The world of spatial computing (AR & VR) continues to be equal parts opportunity and uncertainty. The same could be said of the nebulous ball of hype that is the metaverse. But though it’s early days for all of the above, there are meaningful discussions unfolding.

This is often the case throughout the halls and stages of AWE USA, which culminated at this year’s show in a “Big Thinkers” roundtable. The panel rolled through a series of burning questions and weighty topics that underlie the “spatial spectrum” – everything from Apple to China.

To synthesize the takeaways, we’re featuring the panel discussion for this week’s XR Talks, with embedded video and summarized takeaways below. Full disclosure, we at AR Insider produced and moderated the session, though credit and insight is owed to the panelists.

Catherine Henry: SVP Growth, Metaverse & Innovation Strategy at Media.Monks
Charlie Fink: Tech Columnist, Author, Podcaster at Forbes
Ted Schilowitz: Futurist at Paramount
Alvin Graylin: China President at HTC

Hands-On with Magic Leap 2

Painted with Data

Starting at the top, what do we mean by “burning questions.” Rising above product-level matters, these are macro factors influencing XR. What tech giants are best primed for the spatial era? What underdogs could rise up to challenge them? And what will Apple end up launching?

Starting with Apple, the questions surrounding its rumored device are what and when? Signs point to a phased approach that starts with a VR-oriented entertainment device, followed by an all-day AR wearable. The former can be done today. The latter needs more time in the oven.

Put another way, it will take longer for the underlying technology to support AR glasses that fit a graphically-robust UX into something that carries Apple’s design sensibilities. According to Ted Schilowitz, those factors will converge when Apple feels it’s ready… not a day before.

What about others? Among the “big five” tech giants, Google is advantaged from its position as being the world’s search engine for the past 20+ years. That gives it the knowledge graph that could underlie some key AR components such as contexual overlays for the world around us.

This also raises the question of a “universal spatial browser” as Charlie Fink calls it. Will the world be painted with data in ways that evoke geo-anchored graphics where and when they’re relevant (a.k.a., real-world metaverse)? Likely yes, but it will take several years to construct.

Follow the Money: Meta Doesn’t Want to Own the Metaverse

Business Sense

Moving from West to East, don’t ignore China, says Catherine Henry, such as Tencent. China’s political realities also create fertile soil for the metaverse as one entity (government) can control it. That could breed common standards, which is a key metaverse ingredient.

Speaking of open standards, Alvin Graylin believes we’ll see a natural progression towards an open and interoperable metaverse. Though diverging tech-giant interests steer them towards closed systems, open walls make more business sense in reaching network effect.

That’s simply because open walls make it easier to link in and out (like websites), which can help any given network grow faster. Even Meta properties like Facebook – often called a walled garden – is semi-permeable in that web links point in and out. It’s not an insular network.

Speaking of Meta, what will be the metaverse’s business model? Ad support won’t be optimal says Graylin. Instead, an ideal metaverse will offer experiences that are accessed through micropayments, not ad exposure. This could avoid web 2.0’s data collection and privacy issues.

This is a worthwhile direction, but Schilowitz says it will be a slow cultural shift given consumer habits. Though pundits agree that premium content is a more virtuous path than ad support, is that what consumers want? As always, it will have to be put to the test on a mass scale.

We’ll pause there and cue the full video below… 

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