The Metaverse: Transformational prospect or undeserved hype?

  • Noor Al Mazrouei
    Head of Flagship Events Section
AI & Advanced Technologies

The Metaverse: Transformational prospect or undeserved hype?

The term “Metaverse”, derived from "meta" and "universe", refers to a vast new technological realm, which its proponents argue has the potential to transform the way we live, work, learn, and interact. The Metaverse has been described as a virtual world where users can live out an immersive virtual life and engage with others digitally, enabling them “to go where they were never able to go before, including outer space.”[1] In the Metaverse, digital materials and objects represent digital human beings, and social networking, online gaming, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are combined to enable users to interact, communicate, and participate in various activities.


The concept of the Metaverse was first introduced by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash."[2] In his book, Stephenson imagined individuals as avatars meeting in various virtual reality interfaces – a massive virtual environment that exists alongside the actual world in which people communicate through digital avatars.[3] Since its inception, the Metaverse has been described by a variety of concepts, including lifelogging,[4] virtual communal space, embodied network, mirror world, and venue for simulation and interaction.[5]


One of the most significant impacts of the Metaverse is on the workplace. Although the Metaverse has yet to revolutionize work, the physical and digital worlds are already merging.[6] Companies are seeking to build virtual offices and workspaces in the Metaverse as it has the technological capacity to replicate in-person interactions. This will provide a more immersive experience for office and remote workers, potentially enhancing performance and leveling the playing field for on-site employees and those working remotely.[7] By incorporating elements of VR and AR, the Metaverse can simulate in-person interactions and provide a more natural and intuitive workspace. However, this shift to a virtual work environment also raises concerns about data security and privacy. To ensure that the transition is successful, companies must prioritize security measures and readdress current security standards to adapt to the new technological landscape.[8] Only then can organizations fully embrace the potential of the Metaverse for the future of work.


Industries are increasingly exploring the potential of virtual worlds to enhance collaboration with customers, rapidly prototype products, and control real-world equipment in innovative ways. To achieve this, the prototypes currently being developed integrate real-world hardware with controls in virtual environments, as described by Duncan Graham-Rowe.[9] This allows for the testing and refining of prototypes in a virtual environment before they are brought into the physical world. In addition, the tech industry is considering converting models designed using their industrial design tools into 3D models, which can be brought into virtual worlds to enable real-time feedback from customers. This would allow customers to interact with the product in a more immersive way, moving around it and communicating with it directly. Such innovations can lead to significant cost savings and shorter time-to-market for businesses while enhancing customer satisfaction and experience. As such, virtual worlds have the potential to revolutionize the way businesses design and prototype their products.


Finally, from a business-to-business (B2B) perspective, it seems only a matter of time before technological advancements bring about major changes to how businesses deal with their vendors. Due to advancements in supply chain management that Metaverse technology is expected to provide, retail and manufacturing suppliers will soon have the ability to provide the agility and flexibility that tomorrow's B2B environment requires.


The rise of virtual worlds also opens up new possibilities for the creation and utilization of virtual real estate. The concept of real estate in the Metaverse is an emerging area of interest, with many experts predicting that virtual real estate will become a valuable asset in the future. Investors are already flocking to the Metaverse, seemingly captivated by the opportunity to buy, sell, and rent virtual properties that they believe are poised to become valuable assets in the future. The New York Times has reported that virtual homes and land in the Metaverse are already selling for thousands of dollars.[10] This shift to virtual real estate could have significant impacts on traditional real estate markets, as people may choose to invest in virtual property instead of physical property. Additionally, the Metaverse's ability to create new environments and experiences for users means that real estate within it could take on new dimensions and possibilities that are not feasible in the physical world.


Proponents of virtual real estate in the Metaverse claim that it is a versatile tool that can be utilized for various applications, including virtual events, concerts, and exhibitions. Indeed, the demand for virtual land has surged as businesses and individuals seek to establish a presence in the Metaverse, with well-known brands already purchasing virtual land for marketing and promotional purposes.[11]


Unlike traditional real estate, virtual real estate is not subject to the same physical constraints, which provides significant opportunities for businesses and individuals to explore new markets, audiences, and revenue streams. Investors are confident in continued market growth, with the BBC reporting that almost US$2 billion has been spent on virtual land over the 12 months preceding November 2022.[12] This new frontier of real estate is not limited by geography or spatial constraints, offering endless possibilities for innovation and creativity in how businesses and individuals use and benefit from it.


The potential of virtual real estate in the Metaverse extends beyond marketing and promotional purposes. It can also be utilized for education and training, with institutions and organizations creating immersive learning environments that allow students to learn and practice skills in a virtual setting. As the education sector is impacted by the Metaverse, educators are able to transcend space and time, creating learning experiences that expand students' autonomy to an unprecedented degree. In this connection, Metaverse scholars from China have observed that by bringing together the Metaverse and education, “a full-process closed-loop structure can be developed. With no boundaries between online and offline settings, a ‘multidimensional’ teaching approach can be delivered.”[13]


This has the potential to overcome the shortcomings of current 2D-based online or remote classes, providing an innovative solution for immersive and effective education. In addition to broadening and enriching the education experience, the Metaverse is seen as a means through which traditionally high educational costs can be reduced.[14]


In terms of enriching the educational experience, Metaverse-based “educational tourism” foresees the Metaverse as a means of offering novel and innovative ways of experiencing education. The key concept is that, unlike traditional online universities and colleges, students in the Metaverse can virtually immerse themselves in the culture of the country they are studying. This type of immersive experience goes beyond what traditional online education can offer and provides a more enriching experience for students.[15] Students can freely engage and interact with a foreign country’s residents, streets, libraries, and architecture, all while experiencing the language, customs, and way of life in a way that was previously impossible.


Naturally, the cost of participating in a program of this kind is significantly lower than moving to another country for education. It is an ideal solution for students who cannot afford to study abroad, or for those who want to explore new cultures without the inconvenience of dealing with logistical costs such as transportation and accommodation. As a result, the Metaverse is shaping up to be an attractive and practical solution for students who want to broaden their horizons and expand their cultural awareness.


The use of the Metaverse to implement training in practical vocational skills is another nascent area best seen – so far – in the healthcare field where the technology is showing great promise as a means of not only engaging students in nursing skills training, but also enhancing their learning achievement, decision-making performance, and problem-solving tendency.[16]


As the Metaverse continues to evolve and expand, it is important to consider the potential job prospects that will be available in this new digital realm. Disruptive technologies introduce various new job descriptions that companies are looking to fill with skilled workers. As more businesses start to explore and invest in the Metaverse, there will be an increased demand for professionals who are knowledgeable in VR, AR, and extended reality (XR).


VR, AR, and XR experts are already being employed by some of the most prestigious businesses worldwide and make a handsome salary. With the growing use of hardware in virtual reality, systems such as Oculus Quest and HTC have been generating record sales since 2020.[17] The growth of these markets will support career opportunities with professions such as software designer, design architect, 3D artist, system validation engineer, maintenance for AR/VR and support, and design/graphics engineer becoming highly sought-after in the coming years.[18] As businesses and brands increasingly embrace creativity and design that is human-centered and capable of utilizing modern technologies to improve society, it is clear that there will be a growing need for skilled professionals who can help shape the Metaverse's development.


However, the metaverse is generating entirely new ethical and legal questions related to participants’ identity and self-perception. While on the one hand, the new digital realm has created a highly liberated space for individuals' lives and activities, this liberated space also runs the risk of amplifying issues that have yet to be controlled in the real world, let alone the virtual world. Issues such as impersonation and intellectual property rights infringement are already starting to appear. For example, in recent years, there have been cases of individuals creating avatars of others without their consent, leading to potential legal issues.[19]


Thus, questions arise regarding how to regulate the behavior of users and establish a safe and orderly virtual environment. As a priority, it is crucial to address potential issues related to the regulation of user behavior and data privacy. This means ensuring that user data is protected and that individuals' privacy rights are not infringed upon. It also means preventing the spread of hate speech, bullying, and other forms of harmful behavior that could be amplified in the virtual world.


Therefore, the pragmatic question of who or what would govern the Metaverse must be addressed. Would it be a private company or a public entity? Would it be governed by an international organization or a local government? These are important questions that must be answered to ensure that the Metaverse develops in a way that benefits society as a whole. At a minimum, it is likely that developers, regulators, lawmakers, and other stakeholders must get ahead of the curve and agree on the formation of an international regulatory body to handle the most pressing risks and establish guidelines tailored to this new virtual environment.


In conclusion, the Metaverse has the potential to transform the way we live, work, learn, and interact with each other. As the Metaverse continues to evolve, it will create various job opportunities for skilled professionals in the fields of VR, AR, and XR. The Metaverse will also revolutionize education by offering students an immersive learning experience that transcends traditional online classrooms. However, to ensure a safe and orderly virtual environment, regulatory bodies must be established to address issues such as data privacy, intellectual property rights, harmful behavior, and questions arising from potential changes to self-perception and online identity. The question of who or what would govern the Metaverse must also be considered. The potential of the Metaverse is vast, but it also poses significant challenges that must be addressed to fully realize its potential. By addressing these challenges, we can ensure that the Metaverse develops in a way that benefits society as a whole.




[1] Linda Tucci and David Needle, “What Is the Metaverse? An Explanation and In-depth Guide,” Tech Target, June 27, 2023,

[2] Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra, 1992).

[3] Judy Joshua, “Information Bodies: Computational Anxiety in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash,” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 19, no. 1 (2017): pp. 17-47,

[4] Anders Bruun and Martin Lynge Stentoft, “Lifelogging in the Wild: Participant Experiences of Using Lifelogging as a Research Tool,” Proceedings of the IFIP Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (2019),

[5] Vishak, “Introduction to Metaverse: Multiverse of the Internet,” Code and Hack, July 23, 2022,

[6] Louella Fernandes, “What Does the Metaverse Mean for the Future Workplace?” Quo Circa, November 15, 2021,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Duncan Graham-Rowe, “Our House in Cyberspace,” The Guardian, February 26, 2008,

[10] Debra Kamin, “The Next Hot Housing Market Is Out of This World. It's in the Metaverse,” New York Times, February 19, 2023,

[11] Joe Tidy, “Billions Being Spent in Metaverse Land Grab,” BBC News, November 4, 2022,

[12] Ibid.  

[13] Binbin Zhou, "Building a Smart Education Ecosystem from a Metaverse Perspective," Mobile Information Systems (2022), Article ID: 1938329,

[14] “How Metaverse Will Transform Education Forever,”, December 10, 2021,

[15] Ibid.

[16] Hsin Huang, Gwo-Jen Hwang, and Shao-Chen Chang, “Facilitating Decision Making in Authentic Contexts: An SVVR-based Experiential Flipped Learning Approach for Professional Training,” Interactive Learning Environments (2021),

[17] “The Future Jobs Are in the Metaverse,” ACadru, October 1, 2021,

[18] Ibid.

[19] Shravishtha Ajaykumar, “Avatars in Cyberspace: Rights and Obligations for a Virtual Self,” Observer Research Foundation (ORF), August 31, 2022,

: 28-July-2023

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