🚗 🚙 Turn your trusty old car into trustworthy journalism Learn more
Companies joining the metaverse are opening doors to new worlds — and their wallets
Dec 27, 2021

Companies joining the metaverse are opening doors to new worlds — and their wallets

Billions of dollars are being spent on the metaverse. What will it be like?

Ah, the metaverse — that alternate reality that we’ll soon be able to escape to whenever we want. First, there has to be something there, though. That world building is happening right now.

Tech companies are in a race to make the metaverse in their own images, so that they can take our future dollars. Facebook recently announced it was even changing its name to Meta, to reflect its focus on that space.

We spoke with Dean Takahashi, who writes about gaming for VentureBeat. He said it’s now getting clear just how seriously tech giants have been working to build the future of the metaverse. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Dean Takahashi: There was a startup called Magic Leap, that was focusing on augmented reality, which is a part of this Metaverse problem. And they were investing a couple billion dollars and hired 2,000 people for it. And people were making fun of them as if they were in a fantasy land. And then it turns out that Facebook is investing in the order of $10 billion a year to do this, and it’s hiring 10,000 people in Europe for this purpose. So it turns out that Magic Leap wasn’t investing enough and that the big tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, now Meta, were all taking this very seriously as well, and pouring lots of money into it, and we just didn’t know it.

Jed Kim: So for us consumers, what are the shiny objects we should keep an eye out for?

Takahashi: It could go in two different directions. I mean, there are companies like, say, Niantic, which is making Pokemon Go, that wants to see this become a much more mobile metaverse. And so you layer in some animated worlds or reality, on top of the regular reality, and roam around this world with your your mobile devices. And so that’s one vision for it. But the other is more like virtual reality or sitting at your desktop and, you know, absorbing things through your hands and even smelling things. And that kind of metaverse is something that you’ll feel like you’re inside a world. And it’ll be immersive and give you the sense of presence like you’ve been transported someplace else. And so that’s sort of the deeper version of the metaverse, so there’s kind of a metaverse light and metaverse deep.

Kim: What are the stakes, here?

Takahashi: Well, I think if you’re investing that much money, in the order of $10 billion a year, then you you basically see the opportunities are huge. I mean, the gaming market itself is $175 billion a year in revenue. And so there’s that, but all these other markets, you know, sort of would become part of the metaverse like they’d be absorbed. So like music in the metaverse — lots of different industries could be sort of be channeled through metaverse to get to consumers. I think that’s what’s at stake — the direct relationship with all the consumers in the world.

Related Links: More insight from Jed Kim

If you’re still confused about just what the Metaverse is, The Wall Street Journal has a neat little feature explaining it. Lots of pictures. Not all of them are from “Ready Player One,” thank goodness. Yeah, I said it. And I meant it.

Meta — remember, that’s Facebook’s new name — recently unveiled a prototype of a glove that uses air pulses and tubes to make it feel like you’re actually touching the stuff you see in VR and AR. Almost immediately, Meta was accused of stealing the tech. The company HaptX released a statement saying Meta’s glove appeared “substantively identical to HaptX’s patented technology.” The company says it looks forward to reaching a fair and equitable arrangement with Meta.

Finally, Dean mentioned Niantic as one of the companies looking to shape the augmented reality side of the metaverse. Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams spoke with the CEO of Niantic not too long ago. We’ve got the link to what is possibly the best headline Marketplace has ever written: “Augmented reality may change how we see the world. Until then, we have Pokémon.”

The future of this podcast starts with you.

Every day, the “Marketplace Tech” team demystifies the digital economy with stories that explore more than just Big Tech. We’re committed to covering topics that matter to you and the world around us, diving deep into how technology intersects with climate change, inequity, and disinformation.

As part of a nonprofit newsroom, we’re counting on listeners like you to keep this public service paywall-free and available to all.

Support “Marketplace Tech” in any amount today and become a partner in our mission.

The team

Molly Wood Host
Michael Lipkin Senior Producer
Stephanie Hughes Producer
Daniel Shin Producer
Jesús Alvarado Associate Producer