It wouldn’t surprise anyone if “metaverse” was designated 2022’s Word of the Year. Whether it’s Facebook changing its name (and stock symbol) to Meta, Disney announcing a metaverse entertainment game plan, or employees chatting about their adventures in the Sandbox, metaverse references are everywhere. Even McDonald’s is getting into the act as it recently filed a trademark application for a virtual restaurant. Walmart, Samsung and PwC are just a few of the other traditional players who are moving ahead with plans to operate in the metaverse. But not everyone is enthralled by this section of the virtual world.
The metaverse economy could represent an $800 billion opportunity in 2024 and as much as $5 trillion by 2030. (Bloomberg, McKinsey)
The average price per parcel of virtual land across the six major Ethereum metaverse projects dropped from approximately $17,000 in January 2022 to around $2,500 in August 2022, or an 85% decline. (WeMeta)
On a weekly average, land trading volume dropped from its peak of $1 billion per week in November 2021 to approximately $157 million per week in August 2022. (WeMeta)
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, believes the metaverse is a little too esoteric to be a practical option for most people. It’s nearly impossible for the average person to understand why anyone would want to own virtual land near a virtual yacht club, let alone pay as much for it as you would for a house you can actually live in. Or why would a hungry gamer feel satisfied with a virtual hamburger from a virtual fast food restaurant?
In a CNBC report, Cook explains why he is leery of the metaverse and thinks augmented reality (AR) — where virtual elements and images are superimposed onto the real world — is more likely to generate feasible uses and underpin a true revolution in medicine, academia, tourism and other areas where the ability to be immersed in a virtual actual reality can be advantageous.
Cook has been quoted as saying that he believes “AR is a profound technology that will affect everything. Imagine suddenly being able to teach with AR and demonstrate things that way.”
Cook suggested people might eventually think of AR as they do the internet: ubiquitous and difficult to live without. “Zoom out to the future and look back, you’ll wonder how you led your life without augmented reality,” Cook said. “Just like, today, we wonder: ‘How did people like me grow up without the internet?”
Or a cell phone or GPS.
Or, conversely, we might look back and wonder how someone missed the future of the metaverse, just as Thomas Watson, president of IBM, failed to see a need for more than five computers in the world (1943) or Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp, seeing no reason anyone would want a computer in the home (1977) or Robert Metcalf, founder of 3M, predicting the internet would soon go supernova and collapse (1995).
It’s nearly impossible to separate true innovation from fad. Will the metaverse have us looking back and wondering why everyone didn’t see its advantages—or will those who are betting on AR be the winners? Or maybe we’ll go forward with both in our lives. It seems that in an expanded universe we shouldn’t have to make a choice.