© Reuters. Big Tech Metaverses: All You Need to Know about Meta, Microsoft, Google, And Apple
Once a sci-fi scenario, immersive digital worlds are becoming a reality, not in the near future but today. Digital worlds could enable people to virtually play, travel, work and shop together.
The market size for Metaverse is expected to be $800 billion by 2024. Big tech is entering the race to create the Metaverse and secure its share of this vast future market.
Let’s dive more profound into the metaverse projects developed by the tech behemoths, and discuss the company’s strategy in creating Metaverse and its’ possible future.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:) Metaverse
The metaverse platform, developed by Microsoft, is called Microsoft Mesh. Microsoft chose to focus on creating a work environment in the Metaverse.
Microsoft is integrating Mesh with Microsoft Teams as a first step towards creating the Metaverse. The integration will open doors to more immersive experiences in the workplace. People in different physical locations can send chats, join hybrid and virtual meetings, or collaborate on shared documents.
According to Microsoft, an immersive space within a team’s channel could help strengthen workplace collaboration. For example, a product design team might create an immersive space for its daily standup meeting, with whiteboard and product prototypes displayed on a table.
Regarding the hardware, Microsoft is developing its own mixed reality headset, HoloLens 2. The product originated as a headset for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console. However, the company is not trying to lock the market share by tying Metaverse to its hardware. The Mesh will be accessible by using any VR headset, mobile phone, tablet, or PC, by using the Mesh-enabled app.
Microsoft chose a strategy to build Metaverse as an extension of their current application ecosystem. The company already has a strong portfolio of applications that could become building blocks for the future Metaverse.
Worth to mention a couple of the company’s applications and technology, which will be especially important for the future development of the Metaverse. The first one is Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces. This application delivers real-time actionable recommendations by utilizing video camera data and AI to help retail store owners analyze and improve the shopping experience.
The second one is Azure Digital Twins. It is an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that enables companies to model digital copies of real-world environments and business processes to gain insights and optimize operations and costs.
The technology that underlies both of these applications enables the creation of immersive experiences and, once integrated into Metaverse, could give Microsoft a huge push.
That is not the only Microsoft milestone in the creation of Metaverse. Microsoft staked its place early in the virtual economy. While games could be considered an entry point to the Metaverse and its immersive experience, Microsoft’s investment in the gaming industry can bring the company a competitive advantage in the development of the Metaverse.
By acquiring game studios, Microsoft gained access to thriving gamers communities and prominent game franchises. Back in 2014, the company bought the Minecraft game for $2.5 billion. In 2020, Microsoft bought gaming company ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion.
It is hard to tell how much so far Microsoft invested into the creation of Metaverse. One of the biggest investment into the Metaverse could be considered the historical acquisition deal of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:). Microsoft acquired the game studio for $68.7 billion. This gave the company access to 390 million monthly users and existing game titles, including such legendary games as Call Of Duty.
How far has Microsoft gone in creating the Metaverse? The company announced working on the Metaverse back in 2021. At the time of writing, Microsoft Mesh is available in a limited free preview, where the companies can try the Mesh app using HoloLens 2.
Meta’s Metaverse prototype is called Horizon Worlds. It is a virtual reality, an online video game with an integrated game creation system. Metaverse users can contribute by creating their world on the platform. Meta is also planning to introduce Horizon Workrooms for professionals and companies. It will include VR spaces for collaborative work and virtual meetings.
The platform has some drawbacks. It is not immune to harmful content, which has been an issue for Horizon Worlds from the beginning. Also, clumsy aesthetics and frequently ill-designed controls. Another considerable issue is centralization. Even though Meta encourages the platform’s co-creation, it still stands in the power of the development tools.
Meta has its own native metaverse hardware – Oculus. Horizon Worlds can be accessed using the Oculus Quest headset. Facebook (NASDAQ:) acquired Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. Oculus Quest 2 headset was the best-selling VR headset of 2021, shipping more than 8.7 million units, which gives Meta an advantage in the race for Metaverse.
Another significant advantage of Meta is its immense use base across its various social media platforms. Meta is taking a bottom-up strategy to create Metaverse. The company is bringing all customers into a metaverse that can grow into a place for both play and work.
The focus shift from a social media platform to the Metaverse is depicted in companies rebranding from Facebook to Meta. The name change comes after the company declared its intention to employ 10,000 employees in the EU to build the “Metaverse.”
Meta’s metaverse concept is more closely aligned with the sci-fi future, in which people spend a significant amount of their lives immersed in colorful virtual realities.
So far, Meta has invested $10.2 billion in its Reality Labs business. However, the company lost $2.81 billion on $452 million in revenue in Q2.
How is Meta doing with the Metaverse development? Facebook announced opening up Horizon Worlds in December 2021. In February 2022 company stated that Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues had a total monthly userbase of 300,000 people, that users had built 10,000 worlds within Horizon Worlds, and that its private Facebook group for creators had over 20,000 members. That shows rapid growth, but it is still far away from its competitors, such as Roblox.
While other big tech companies are introducing their metaverse concepts, Apple stayed quiet for a while. However, there are some signs that Apple is also working on creating its own virtual reality world. And for decades.
Apple’s strategy always was to keep their products low profile until they reached the final development stage. So the company can be full of surprises for the metaverse market.
An important sign of the company’s progress in creating Metaverse is registered patterns involving AR/VR technologies, starting in 2008. Another one – is key acquisitions. Apple acquired PrimeSense, which provided 3D sensing technology. Also, the companies working on face tracking, like PolarRose. In 2017, the company bought augmented reality startup Vrvana, also Akonia Holographics – a company focusing on making lenses for AR glasses.
One of Apple’s serious advantages is the market share of smartphones. Globally, 20 % (900 million) of people hold iPhones. Among the young adults, these numbers are even bigger. For example, in the US, Apple keeps 70% of the market share among the young.
The new iPhones are coming with a piece of hardware, making them more powerful, and new sensors enable a better augmented reality experience. This shows the company’s focus on augmented reality and creating a potential user base for future Metaverse.
Google dealt with a failure of Google smart glasses back in 2014. This was the company’s first step into more immersive internet experiences. It is likely that the glasses were introduced ahead of time, the price was too high, or the company just failed to determine its utility of it.
Despite that, tech behemoth is back to the competition for digital worlds. Google’s AR headsets, internally codenamed “Project Iris”, are expected to be released in 2024.
Its product should be more immersive than currently on the market available AR glasses. On top of that, Google invested $39.8 million in a private equity fund for metaverse projects.
The technology combines computer visuals with a video feed of the real environment using outward-facing cameras. According to the Verge, Google keeps the project secret, requiring “special keycard access” and “non-disclosure agreements.”
One of Google’s most significant advantages is its vast user base. Google has secured 70% of the search market share. Creating a more immersive browsing experience seems natural.
Another advantage is Google Maps. Decades of work pay off, as Street View imagery has been gathered in more than 100 countries and territories. It ranges from places such as Grand Canyon National Park to the Great Barrier Reef. Google can really make a push building Metaverse based on Maps.
Google Maps Experiences vice-president Miriam Daniel said in a post that the company is introducing an “immersive view” that would combine Street View images with AI to create a detailed digital model of the world.
“You’ll be able to experience what a neighborhood, landmark, restaurant, or popular venue is like – and even feel like you’re right there before you ever set foot inside,” Daniel said.