At the end of last month, the Pew Research Center released a fascinating study in which they asked 624 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists to share open answers to a question to make their predictions about the trajectory and impact of the metaverse by 2040.
54% of these experts said they expect the metaverse WILL be a much more sophisticated and truly fully immersive, functioning aspect of everyday life for half a billion or more people worldwide by 2040.
46% said they expect by 2040 the metaverse WILL NOT be a much more sophisticated and truly fully immersive, functioning aspect of everyday life for half a billion or more people worldwide.
These experts were asked to explain their multiple choice answers in an open-ended question that invited their views on both the positive and negative aspects of the digital world. Two broad themes emerged from those written comments. First, a notable portion of these experts argued that by 2040, the embrace of augmented reality in people’s everyday lives will be centered around augmented reality and mixed reality tools, not in the more fully immersive virtual reality worlds that many have. define people today as being “the metaverse.” Second, they warned that these new worlds could dramatically amplify every human trait and inclination—both the bad and the good. They focused their concerns primarily on the ability of those in control of these systems to reorient, constrain, or thwart human power and to suppress people’s ability to realize themselves through the exercise of free will. They were concerned about people’s future freedom to expand their innate capacities.”
This is the first serious study, albeit unscientific as the Pew Research Center claims, to gain expert perspectives from top executives studying the concept of the metaverse and provide illuminating insights into a technology that has great potential to shape our digital future. .
I strongly recommend that you read this study to understand the thoughts of many highly knowledgeable experts on the subject.
Here are three examples of those who responded to the metaverse’s question in 2040-
Eric Burgerwho most recently served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and as chief technology officer at the Federal Communications Commission, now in the computer science faculty at Georgetown University, replied, “The metaverse will evolve into remote-controlled self-driving cars.” or pilotable aircraft: almost here for decades but structurally unlikely for decades. The use cases for fully immersive experiences have a small niche that, for economic reasons, is unlikely to grow into a global phenomenon in the coming decades.”
Jacquelyn Ford MorieVR pioneer and chief scientist at All These Worlds, co-editor of “The Handbook for Researching the Global Impacts and Roles of Immersive Mediaargued that much remains to be achieved before fully immersive technology will be considered worthy of wide application. “To be this successful in 2040,” she said, “it must mean a lot to many people, enrich or improve their work.” . daily life. It must go beyond games and entertainment to provide what everyone needs. The first and biggest step will be to instantiate and regulate the metaverse as a public utility so that the greatest number of people can access and benefit from it. It must provide value to its participants and not treat them merely as sources of money. If it has to make tons of money for companies and the top 10%, it’s doomed to be niche-driven and not a true evolution of humanity.”
A notable proportion of these expert respondents said they expect augmented reality applications to be much more widely used in people’s everyday lives than immersive VR, which they expect will remain a niche area. Louis Rosenberg, is CEO of Unanimous AI. His doctoral work at Stanford University resulted in the United States Air Force’s virtual luminaries system — an immersive augmented-reality system built in 1992. He predicted: “By 2035, people will be laughing at images of the 2020s showing people in the street staring at a phone, their necks bent, thinking it looks clunky and primitive. The metaverse will evolve in two directions simultaneously – the virtual metaverse (fully simulated worlds) and the augmented metaverse (layers of rich virtual content superimposed over the real world with accurate spatial registration). The virtual metaverse will grow in popularity, but will always be limited to short-lived uses – primarily for gaming, socializing, shopping and entertainment, and it will also have powerful business and educational uses. The augmented metaverse, on the other hand, will replace cell phones as our primary gateway to digital content. The transition from mobile phones to AR hardware will begin in the mid-2020s and will be completed by 2035, possibly earlier. It will fundamentally change society, turn our world into a merged reality of real and virtual. People will use AR glasses from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, just like they carry cell phones with them today. Blockchain will be used to assign ownership of virtual objects within the metaverse. There are many other possible uses, but it’s too early to know if they will happen or not. But assigning ownership is a natural fit. To see a vision of the augmented metaverse at the end of this decade, check out my fun story,’Metaverse 2030†
I found Louis Rosenberg’s comments most interesting. He describes much of the way I think about the future of the metaverse when he says: “The metaverse will evolve in two directions at once – the virtual metaverse (fully simulated worlds) and the augmented metaverse (layers of rich virtual content superimposed over the real world with precise spatial registration). The virtual metaverse will grow in popularity, but will always be limited to short-lived uses – primarily for gaming, socializing, shopping and entertainment. It will also have powerful business and educational uses. The augmented metaverse, on the other hand, will replace mobile phones as our primary gateway to digital content.”
Indeed, many respondents to this survey emphasized that AR would likely be mainstream technology. However, users will use VR more for short immersive settings like games, shopping, quick meetings, etc.
This focus on AR is also central to Apple’s strategy. Right after Tim Cook introduced the AR Kit at WWDC in June 2017, I spoke to him about his thinking about AR. He told me he believed AR could become one of Apple’s major contributions to the tech world and have a broader impact on our digital lives.
While the Pew Resource Center study asked people to share their longer-term vision with the year 2040 in mind, it failed to take into account what I would call the wildcard or the X factor in this discussion. That would be if Apple introduced consumer-friendly AR/XR glasses in the next few years, and how could this accelerate adoption of at least a vital part of a metaverse vision?
Apple has a strong history of bringing existing technology to a broader consumer market with technologies that already existed but made them much better and connected with an ecosystem of apps and services that revolutionized the need for a particular segment.
For example, MP3 players had been on the market for more than five years before Apple introduced the iPod. However, the iPod spawned a new market for portable music players and dominated this genre for over 15 years.
Apple was not the first to introduce a smartphone. But when Apple released the iPhone, with its app store and links to services, it also revolutionized the smartphone market. As a result, billions of smartphones have been sold, and most people carry one with them every day.
Apple didn’t invent the tablet market either. I tested my first tablet in 1992 when early pen-based tablets first became available. Eighteen years later, in 2010, Apple introduced the iPad and dramatically changed the way we compute in mobile environments.
And Apple didn’t invent the smartwatch, but today the Apple Watch is the dominant smartwatch on the market, and it too has revolutionized the concept of what a watch can do besides telling the time.
Tim Cook’s take on AR, regardless of when Apple releases AR glasses or some form of AR/XR headset, should be factored into any discussion about the future adoption of the metaverse. The Pew Research Center study rightly chose a time frame of 18 years for the metaverse to reach its ultimate goal. However, I would have liked them to include a question asking, “How could Apple’s entry into AR/XR before 2025 affect their long-term forecasts on the topic?”
Apple’s history of entering existing markets and connecting them to apps and services suggests that an Apple AR/XR push by the middle of the decade could accelerate AR adoption. This history is something that most respondents to this survey should agree would have a greater impact on delivering some form of a metaverse experience sooner or later.