Metaverse: Evolution, Then Revolution
Accenture predicts a steady continuum of business opportunities
By Philo Uwamaria
New digital technologies are very often the subject of hyperbole and overstatements. But the next generation of the Internet, widely known as the metaverse, is already under way and is poised to become revolutionary for businesses and consumers alike. The revolution, however, will gradually unfold.
That was the conclusion shared at a recent MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) seminar, led by Raghav Narsalay, Managing Director, Accenture Research and Accenture Research Lead for the Metaverse Continuum Business Group of Accenture, and Shruti Shalini, Research Lead, from Accenture Research — a founding partner of the IDE.
With business opportunities in sight, Accenture has created a dedicated Metaverse practice to study the promise and tangible value of metaverse and Web3 technologies for consumers, enterprises and industrial applications.
At the IDE seminar, Narsalay described the metaverse as an “expanding continuum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities, and business models in two- and three-dimensional formats.” It will be “powered gradually by the maturing combination of cloud, AI, extended realities, blockchains, and more,” he said.
For more than a decade, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality technologies have delivered major advances in user interfaces, headsets, and applications — primarily, for gamers. But headsets are just one small part of the incremental evolution of the internet, said Narsalay.
The future holds much more, and companies, as well as individual investors, are already creating opportunities for themselves and creative communities.
For example, so-called “digital real estate” allows owners to build an income stream by renting “space” to performers and artists who want to organize virtual events such as concerts, or digital art sales.
Accenture’s analysis indicates interest in the metaverse has continued to show impressive growth of 212% between 2020 and 2022.
Narsalay further shared a startling statistic: According to a 2022 Accenture survey of 3,450 global C-level executives, business leaders believe that by the end of 2025, 4.2% of their entire revenue will originate from metaverse-related services, products, and business models, roughly translating into revenue of $1 trillion.
This is largely because, “the metaverse will change business in all aspects,” he said. These changes include: how work is performed, how you operate the business, interaction with customers, the services and products offered, and the production and distribution of products and services, he said. (Figure 2)
The Metaverse Transformation
New sets of technologies and business models are at once generating excitement, confusion, and disagreement on what they’re all about.
That’s not unusual, since Narsalay said Web3 incorporates concepts such as decentralization, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics, at different stages of their evolution and maturity.
A decentralized Web3 model — the framework for metaverse technologies — would give creators, developers, and users a way to monetize their contributions as well as involve them in the governance and decision-making of the platforms supporting their work.
Young users want to do transactions and live different aspects of their life virtually, Narsalay said, and this will further drive creation of commercial applications and usage. Below is an illustration of how the internet has evolved over the decades (Figure 3)
Accenture Research Lead Shalini emphasized that organizations like Accenture must go beyond surveys and use a combination of qualitative as well as quantitative techniques to build a holistic understanding around metaverse and Web3 technologies. Combining research methodologies produces the most relevant insights for clients, she said.
Also based on the research, Accenture recognizes the dimensions and challenges posed by data safety, security, and privacy in the context of the Metaverse, said Narsalay. (Figure 4)
Some solutions to these security challenges have been proposed by the Open Algorithm (OPAL) project, a nonprofit consortium that includes the MIT Media Lab as one of its partners. (See information below).
Overall, Accenture is bullish on metaverse investments and expects businesses to move forward and embrace the creativity it offers at the consumer, enterprise, and industrial levels. Narsalay advises corporations to start small, stay focused, and scale gradually with the early building blocks. In that way, they will attract individual and business customers and also benefit from the untapped opportunities that metaverse and Web3 technologies have to offer.
OPAL’s 7 Principles
The OPAL consortium is based on seven key principles, including:
- Move the algorithm to the data. Instead of gathering raw data into a central location for processing, the algorithms or queries should be sent to the repositories to be processed there.
- Decentralize data architecture. Raw data must always remain in its permanent repository under the control of the repository owners. Only the results of applying the algorithm or query against the data are returned.
- Use open, vetted algorithms. Algorithms must be openly published, agreed to, and vetted by experts to be safe from privacy violations, bias, and other unintended consequences.
- Require subject consent. Data repositories must obtain explicit consent –i.e. “opt-in” — from the subjects whose data they hold for the execution of an algorithm against their data; the vetted algorithms should be made available and understandable to subjects.
- Data Federation. In a group-based trust network ecosystem, algorithms must be vetted collectively by all the ecosystem members; each member must observe the OPAL principles and legal frameworks.
- Data encryption. Data must be encrypted while stored, transmitted, and when algorithms are applied against it.
- Transparency and regulatory compliance. All requests and responses must be stored in a public blockchain to provide a shared, immutable log of events that enables auditing all interactions and proof of regulatory compliance.
Philo Uwamaria is a tech content writer “with a knack for breaking down the details of complicated topics.” She lives in Nairobi, Kenya.