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Metaverse hype stalls while VR, AR technology advances

The metaverse hype has died down, but new advancements in virtual reality technology like Apple's new headset are regenerating some interest.

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The metaverse concept garnered significant interest during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it has since lost its luster for enterprise businesses, it could soon regain some traction.

The metaverse is a virtual world where consumers can interact with businesses through shopping, working and entertainment. The pandemic and the shift to remote work increased interest in virtual worlds, augmented and virtual reality headsets, and the metaverse. Companies like Roblox and Meta have built their own metaverses users can engage in.

While there remain metaverse applications for industries like manufacturing and the supply chain, the concept has since lost traction among enterprise businesses, said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of market research firm Deep Analysis.

"The metaverse was briefly attractive to enterprises, but few invested seriously in moving the concept further within their organization," he said. "We can now safely say that the metaverse has no legs."

However, Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder said the metaverse and related technologies like AR/VR have experienced a rollercoaster of interest for decades. Gownder said that's why the "metaverse hype was doomed to fail."

"We predicted last year that 2023 would be the year of 'metaverse winter,'" Gownder said.

Enterprise businesses find use cases in AR, VR rather than metaverse

Gownder said employers like Walmart use AR and VR in training and onboarding processes. Others are providing remote assistance to frontline workers using augmented reality.

While the metaverse remains largely conceptual, he said, enterprise businesses can harness elements of its technologies, like AR and VR, for practical applications.

"That's the best path forward right now," he said.

Businesses can also begin to consider how to use these technologies to enable future metaverse access, said Cathy Hackl, chief futurist and chief metaverse officer at consulting firm Journey. Hackl spoke during MIT Technology Review's EmTech Next event on Thursday.

Envisioning a future with the metaverse begins with companies having a basic understanding of the technology that enables it and planning for use cases down the road.

"The simplest thing starts with 3D and understanding what 3D means for your pipeline and for your company," she said.

New Apple headset could regenerate interest despite high cost

One of the pain points for accessing the metaverse remains the technology -- the unwieldy, often costly headsets users must wear to see the world in 3D.

The simplest thing starts with 3D and understanding what 3D means for your pipeline and for your company.
Cathy HacklChief futurist and chief metaverse officer, Journey

In its first foray into these types of headsets, Apple recently announced Apple Vision Pro, a $3,499 headset that Apple described as "a revolutionary spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world."

Apple built VisionOS, the headset's spatial operating system that allows users to engage with apps beyond a headset's typical display range using their eyes, hands and voice. It is the "most advanced piece of consumer technology out there," Hackl said.

Pelz-Sharpe said the launch of Apple Vision Pro will likely "revive interest in virtual engagement over the next few years."

Still, for Apple and other headsets like Meta's Quest 2 VR headset, clocking in at $300 means that to become even more accessible for businesses and consumers, costs need to come down, Hackl said.

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

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