2022 promises to be a pivotal year for the worlds of business and technology, ushering in what Accenture has dubbed the "Metaverse Continuum." The global consulting firm says that succeeding in this landscape will take more than just mastering new technologies and embracing innovation.
"It will require a truly competitive vision," Accenture says in its 2022 Technology Vision report -- with companies "uprooting themselves from today and planting themselves firmly in the future."
Accenture's annual Technology Vision report has identified emerging technology trends for more than 20 years. Given the momentous change on the horizon this year, the report looks further into the future. Accenture lays out its vision of the Metaverse Continuum -- "a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities, and business models poised to revolutionize life and enterprise in the next decade."
Over the next decade, the report says, virtual worlds will expand in new ways, introducing new forms of commerce, currency, art and more. Meanwhile, digitally-enhanced physical worlds will grow from limited spaces that currently exist, such as smart factories, to encompass entire smart neighborhoods and cities. The tools being used to build the Metaverse Continuum include extended reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence, digital twins, and smart objects.
The report posits that businesses now face a choice: embrace the Metaverse Continuum or get left behind.
"Just like in the early years of the web, businesses are racing toward a future utterly different from the one they were designed for," it says. "Over the next decade, we will witness a complete transformation of nearly every environment that enterprises currently do business across."
Because these facets of the Metaverse Continuum are so new, there are no rules or expectations, Accenture notes. This creates rich opportunities for companies to set the standards for the ways people live and do business.
"The building blocks of the Metaverse Continuum are taking shape today but will coalesce over the next decade to create an entirely new enterprise landscape," the report says. "The '20s will see ambitious enterprises bringing shape to these new physical and digital realities, as well as worlds copopulated by people and AI, industries made possible by new computers, and more."
The Accenture report identifies four specific technology trends for 2022 that will advance the creation of the Metaverse Continuum. They are:
- WebMe: Putting the Me in Metaverse The internet is being reimagined, as metaverse and Web3 efforts transform the underpinning and operation of the virtual world.
- The Programmable World: Our Planet, Personalized Control, customization, and automation are being enmeshed into the world around us, making the physical as programmable as the digital.
- The Unreal: Making Synthetic, Authentic As AI-generated data and synthetic content convincingly mimic what is "real," authenticity is the new north star.
- Computing the Impossible: New Machines, New Possibilities A new generation of computers are solving some of the world's most intractable problems leading to one of the biggest technological disruptions of our time.
For any skeptics of the Metaverse Continuum, there are plenty of examples of companies forging a path forward. In fact, Accenture identified a special class of companies they've dubbed "leapfroggers," which have embraced innovative new technologies in response to the pandemic. These companies have also demonstrated there's serious money to be found in the Metaverse Continuum.
Last year, for instance, Gucci created The Gucci Garden Experience to sell virtual products. The fashion powerhouse sold a virtual-only digital twin of a Gucci purse for a higher price than its real-world counterpart.
Meanwhile, Christie's Auction House began digital-based auctions during the pandemic and began auctioning NFTs (non-fungible tokens). In 2020 during its first NFT auction, Christie's auctioned a piece by the artist Beeple for $69 million. The auction house also became the first to accept payments in cryptocurrency.
Then there's Vail Ski Resort in Colorado, which has built a digital twin of its resort and automates the physical mountain. Using real-time weather data, the resort will be able to trigger automatic snow guns. Eventually, the resort thinks it can extend its ski season by 25%.
The Accenture report says enterprises need to build on their digital foundations to succeed in the Metaverse Continuum. They need to make key decisions, "finally picking partners to build a digital twin, going beyond data and analytics to use AI in more visible and collaborative ways, or launching the 'moonshot' project that increasingly feels mission-critical," the report says. "Only with a mature and well-oiled digital engine will enterprises be prepared to participate in, or even build, the new business environments and worlds everyone will soon need to be part of."
The report also comes with a warning: pushing the boundaries of the Metaverse Continuum means moving into territories that aren't yet governed by policies and regulations. This leaves them responsible for establishing trust and safety for all those participating in the Metaverse Continuum.