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Enterprise potential of the metaverse takes shape at CES 2023

There were plenty of warnings about metaverse hype, but at CES 2023 there's business interest in its potential to build 3D digital twins and models of things like factory floors.

LAS VEGAS -- The excitement and interest for consumers and enterprises around concepts like the metaverse stem from its potential to bring multiple disruptive technologies into one space – but it's also a concept that's not ready for the hype surrounding it.

The metaverse is a vision that many believe will usher in the next stage of the internet – a virtual world combining "the connectivity of the web with the immersiveness of spatial computing," said Neil Trevett, vice president of developer ecosystems at Nvidia and chairman of the Metaverse Standards Forum. Trevett spoke during the "The Road to the Open Metaverse" session at global technology conference CES 2023 Thursday, on a panel with other business leaders in virtual reality and the metaverse.

"It's GPU, it's XR, it's virtual reality, it's Web3 and the magic pixie dust, which is artificial intelligence and machine learning, which makes everything magical," Trevett said. "When you put these potentially disruptive technologies together, interesting stuff is going to happen."

When you put these potentially disruptive technologies together, interesting stuff is going to happen.
Neil TrevettVice president of developer ecosystems, NVIDIA

But the metaverse is not here yet, so Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder issued a word of caution for businesses looking to invest in the metaverse.

"In 2023, metaverse technology vendors need to be focused on the nuts and bolts of business fundamentals," Gownder said. "If they show a flashy demo but don't have any customers? That's a red flag."

While Trevett cautioned business leaders to avoid getting caught in the metaverse hype, he said they must prepare now for it.

"It will just gradually creep into our lives," he said. "People really need to be attuned to what opportunities are being created."

Nvidia points to digital twins as metaverse use case

Nvidia offers an omniverse platform through which companies can develop a digital twin, or accurate simulation of a real-world structure, such as a trainyard or building, in a virtual world.

The platform enables collaboration with its virtual tools, which Danny Shapiro, vice president of automotive at Nvidia, described as the "Google Docs of 3D environments." Shapiro spoke during analyst firm Deloitte's CES session "Playing to win in the Metaverse."

"It's about creating a digital twin, a 3D model of an environment, product or experience," Shapiro said during the session. "This is where we see it going."

Shapiro said Mercedes-Benz is using the omniverse platform to create a digital twin of an entire factory, including an assembly line and people needed to operate the machinery.

"It's all modeled in a simulator before they actually build the real factory," Shapiro said. He said the tool can be used in any industry.

For Forrester's Gownder, enterprises might have a bigger opportunity in metaverse-style experiences for employee collaboration, such as what Accenture has done with its "Nth floor," the name of its metaverse collaboration and learning platform. Yet it's still a growing area, Gownder said, pointing to Meta's struggles with its own metaverse experience Horizon Workrooms.

"Employee metaverse experiences can be tangible and measurable -- creating training and onboarding scenarios that bring people together across geographies," he said.

Danny Shapiro of Nvidia at CES 2023
During a CES session hosted by analyst firm Deloitte, speakers including Nvidia's vice president of automotive Danny Shapiro, third from left, shared their thoughts on the metaverse.

Hardware, interoperability remain obstacles

The rise in enterprise interest and investment around use cases such as digital twins and collaboration might usher in more highly developed hardware in 2023, said Edwina Fitzmaurice, global chief customer success officer at technology company EY and a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council, which studies concepts like the metaverse. Fitzmaurice spoke on a panel with Nvidia's Trevett.

"I think we're going to see AR glasses come out for the first time in a meaningful way," she said during the session. "We might start to see some really good apps start to show up for that."

Hardware such as VR headsets that consumers and enterprises use to access virtual worlds are costly and often heavy to wear long term, making adoption of these tools slow.

Better, more accessible hardware and interoperability between headsets and virtual worlds couldn't come soon enough to make virtual projects more valuable long term, according to CES attendee Carlos Collazos, founder of multimedia creative firm C+8 Design.

Collazos said C+8 has been commissioned to build a nuclear power plant in virtual reality in 2023. Viewing the final product will be limited to those who have a specific VR headset to access it.

"The headset Meta has, Meta Quest, works really well for the purpose of this, to show the people who are investing in it what it looks like," he said. "But in the end, anything you build you want to have it more for the masses."

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget Editorial, she was a general reporter at the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

Metaverse and AR/VR at C2E2 2023
The metaverse and AR/VR were highly discussed topics at CES 2023, with many companies in attendance offering attendees the opportunity to try on headsets and other tools.

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