The consumer metaverse lags its enterprise peer, but opportunities abound, experts say

November 4, 2022, 3:40 PM UTC
Business and tech executives discuss leveraging the metaverse to improve the supply chain at Fortune’s CEO Initiative in Palm Beach on Nov. 2, 2022.
Rebecca Greenfield for Fortune

Enterprises in a range of industries are tapping the metaverse to work more efficiently and effectively, but the consumer market for this technology remains in its infancy, a panel of experts said at a Fortune conference on Wednesday. Businesses seeking to harness the power of extended reality (XR) should be willing to invest and experiment, they suggested.

“The metaverse is already here. It is not a fad; it is not hype,” said Mohamed Kande, vice chair of U.S. consulting solutions co-leader and global advisory leader with PwC, at Fortune’s CEO Initiative summit in Palm Beach on Wednesday. “For corporations, they’re finding out that the metaverse can be an environment where they can they deliver value, not only reach out to more consumers but also run the businesses differently.”

The metaverse economy could be worth $8 trillion to $13 trillion by 2030, a Citi study projects.

Metaverse technology is readily available to enterprises, noted Daniel O’Brien, general manager for the Americas at HTC VIVE, a developer of virtual reality headsets. O’Brien highlighted the success of VR training in health care, automotive, aerospace, and other sectors. “In kinesthetic learning styles, training simulations, we’re getting through that curriculum 400% faster. The retention is up to 150% higher,” O’Brien said. “This can be used globally, it is democratizing as a technology, and it’s both cost savings and efficiency improvement.”

Besides training, the other two metaverse use cases that yield a return on investment are 3D visualization for distributed teams and remote assistance known as see what I see (SWIS), said Peggy Johnson. The chief executive of augmented reality headset maker Magic Leap also sounded a note of caution. “It’s important for CEOs to not get out over their skis on this technology,” she said. “You do have to think of it as early days.”

Kande pointed out that the adoption of 5G wireless, which can be 100 times as fast as 4G at 10% of the cost, will boost access to the metaverse. “Because of that, you can have factories without people, you can train people remotely at high speed.”

Given a technological hurdle, though, the metaverse won’t become mainstream with consumers for several years, Johnson reckoned. “You need the 5G to be in the same chip that’s powering your VR or your AR,” she said. “That’s what’s going to be needed for it to get into a small, lightweight device that everyone will want to wear all day.”

The more time people spend in the public metaverse, Kande said, the more they will shop there. However, identity management is another obstacle, he admitted. “It is in its infancy today, but making money in the metaverse is all about creating a new economy.” Kande encouraged companies that want to sell products and services to try new things: “The beauty about the metaverse is, everybody can experiment first.”

Holding live events such as concerts and sports games in the metaverse gives brands a huge opportunity because millions of people can attend, O’Brien said. “Instead of looking at the 30%, 40% margins on typical merchandise sales or whatever you’re selling, think of your transactions in the hundreds of thousands per second.”

With a possible recession looming, O’Brien argued, enterprises should ask how investing in the metaverse can help them work better. “The companies that explode during the recovery from a recession are the ones that invested now.”

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