As a technology researcher who’s spent much of the past few years studying the evolution of technologies leading to the metaverse , I see the metaverse’s impact in and on everything. Take tennis. I’m an avid fan, casual player and have enjoyed watching the game for years.

But this year’s Australian Open caught my attention for more than just fantastic tennis. It was tennis’s first Grand Slam in the metaverse.

After struggling with the number of onsite attendees in 2021 (because of COVID), Tennis Australia partnered with Decentraland to host the AO this year. NFT & Metaverse Project Manager Ridley Plummer said they fast-tracked the launch into the metaverse. In a virtual welcome address on Decentraland, he said he hopes for the AO to become the “world’s most accessible and inclusive sports and entertainment event.”

While Decentraland provided fans with better access and engagement, tennis fans worldwide could attend the AO virtually to watch matches and enter the main stadium Rod Laver Arena. In addition, they created 6,776 “art balls” as NFTs that people could purchase. Each ball represented a 19cm by 19cm plot of tennis court. If a winning shot landed on the plot, metadata for the NFT would be updated in real-time with match and ball tracking data. And for the 11 championship points, corresponding NFT owners were given a tennis ball used in the match, reinforcing the interplay of digital to physical experiences.

Why the Australian Open is an important case study

The world’s first tennis grand slam in the metaverse provides a great example of the metaverse’s evolution and highlights the opportunities. Thirty years ago we watched tennis on television. With the advent of the internet, we got sports updates from the web. With social computing and the arrival of the smartphone,  we could interact on new apps and platforms on mobile devices, including media interactions and commentary. And now,  an innovative way to experience Grand Slams is…the metaverse. 

Often discussed through a future-facing lens, we think of the metaverse continuum as an evolution of all that has come before it. Accenture defines the metaverse as an evolution of the internet that enables a user to move beyond 'browsing' to ‘inhabiting’ in a persistent, shared experience that spans the spectrum of our real world to the entirely virtual and in-between. As it did in the Australian Open, the metaverse is a bridge between physical and digital identities, properties and spaces.

And at Accenture, we see the metaverse as a continuum that 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. 

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Accenture defines the metaverse as an evolution of the internet that enables a user to move beyond 'browsing' to ‘inhabiting’ in a persistent, shared experience that spans the spectrum of our real world to the entirely virtual and in-between.

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Indeed now is the time to think big, start small and scale fast. This isn’t the first time we’ve given this advice—we offered similar recommendations in 1999 when we talked about .com, and again in 2013 with digital. 

Deep roots in the past

Twenty years ago, Accenture called this future technological state, “Reality Online.” Part of the annual Technology Vision, “Reality Online: The business impact of a virtual world,” was published in September 2002. We described it then as:

  • Soon, many powerful, miniaturized and cheap technologies will converge to gather and intelligently deploy vast amounts of information, enabling physical reality to be captured online.
  • What we’re calling “reality online" goes beyond the idea of “virtual reality," which is a realistic but computer-generated world. It means that many technologies, working together, will replicate, reflect and enhance the physical world in which we live and move, a world in which businesses make, distribute, offer and sell or provide their products and services—a world captured in context in real-time.

What we have seen over the past twenty years has been the fundamental advancements of technologies and rapid evolution towards the metaverse.

An evolution, not an explosion

The internet is fundamentally evolving and the metaverse is at that cusp of change. The internet has grown significantly from the early days. With a lookback by decade, you can see the early Internet of Data (2000s) to Internet of People (2010s) and Internet of Things (2010s). 

The next evolution will encompass the Internet of Place and Internet of Ownership with metaverse and Web3. Fifteen years ago, we described how Web 2.0 emerged as a mass participation medium. Ten years ago, how technology is amplifying people. Today it’s moving toward more persistent shared experiences.

Exciting (and fun!) possibilities ahead

Moving the AO to the metaverse showcases the possibilities of shared virtual spaces, experiences and the ability to own digital assets. To wit, Business Insider reported that the virtual memorabilia sold out in three minutes. And according to data from NFT marketplace OpenSea, the AO Art Balls have logged over $4.4 million in trading volume since January.

While we are at the early stages of the metaverse, businesses are quickly advancing toward a very different future from the one they were designed to operate in. Innovative times ahead will require everyone’s shared experiences and input to shape the future. And organizations must seize this opportunity, ensuring it is developed with responsibility at the core.

Leaders need to reimagine how to approach business for the next decade – which worlds you will define and design. It will advance very quickly. If companies don’t act now, you’ll find yourself operating in worlds created by, and for, someone else.

It’s a very exciting time and potentially intimidating but important to keep in mind this is not brand new stuff. It’s not a replay of the match but a reinvention of the game.



Renee Byrnes

Senior Principal

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