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    Development: Where is the metaverse?

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    This article was first published in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly from December 25, 2023 to January 7, 2024.

    When Meta, formerly known as Facebook, pivoted its Metaverse ambitions to focus on artificial intelligence (AI) in March 2023, questions arose about what the future holds for virtual platforms.

    The Metaverse is still growing, with the biggest players developing it and leveraging new technologies such as AI itself.

    “It's like comparing [Meta’s move with] Microsoft is passionate about AI [and so, asking if the latter will] We're actually pivoting away from basic software products,” said Jason Low, CEO of local metaverse development company Virtualtech Frontier.

    Virtualtech's Jason says there is growing interest in the training and education sector for virtual onboarding or training sessions that simulate real-world scenarios (Photo credit: Virtualtech Frontier)

    Tech insiders see the rise of AI not as the death of the metaverse, but as a pivotal development in its early stages.

    said Aditya Singh, Senior Manager at Kiya.ai, an Indian digital solutions provider. “The Metaverse is currently in its infancy, characterized by rapid evolution and fluctuating expectations. While periods of hype and subsequent corrections are likely, the Metaverse is still in its infancy and has significant untapped potential. It is important to emphasize that this is hidden.”

    Jason likens the current state of technology to what it was more than a decade ago when social media was gaining popularity in Malaysia. “At the time, companies were hesitant to invest in digital platforms like Facebook and Google.Similarly, we are now witnessing a parallel phase with the Metaverse, where companies are funding this digital venture. I’m not used to assigning things yet.”

    The Metaverse continues to grow around the world. In South Korea, the metaverse economy is valued at about US$200 billion in 2022 and is “estimated to grow to US$300 billion (RM1.4 trillion) by 2030,” according to private equity firm Vision Venture.・Jesse Kim, CEO of Partners, said: This is an organization that supports Korean startups.

    Vision Venture Partners and its parent company Vision Creator have invested in 34 venture companies in the fields of AI, smart medical devices, insurance technology, semiconductors, and metaverse in South Korea, the United States, China, and Australia.

    Kim points to Zepeto, provided by South Korean IT conglomerate Naver, as an example of the growth and success of Metaverse, which has more than 200 million users worldwide. She also points out that, globally, the North American market has embraced Metaverse most readily, but the pace is picking up rapidly in the Asia-Pacific market.

    Mohan Low, director of digital creative content at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), cited McKinsey predictions that the value of the metaverse could grow to US$5 trillion by 2030, with e-commerce becoming the largest He said it would be an economic force. Potentially US$2.6 trillion.

    To capitalize on this growth potential, MDEC launched the Pemankin IP360 initiative in September to drive national investment and development opportunities for Malaysian-based creators and studios, positioning the country as a major metaverse. Established as a hub.

    MDEC's Mohan emphasizes that AI and the Metaverse are not mutually exclusive. AI powers the growth of the metaverse and creates sophisticated virtual environments and interactions. (Photo provided by: MDEC)

    “This initiative has received an allocation of RM12 million from the government, which will be used to operate an incentive program aimed at promoting the Metaverse and XR (augmented reality) programs,” Mohan said.

    One of the reasons for the promotion of the metaverse in the digital economy is that the metaverse, as a virtual space, could serve as a way to level the playing field between small and medium-sized enterprises, which are bound by creativity rather than capital, and large corporations. Because it is.

    “By fostering a level playing field, the Metaverse becomes a vibrant marketplace where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can engage audiences with immersive experiences and innovate without constraints,” said Mohan. say.

    Kim agrees. Korean startups in areas such as theme parks, education, and gaming are using Metaverse, and their revenues are increasing. “The net profit is not large, but we are making a profit.”

    “Overall, the current venture investment market is pretty frozen due to high interest rates, so the current return on investment shouldn't be as good as it used to be.” Kim said portfolio companies in the Metaverse space are growing. , explains that the net asset value of the investment is also increasing.

    More than just a game

    The metaverse is essentially a digital space to be exploited. Either to create a virtual marketplace for businesses to communicate, sell products or services, or for consumers to explore. The Metaverse industry is still growing, which leads to the next question: Who is using it?

    In South Korea, industries such as theme parks, entertainment, advertising, exhibitions, media marketing, education, and gaming use Metaverse extensively, Kim said.

    In its 2022 “Technology Trends in Digital Content” report, MDEC showed increased participation in the Metaverse as a platform where animation, games, and other digital content are increasingly emerging and converging.

    “Fortnite, Epic Games' gaming metaverse platform, has an average of 239 million players per month and peaks at 15 million players per day,” Mohan said.

    Another popular gaming platform is Roblox, a metaverse platform that allows developers to create unique experiences. We currently have 9.5 million developers and host over 50 million experiences. The Mekamato robot battle game experience on Roblox alone has attracted 3.4 million visitors.

    Considering the creation of virtual worlds and avatars, it may seem like the Metaverse is primarily focused on video games. However, the true utility of this platform goes beyond gaming.

    “Many industries, especially those focused on experiential marketing and AI integration, are showing significant interest in the Metaverse,” says Aditya. “They recognize the potential to leverage its immersive capabilities as a powerful tool to redefine customer engagement.”

    Mohan further added, “The Metaverse represents a multifaceted digital realm with applications across a variety of industries.”

    For example, local Metaverse platform Colorverse partnered with Tourism Malaysia, WebTVAsia and Prodigee Asia Talent to launch Let's Go MRXD (Season 2) on Metaverse in October.

    The project allows users to create travel vlogs for viewers exploring Malaysian landmarks such as Penang Bridge and Cameron Highlands, as well as offering activities such as mini-games, meet-ups, and contests.

    Another local technology company, Innoveam Sdn Bhd, is using Metaverse to develop 3D simulations and replicas for testing and proof-of-concept work for industrial applications such as oil and gas companies.

    Jason's company, Virtualtech Frontier, has its own platform, Mitoworld.io. This serves as his platform for no-code Metaverse, where he has amassed nearly 3,000 users from all over the world. Mitoworld.io is used by marketing and advertising departments to gamify campaigns and create virtual exhibitions.

    “we have [also] “We’re getting a lot of interest from the training and education sector,” he says. “A lot of people are interested in virtual onboarding. [or] Training sessions that simulate real life situations. ”

    Kiyaverse, Kiya.ai's metaverse platform, appeals to a less talked about sector: banks. Kiyaverse aims to allow you to perform online banking, checking your portfolio and consulting in an encrypted virtual space, as well as allowing you to browse other banks using the platform .

    “Kiyaverse integrates digital payments, identification, open commerce, and more. [the] The spirit and culture of regions around the world. Initially, the platform was targeted at the global banking and financial industry, but it has been expanded to serve various sectors,” he says Aditya.

    eternal consciousness problem

    Addressing this awareness challenge is one that Metaverse providers and supporters recognize needs to be addressed at multiple levels.

    The concept of the Metaverse dates back to Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash and was first implemented in the 2003 video game Second Life. Despite 20 years of development, the Metaverse platform faces significant challenges in terms of visibility, and addressing this gap is a key challenge for Metaverse providers and supporters.

    “There should be more use cases for people to understand.” [the metaverse] More directly,” Kim said, giving examples of holograms based on AI virtual services for hotels, museums and shopping malls, and the creation of virtual avatars of deceased celebrities to host concerts.

    These easy-to-understand real-world examples will help you understand the point and potential of the technology when explaining to someone why you should use the Metaverse.

    Aditya, on the other hand, said that “on a regular basis” [showcase the] Diverse applications of the metaverse in various fields such as finance, education, and government. ” By explaining the practical benefits of the Metaverse, you can communicate to consumers how the Metaverse can directly benefit them.

    Beyond business uses, Mohan believes governments also have an important role to play in raising awareness of the metaverse.

    “To explain the concept and demonstrate its relevance in different aspects of everyday life by running a comprehensive campaign to educate the public about different use cases, benefits and potential economic contributions. “You can do that,” he says.

    future vision

    Many in the Metaverse industry believe that virtual worlds are an inevitable part of the future of the market. Just as social media and the Internet have changed commerce, metaverses will become commonplace as digitization increases and its use spreads to more industries.

    “Generation AI” [is] It is expected to revolutionize content creation and improve immersive experiences within virtual worlds. The growing interest in generative AI holds huge potential in the coming years,” he says Aditya. He sees new technologies, such as generative AI, as ways the Metaverse platform can grow further.

    “We expect deeper integration of AI technologies and Metaverse platforms, paving the way for more dynamic and rich virtual environments.While the exact trajectory of technology adoption is difficult to predict, “The long-term potential of the Metaverse looks promising,” he says.

    Mohan agrees and sees the potential for the two technologies to grow in parallel.

    “It is important to recognize that AI and the Metaverse are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there are significant synergies between the two. AI technology can lead to more sophisticated virtual environments, personalized user experiences, , by enabling advanced interactions, we can strengthen and drive further growth of the Metaverse.”

    The integration of the two could also unlock new possibilities, including enhanced content creation, realistic simulation, and increased user engagement, Mohan added.

    This is why MDEC sees the Metaverse as a frontier worth investing in to foster the growth of the creator economy and foster creativity. The agency is collaborating with the Ministry of Communications and Digital on the Digital Creative Technology Blueprint, a five-year roadmap aimed at fostering a profitable, inclusive and competitive digital content ecosystem in Malaysia.

    “In 10 years, MDEC envisions Malaysia's Metaverse environment experiencing transformational growth and becoming a multifaceted platform that goes beyond entertainment. Malaysian Animation and Gaming IP (Internet Protocol)-driven traffic is expected to expand its influence into key sectors such as tourism, education and commerce, driving interoperability and seamless integration.”

    Mohan added that in the future, broader access to the Metaverse is expected to foster inclusivity across demographics and industries, bridge the digital divide and provide equal opportunities for Malaysians.

    “The combination of mobile accessibility, government initiatives, and the evolving digital landscape suggests that the Metaverse has the potential to be adopted by the general public in a similar way to social media platforms.”

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