If there’s one thing CIOs love, it’s to be on the ground floor of the next big thing. In 1994 Netscape ushered in the Internet Age with the first release of the Mosaic browser. Of course, the ARPANET had been around since the 1960s, but it was the release of the first useable browser that ushered in the beginning of what we know of today’s Internet. In many ways, Facebook’s announcement about the development of the Metaverse seems similar and could signal the start of the “Metaverse Age.”
Great CIOs are measured by how quickly they identify game-changing technology and are rewarded by how soon they implement it within their organizations and begin using them to provide a competitive advantage to their companies. Now is the time to start making Metaverse plans if they are not already in place, but two of the key unanswered questions are what the Metaverse is going to look like and who the major players in this new reality are going to be. The outline of the Metaverse is beginning to take shape and by looking at patents in these areas, a view of who the early adopters are can be seen.
While the exact definition of the Metaverse is still being worked out, most pundits believe it will look a lot like the movie Ready Player One. In this vision of the future, people escape the gloomy realities of day-to-day life by logging into a vast virtual reality existence where they can interact with one another and participate in hyper-realistic 3-D adventures. Of course, anyone who has used an Oculus Quest or a PlayStation VR will know precisely what this is like since these two systems and several others are already bringing immersive virtual reality experiences to users.
Users are also getting their first tastes of augmented reality. They are using these capabilities to understand their living space better if they were to add new furniture, equipment, or accessories to their homes and what they could look like with a makeover with new clothing or jewelry. Speaking of accessories, people are finally beginning to warm up to the idea of gaining their own heads-up displays courtesy of functional glassware connected to their smart devices.
There are more than 100,000 inventions with patent documents associated with them for each of the Metaverse areas mentioned. The chart below provides the top ten invention owners and whether their patent documents were published in the last five years or the previous ten.
Sony, the owner of the PlayStation VR has the highest number of inventions, followed by Microsoft, the owner of the Xbox system. So it should come as no surprise that the two largest patent holders are also responsible for the two largest gaming platforms. In this analysis, Facebook holds the fifth position behind Samsung and Google overall. However, looking closely at the blue portion of the column, which represents the last five years of inventions, Facebook has the highest number of recent inventions. Canon, IBM, and LG are also found in the top ten companies, but Apple and Magic Leap might be more interesting.
Considering the inventive output over the past five years for some of these companies, some interesting observations can be made based on the line graph below.
Facebook appears to be putting its inventive money where its mouth is and is making significant investments in the technologies that are likely to drive the creation of the Metaverse. The purchase of Oculus by Facebook happened in 2014 and many wondered what exactly they were going to do with this technology other than play games. Thus, the foundational IP from Oculus has become a launching pad for the company’s efforts to create the Metaverse.
On the other hand, Microsoft and Sony have seen their inventive output decline for 2020 compared to their previous publications. The gauntlet that Facebook has thrown is likely to spur them both to more significant efforts but for the time being, Facebook is the clear leader in recent Metaverse inventions.
Before we declare Facebook the victors, however, it’s worth considering Magic Leap and Apple. While both companies were at the bottom of the top ten overall, they both showed an increase in new inventions over the past five years and in 2020 nearly reached the same number of inventions as Sony and Microsoft.
It was announced on October 11 that Magic Leap has raised $500 Million in funding to deliver “powerful, best-in-class augmented reality solutions for the enterprise.” In addition, Magic Leap has also announced a partnership with NVIDIA, arguably the hottest AI-augmented chip maker globally. With all of the privacy concerns swirling around Facebook and their motives, CIOs may want to take a closer look at Magic Leap, a company expressly established to bring enterprise Metaverse solutions to businesses.
Then there’s Apple, which has been quietly building its augmented reality capabilities, including its optimized chipsets to drive their ambitions for the Metaverse. Apple is also projected to release its headset or eyewear with build-in Metaverse functionality. Considering the success they’ve had with consumer devices over the past few decades, they would be a good bet to be the consumer leader in the Metaverse while Magic Leap concentrates on the corporate world.
The Metaverse is poised to be the next big thing and CIOs in the know are already beginning to make plans for incorporating VR and AR technologies into their company workflows and products. Facebook has made the first big announcement about their Metaverse intentions and is building a patent portfolio to back up with aspirations. While they have an excellent start, companies like Apple and Magic Leap are poised to make their plays on the Metaverse and could be the smarter play for technologists depending on the needs of their businesses.