Virtual Spaces Take a Step Forward in the Buildup to the Metaverse—Interoperability Remains a Looming Challenge

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3Q 2023 | IN-7031

As more trials, deployments, and use cases occur within metaverse environments, the concerns about metaverse momentum following the fall from the peak hype cycle are reduced. Developments across markets and the virtual and real worlds are building toward a healthy balance that values both equally. While continued adoption of metaverse use cases is a positive step in the right direction, if the metaverse is to reach its full potential, more focus and efforts will be needed on the interoperability front with metaverse platforms and solutions targeting flexibility over ecosystem building.

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Education, Enterprise, Industrial, and Military Markets Showcase Virtual Spaces and Metaverse Opportunities


Recent metaverse news, and immersive in general, has trended on core foundational building blocks, rather than the much hyped and, at times, maligned future virtual spaces. This welcomed change not only brought attention to the near-term possibilities and value opportunities, but also appropriately put the spotlight on the combination of the real and virtual, versus the latter alone. This balanced perspective is needed to continue a positive path forward, but the virtual side requires significantly more development, making some of the metaverse news in July particularly interesting.

  • LG Uplus announced it is working with Yonsei University in South Korea to open the latter’s “Virtual Campus” that would enable remote learning and events within a virtual environment. Based on LG Uplus’ Uverse platform, the Virtual Campus will enable communication between professors and students, virtual spaces for dissemination of updates and guest lecturers, opportunities for personalization (e.g., personal spaces and avatars), and virtual events that can support up to 1,000 concurrent users.
  • Announced earlier (April 2023), but similar to LG Uplus’ news, large beauty company Coty announced it was working with immersive Communication and Collaboration (C&C) company Spatial to implement an internal metaverse for its 11,000 global employees. The platform will support typical C&C use cases like text/voice chat, online collaboration, and screen/file sharing, with metaverse elements that include customizable avatars and gamification with a phygital (i.e., physical and digital) reward system.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps is planning to build upon its efforts in the Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) space to develop a more complete metaverse implementation for training and operations. Announced back in April 2023, Project Tripoli will attempt to bring the virtual environments and training together with real-world participants and assets—in some respects, a digital twin of the armed forces. Remote trainees using VR simulators, for example, could train with soldiers in “real-world environments” during combined exercises. Sensors used to track soldiers and assets, coupled with network resources that support real-time (and reliable) communication, would coordinate activities within the virtual and real worlds.
  • Siemens announced its plans to invest €1 billion in Germany, earmarking €500 million for its new Technology Campus in Erlangen, Germany, which will serve as a Research and Development (R&D) hub that includes the industrial metaverse—this is part of its previously announced €2 billion investment strategy to address growth and innovation across all regions. Siemens has also partnered with NVIDIA and offered prime examples of industrial metaverse implementations, such as its work with FREYR Battery for planned gigafactories in Norway and the United States.

Developments on the Virtual Side to Help Bridge the Divide with the Real World


Activities and expectations on the virtual front are beginning to look promising, which bodes well for developing and establishing a better connection to the real world. As companies like Coty begin deploying virtual spaces in support of hybrid work environments, these activities pair well with trends occurring among younger audiences, who will, in time, enter the workforce primed for these types of virtual and real-world experiences. Universities will be well-served to begin exploring and developing hybrid learning environments, as Yonsei University is doing, to better accommodate future generations that will have a stronger proclivity for virtual and immersive environments, with key trends discussed in a previous ABI Insight.

In many ways, the buildup to the metaverse is happening through an additive process, which is essential to ensuring that most future users can participate within the metaverse environment. This process is no different from past trends that started with younger audiences (e.g., use of the Internet, digital communications and social media, streaming video, etc.), which, in time, diffused to reach older demographics. One key difference from key trends like streaming media, however, is the high degree of development in some markets, and broader interest across industries in what a future metaverse could mean to users and their operations, regardless of where the mainstream media and news cycles fall on the hype cycle.

Examples like Coty and Siemens create a more encouraging picture for developing the metaverse because they demonstrate activity across markets with some like industrial working from a more advanced stage of maturity and understanding. Similar to the universities exploring hybrid metaverse learning environments, broader metaverse activity will create a work environment that will be better suited to future workforces. While these use cases are certainly positive and speak well of the value that a metaverse environment can offer, in order to maximize the metaverse’s potential, significant effort and focus need to remain on the connective glue—interoperability.

Interoperability Will Act as a Catalyst for the Metaverse


The key recommendation to focus on interoperability may sound like it’s coming out of left field, especially when the discussion, thus far, has concerned making good progress in developing experiences across the virtual and real worlds, but interoperability is among the most critical factors in the metaverse’s ability to live up to its fullest potential or failing to do so. While these early examples yield value today and will progressively create new value, without strong interoperability and open ecosystems, the metaverse will progress slower and fail to produce the desired results.

To support interoperability, companies should participate in key metaverse organizations, such as the Metaverse Standards Forum and Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) that fit a company’s markets and needs, embracing open standards where possible. The Three-Dimensional (3D) market, for example, will need to coalesce on common file and scene description formats that extend across industries and applications. Companies should also seek to foster open and flexible platforms or ecosystems (again, where possible) to best support each customer’s unique needs, which can be quite variable depending on pre-existing deployed solutions, technologies, and readiness to deploy metaverse use cases.

If virtual assets, for example, are not interoperable or able to be used across platforms, they will never see maximum valuations by users. The value of virtual clothing for avatars or virtual office spaces and assets, will not have the same value if they are locked into one or several platforms. If users have unique avatars for each experience (shopping, university, gaming, workspaces, etc.), the value of these avatars will be far less than an avatar that moves between services and platforms allowing users to forge a stronger connection to their digital identities. The same is true for digital identities and digital twins. Data need to flow across platforms and systems and support customers wherever they are along their digital transformation journeys. This means supporting open marketplaces and third-party solutions as well. Flexibility will yield the best results over monolithic or end-to-end platforms that are largely optimized for in-house solutions.

Interoperability also speaks to the support for different devices and interfaces. The metaverse needs to support a wide breadth of devices and interfaces—just as streaming video services must reach mobile devices, Personal Computers (PCs), and connected Consumer Electronics (CE), metaverse experiences will need to extend to all devices to maximize potential value. Only through high levels of interoperability will demand for new technologies and features like ultra-low latency network connections see higher levels of demand. It isn’t just about the emergence or availability of a key technology or device that will spur the metaverse to new heights.

Smart glasses without the markets for 3D content and virtual experiences will not have the same value, nor will these devices create the potential demands on networks, reducing opportunities to better monetize investments in infrastructure (e.g., selling users on ultra-low latency connections, edge computing, etc.). The same is true for the industrial metaverse. If metaverse platforms are not flexible, these advancements may remain largely suitable only for the largest companies that have either the expertise or resources to make the investments to integrate solutions and data. It is critical to note that this does not mean there is no room for large players like Google, Meta, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. The level of investment and need to coalesce around standards and best practices virtually necessitate significant support form influential companies, but the end goal must support open and available ecosystems in order to create the necessary accessibility and level of interoperability in order for the metaverse to live up to its billing as a future Internet.


Companies Mentioned