What opportunities and challenges for the next generation internet?

Through the DEMAIN program, the project that highlights the major disruptions to come, Bpifrance explores the phenomenon of the metaverse alongside Epic Games.

The most advanced version of the Metaverse, meaning a vision of a digitally interconnected future, is still a project under construction that raises numerous challenges and uncertainties. And yet, even though it does not yet exist, some are already predicting its demise. The truth is that the Metaverse is not dead, because the Metaverse is not yet here, at least not as it was sold to us during the hype phase of 2021 and 2022. Whether it will be an evolution or a revolution will largely depend on our ability to meet technological and societal challenges and to concretely improve the lives of users,” shares Guillaume Simonaire, investment director within the creative industries department at Bpifrance.

Although this version does not yet exist, France is already positioning itself as a leader in certain areas. Its active participation in various international standardization and governance organizations is necessary for it to assert its position internationally. 

But what is the Metaverse?

According to Guillaume Simonaire, there is no universal definition of the Metaverse at present. The concept is difficult to define, not only because the Metaverse is still being built, but also because the term has often been misused. The Metaverse is not just the Web 3, or blockchain, or immersive content. The Metaverse is the internet, including the web, that embraces 3D interactive technology,” clarifies Marc Petit, general manager of Unreal Engine at Epic Games. 

At this stage, a good proxy for the Metaverse of tomorrow, and therefore what it is today, can be summarized as the video game industry merging with social networks, allowing users to express themselves, socialize, create communities, and have fun using their digital identity,” advances Guillaume Simonaire. The Metaverse will therefore be built through the expertise of the video game industry, which, according to Marc Petit, is 25 years ahead on the subject. Multiplayer comes from the video game where we always do things together. Digital images and videos have profoundly transformed the internet, what is now happening is a similar if not more important disruption with 3D technology. After YouTube and videoconferencing, it’s the emergence of a new 3D medium, a new means of communication, this time interactive, collaborative, and participative,” explains Marc Petit.

For Guillaume Simonaire and Marc Petit, the most advanced form of the Metaverse will indeed become a reality. The question is when, so as not to be too early or, worse, to miss the train,” emphasizes Marc Petit.

The Metaverse: Varied Fields of Application

Far from the fears it arouses in some, the Metaverse could actually provide answers to business challenges or even social issues, on subjects such as health or isolation. We should not fear these technologies, but on the contrary, embrace and control them,” insists Marc Petit. 

With digital twins, for example, it could facilitate communication within the company. The productivity gains associated with simulation and collaboration enabled by digital twins could be enormous. We already see this, for example, in car manufacturing processes,” explains Marc Petit.

For brands, it’s an opportunity to reach Gen Z or Gen Alpha by offering engaging content centered on their universe. For example, Société Générale created an immersive rugby experience in Fortnite for the Rugby World Cup in France. Entertainment brands also create experiences around their IP to increase engagement.

Education could also benefit significantly. We saw with the pandemic that solutions like Zoom do not work. In contrast, what already exists in video games has proven the ability to engage children and adolescents,” comments Marc Petit.

Addressing Concerns about Security and Privacy Protection

The European community has done significant work around what it has called Web 4, which is actually the Metaverse. I was pleasantly surprised by their conclusions, which represent the opportunities and challenges well. The European community acknowledges that this change is inevitable and can be very beneficial, while emphasizing the regulatory and security challenges,” comments Marc Petit.

When we talk about the Metaverse, security and privacy protection issues do indeed arise. In a 3D environment, we will collect even more data. In the Metaverse, many exchanges will be oral and not just textual. It is important to raise awareness and recreate the protection mechanisms of everyday life. The laws of the real world must apply, but the key is to know where the boundaries are,” explains Marc Petit.

For him, one of the prerequisites is the use of open platforms. If Europe wants to break free from American hegemony, it needs to adopt open standards. We do not want the new version of the internet to once again be in the hands of five companies. This is an incredible opportunity for Europe and sovereign actors, because in the coming years, everything will change. This kind of technology transfer does not happen frequently. Today, we can learn lessons from mobile internet and decide what we want or not,” concludes Marc Petit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *