The metaverse seems to be on everyone’s mind nowadays. With the Facebook Company rebranding itself as Meta and companies like Snap and Apple exploring the power of new VR and AR technologies, it’s clear that the digital technology industry is entering a new phase with a new focus on the metaverse. Extended reality experiences are becoming a bigger part of many people’s daily life, from entertainment to education, and dozens of metaverse companies are working hard to enable and optimize those experiences.
This trend raises a lot of questions:
We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this guide to metaverse companies.
The meaning of “metaverse” can be hard to pin down. The term encompasses a wide range of technologies, both hardware and software, and can be applied in many different arenas. Using an augmented reality filter on Snapchat to watch a bird dance on your desk is part of the metaverse. Going on an immersive virtual field trip to explore the farthest reaches of the solar system is part of the metaverse, too. What makes these things similar? What makes them different?
Although metaverse is a term that often gets thrown around without being defined, broadly speaking, the metaverse is the future of the Internet — and it’s arriving fast. The metaverse incorporates a huge set of virtual spaces that enable social interaction, learning, and fun.
One major component of the metaverse is the increasing focus on extended reality, also known as cross reality. Extended reality, or XR, describes the technology that people use to gain access to the Metaverse — from their phone camera to a full VR headset. Extended reality can be envisioned as a spectrum with three main categories:
When learners have an experience using augmented reality, mixed reality, or virtual reality, they are entering the metaverse. Whether they are connecting with students in other classrooms or studying in their own private, individual world, they are at the forefront of a new wave of digital evolution. The Internet is now a part of everyday life, with over 90% of U.S. adults — and over 99% of adults under age 30 — using the Internet on a regular basis, a number that has been growing consistently for decades. The metaverse is simply the next phase in that growth.
So that’s the metaverse — but what’s behind it? Who are the digital leaders and companies creating and shaping the metaverse as we speak?
The answers might surprise you. Just as the metaverse is a decentralized network full of hundreds, if not thousands, of individual internet spaces, metaverse companies comprise an enormous range of actors, from small startups to trillion-dollar companies with broad name recognition.
Broadly speaking, we can divide metaverse companies into two main types:
Of course, as with so many things on the Internet, these categories are not neat and tidy. Many metaverse companies create both infrastructure and content, and sometimes the lines between infrastructure and content get blurry. Still, this binary can be useful for analyzing the movers and shakers behind the technology we use for work, school, and more.
Metaverse infrastructure companies are the metaverse companies that design and run large digital platforms or devices. They create the technology that other metaverse companies leverage to create and distribute content. You can think of them as constructing the roadways of the metaverse, ensuring that Internet users have the paths they need to get to the content they want.
Metaverse infrastructure encompasses both hardware and software:
There are tens, if not hundreds or thousands, of companies constructing metaverse infrastructure. Some of those companies are very well-known:
Other infrastructure-driven metaverse companies are less common. There are many small startups working on new VR headsets, optimized operating systems, and the like. There are also metaverse companies small and large working behind the scenes on the technology that enables everyday uses. While the average consumer might not think very much about the cloud computing software and data transfer solutions that allow them to access the internet on a daily basis, there are many companies focused specifically on those very things. These are the companies creating new forms of digital currency and blockchain technology so that living and working in the metaverse becomes a smooth, hassle-free, streamlined experience.
The second type of metaverse company, although usually a little smaller, might be more familiar. That’s because metaverse content companies make the metaverse content that Internet users interact with directly.
Although Apple and Alphabet might make the phone you use to open Google or the web browser you use to access your favorite content, other companies are usually responsible for the actual digital content you consume — the videos, the interactive games, the virtual field trips.
Those companies can be any size or type, and there are literally hundreds of them. One study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that the internet economy is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the overall U.S. economy: it grew seven times faster than the broader economy in recent years, creating over 17 million jobs in four years and generating nearly $2.5 trillion in value in just one year. More of those jobs — 38 percent — came from startups, small companies, and self-employed individuals than from big internet corporations. There are many established corporations getting involved in the growing metaverse, too. Companies like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are creating versions of the products in the metaverse, exploring the potential for virtual metaverse fashion. Vail Ski Resort has a digital replication of its resort, using a high-tech strategy to predict, stabilize, and publicize skiing conditions. Many of these companies are also interested in the growth of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), unique digital files that are increasingly being sold as art or as collectors’ items. But small businesses are key to the metaverse economy.
Kai XR is one such company creating and distributing metaverse content. In some sense, Kai XR operates at the boundary between metaverse infrastructure and content — all of Kai XR’s virtual field trips are accessible from our own website, a form of digital infrastructure. However, Kai XR’s field trips are made to integrate with a range of digital technologies, from smartphones to VR headsets, meaning our content is accessible from a range of infrastructure platforms.
Our metaverse company creates a wide array of content for a wide array of learners, from virtual field trips to the zoo to Black History Month activities for students. These virtual field trips exemplify what the metaverse is all about — providing innovative, interactive, and inclusive forms of learning and play through new digital technologies.
Metaverse companies are making the online content that we use all the time. But why does this matter? Why should we care? How do metaverse companies really affect our daily lives, and where are metaverse companies going in the future?
Those are all broad questions with no easy answers. But there are a few key reasons why metaverse companies are important to research, learn about, and keep track of:
Looking at the metrics makes it clear that one indicator of metaverse companies’ importance is their huge scale and rapid growth. The internet economy is growing fast, just as internet usage itself has skyrocketed.
Even a decade ago, the Internet was responsible for over a fifth of GDP growth in mature economies. Now, as technology evolves, metaverse companies are occupying a larger sector of the internet economy.
Some surveys find that the metaverse will probably have a “transformational” impact on businesses. In fact, over 95% of business executives say that technological progress is more important to their company’s long-term strategy than economic, social, or political changes. A Citi report recently suggested that metaverse companies could create a market worth more than $10 trillion by 2030, with up to five billion users — over half the world’s population.
That growth is also creating plenty of new remote metaverse jobs. That includes developers working for metaverse companies on metaverse infrastructure and content — like facilitating faster digital transactions, managing VR social media spaces, or improving the play experience of VR games for kids. It also includes independent forms of employment, like streamers who make money by playing metaverse games and livestreaming their content for thousands of viewers.
These countless forms of growth highlight just how quickly metaverse companies are becoming a central part of our economy.
Buying products, consuming media, going to school: all of these daily behaviors are being shaped by the metaverse at every moment. What does this mean for us and the way we live?
The changes metaverse companies bring to our daily lives can be both positive and negative. Metaverse companies have room for improvement as they strive to maximize accessibility and inclusivity:
However, with all of that being said, the metaverse still has the potential to do a lot of good for the world. If designed well, there are dozens of benefits of virtual field trips and other forms of extended reality experiences. The metaverse can be an effective and engaging tool for teaching and learning. It can be more accessible for people with limited mobility or limited travel resources, allowing them to see new worlds and collaborate with people from across the globe. And metaverse companies can be used for social-emotional learning in the classroom and to teach 21st century learning skills like civic literacy and global awareness.
Those risks and benefits of the metaverse both explain the last key reason why learning about metaverse companies is important: so that metaverse companies can connect with educators and other changemakers.
The metaverse is still being shaped, and lots of different metaverse companies and employees are currently having an influence on it. Keeping educators engaged in those ongoing conversations — about VR in school, about children and data privacy, and more — can ensure that the metaverse is designed with an eye towards equity, inclusion, and positive impact. Educators can design their own virtual field trips and XR experiences, contribute to conversations with metaverse companies, and play a role in testing, evaluating, and innovating with new metaverse technologies.
That’s the story behind Kai XR. Our founder spent years as a learner and educator before realizing that a growing digital divide was preventing her students from fully accessing the metaverse and all the opportunities it had to offer. That’s why she started creating her own virtual field trips with a 360-degree camera. Now, Kai XR offers dozens of virtual field trips about everything from history to social studies to career exploration. All of our content centers inclusion and equity, helping students feel represented in their learning content and teaching them important skills about connecting with others from diverse backgrounds. Kai XR is just one case study of the power of metaverse companies when they’re connected with experienced educators! We need people who are deeply familiar with the needs and experiences of students to help shape this growing industry.
If we don’t connect metaverse companies with educators, activists, and other impactful people, we risk creating metaverse content and infrastructure that is inequitable, inaccessible, and reinforces existing divides. But if we do connect those groups, we can make the metaverse a way to close the digital divide and forge relationships across boundaries, creating more learning and play opportunities for all.
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