It is a new year for tech companies, businesses and most especially, the metaverse. Dubbed the internet’s successor, the metaverse, according to Wikipedia, is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection facilitated by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets.
Currently, the metaverse is still in an infantile stage. While it is accessible primarily through smartphones, eventually the metaverse will be experienced through virtual or augmented reality headsets.
Big tech companies recognize the business opportunities that lie in the metaverse and are gearing up to leverage the opening market. This year, experts have high expectations for the metaverse with many of them saying this year would be a big one for the metaverse and its advancement. With virtual reality and augmented reality headsets eventually becoming a requirement to experience the metaverse, big tech companies are preparing to release new hardware products and software services.
These companies who are already makers of smartphones and software services that run on these smartphones are turning to the metaverse for new opportunities as they see venturing into it as an extension of the products and services that they already provide. According to Goldman Sachs analyst Eric Sheridan in a note shared in December, the metaverse appears to be the “next logical shift in consumption patterns” and will bring a new dawn of industry leaders.
“Large tech platforms (which were beneficiaries of the rise of mobile computing apps) now look toward augmented reality as the next computing platform shift”, he added. As it stands now, companies are already spending a lot of money on research and development so that they do not stay below the competition when the battle of market leadership in the virtual and augmented reality space hits.
The metaverse is a huge deal. In 2021, venture capitalists invested a whopping sum of $10 billion in virtual world startups, according to Crunchbase data. Alongside this, big tech players are spending so much on metaverse-related endeavours. Meta for instance said it has spent so much money on AR and VR, so much that the company’s profit was cut by about $10 billion.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs forecast that in the coming years, as much as $1.35 trillion will be spent in developing AR and VR technologies.
This year, we’re expected to begin to see the release of AR and VR technologies. Let’s take a look at some of these companies and what they’re expected to release.
Facebook is one of the big tech players and the company is out to make gains on the metaverse with its metaverse-based technologies. Last year, the company changed its corporate name from Facebook to Meta to reflect the company’s ambition beyond social media; the new name encompasses the company’s drive into futuristic tech and other businesses that surpass the social media business that it started with. The company adopted its new name from sci-fi terminology metaverse, used to describe the virtual world.
Meta is currently leading other big tech rivals. It is manufacturing and selling VR hardware already and accounted for 75 percent of the market in 2021. This year, the company plans on releasing another virtual reality headset its bee calling Project Cambria. According to Meta, the incoming device will have hardware that makes it better for “mixed reality”. It’ll also make it better to pipe the real world into the viewer using cameras on the outside of a VR headset. It’ll also include face and eye-tracking which will make the device more responsive, Meta said.
Apple, which recently and briefly hit $3 trillion in market capitalization is another big tech company gearing to enter into this new market. Although the tech company has never given confirmation that it is working on augmented reality or virtual reality headset, one thing that’s for sure is that the company has been working on this field inside its Technology Development Group for a couple of years. The company has been laying the steps or foundation for an imminent product category (AR and VR headsets most likely), as its recent iPhone products have LIDAR sensors that have the ability to measure distance; which is very useful for location-based applications. The latest iPhones and iPads are built with software called ARkit, which allows developers to create apps that use the iPhone’s sensors for precise room mapping and localization.
Analysing these steps being taken by Apple, one can come to the conclusion that Apple is preparing to launch a completely new product the world expects to be its high-end AR and VR headset. This new category of product may be launched this year but for now, nothing is for certain as Apple hasn’t confirmed that it is working on augmented reality or virtual reality headset. It is widely known that Apple doesn’t share details about a product until it is ready to be released, so we may be waiting for an announcement later this year.
Another big tech company racing to be at the forefront of this emerging market is Google. In 2013, the company introduced Google Glass but this wasn’t well received. This didn’t shake the company as it continued in its attempts. The Google Glass is a “primitive” version of AR and VR headsets. Although it is still available today, the company only sells exclusively.
Since then, the company has introduced more sophisticated AR headsets since its Google Glass; they have better displays, improved sensors, and more powerful processors. Google acquired North, a startup working on lightweight AR glasses that were better than the company’s Google Glass in terms of functionality. The company also built a team focusing on augmented reality and is heavily hiring for this team which the company says is working on an “innovative AR device”.
Google’s Android operating system is the most popular in the world and not delving into AR and VR means the company is ready to give up its position as a market leader.
Another big tech company that cannot, in any way, be overlooked is Microsoft. In 2016, the company introduced HoloLens, a fully-featured AR headset but this is still a long way from being on the shelves or under a Christmas tree. The company has been selling its AR headset to businesses that can afford the price tag of $3,500 and wants to see if their workers become more productive as a result of the product.
The US military remains Microsoft’s biggest client for the product. Earlier in 2021, the company won a $22 billion deal to sell 120,000 custom HoloLenses to the government.
As AR and VR headsets become increasingly popular, Microsoft is expected to either release the HoloLens to the public or release another version for the general public.