Will we all soon be living in the Metaverse?

In a recently published white paper, the Joint Innovation Hub at Fraunhofer ISI uses a new online survey on the Metaverse to examine international user preferences, business models and innovation processes in the Metaverse. The survey shows that the Metaverse has the potential to have a major impact on work, mobility and how we live. In addition, the study explores possible business models in the Internet of the future and shows ways in which companies can gain access to the Metaverse.

The Metaverse has recently become a major talking point. But what is the Metaverse exactly? It is difficult to come up with a concise definition . The Metaverse consists of virtual worlds in which people can interact with each other. In particular, the connection with state-of-the-art technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and the growing digital connection between many areas of life currently form the basis that make the Metaverse so interesting for businesses.

A representative online survey on the Metaverse

In the online survey conducted between April and July 2022, almost 2,000 people from three different countries were interviewed. A total of 1,620 responses were included in the analysis, 540 people from Germany, 580 from the US and 500 from China. The samples are representative in terms of gender, age, place of residence and employment. 15 percent of all respondents had never heard of the Metaverse before the survey, but could be included in the subsequent questions after a visual and textual explanation of the Metaverse. Nearly one in two said they had already used some type of Metaverse.

One in five can imagine a completely digital life

The absolute majority of people from all the countries surveyed can imagine at least a partial shift of activities toward the Metaverse. However, a few discrepancies emerged when comparisons between the countries were carried out. Only one in ten Germans can imagine a fully digital life; in China, the readiness is more than three times as high (34 percent). Among the countries considered the highest level of negative opinion can be found in Germany with 27 percent, and the lowest in China with eight percent.

Travelling, shopping, going to events - will everything soon be virtual?

Although technically mature Metaverse applications have yet to be released and the most recent Metaverse insight by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg fell rather short of public expectation, many activities will in the future most likely be possible virtually. Traveling, shopping and going to events were among the top three of activities which respondents wished to do in the Metaverse. Less than a third of the respondents stated that working in the Metaverse was of interest. However, when asked to estimate the time actually spent on the activities, all respondents assume that working will be the most time-consuming activity in the Metaverse in the future.

The market potential of the Metaverse is particularly high in China

When asked about what costs would be acceptable for necessary technical equipment and access to the Metaverse, the survey revealed a high readiness to pay especially among people from China. For access to the Metaverse, respondents from China were willing to pay the equivalent of 304 Euros per month. Respondents from Germany, however, were only prepared to spend an average of 42 Euros a month on accessing the Metaverse, while respondents from the US were prepared to pay the equivalent of 124 Euros. The study thus calculated a total potential annual market of 5.3 trillion Euros: 33 billion Euros for Germany, 394 billion Euros for the US and 4.9 trillion Euros for China. As a result, China could become the leading commercial market for the development of the Metaverse.

The study describes the effects on business models in various industries

The potential changes to the future worlds of work and everyday life brought about by the Metaverse can be viewed as an opportunity or a challenge, depending on your perspective. While the transition in digital industries such as video gaming is likely to bring comparatively minor changes to the business model, other areas such as shopping, food delivery and dating will bring greater potential for new sales channels and distribution channels. Products such as cars can be tested virtually, even if people have not yet reached the minimum age for driving. In the education sector and in collaborative work, even more people can be involved in the future, regardless of their location. The Covid-19 pandemic has already provided an initial digitization boost in this area.

Willingness to adapt in favor of the Metaverse
© Fraunhofer ISI
Willingness to adapt in favor of the Metaverse

Will less housing be needed in the future as a result of the Metaverse?

Finally, respondents were asked whether they would be willing to forego living space, working time and real-life traveling (beyond their basic needs)in favor of the Metaverse. Overall, some three quarters of the respondents were willing to make changes, with the lowest willingness among Germans and the highest among the Chinese.  There was higher resistance to giving up living space compared to reducing working hours and real-life traveling in favor of the Metaverse.

Dr.-Ing. Daniel Duwe, author of the study, from the Joint Innovation Hub at Fraunhofer ISI concludes, "The results of our survey suggest that the Metaverse can contribute to climate protection and greater sustainability by reducing traveling in the real world. This is especially true if renewable energies are used for the servers. A greater shift of living space to the digital world can also help reduce the demand for housing in the real world and consequently housing shortages and housing costs. We also found the German respondents' skepticism and reluctance to embrace the Metaverse and their unwillingness to pay for these new business models to be quite pronounced compared to the Chinese respondents. We will investigate the exact reasons for this and how we can address it in future research projects." 

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.

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