Virtual Reality: Metaverse is helping the VR industry to boom
San Francisco For the subsidiary Oculus, the renaming of the parent company Facebook to Meta could hardly have been more successful. Because the announcement by the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, that he would put all his company’s energy into developing a Metaverse in the coming years, brought the VR glasses manufacturer surprisingly high sales over the holidays.
Several market analysts estimate that the app, which is required to operate the Oculus glasses, has been downloaded around 1.8 to two million times worldwide since Christmas. At times, the Oculus app even topped the download leaderboards in Apple and Google app stores during the holidays. It is needed to set up the glasses and is therefore an indicator of sales.
It seems like the tech industry’s vague announcements about the Metaverse have piqued the curiosity of many consumers. While VR glasses have long been considered a niche technology that can only be used for video games or high-tech applications in industry, contrary to the expectations of many experts, the devices are now becoming increasingly popular – even if the Metaverse might not become a reality for a few years.
The success is therefore a surprise even for industry experts. The sudden rise of the Oculus app shows that virtual reality (VR) applications are more widespread than previously thought, writes Jefferies analyst Brent Thill in a recently published study. Investments in the Metaverse are “of decisive importance” in order to get younger users excited about VR games.
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VR glasses are also becoming increasingly popular in Germany. According to a survey published by the industry association Bitkom last week, 17 percent of those surveyed stated that they use VR glasses every now and then. 21 percent of non-users stated that they would definitely want to use such devices in the future. Another 28 percent are at least considering it.
Sebastian Klöß, Head of Consumer Technology & AR / VR at Bitkom, is convinced that “virtual reality has shown its diverse possibilities in gaming, construction and industrial use for a long time.” With the Metaverse, the next development step is imminent, which will give the industry a further boost.
Because for the vision that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and industry colleagues such as Epic boss Tim Sweeney are promoting, new types of devices such as VR glasses play a decisive role. In the long term, it is essentially about creating a three-dimensional digital image of reality, which can then be expanded to include virtual rooms and objects.
Blockchain aims to make virtual objects tradable
If you believe the promotional videos from Meta, it will be possible in the future to go to concerts with friends while one is at home and the other is in the concert hall. “In order to completely immerse yourself in this virtual world, to interact with others and to be able to create virtual objects, there is no way around VR glasses”, so the assessment of Bitkom expert Klöß.
With the Metaverse, a whole economy around virtual objects should arise. Similar to digital works of art that can be traded as individual pieces via “Non-Fungible Token” (NFT), virtual objects in the metaverse should also be able to identify their origin in order to be considered originals. Adidas, for example, has already developed a virtual collection that is sold and traded via NFT – and is therefore limited.
If it goes according to the vision of Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg, a whole economy around digital spaces and objects will emerge in the long term. The Metaverse is about “building a significantly larger creative economy,” the manager explained at his presentation last year.
As with any technology, the more users have the appropriate devices, the more attractive a platform becomes for content and app developers. At the same time, a wide variety of content and apps ensure that more consumers decide to buy a device.
However, an estimate by the strategy consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG) from last February shows that this process can go very quickly. According to this, the global market volume for VR applications and devices will increase tenfold from 2021 to 2024 from 30.7 billion US dollars to 297 billion US dollars. The estimate comes from the time before the hype about the Metaverse really began.
Meta and Microsoft are working on the Metaverse
Even if this long-term goal is still many years in the future, users can already visit individual components of this future metaverse. The most advanced are gaming platforms such as Roblox or Fortnite (Epic), which can already be entered with VR glasses – even if the experience here is limited to the virtual space.
In addition to video games, VR glasses can also be used for digital meetings that are supposed to offer a more personal experience than video conferences. The future connection with reality can already be guessed at here. Examples of this are the meta-platform Horizon and the Microsoft service Mesh.
In both cases, the companies rely on so-called mixed reality technologies in order to also integrate parts of the physical workplace at which the user is seated into the digital space. This should enable typing on a real keyboard during a virtual meeting without the user having to take off their glasses.
VR glasses at the workplace are still one of the rarer application scenarios, at least in Germany. In the Bitkom survey, only seven percent of active users stated that they had used VR glasses in their professional environment. In contrast, the devices were used significantly more frequently for video games (77 percent) or virtual travel (71 percent).
More: Metaverse, giant TVs, autonomous driving: these are the trends at CES.