Science

New headsets, new virtual content… 2022, the year the metaverse took off

It is always useful to put the magnifying glass on South Korea when you want to play the oracles in terms of technologies. And the metaverse is no exception to the rule. The local government has just formed a consortium for the country’s largest companies (Samsung, Hyundai…) to help each other to make Korea a major player in this virtual promised land where it will be possible to meet friends, attend concerts , work, play… all thanks to virtual or augmented reality glasses and through an infinitely modifiable avatar. If the rest of the planet is still struggling to understand the very concept of the metaverse, “the genie has come out of its bottle and it will be impossible to put it back”, summarizes Fred Volhuer, executive director of Atlas V, a French reality study. virtual work in particular with Meta (ex-Facebook).

“After 2021 when there were many high-sounding announcements, 2022 should be the year of confirmation, the one that will open the door to the democratization of the metaverse,” continues Florian Freyssenet, CEO of TheDiggers, a specialist in investments in virtual worlds. . Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Meta, who has announced that he wants to invest tens of billions of dollars and hire eagerly to transform his social network into a metaverse by 2025, knows that he is particularly expected on the turn. On December 9, the Menlo Park firm launched a beta version of Horizon Worlds in North America, a virtual world that should serve as a draft for the great ‘Zuckerian’ vision and should open to the rest of the planet in the coming months. But “Zuck” is not alone in the world, however virtual the latter may be. Several other metaverses aim to get off the ground this year. The Sandbox, a platform founded by two Frenchmen where small and large video games can be created and shared, has just raised 93 million dollars. Décentraland, where you can buy lots and build whatever you want (house, museum, shopping center, etc.), has seen the price of its land double in the last six months. Above all, brands are beginning to flow into these pixel lands.

Adidas, Balenciaga, Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Gucci, Pepsi… Hardly a week goes by without a new brand announcing its arrival in the metaverse. Nike, which has just struck a blow by taking over several hundred million euros in RTFKT, a start-up that has specialized in wearing avatars, could present its first “bi-world” products in 2022. “We can imagine that when buy a pair of Nikes, a code will allow you to equip your avatar with the same model and, conversely, virtual “bestsellers” could end up on the very real production lines of Asian factories,” said Stanislas Barthélémi, consultant at Socio KPMG blockchain. But it’s not just fashion or consumer brands that have Chimene’s eyes for virtual worlds. “Now I have owners asking me for advice on buying ‘land’ (plots) in the metaverse,” says Florian Freyssenet. “There will be a lot of projects, a lot of funding, and therefore also a lot of failures, like at the beginning of the Web in the 2000s,” warns Nicolas Pouard, director of blockchain research and head of foresight at Ubisoft.

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Innovative headsets and haptic vests for greater immersion

2022 should also be the year of the virtual headset sales boom, an essential gateway to immerse yourself in the metaverse, in particular with the arrival of the PS5 headset. Without forgetting the highly anticipated Apple that, according to rumors, could land during the year with performances that are already announced as revolutionary. “VR headsets have already sold very well in 2021, with 10 million Oculus Quest 2s sold [NDLR : propriété de Meta qui prépare une nouvelle version pour le second semestre 2022], not far from the 14 million PS5 sold”, emphasizes Fred Volhuer. But to fully immerse yourself, you’ll need to be able to go further, particularly through haptic jackets, like the fictional X1 combo depicted in the movie Ready Player. One. The Meta group is in the running, but it is not the only one, the French company Actronika should launch a crowdfunding campaign in March to promote its own model.

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The equipment, sold between 600 and 700 euros, will be able to make us feel the rain, the wind or virtual explosions. However, Samih El Hadef, creative technologist at WeAreSocial, is less enthusiastic. “We are promised a perfect immersion very quickly, capable of deceiving the user who will hardly know the difference between the real and the virtual. But that happens by reproducing the way we interact with reality (vision, sounds, touch…). respect, we are still a long way from being able to offer a model for the general public”. Another sticking point, shared by Raja Koduri, a top Intel executive, in a blog post: Enabling a virtual world where millions, if not billions, of people would interact in real time would require computational efficiency 1,000 times greater than Actual state. Of art. But Intel will of course be happy to let this dream come true, says the engineer…

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