Recently, the Accenture Research team got together for our first immersive team meeting. The thrill of meeting and interacting as digital personas (a.k.a. avatars) was palpable.
The high-fives, the engaging eye gaze, conversational avatars, spatial sound and immersive virtual environments helped us feel like we were together—not countries apart. And the ease of talking and brainstorming around the virtual table (from the comfort of our homes) was enthralling.
The flexibility to join through our device of choice was a bonus. A few of us had our virtual reality (VR) headsets on and others were on mobile phones or laptops.
Our thrilling experience is a small part of a much bigger concept called the metaverse. The metaverse is a continuum, a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models. It applies across all aspects of business, from consumer to worker and across the entire enterprise; from reality to virtual and back; from 2D to 3D; and from cloud and artificial intelligence to extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, edge technologies and beyond.
The Metaverse Continuum promises to blend our physical and digital lives, allowing us to participate in or inhabit a persistent shared experience. It’s a space where we not only collaborate for work but experience new ways to shop, play, create and party!
Why are we talking about the Metaverse Continuum now?
The roots of the Metaverse Continuum are not new. Technologies enabling such shared experiences have been maturing and are reaching a tipping point. Their interplay facilitates an end-to-end user experience that can sync our physical and digital lives seamlessly.
Here are a few examples:
- Cloud, distributed networks and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) devices supporting seamless delivery of shared experiences are now accessible at scale.
- 3D engines facilitating advanced forms of spatial content creation now enjoy greater processing power.
- Tokenization and blockchain helping build secure digital identities in a digital economy are gradually becoming a household and not only a business play.
- Gaming and social media platforms have now achieved mass penetration.
At the same time, we’re seeing major shifts in human behavior and a rise in virtual social interactions—two factors making the Metaverse Continuum more real than ever.
Let’s take a closer look:
We now want to connect more and more
Social and immersive gaming platforms show us what metaverse-like spaces feel like. With a growing user base, such platforms change how we perceive and engage with digital games. It’s much more than just games; it’s a new kind of social engagement—from immersive music concerts to shopping and fun activities with friends.
Socializing is a basic human instinct. And we keep searching for new and different avenues to do so. Accenture's latest research shows that connecting with friends and meeting new people is becoming critical to the gaming experience for more than 80% of gamers we surveyed. And the metaverse could provide fertile ground for such collaborative experiences that gamers and many other consumers desire.
- We now want to shop more immersively
As consumers, we demand more control and transparency to give us more confidence in the digital purchases we’re making. With several start-ups building virtual malls in the metaverse, shopping at digital storefronts will become what we most value—social, immersive and hyper-connected.
We have started creating and owning digital assets
Ownership and trading of digital assets (as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs) has sharply risen in popularity over the past year or so. A February 2022 report by a Singapore-based blockchain data platform reports that NFT marketplaces and collections zoomed up from $106 million in 2020 to $44.2 billion in 2021. Some brands even sell digital versions of their goods for more than their physical price. The growing NFT market also encourages a decentralized creator economy. Here, young consumers explore self-expression and creativity by designing and trading their own digital assets (art, video, content, etc.).
We now work in blended ways
A study we conducted about the future of work revealed that 83% of workers across industries prefer a blended, home-based and in-person model. This sudden shift has created a need for tools to make remote meetings and get-togethers more collaborative. Employees have welcomed immersive learning and collaboration, and the Metaverse Continuum has the potential to take it much further.
We are looking to become more productive and sustainable
The market for digital twins—real-time virtual copies of a physical asset or process—is fast maturing—helping companies test performance of industrial and consumer goods such as turbines and cars virtually. This is saving precious financial resources and helping companies reduce consumption of metals and other resources in testing prototypes and finished goods. The Metaverse Continuum promises to make digital twins even more productive by allowing partners to collaborate virtually.
Interest in the metaverse is multiplying
We conducted a natural language processing analysis of more than 1.2 million earnings call paragraphs from 2019, 2020 and 2021. Our findings show that “metaverse” and “virtual environment” mentions have doubled year-on-year in 2021—and have increased 5-fold over three years.
We also found that the COVID-19 pandemic ignited discussions about the virtual world in Q2 2020, and it evolved to include the metaverse starting Q3 2021.[i]
We’re also seeing innovation spur-up: 50% more start-ups focused on the metaverse and related categories (AR/VR, crypto, NFT and spatial computing) were founded in 2021 compared to 2020. Our analysis shows that investments in these categories had topped $24 billion in value until 2021.[ii]
Our survey of over 3,200 C-suite executives proves the business traction: 93% of respondents said the metaverse would be important to their organization's growth. Over 75% think that customer and employee experiences and virtual goods and services are growth areas best suited for metaverse applications.[iii]
Where do we go from here?
Let’s recognize that metaverse is not any ordinary technology. It’s the new digital way of engaging humankind. It’s a platform to allow for similar virtual experiences. It’s our biggest opportunity to give human imagination the wings of virtuality and creativity and soar the skies of productivity, sustainability, and growth.
As researchers, we help guide and drive value with stakeholders.
I want to thank Raghav Narsalay, Accenture Research Lead
for Metaverse Continuum Business and Industry X, for
his guidance and contribution to this post.
[i] Accenture Research NLP analysis on earning calls transcripts (S&P Global Transcripts); Accenture Research NLP analysis on company.com articles (LexisNexis). Timeline: Sep 2018 – Nov 2021. 2021 Q4 data is partial as the quarter end in December 2021.
[ii] Accenture Research analysis of CB Insights data
[iii] Accenture Research CXO Pulse survey wave 5, conducted between December 2021 and January 2022.