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Friday, March 24, 2023
By Leslie D'Monte

No! The metaverse is not dying
…and AI is certainly not killing it

In October 2021, Facebook changed its company name to Meta to reflect its new focus on the “metaverse”, even as many pointed out that the move was more to negate the negative press around Facebook. In November 2022, Meta decided to let go more than 11,000 of its employees or 13% of its workforce, as it “shifted more of our resources onto a smaller number of high priority growth areas — like our AI discovery engine, our ads and business platforms, and our long-term vision for the metaverse”.

But this was not the whole truth. While everyone had a fair idea of the losses that Meta was reporting because of the billions of dollars it had poured into its metaverse project, the figures disclosed during Meta’s earnings call in February told the complete story when Meta said it had lost more than $13.7 billion in its “Reality Labs” unit, which houses its metaverse efforts.

Source: Meta


Again, many speculated that it was the end of the metaverse for Meta, given the rise of generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s large language model (GPT-4) and its smart chatbot ChatGPT, and the simultaneous AI push from Google. Meta Platforms’ co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on 14 March: “Our single largest investment is in advancing AI and building it into every one of our products. We have the infrastructure to do this at an unprecedented scale, and I think the experiences it enables will be amazing. Our leading work building the metaverse and shaping the next generation of computing platforms also remains central to defining the future of social connection.

As you may infer from the quote, Meta is not pursuing AI at the cost of the metaverse. In fact, all these technologies gain strength when they collaborate which each other, as I will elaborate on in a bit -- in other words, the metaverse and AI go hand in hand.

I have often argued in this newsletter that the metaverse is here to stay. You may read: ‘Meta may not remain, but metaverses will live’ in this context. I argued even then that “There will be hundreds of metaverses in the next few years -- some of them private and others on open platforms like Sandbox and Decentraland.”

Not just for gamers

The metaverse is essentially a 3D representation of physical assets in the real world -- an ecosystem with gaming, payments as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), buying and selling, and many more immersive experiences -- developed with the help of technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), software, content and, of course, hardware, including servers, headsets, etc.

And many of the technologies are even six decades old and have matured with time. Morton Helig introduced VR in 1957; Ivan Sutherland introduced AR and VR headsets in 1968; Neal Stephenson introduced the concept of the metaverse in 1992 in his sci-fi novel ‘Snow Crash’, where humans interact with each other and software agents as programmable avatars in a 3D virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Spatial computing, a related topic, was coined in 2003 by Simon Greenwold; and the VR game Second Life was launched by Linden Labs in 2003 with the Linden dollar as its currency.

Many people still believe that a metaverse is a place just for gamers or Web 3.0 investors, but nothing can be further from the truth. Punjabi singer Daler Mehendi has bought land in the metaverse. Marriages take place in heaven, they say. Now we have examples of them taking place in metaverses too. Colombia recently became one of the first countries in the world to host a court hearing in the metaverse, with its lawmakers recently holding a two-hour hearing. Companies and conglomerates worldwide, including India, are implementing metaverse projects.

Courtesy: Livemint

Automakers, too, are deploying online 3D visualization solutions to allow their clients to virtually experience and customize their vehicles. As an example, Maruti Suzuki has a metaverse called NEXAVerse which was launched alongside its new offering in the SUV segment--the Grand Vitara. Maruti Suzuki also announced an exclusive Metaverse called the ExpoVerse at this year’s Auto Expo. The Mahindra Group launched its metaverse last year. RPG Enterprises, Hiranandani group, and other Indian companies like Tanishq, Cadbury’s India, Tata Tea, and MakeMyTrip have also ventured into the metaverse space.

Infosys launched a metaverse foundry in February and claimed to have developed over 100 “ready-to-apply use-cases and templates”, including an immersive retail experience for shoppers to explore a branded metaverse environment, buy products such as NFTs, and connect to a checkout counter to make purchases that are delivered in the real world. Likewise, Tech Mahindra has launched its metaverse called TechMVerse to help in areas of its car dealership, NFT marketplace, virtual bank, and gaming centre. Moreover, XR (extended reality) and spatial computing were showcased both at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2023 and the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023. You may read ‘Expanding world of the metaverse’ for many more such examples.

But device costs must fall and…

That said, the cost of VR and AR headsets is still high, and they are bulky and cumbersome too. One also cannot seamlessly move from one metaverse to another (lack of interoperability and uniformity). Besides, privacy and security concerns also remain. But new research from Lenovo reveals that close to half of employees (44%) are willing to work in the metaverse and believe that it can deliver workplace productivity benefits.

Interestingly, Lenovo’s Project Chronos concept (demoed at CES 2023) allows for a glasses-free, full-body-movement-driven experience that enables consumers and creators to control their life-like avatar without the need for any motion-capture (mocap) wearable (read: headsets). Instead, the user’s movement is captured via an advanced RGB (red, green, blue) depth camera that replicates their actions within a 3D-rendered virtual environment, displaying it on a monitor in their home with a DisplayPort or HDMI port (like a TV or large PC screen). Once their avatar is created, the user can control it using only their gestures, movements, posture, and even facial expressions and see it rendered on screen in near-real time. The camera can be rotated 180 degrees to face the inside of the unit to protect one’s privacy.

Research firm Gartner expects a complete metaverse to be “device-independent” and not owned by any single vendor. It will have a virtual economy enabled by digital currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). By 2027, Gartner predicts that over 40% of large organizations worldwide will use a combination of Web3, AR cloud and digital twins in metaverse-based projects to increase revenue. Consulting firm McKinsey is bullish too. In 2021, metaverse-related companies reportedly raised more than $10 billion, more than twice what they did in 2020. And so far, in 2022, more than $120 billion has flowed into the metaverse. And with its potential to generate up to $5 trillion in value by 2030, the metaverse is too big for companies to ignore, says McKinsey.

5G will be a key driver

At its most basic, says McKinsey, the metaverse will have a sense of immersion and real-time interactivity while the full version will include platforms and devices that work seamlessly with each other, the possibility for thousands of people to interact simultaneously, and use cases going well beyond gaming. Here, the full rollout of 5G will enable users to process large words on mobile devices. Moreover, edge computing will drive the computing power required to run the metaverse, according to McKinsey. Edge computing enables data to be captured, stored, and processed locally rather than in the cloud, solving problems of limited bandwidth and latency. In addition, hardware devices will merge the physical and virtual worlds. Meta shipped ten million Oculus Quest 2 headsets in 2021, and new devices, including gloves and bodysuits, are gaining traction as well. Software development will drive metaverse applications on top of the infrastructure.

Digital Twins, AI will power the metaverse

McKinsey also suggests that companies should “leverage digital twins (digital representations of physical objects) in a way that delivers significant value today—while building the engine for the enterprise metaverse of tomorrow”. Digital twins can be linked with real data sources and are able to update their twin in real-time. For instance, enterprises are building digital twins of their manufacturing plants and factories to identify missteps in the production process. We could have a product twin representing a product, or a production plant twin, which could represen­t an entire manufacturing facility. We could also have a procurement and supply chain twin, often called a network twin. One could also have an infrastructure twin.”

Daimler, for example, allows customers to test-drive the vehicle without even getting inside a car. Given that every asset, process, or person within and related to an enterprise will be replicated virtually—and connected, the enterprise metaverse will enable employees to gain real-world product design experience and training from their desks as they manipulate 3-D digital replicas of equipment, according to McKinsey.

Oncyber, on its part, tweeted that it is adding an AI tool that lets users change up 3D spaces by typing out ideas. Oncyber describes itself as a metaverse platform which allows users to create their own 3D experience that can be accessed from a browser. The company has developed an AI-powered tool called Magic Composer that lets users customize their environments via text commands. The tool runs on OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 model (not GPT-4 as yet), but instead of writing poems, articles, or code, Oncyber uses text prompts to implement real-time tweaks to its metaverse worlds.

In sum, despite the metaverse’s limitations, Gartner believes that metaverse technologies “promise the next level of interaction in the virtual and physical worlds, providing innovative new opportunities and business models”. The firm predicts that 25% of people will spend at least one hour daily in a metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media and/or entertainment by 2026. It’s time enterprises took the cue.


Who coined the term Internet of Things (IoT)’?

  • Steve Jobs
  • Kevin Ashton
  • Claude Shannon
  • Alan Turing
  • Charles Babbage

(The correct answer is given below)



Number of open jobs in Artificial Intelligence in India

Expected salaries per annum for freshers in various technology roles in India:

Data engineers can earn up to Rs. 14 lakh

ML engineers up to Rs.10 lakh

Data scientists up to Rs.14 lakh

DevOps engineers up to Rs.12 lakh

Data architects up to Rs.12 lakh

BI analysts up to Rs.14 lakh

Database admins up to Rs.12 lakh

Candidates with eight years of experience in similar fields can earn even higher salaries ranging from Rs.25-45 lakh

Source: TeamLease Digital’s research



“..before we even start developing new generative tools, we need to focus on what people want from these tools...”
-- Fei-Fei Li, Sequoia Capital Professor in the Computer Science Department; Denning Co-Director of Stanford HAI

An early look at the jobs that GPT can take away

Source: ‘GPTs are GPTs: An Early Look at the Labor Market Impact: Potential of Large Language Models (’.
You may read the full story here.

OpenAI founder is “scared” of ChatGPT; says human jobs at risk

OpenAI CEO and ChatGPT creator Sam Altman in an interview recently, admitted he is “a little bit scared” of the potential of the AI chatbot. In an interview with ABC News, he said ChatGPT could “eliminate” many human jobs. “We’ve got to be careful here,” said Altman. “I think people should be happy that we are a little bit scared of this,” he admitted.

Picture courtesy of Livemint

“There will be other people who don’t put some of the safety limits that we put on. Society, I think, has a limited amount of time to figure out how to react to that, how to regulate that, how to handle it,” he cautioned. You may read the full story here.

The answer to the Quiz:

b) Kevin Ashton, MIT’s Executive Director of Auto-ID Labs, coined the phrase “Internet of Things” in 1999. While working at Procter & Gamble, Ashton proposed putting radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips on products to track them through a supply chain. IoT refers to the collective network of connected devices and the technology that facilitates communication between devices and the cloud, as well as between the devices themselves. In 2021, there were more than 10 billion active IoT devices. It’s estimated that the number of active IoT devices will surpass 25.4 billion in 2030. By 2025, there will be 152,200 IoT devices connecting to the internet per minute (

Have a great weekend.

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