2022 is poised to be the biggest year yet for “the metaverse,” as Facebook parent Meta, Apple, Microsoft and Google gear up to release new hardware products and software services in what so far has been a niche market for early adopters.
The “metaverse” describes software and hardware that allow users to play or work in virtual 3-D spaces, or pull in information from the internet and integrate it with the real world in real time. For now, the metaverse might be accessed through a smartphone, but eventually, it will be experienced through advanced virtual reality or augmented reality headsets, backers say.
Big Tech companies are betting that gadgets that transport their users into enhanced or imaginary worlds will open up the biggest new market in software since Apple introduced the touchscreen smartphone in 2007. If the metaverse takes off, then perhaps everyone who has a smartphone today will also have a pair of computer glasses or a VR headset in a few years.
“Large tech platforms (which benefited from the rise of mobile computing apps) now look toward augmented reality as the next computing platform shift,” Goldman Sachs analyst Eric Sheridan wrote in a December note. He said it appears to be the “next logical shift in consumption patterns” and will create new industry leaders.
Companies are pouring research and development dollars into prototypes and foundational technologies and gearing up for a virtual battle when their products hit the market.
Venture capitalists invested $10 billion in virtual world start-ups in 2021, according to Crunchbase, and that doesn’t count the budgets from Big Tech players. For example, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company spent so much money on VR and AR in 2021 that it cut the company’s profit by $10 billion.
Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that as much as $1.35 trillion will be invested in developing these technologies in the coming years.
Here’s where the big names in technology stand and what they’re expected to release next year: