The metaverse is estimated to be a $1 trillion market opportunity by 2030, and IT companies will grow their metaverse budgets 10 percent to 15 percent in the next five years, according to Chandra Surbhat, vice president and practice head of digital experience at solution provider Wipro.
Wipro, with U.S. headquarters in East Brunswick, N.J., is tapping into the metaverse market now to transform business models and address challenges around interoperability and the growing skills gap.
And Surbhat thinks the metaverse is a huge untapped market for solution providers.
“The way we shop, the way we interact, the way we look at any social engagements, the way we discover products, the way we look at games and the way we can collaborate … the learning and development of that is a big use case,” he told CRN. “We could look at a much more immersive experience of learning and development.”
In a recent study by Wipro, “The Industrial Metaverse: A Game-Changer For Business,” the company uncovers the opportunity in the metaverse and where it can have the most impact.ADVERTISEMENT
In the study, 80 percent of global executives agree that the metaverse will enhance business activities by making them more immersive, 63 percent believe it is a “game-changer” that will transform many parts of their business, and 58 percent stated that in 10 years, businesses will look at the metaverse as we now look at the internet.
“By use case adoption we will see increased adoption, more enterprises will look at innovative ways for cost optimization [such as] immersive learning, immersive product visualization and design, virtual stores and metaverse marketing,” Surbhat said. “[This will extend] the reach of new products and services, immersive-experience-driven sales, creator-driven product development and digital twin adoption.”
CRN spoke with Surbhat about the metaverse opportunities and how he believes it will transform business in 10 years.
I’ve talked about the metaverse to a lot of people in the channel from vendors to smaller MSPs, and the majority of them don’t want to touch it. Why do you think so many are fearful of it?
There is lack of interoperability in the metaverse. There are about 700 to 800 metaverses that are out there. It’s not like the standardized web that we have today. Metaverse standards are not complete and they are not final, so there are various versions of it, so that is a concern. There is a device concern that exists. Devices are bulky and they’re expensive. There is concern around security and privacy. There is definitely a lack of awareness, I would say, and the good part about it is every customer [has] an interest to hear this out, understand this particular space and what it offers.
So that’s the first bottleneck, which some of them are not able to overcome. The metaverse in reality is pulling together a lot of things that already exist: blockchain, crypto, NFT, digital twin, AR, VR and spatial reality. These are different variants of the components. Somewhere we all communicated on the metaverse as an industry in terms of saying the future is all about virtual, no physical existing. Well, that’s an end state. There’s a journey toward certain states that are here and now and use cases that can be done. That’s the part where some of the skeptics are struggling. When we paint a futuristic picture, there’s difficulty for people to grapple with, ‘What’s the use case that I can tap into? Does it make sense for my industry? Does it make sense for my business? Is it just a fancy term? Is it something that’s about 10, 20 years away?’
There is a huge amount of effort, including Wipro putting a lot of effort toward standardization. [If we] then come down to the industry and break down the metaverse for them and say, ‘I’ll help discover a particular use case for you,’ that’s a good starting point that we’re observing.
Are there any use cases that stand out to you that really tap into how the metaverse is helpful to businesses?
Absolutely. The easiest is gaming. Instead of watching events on the traditional media today, I could be watching a game as real as if I’m in that particular seat of a particular stadium all while sitting at my home. [I could] interact with viewers and fans and look at every dimension of the game in an experience, which is as good as being present there physically. Gaming has seen a lot of advancement for a long time. It’s a much more immersive, realistic experience.
In the retail stores there is still the struggle of, ‘How do I assist?’ Today we walk into retail stores, we switch to our phones to see a review and to see a little bit more detail about the product. With the metaverse, you don’t see the switch between physical and digital. If I could enable a simple, nonintrusive way in which I could assist a shopper through information that is displayed, questions that they can answer and then we could assist them in the store, we could overlay more digital information on top of a physical product which they can absorb. You could seamlessly replace switching them to a mobile phone searching for some reviews, getting some information and talking to a store assistant … that’s what we’re experimenting with in retail stores. This is a cool way in which they can engage the consumers and get them to a particular shelf.
We’re also talking to airports. At airports, one of the biggest things in an airport is everybody is in a rush: terminal, counter check- in, get through the process, how long it takes through security and get to that gate. The challenge for airports is a bulk of their passengers are struggling with the basics and panicking, so experience gets dropped. If the bulk of their transit time is spent on the basics, how do you get them to the retail stores, get them to do some shopping, get them to do certain other experiences? People are first trying to get to their plane in a timely fashion so if you can reduce this friction, that’s where we are looking at certain AR-driven, assisted way finders.
Do you think that the metaverse will have a place in small business?
I have not personally spent time on the small-businesses side ,but it’s probably a little bit more expensive. I wouldn’t say ‘expensive,’ [but] I don’t know if small businesses are ready [although] I don’t see a reason why not. Depending upon their mindset and approach, and if this is a problem that they want to solve, it is still a futuristic one. But if a small business is wanting to differentiate themselves compared to the big ones, maybe, but I’ve not personally seen much of this.
Where do you think the metaverse will be in 10 years?
I see a certain amount of realistic expectations of metaverse and a directional sense of where the metaverse is headed, and some progress to be made around devices. There are already a good amount of companies investing in making immersive experiences available in the laptop itself. There is no need for an extra device. So I do expect that in about 18 to 24 months the standards, the security, the privacy, the compliance and the power of the devices having certain breakthroughs.
As it progresses, web 3.0, which is decentralized so consumers have their own control of their data and transactions, I do see this trend of moving toward a decentralized environment picking up beyond 18 months.
Is the metaverse a huge untapped revenue stream for solution providers?
Absolutely. The way we shop, the way we interact, the way we look at any social engagements, the way we discover products, the way we look at games and the way we can collaborate … the learning and development of that is a big use case. We could look at a much more immersive experience of learning and development. In developing countries, how do you provide more assisted remote health care? We can do more trainings. With servicing, I could very quickly overlay certain digital information, I could point to a particular part and direct the individual. All field service will undergo a transformation. The elements of a maintenance department, which is part of the field service, will undergo a transformation. There will be a good amount of revenue stream shifts in this direction very clearly for the service providers.
What about securing the metaverse?
Security, privacy and compliance is a huge one, just as digital exploded security concerns. There’s a lot of regulatory and compliance [concerns] over time in the digital world, and the same is going to apply to the metaverse.
In the Wipro metaverse study, it showed that companies dedicated a very small percentage of their IT budgets, about 1 percent, to the metaverse. What do you think the percentage of IT budgets will be for the metaverse in five years?
I think it could be in the range of 10 [percent] to 15 percent. When I say ‘metaverse,’ it could still be certain components of the metaverse like AR, for example. We have two sets of teams talking to us—marketing teams and innovation teams. Innovation teams are saying to the customer, ‘Here’s our small budget. We want to experiment, we want to find a use case, we want to look at a possibility of demonstrating the business users, educating them and then getting it into a budget.’ There are certain marketing teams who are saying, ‘I need to be in the metaverse. The brand needs a presence felt as a futuristic one.’ This is a category that we see today and that’s going to change in the course of the next five years.LEARN MORE: AI
CJ Fairfield is an associate editor at CRN covering solution providers, MSPs and distributors. Prior to joining CRN, she worked at daily newspapers, including The Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey and The Frederick News-Post in Maryland. She can be reached at [email protected].
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