences to design products in simulation. So for example, virtual reality-based drugs or drugs rather, that are designed in virtual reality landscapes that are then eventually manufactured in the real world but done so at speeds that were unimaginable even just a couple of years ago.
So we are in this really fascinating Wild West time at the moment, and we are already i, I think a little bit, basically passing metaverse hype. We’re seeing the number of mentions in AGMs (annual general meetings)of the metaverse actually decline as CEOs start going back to augmented reality and virtual reality conversations.
But, when you start having a look at this virtual economy, organizations like JP Morgan, Citi, Goldman Sachs, estimate that the metaverse/Web3, which isn’t really a topic of this conversation today, is worth anywhere between eight to 13 trillion dollars in addressable market opportunity. So it’s either way, it’s big, it’s impactful, we’re seeing a lot of new, exciting things emerging.
Some won’t stick, but some things definitely will.
Geof: Yeah, it’s interesting you’re mentioning those numbers as I was looking at the McKinsey report, which came out in June, so maybe it’s already dated. But that report, value creation in the metaverse suggested that it has a market potential of 5 trillion, which sounds like a lot of money, but not as big as the 13 trillion you were talking about.
Matt: So this is where anytime we see a new technology or new trend emerging, I always tend to feel that analysts rush to stick a big number on. It’s let’s stick a giant number like iot. We saw that with a couple of. Should we say unmentionable networking companies where the IOT opportunity was like 4 trillion, et cetera, et cetera.
That’s it. The fact of the Matter is, it’s a good-sized market, irrespective of what number we actually do, try and stick on it.
Yeah, and I think it also depends, again, like going back to what we’re talking about initially about how you define terms. If we go back to your sneaker example, you could say okay, there’s a bunch of people who are going to buy digital sneakers, but then they’re going to turn that around and say, okay, I want a custom manufactured version of this and then, does that number get added onto your estimate of the size of the market and the economic opportunity? So you know that there’s, I think. Some things that people will think through over time about how that gets attributed. But that I think provides a good segue into talking about what it means for consumers of technology versus companies.
Remy, maybe you want to kick this off and then Matt step in.
Remy: So coming back to the 5 trillion, I think that’s huge number. Agreed. But what’s interesting here to take at the reference is what the size of the digital economy. If you pick report, you will find like in 2018, all the digitally transform enterprise were accounting for something like 13 trillion US dollar of the global nominal GDP and the forecast for next year.
Geof: So 2023 is that this same digital economy so digitally transform enterprise will account for 53 trillion US dollar. So more than half of the overall nominal gdp. Depending on how much of this economy, actually this digital economy switched to metaverse-related experience, we can certainly reach this number because it’s only 10%.
Finally, and if you think that every single industry may be transformed at some point by metaverse experience and yeah you probably add up to get your 5 trillion here. Now, yeah, what it means for enterprise, I think there are two, two things here. There are a bottom-line opportunity and a top line opportunity.
When I say bottom line, it, if you get this company that will continue to do their digitization and of all their processes, it means they’re trying to get, more efficiently to develop their product, designed them, maintain them potentially. So it’s about saving. And, going into the metaverse and this source is digitization.
Yeah. Hard time to pronounce this word probably I should change it anyway yeah. So it’s about saving money here. And the other aspect of course is what every, everyone will think about is how do I create new augmented product or services for my customers? But I think that these two aspects for enterprise.
Now for consumer, this means that a lot of live or play experience will switch to the metaverse. This means potentially new immersive, personalized experience can be, in, in or in your smart or in retail, in hospitality. So wherever you go, and it certainly means, 3D virtual options that’s open up for film, television, and music and that we will be able to consume.
So very interesting world by for sure.
Geof: So Matt, what does your time machine tell you?
Matt: Yeah, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to build on what Remy said. I’m going to actually flip it a little bit. So I’m going to start basically with consumer first, and then I’m going to go to Enterprise now. About six months ago, basically there was a large consumer electronics company which bought out basically a new connected home experience, but it was actually a metaverse connected home experience.
And the reason why I’m going to tell you this story is cuz I think this shows just exactly where a lot of companies trying to experiment with the metaverse to try to get their heads around, what can we do, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And try and push some boundaries, but maybe in a slightly odd way.
So this large consumer electronics giant ended up creating a metaverse digital twin of people’s homes, people’s connected homes that would then let people sit in those virtual reality versions of their houses to then control their real houses. While they were actually sitting in them, so when we actually have a look at this kind of, this metaverse Wild West, basically there’s a huge amount of experimentation going on, but there’s a lot of sorts of crazy stuff going on as well.
But from a consumer perspective, let’s face it, the metaverse is. Big ticket items at the moment really look along the lines of retail entertainment. You can throw in things like collaboration and future of work in there. We’ve seen some quite interesting sort of takes basically on the metaverse in the future of work now when we actually start having a look at enterprise applications.
There was a big us university a little while ago, basically that found a way to improve the productivity of the workforce in virtual reality by about 30%. Now I know that a lot of executives will be listening that and they’ll be thinking, wow, how do I increase the productivity of my entire workforce by 30% by using virtual reality?
And this is how this university did it. They gave the people’s avatars a third arm and a third hand. So, yeah, and this is when we talk about the metaverse, a lot of us often talk about the metaverse in linear terms. If we are working in the metaverse, we still think we’ve got two hands, one head, I was going to say two heads one body, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But the metaverse fundamentally lets us break all the laws of nature, all the laws of physics and everything else. When we actually have a look at some of the enterprise applications now, we move digital twins to meta twins. So we see two very large cities globally that are now developing meta twins as opposed to digital twins, with the idea being that their citizens can go to a virtual reality-based town hall or police station to do whatever it is that they want to do.
We’re seeing a lot of, a lot of, some of the world’s largest heavy asset manufacturers who shall remain nameless actually making products in the metaverse. So they’re building products in the metaverse in virtual reality, testing them in simulation, and then using artificial intelligence to retroactively adapt those products so that they can then be 3D printed in the industry 4.0 factory that has just been set up using a meta twin and optimized using artificial intelligence. So when we actually have a look at enterprise applications, yeah there’s a huge array that’s going on at the moment.
But from my sort of vantage point, I see a lot of experimentation to do with products, but then also a lot of experimentation to do with how companies fundamentally operate.,
Yeah, I think that’s interesting and it actually segues into what I was going to talk about next in terms of near-term possibilities for meta metaverse solutions.
And Matt, I think you’ve outlined some really interesting examples. Re do you want to add to
Remy: that? The first thing we are hardware company, so we like to think about what the hardware are going to be for, why enabling this experience, beyond the experience itself. and we’ve been watching know there’s dozens of millions, one of their user virtual reality, such user worldwide, with real application in gaming.
And that’s near terms that just now, and if it’s even in the past. So I’ve been playing Tomb Raider here already three, four years ago. And this was pretty real. And now what is important to look at today is beyond these tens of million of year user there are billion of smartphone and tablet user.
So in the next two, three years, our mean, quite really during the impression that we will see most of the metaverse experience being delivered through smartphone, tablet, and pc. But I think that’s near-term solution from a hardware standpoint that definitively make makes. And I will say I even think that during this kind of near term or early phase, let’s call it, of the metaverse, and maybe we can define it maybe later on, hardware may even be less important than content and user base.
So that’s an interesting finding that we got here.
Matt: Just on that point, when we actually have a look at the meta, when we have a look at the metaverse, one of the biggest barriers to entry to the metaverse is that today you’ve got to use joysticks and you’ve got to use, the big virtual reality headsets.
But we’re already seeing at least three organizations that are developing vir that are developing but have also developed virtual reality sunglasses. We’re all familiar now, basically with augmented reality sunglasses, Augmented reality glasses rather, that’s it. But these new virtual reality glasses literally look like a pair of sunglasses.
And they’re actually, they’re being built using a new kind of material called a nanoscale metamaterial, which means that you can have lenses in glasses that are atom thin, but still let the human eye focus Yeah on whatever it is that it’s actually looking. in a relatively normal way, with as well as with six degrees of free freedom and so on and so forth.
So increasingly in the next couple of years, from a gadgets perspective, we could actually see slipping into the metaverse as easy as putting on a pair of sunglasses. And then as for those controllers, basically that we talk about, increasingly artificial intelligence is good at predicting our hand gestures and modeling our hand gestures, for example, as well.
As our body gestures, which means we can get rid of those controllers. So we all know basically that when technology becomes invisible, that’s when we start seeing adoption actually increasing. And certainly with a lot of the organizations I talk to, we posit this theory of in say, 3, 4, 5 years’ time, do I give you a corporate laptop?
That costs what, 300, $400? Or do I give you a pair of virtual reality sunglasses? That cost may be about the same, 300, 400, that then let you move into the virtual reality world. It is the metaverse to actually work where you’re not constrained by one screen or two hands. You can have as many hands as you like, and you can have as many screens as you like, and so on and so forth.
So this is where hardware is often not talked about enough, in my opinion, when we talk about the metaverse, but it’s an integral and highly important part of the overall stack. And it’s a very important piece of the jigsaw puzzle when we talk about adopting the metaverse.
Geof: That really leads to the question of, and maybe Remy you can kick us off. Who or what do you think will be the winners in expanding this metaverse and who is it going to help the most?
Remy: What is going to be the killer app? What is going to be the key hardware platform as we just, we were just talking about it? What kind of form factor will be the right one and who is going to be the next social network or internet winner of the future or so. Is it going to be one of the current gaffer? Is it going to be new player? If I have to bet here, I will probably first look at the personas of this key company. What is the user based for their work, play or live experience? And I will certainly search for who is winning the digital generation today? This generation, which don’t really care about, real travel, real interactions.
So with who, for which a digital experience is as good as a physical one, and which company have started to win this person? Now, if I’m cross all these things and those kinds of metrics, either only a few names that will pop up. And these are not the big ones from today.
Geof: Interesting. What do you think, Matt?
Matt: So yeah, so Remy mentioned hardware and I really, I’ve been itching for a little while to actually just throw this one in. That’s it because, yep. I talked earlier about the metaverse not apply the metaverse not being subject to the law of physics or nature or any of these kinds of things.
Now, today, basically, we’re still very much used to, for example, hardware. If we have a look at the computers basically that we wear, if we have a look at the headsets that we wear and everything else, yeah, they all have computer chips in them. They all have memory, they’ve all got electronic circuitry and PCBs in them and so on and so forth.
But the reason why I want to go on a little bit of a segue here is because I think on the one hand, this is a fun one but also actually it demonstrates basically the kind of new weird world that we could actually be going into that again, a lot of people really aren’t talking about. So a little while ago, basically, we saw a bedroom hacker essentially basically creating a new kind of computer in Minecraft out of Redstone.
So this particular computer was about a one Hertz computer chip. It managed to play snake and. In Minecraft terms, it was like 70 stories high. It was a monster. It was like a city block in size but in Minecraft. Now elsewhere, there was a, there were a couple of universities where an artificial intelligence built a computer within itself that could then run another artificial intelligence that could then build a computer in itself.
The good run and artificial intelligence, so at the moment, basically we live in this world where we st we where we know that hardware is, a physical being. We all know about virtual machines with the likes of VMware and Microsoft and all those kinds of guys. That’s it.
But yeah, what happens basically, when you have the ability to create a computer, in the metaverse that actually can do compute and calculations and so on and so forth that is also capable of recursive improvement because it’s been built by an AI and the AI says, I’m going to improve this part of it, this nanosecond, and in the next nanosecond I’m going to improve this.
You know what happens? Basically when you truly abstract computer chips away from actual hardware and you end up building massive planet sized computers, basically, which you can do in something like the metaverse. The metaverse, by definition has no bounds outside of the amount of physical compute that we have on earth today.
So on the one hand, when we talk about hardware, I just wanted to put that in because. That’s a really interesting conversation. I don’t think many people are actually even seeing, let alone having, and we can see some incredibly powerful computers coming down the line in a couple of decades time using that kind of construct.
But then when we actually have a look at winners, I think it’s as Remy said, And I’m going to throw, I’m going to throw a stone into the pond on this one as well. Now we’ve got the traditional gaffers and fat bags and all that sort of stuff. We know that meta is actually trying to build a metaverse vertical stack.
Now, part of the reason why Meta wants to build a vertical stack is because unlike today, where they own your newsfeed and they own some of your messaging services and so on and so forth, if we build an entire virtual society within the metaverse, then these large, big tech companies can actually own everything from the payments layer, the collaboration layer, basically the smart contract layer, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
They own the entire world, and I’ve actually got a couple of customers now that are literally building entire cities within the metaverse as we speak. And but when we actually have a look at these big platforms, we’ve got the big tech companies that we see today, both in the West as well as the East with Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, those kinds of guys.
We also see the gaming companies, so the likes of Roblox and Epic as well as Minecraft, as well as sort of Minecraft, but more Microsoft in that construct. However, when we actually have a look, for example, at the vehicle space, we’ve got organizations like Audi basically that are building virtual reality worlds and constructs. Ernst and Young have been building virtual realities and virtual reality worlds and so on and so forth. And so as Remy said, when you actually have a look at the kind of users basically, that are trying to use these kinds of platforms, I think basically what you’ll actually end up seeing is while there is a general belief with a lot of people, that it’s going to be the big tech companies that dominate the metaverse, I think what you’re actually going to see is a much larger fragmentation, basically, of the universe until in about 10 years’ time it starts consolidating down. And that’s the most interesting, so when talk about the metaverse, I typically talk in terms of the metaverse as being, the metaverse is the equivalent of Earth, but then you have all these different platforms that make up the earth, which we know as today of as countries.
Yeah, there are so many companies today like Siemens, for example, who are building giant metaverse platforms that when we talk about who dominates the future, it’s not actually guaranteed that it’s going to be a giant tech company that wins, or how should we say the lion’s share? Because there’s always going to be more than one.
Geof: Maybe what we’re talking about actually, rather than winners and losers, is really use cases and who’s going to be able to create compelling or meet the needs of compelling use cases.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. If you have a look at, for example, things like healthcare and exercise, that could very well be one of the big sports companies. When we have a look at, should we say factory or industrial applications, that could be very, be one of the big, industrial organizations out there. I mentioned Siemens, they are already building smart factories, industry 4.0, but they’re also metaverse factories as well that companies like BMWs is already tapping in too.
So yeah, absolutely. It could be much more based on your experience. Like today, for example, today basically we might actually share personally, we’ll share our information on say, TikTok or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever else it happens to be. That’s it. So we have one kind of platform for our personal needs. But when we talk about business, we’ve got databases, we use Oracle or SAP or Microsoft or whatever it happens to be, so it could very well be that we end up skipping between different metaverse platforms to achieve different things, which then means interoperability is key because I want to be able to take whatever stuff I’ve created or done in one metaverse platform and transpose it automatically into the other one that I’ve gone into. And so interoperability for me is basically one of the burning questions that we actually see today.
Geof: What do you think, Remy, do you think interoperability is going to help drive more interesting use cases?
Remy: Use case is the first thing you probably need to do. To be able to explore, to understand, what’s real, where is the money, what’s impact on my technology and what I should be exploring, now to enable this use case actually to reach reality. And actually we’ve been spending a moment on that, in the initial phase of exploration of the metaverse and we kind ending up, adding like dozens of use case that we finally aggregated in four categories. The first categories actually we found the best way to, to explain that is transcending time and place, though. It’s, yeah, it’s about digital teleportation. It’s about adding a way, to travel the world in a digital way without, moving from your chair.
And interestingly, I was talking to some travel companies like the idea in fact because think about what Matt, Matt was saying a bit earlier today, you can have a, you pay for it, we real travel. And then you can replay it as much as you want in the metaverse and eventually change a little bit the story maybe if you want, because you know it’s a metaverse, so you can probably do it.
So yes, transcending time and place and with the number one use case, I think here is what I’m calling the Kingsman boardroom experience. This is the next generation of immersive video conferencing. So you put your air glasses and now you know I see you in the eyes, I feel you are there. So I’m, now I can do this kind of co-creation.
It can be training, education, product development. So I was talking to company that want, even to use this kind of Kingsman ballroom experience to co-create and co-develop product in the metaverse from sites that will be in India, or they’re in China, or they’re in Europe, and people can meet in this collaboration room, look at the device touch it and, decide whether or not it’s the right device they want to create.
So that’s the number one use case number two is, I will call it window into the unseen. So it can give, for instance, a repair crew, a realistic simulation of what’s happening inside the running motor. Or likewise, similar application will enable surgeon to get an internal view of organs. So it’s really, seeing what you cannot see.
Num number three is alternate reality. So we are all familiar with, Pokemon Go. Same thing could be used by cities and it’s happening in Rome. For instance, today they let you, that they let the visitors, examine, lost archeological wonder, thanks to augmented reality.
And finally the last one is probably my favorite. It’s expanding human capabilities. So we are weak today and very limited when you think about the metaverse capability, which is infinite. Can do whatever you want in the metaverse. Go anywhere you want. Yeah, just think about real time translation of everything you do, so you will be able to speak any language without even having to think about it. It could augment your five senses, from everything to the digital world or become your super digital assistant, that basically know everything you sh you, or knew where did I put my keys yesterday? The digital assistant just know, because, he has been able to store everything and if he can search there’s kind of four use cases.
One, we aggregated and what we are doing now is to look at each of them and say, okay, these are consistent use cases across multiple verticals. And then, what does it mean in term of hardware and technology we need to develop? So what are the key technology domain we should watch?
Geof: Thank you Matt and Remy for that fascinating discussion as you both defined, the metaverse explained what it is and could be, and also explored some very cool potential use cases, some of which are already happening now.
Stay with us for part two, where Matt and Remy discuss the enormous potential and opportunities from the metaverse, including some of the likely early adopters and future experiences, as well as that sci-fi movies that the metaverse could closely resemble. Thank you and stay tuned for more metaverse discussion.