June 29, 2022

The Magic Behind Meta: A Guide to Metaverse Companies

Kai XR

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:

  • What are examples of metaverse companies? 
  • What kind of work do metaverse companies do?
  • What is the metaverse, anyway?

We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this guide to metaverse companies. 

What is the metaverse?

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:

  1. Augmented reality: the least immersive way of accessing the metaverse. With augmented reality, digital technology users are mostly perceiving their real, corporeal surroundings. They use a phone, tablet, or other device to superimpose something digital on their surroundings. One example of augmented reality would be students building 21st century learning skills by projecting a diagram of the human body onto their classroom table via their smartphones.
  2. Mixed reality: an intermediate form of accessing the metaverse. With mixed reality, digital technology users blend virtual and physical reality, usually through a see-through head-mounted display (like augmented reality glasses). This is similar to augmented reality, but the interactions between real and virtual are more natural with mixed reality experiences, permitting a deeper level of immersion. One example of mixed reality would be a student learning about diffusion by wearing AR glasses and watching simulated atoms move around the VR classroom, bouncing off of walls and other surfaces. 
  3. Virtual reality: the most immersive means of accessing the metaverse. With virtual reality, learners are fully immersed in a digitally-constructed environment using full VR headsets. One example of virtual reality would be a student taking a fully immersive virtual field trip to learn about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., monument for Black History Month.

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. 

What are metaverse companies?

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:

  1. Metaverse “infrastructure” companies
  2. Metaverse “content” companies

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

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:

  • Hardware refers to the physical devices that people use to access the metaverse, like smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, AR glasses, and VR headsets. It can also describe smaller components of each of those devices.
  • Software refers to the operating systems, apps, and other “internal” technologies that you can install or use on hardware. For example, the Facebook app is a piece of software that you might use on your iPhone or iPad. Most of the best VR apps for kids are considered software.

There are tens, if not hundreds or thousands, of companies constructing metaverse infrastructure. Some of those companies are very well-known:

  1. Meta, which operates Facebook, Instagram, and many other metaverse platforms.  
  2. Apple, which makes many devices that enable augmented or virtual reality experiences.
  3. Alphabet, the company behind Google, which has also developed lots of metaverse hardware and software.
  4. Snap Inc., which runs Snapchat, one of the most popular social media platforms with AR extensions.
  5. Disney, better known for its theme parks and movies, has patents on metaverse technology.
  6. Oracle, which makes consumer VR headsets.

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. 

Metaverse “Content” Companies

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. 

Why do metaverse companies matter?

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: 

  1. Metaverse companies are an expanding industry. 
  2. Metaverse companies are changing the way we live and connect with others.
  3. It’s important to connect metaverse company designers and educators. 

The growing industry of metaverse companies

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 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. 

Metaverse companies affect how we live 

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:

  • Right now, the metaverse could be more physically accessible for all users — for example, virtual reality headsets can induce cognitive strain or nausea for some users, or they might not be designed to be worn with natural Black hairstyles or with headscarves. More accessible headsets can serve all people, regardless of background.
  • Metaverse companies ought to consider how their technology is too expensive for some users, potentially leaving them out of this growing sector of the economy. Expanding access to metaverse technology also requires investments in baseline infrastructure like high-speed internet, which is still less common in low-income and rural areas.
  • As more time is spent on the internet, there are more concerns about data privacy and safety, especially for younger users who might not have the best digital privacy skills. This highlights why metaverse companies need to focus on keeping data secure and making their policies transparent. 

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.

Connecting metaverse companies and educators

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. 

This article has reviewed all of the following:

  • What the metaverse is
  • What metaverse companies are and what kinds of work they do
  • Why metaverse companies matter — and why educators should care 

If you’re interested in learning more, check out more blog posts about the power of the metaverse, including all of the following:

Featured Image: Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

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