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Is Metaverse the Digital Revolution 2.0?

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By Mohammad Almas Hasan, MBA Student IIM Lucknow and Arunabha Mukhopadhyay, Faculty IIM Lucknow

While some call it the future iteration of the Internet, many believe that Metaverse marks the Digital Revolution 2.0. It was one of the most important topics for discussion during the annual meeting of WEF at Davos, Switzerland, in January 2023. Discussions related to the Metaverse occurred at the meeting, given the growing interest in technology among business and political leaders. The inauguration of the Global Collaboration Village by the WEF alongside Accenture, Microsoft, and a group of top worldwide businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and NGOs during the Annual Meeting marked a significant milestone this year.

Interestingly, the earliest Virtual Reality (VR) system, Sensorama, was developed in 1956, well before the term Virtual Reality became popular in the late 1980s. From early implementation in Flight Simulation by NASA and the US military to being one of the most significant investments of Meta, one of the biggest tech giants globally, the technology has seen an outstanding evolution.

The latest advancements in Augmented Reality (AR), VR, and mixed Reality backed by the blockchain and crypto infrastructure created the habitable environment for this Metaphysical Universe to exist. Combined with the above, the crucial need to move everything online during the COVID pandemic worked as a catalyst and brought Metaverse to the central stage.

Although many still need help to grasp the concept and need for such a confounded technology to exist, Metaverse has found loads of early adopters in the form of individuals and organizations. It is not only the industry leaders in the technology space, but many early-stage tech companies and start-ups have started building/prototyping/ideating products and services in/around/for the Metaverse.

Metaverse means that rather than consuming digital content from a screen, one could immerse in the digital world itself. The Metaverse also intends to build a digital and physical-economic sector and the capacity to move digital assets and avatars between different Metaverse areas. Ultimately, it will alter how content is created, how virtual economies are run, and how physical presence is felt.

As indicated by the name, Metaverse is not only metaphysical but also its impact and implications exceed and outflow from the virtual Reality and have the potential to impact a lot in the real world, from business to economies.

As blockchain-based technologies such as Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are thriving, not just Facebook but other tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are also planning to build their version of a unified virtual metaverse.

In its hype cycle of 2022, Gartner placed Metaverse in the embryonic stage of maturity with an estimated target audience of less than 1% and rated its benefits as ‘Transformational,’ which indicates the massive potential for upside in the next 10 years before it plateaus.

If we look at the numbers, Bloomberg believes that by 2024, the Metaverse will be worth $800 billion. Even though we are still far from a single, united Metaverse, over 40 million people currently visit the open Metaverse. This number is expanding at a rate that attracts large worldwide corporations’ interest.

Future of Metaverse in India
According to market projections, India’s metaverse market is anticipated to expand at a remarkable CAGR of 37.1% and reach a staggering $758 billion by the end of 2026.

India is one of the largest potential markets for digital solutions, and Metaverse is no different. The Digital India initiative has created a favourable environment by enabling a secure digital infra and network bandwidth for such technologies to thrive. India has been one of the first nations to mention Metaverse in its public policy on bullying and sexual abuse.

It also marks a year since the Indian government had proposed during the budget of FY2022-23 to tax “Virtual Digital Assets.” Additionally, the global average enthusiasm and acceptance of Metaverse are well exceeded in India, with 75% of Indians thinking positively about interacting with Extended Reality. Another major enabler for Metaverse in India is its leadership with Digital Skills, with the highest number of STEM graduates globally. With 46% of its population under 25, India as a country has some of the finest ecosystem enablers for Metaverse.

Some Indian start-ups have already begun to explore the possibilities of the Metaverse. For example, 9stacks has developed a virtual poker platform that incorporates elements of the Metaverse. A Mumbai-based start-up called Terribly Tiny Tales has launched a virtual world for storytelling. However, creating a fully-realized metaverse in India will likely require significant investment and collaboration between industry, government, and academic institutions.

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