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The Metaverse in Mobility

The metaverse is coming for many verticals—and in some cases it is already here. Today in this column I want to look specifically at one example: mobility, which is projected to grow from $1.9 billion in 2022 to $16.5 billion by 2030, representing a growth rate of 31.4%.

This is according to a new report by MarketsandMarkets, which suggests there is a growing inclination of automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to leverage technologies like digital twin factories and virtual showrooms in the metaverse space. The tech companies are delivering too.

I recently had an opportunity to discuss this very topic on The Peggy Smedley Show with Henry Bzeih, CTO/CSO, automotive & transportation, Microsoft, who says there is a lot of discussion around the metaverse, not just from an automotive perspective, but overarching.

What Is Metaverse?

Perhaps the first step is defining the metaverse because it is a wide and vast concept that means different things to different people. Here at Connected World, we have dug into defining it, and Bzeih also provided some interesting perspective on The Peggy Smedley Show.

“There was interesting research done around trying to define it,” says Bzeih. “BCG was one of the research outlets that basically said the metaverse in their opinion is the intersection of three distinct technologies.”

Earlier this year, BCG released The Corporate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Metaverse, which suggests the metaverse lies at the intersection of three technologies and user bases including:

  1. AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and MR (mixed reality), which have long facilitated the shift from 2D to 3D by providing more realistic experiences and digital displays.
  2. M-Worlds, which are immersive applications that offer brands the possibility of reaching new audiences in different ways. Six attributes of M-Worlds include persistent, synchronous, and live, concurrent, immersive, functioning economy, and multiple contributors.
  3. Web3/virtual assets, which moves beyond Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 to the emerging Web3 iteration, where users consume, create, and own content. Here the networks—and the money exchanged—are decentralized with blockchain technology replacing centralized intermediaries.

While this definition sets a good foundation for discussion, Bzeih tells me in his opinion the metaverse is really what you are trying to accomplish in terms of serving the end customer. In automotive specifically, he says, “There are so many opportunities there. From product development to the manufacturing piece to the sales and marketing piece and even the entire vehicle lifecycle.”

Metaverse in Mobility

When Bzeih talks about the entire vehicle lifecycle, he is speaking about five different developments: product engineering/simulation, manufacturing supply chain, process engineering, sales/marketing, and after sales.

As one example, he specifically points to the clunky experience we have today to research a vehicle or test drive a vehicle. While the traditional way of doing business here has been around a long time and it works well, there is still a big opportunity to take it to the next level. Think digital showrooms, virtual test drives, and virtual reality supported sales. Bzeih says, “The dealership can turn into this life experience center.”

Another example is the metaverse can transform the dealership from a service perspective. A technician who is servicing the vehicle can leverage AR and the digital twin. This will enable the dealer to work hand-in-hand with the technician, enabling greater collaboration between the auto maker and the dealer.

What’s Next

The metaverse is nascent, as Bzeih says, and there is still much work to be done to have it reach its full potential in mobility. As one example, there is going to need to be some standardization. He says, “There is going to have to be some level of standardization that has to take place where the industries have to come together to define some common set of standards on that.”

Still, challenge means opportunity, as he says. And there is a big opportunity to transform the mobility experience in the entire vehicle lifecycle.

“This is our North Star. We believe in the metaverse as the next technology frontier. We believe in the data estate and having data gravity as the fundamental path to mobility-as-a-service. And both areas are nascent in terms of achievement. We aren’t going to declare a win yet. We know that is the North Star. We know that is what we need to do. We are on a journey, and we are at the beginning of that journey, and we have had some small wins (already).”

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Check out both of Henry Bzeih’s segments here:

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