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Technologists See Metaverse Reducing Carbon, Handling Interactions, More

Global technologists see the nascent metaverse playing a big role in the coming years as it affects everyday life in a variety of ways, including helping to mitigate climate change and becoming the venue for interactions of all kinds.

"The metaverse will be among the top five most important areas of technology in the year ahead," said tech pro organization IEEE in announcing "The Impact of Technology in 2023 and Beyond: an IEEE Global Study," a new report based on surveys of global technology leaders from the U.S., U.K., China, India and Brazil.

Specifically, the surveys polled 350 CTOs, CIOs and IT directors, covering the most important technologies in 2023 and future tech trends. The resulting report is presented in an interactive format that addresses: the impact of tech in 2023; connectivity advancements; a metaverse for sustainability; electric vehicles; "tiny" machine learning; and the foundation for 6G.

IEEE said the report points to a more connected, sustainable and virtual world. "Which areas of technology will be among the five most important in 2023? Global technology leaders surveyed said cloud computing (40 percent), 5G (38 percent), metaverse (37 percent), electric vehicles (EVs) (35 percent), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) (33 percent) will be the five most important areas of technology next year," the organization said in an Oct. 27 news release.

The report indicated which innovations will next year be key to advancing the metaverse, which in these early stages can be described as "an immersive digital network of 3D interactive worlds." The innovations said to be very important for advancing metaverse development in 2023 include:

  • (71 percent) 5G and ubiquitous connectivity
  • (58 percent) virtual reality (VR) headsets
  • (58 percent) augmented reality (AR) glasses

The report also noted the increasing influence of new-age IT concerns that include sustainable computing, designed to lessen global climate change.

"Technologies that foster sustainability are growing in importance," IEEE said. "A strong majority (94 percent) of those surveyed agree that they have prioritized sustainability goals for 2023 and beyond, and any technologies their company implements are required to be energy-efficient and help shrink their carbon footprint."

Tech leaders see the metaverse as one of those technologies that foster sustainability. "We like to imagine the metaverse as a social technology. But it also has the potential to help mitigate the impacts of climate change," IEEE said.

In fact, one of those tech leaders is Daozhuang Lin, IEEE senior member, IEEE Consumer Technology Society, who made this prediction: "Metaverse-related technology will be a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions because it allows technologists and engineers to perform simulations in cyberspace, rather than relying on real-world demonstrations that run on traditional energy."

Sustainable Metaverse
[Click on image for larger view.] Sustainable Metaverse (source: IEEE).

The report also indicated metaverse-related technologies are expected to be deployed in various ways. IEEE said 91 percent of respondents agree that, in order to bring employees together for corporate training across offices, conferences and hybrid meetings, their company will actively adopt metaverse technology strategies next year. "In addition, over three-quarters (76 percent) of global technologists say 26 percent-75 percent of interactions with colleagues, customers and management at their company will be conducted virtually in 2023."

Being a primary point of focus among respondents, the metaverse is explored further in an accompanying article titled "The Building Blocks of the Metaverse Are All Around Us."

That article further addresses Lin's sustainability prediction that making multiple simulations before using energy on a real-world test could lead to lower carbon emissions. Expanding on that, Lin further said, "The next great metaverse breakthrough will use VR to make industry more efficient."

The IEEE article states: "A strong majority of survey respondents -- 92 percent agree, including 50 percent that strongly agree -- that metaverse-related technologies will be major contributors to reducing carbon emissions because they allow simulations in cyberspace instead of using traditional energy to conduct tests. A second finding reinforces that datapoint: 98 percent of respondents said digital twin technologies will be important in 2023, (including 68 percent who said very important), to efficiently design, develop and safely test product prototypes and manufacturing processes."

Other takeaways from the article as presented by IEEE include:

  • Connectivity may drive development over the next year. The survey found that connectivity may be more important than hardware when it comes to the metaverse. When asked to indicate which innovations for advancing the metaverse in 2023 they considered very important, 71 percent of respondents said 5G and ubiquitous connectivity -- higher than VR headsets (58 percent), augmented reality glasses (58 percent) and haptic devices that stimulate touch (56 percent).
  • Don't count hardware out. While ubiquitous connectivity will facilitate smoother interactions, advances in computing power are likely to make VR headsets lighter, more energy efficient and ultimately, more comfortable, according to IEEE Senior Member Eleanor "Nell" Watson, who noted that high-powered chips in the 3-nanometer and 5-nanometer class may foster better hardware.
  • Hybrid work may become a little more immersive. Remote work is here to stay, but companies say they are doing more to keep people connected, with 91 percent of respondents agreeing that their companies are actively adopting metaverse technology strategies in 2023 to bring employees together for corporate training across offices, conferences and hybrid meetings. Along these lines, over three-quarters (76 percent) of global technologists say that 26-75 percent of interactions with colleagues, customers and management at their company will be conducted virtually in 2023.

"For the past year, the metaverse has been one of the most hotly debated topics in tech," IEEE summarized. "To some, the idea of a fully immersive digital experience that enables multiple users to share experiences in augmented reality and virtual reality seems so far away that it isn't worth talking about.

"But the building blocks of the metaverse are all around us, propelled in part by the growing and increased reliance of digital connections in our personal and professional lives that was accelerated by the pandemic."

Note that the IEEE report's backing surveys were conducted in mid-September, before all the recent negative buzz about metaverse leader Meta's flailing efforts that resulted in a recent downturn in quarterly financial results. That buzz includes articles like this from The Guardian, "Meta shares dip is proof metaverse plan never really had legs," which stated "critics intensified their calls for its chief executive [Mark Zuckerberg] to abandon his astronomically expensive pivot to the 'metaverse' -- a 3D virtual world intended to replace much of real-world socializing."

If things like that continue to happen, those rosy IEEE metaverse predictions may be in need of some revision.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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