Dr. John C.C. Fan, Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Kopin Corporation.

getty

The metaverse has become an extremely popular topic recently. It may seem that it is a new idea that will touch many facets of life, but the concept has been around for decades.

When we were young, we always imagined a different universe—our own little fantasy world. With more and more businesses investing in metaverse technology, I predict we will see this new fantasy world shape our actual reality in big ways, and the consumer electronics (CE) industry could look vastly different than it does now.

The Metaverse’s Effect On Consumer Electronics

The big questions:

• What exactly is the metaverse?

• How and when will we get there?

• Once there, what will the experience be like?

I like to define the metaverse as a continuum spanning from the physical world to the virtual/digital worlds. Sight and sound are the key human senses that bring consumers deeper into the metaverse, which is why we currently see the most buzz and opportunities around these types of CE products.

How big is this opportunity? Many now expect this metaverse industry to be the next big digital platform after the smartphone, which would mean an enormous market size—potentially hundreds of billions of dollars per year within the next few years.

This gold rush has now attracted many big and small companies, all searching for a piece of the action. The metaverse has the potential to leverage the already huge and established audio and eyewear business, for example. According to a 2021 report, Apple AirPods sales alone were over $20 billion. The eyewear business has an even larger annual revenue. As a result, we’ve been seeing a lot of activity on AR/VR capabilities incorporating sight and sound.

Outside of sound and sight, the sense of touch would also play a role within the metaverse. The CE industry has launched products like wearable vests and gloves to aid in the immersive virtual world. With the way the tech industry is headed, tech leaders, one day, could even find a way to incorporate taste and smell for a totally immersive experience in the digital world.

As a result of this booming interest, it is likely we will see tech leaders developing technologies that will provide a very comprehensive and authentic virtual world. Over the coming months and even years, while the content and software side of the metaverse develops and expands, we’ll see big and small companies make commitments to technologies and products, such as improved AR/VR headsets or glasses, wearable vests and a lot more—all helping to greatly enhance the user experience in this immersive world.

The Road To The Metaverse

For any tech leader or company looking to get into the metaverse, I would recommend getting out there and testing out whatever products currently exist today.

Immerse yourself in the evolving world and consider what could enhance the experience. Maybe think about how certain products could be better. For example, are the current VR headsets comfortable or easy to use? Maybe you think the headset needs to be more fashionable.

Personally, I see big opportunities in the visual space, which is why I am dedicated to creating a glasses solution that enables the full “personal reality” experience. In order for the metaverse to meet its greatest potential, we as tech leaders need to believe in the technology and continue to improve on it.

But any new technology, especially something so new, encounters big challenges. Currently, we’re seeing a gap between the technology available today and the vision of what the metaverse experience can be. In fact, the software is substantially ahead of the hardware. We’re getting closer every year to closing the gap between the vision and the actuality within the wearable technology space, but we are not there yet.

How far away are we? Interestingly, the audio metaverse is really close and is no longer an issue. With compact speakers and low-power, low-cost processors integrated into glass frames, the audio glasses experience may be ready for wider consumer acceptance. The visual side of the metaverse will probably require a few more years of development and innovation. Ultimately, the digital universe should be indistinguishable from our physical universe, and metaverse headsets will require higher resolution as well as being compact and comfortable to wear for an extended period.

The major challenge is with creating 4K by 4K OLED microdisplays. Thin optics are already quite advanced, and—based on the current trajectory—consumer metaverse headsets, incorporating such incredible displays and thin optics, may be available in a few years. Within this period, electronics, the internet and wireless speed will improve further to enable great opportunities and advancements for the CE industry as a whole.

With the support of industry leaders, I am predicting that, as long as the extensive investments in the metaverse continue, we can achieve the most authentic digital world within a few years.


Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?