late last month, Pew Research Center They released a fascinating study in which they asked 624 innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists to share open-ended answers to a question seeking their predictions about the path and impact of the metaverse by 2040.
“54% of these experts said they expect by 2040 the metaverse will be a more refined, truly immersive and well-functioning aspect of the daily lives of half a billion or more people globally.
46% said they expect that by 2040, the metaverse will be a more accurate, truly immersive, and well-functioning aspect of the daily lives of half a billion or more people globally.
These experts were asked to clarify their multiple-choice answers in an open-ended question that invited them to share their views on the positive and negative aspects of the digital world in the future. Two broad themes appeared in those written notes. First, much of these experts have argued that the adoption of extended reality in people’s daily lives by 2040 will be centered around augmented and mixed reality tools, and not in the more extensive virtual reality realms that many people define today as being a “metaverse”. Second, they warned that these new worlds could greatly inflate every human trait and inclinations – the bad and the good. They focused their concerns primarily on the ability of those who control these systems to redirect, limit, or frustrate human agency and stifle people’s ability to self-actualize through the exercise of free will. They are concerned about the future freedom of human beings to expand their national capabilities.”
This is the first serious study, albeit not as scientific as the Pew Research Center says, that gets informed perspectives from the best minds studying the concept of the metaverse and gives insights into the technology that has great potential to shape our digital future.
I highly recommend reading this study to understand the minds of many highly knowledgeable experts on the subject.
Here are three examples of those who answered the metaverse question in 2040-
Eric BurgerD., who recently served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and chief technology officer at the Federal Communications Commission, and is now a member of the College of Computer Science at Georgetown University, replied: Driving cars or roadworthy planes: Here’s roughly for decades but it’s unlikely that structurally for decades. Use cases for fully immersive experiences have a small niche that is unlikely, for economic reasons, to become a global phenomenon for decades to come.”
Jacqueline Ford Moreyvirtual reality pioneer and chief scientist at All This Worlds, co-editor ofResearch guide to global effects and immersive media roles, “I argued that there is much more to be accomplished before fully immersive technology is seen as worthy of widespread adoption.” To be very successful by 2040, “there must be many things for many people, enriching or improving everyday life. It must go beyond gaming and entertainment to provide what each person needs. The first and biggest step will be to create an instance of the metaverse and organize it as a utility/ A public good, so that the largest number of people can access and benefit from it. It must provide value to the participants and not simply treat them as financial sources. If it has to earn a lot of money for companies and the top 10%, it is doomed to be spec-driven and not a real development for humanity” .
A large portion of these responding experts said they expect augmented reality applications to be used more widely in people’s daily lives than immersive virtual reality, which they expect will remain a niche field. Louis Rosenberg, is the CEO of Unanimous AI. His Ph.D. work at Stanford University resulted in the US Air Force Virtual Installations System – an immersive augmented reality system built in 1992. He predicted: “By 2035, people will laugh at pictures of their twenties that show people walking down the street and staring at the phone, necks bent, thinking it looks awkward 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 covered in the real world with precise spatial registration). The virtual metaverse will grow in popularity but will always be limited to short-term applications – mostly for gaming, socializing, shopping and entertainment, and will have strong commercial and educational uses as well. On the other hand, the augmented metaverse will replace mobile phones as our primary gateway to digital content. The transition from mobile phones to augmented reality devices will start in the mid-20s and will be complete by 2035, possibly soon. It will radically change society, transforming our world into an amalgamation of reality and the virtual. People will use augmented reality glasses from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, just as if they had their cell phones with them today. Blockchain will be used to assign ownership of virtual objects within the metaverse. There are many other potential uses, but it’s too soon to know if they will or not. But the assignment of ownership is normal. To see a vision of the augmented metaverse at the end of this decade, you can check out my fun novel,”metaverse 2030. “
I found Louis Rosenberg’s comments more interesting. It illustrates a lot of the way I think about the future of the metaverse, when he says, “The metaverse will evolve in two directions simultaneously – the virtual metaverse (fully simulated worlds) and the augmented metaverse (layers of rich virtual content superimposed on the real world with precise spatial registration). The virtual metaverse will grow in popularity but will always be limited to applications of short duration – mostly For gaming, socializing, shopping and entertainment. It will also have strong commercial and educational uses. On the other hand, the augmented metaverse will replace mobile phones as our primary portal for digital content.”
In fact, many respondents to this survey emphasized that augmented reality will likely be a mainstream technology. However, users will use VR more for immersive short settings such as gaming, shopping, quick meetings, etc.
This focus on augmented reality is also at the heart of Apple’s strategy. After Tim Cook presented the AR Kit at WWDC in June 2017, I spoke with him about his thinking about augmented reality. He told me that he believes that augmented reality could become one of Apple’s most important contributions to the world of technology and have a broader impact on our digital lives.
While the Pew Resource Center study asked people to present their far-reaching views with 2040 in mind, it did not take into account what I would call the wild card 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 it accelerate adoption of at least a vital part of the metaverse’s vision?
Apple has a strong history of moving existing technology into a broader consumer market using technologies that already exist but have made it much better and connected to an ecosystem of apps and services that have revolutionized the need for a specific sector.
For example, mp3 players were 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 the genre for more than 15 years.
Apple was not the first to introduce a smartphone. However, when Apple brought out the iPhone, with its own 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 daily.
Apple also did not invent the tablet market. I tested my first tablet in 1992 when stylus-based tablets first became available. Eighteen years later, in 2010, Apple introduced the iPad, fundamentally changing the way we calculate in mobile settings.
The smartwatch was not invented by Apple, however today the Apple Watch is the dominant smartwatch in the market and it has revolutionized the concept of what a watch can do besides telling the time.
Tim Cook’s vision of augmented reality, regardless of when Apple releases augmented reality glasses or some form of AR/XR headset, should be factored into any discussion about the future adoption of Metaverse. The Pew Research Center study rightly chose an 18-year time frame for reaching the end goal. However, I wanted to include a question that presents itself, “How might Apple’s entry into AR/XR before 2025 affect their long-term expectations on the subject?”
Apple’s history of entering existing markets and connecting them to apps and services suggests that pushing Apple AR/XR by the middle of the decade could accelerate the adoption of augmented reality. This date is something that most respondents to this study will have to agree on will have a greater impact on offering, sooner rather than later, some form of metaverse experience.