Explaining the Metaverse and its real-world applications
Daniel O’Brien, President of HTC Americas, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the concept of Vive, which offers VR training for real-world workplace scenarios, and the value of the metaverse.
JULIE HYMAN: Meta’s reality labs division cost the social media company nearly $4 billion in the first quarter alone, hurting earnings in Meta’s so-called year of efficiency. The company now wants to gain support by touting the Metaverse as a haven for professional education and training.
This is already familiar territory for HTC. Used by surgeons and firefighters, their live headsets enabled sophisticated training in the safety of a virtual world. Here’s Dan O’Brien, President of HTC Americas and Global Corporate Executive. Thanks for being there.
DAN O’BRIEN: Thanks for the invitation.
JULIE HYMAN: It’s so interesting to me because we’re talking about the metaverse. We see Mark Zuckerberg moving through a meeting without legs. But we’re already seeing uses for this stuff in action. Talk to me about HTCs – for example, where is it used?
DAN O’BRIEN: Secure. And I think the metaverse in general is really great. And everyone thinks it’s this new thing that needs to happen immediately. It’s down the street It’s something that will actually grow into something. But right now there are many real world applications, professional use cases, be it in public health.
We see architecture, engineering, construction, great efficiency, training and simulation, and new product development. That is the case across the board. These are real applications that are used today. We all have a version of the metaverse, but we have something we call VIVERSE. But this is for business. This is for business use only. This benefits your company.
Later this avatar and we all will interact with each other, these will be things that will happen later. And there are a number of hurdles that we must actually overcome in order to get there before this can become a reality.
DIANE KING HALL: Then I have two questions for you. So first the hurdles, I imagine some of those are legal hurdles, and then – but before you get to that, before we could live with that, you commented to us about immersive products like the VR headsets they replace this and be the same–
DAN O’BRIEN: ubiquitous.
DIANE KING HALL: – in everyday life – yes, so ubiquitous, that’s the word I was looking for, like the smartphone. How can you say that?
DAN O’BRIEN: Well, I mean, we’ve made a big leap over the past year in building what we call the XR Elite, which is something that falls into the goggle-only realm. We will build radios into these products, just like we do in your smartphone. We have a long history of making smartphones and what we call radiated endpoints or endpoints, so a smartphone.
These products are connected to each other. This requires Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless, a T-Mobile and a Vodafone. In 2030 you will see 5G networks and eventually 6G networks where you will actually have connected wearables.
And then you see headsets that actually have the multi-functionality of mixed reality, where we can see the real world as well as digital overlays and digital intros. And then things get a lot more ubiquitous and user-friendly. But really, you need to get content on all of these wearables no matter where you are. That’s a big hurdle to overcome.
JULIE HYMAN: So part of that is the technology that’s going to serve to achieve 6G or whatever. What about the human element? Because we’ve seen some of these products on the market before. What was that, the Google specs? Snap had the glasses, I think it was called. And like people–
DIANE KING HALL: They were just trending.
JULIE HYMAN: – Well, people made fun of it, there was this aspect of cultural adaptation that can sometimes be a big hurdle –
DAN O’BRIEN: That’s right.
JULIE HYMAN: –solve.
DAN O’BRIEN: That’s why we start with this: Our company actually stands for innovation, technology and humanity. So all the solutions we have focused on since 2015 and 2016 have been solutions that actually add value, be it cost savings in your business environment, more efficient collaboration and new product development, or the training of nurses and doctors. We work, we fund real developers creating solutions for surgeon education.
JULIE HYMAN: In other words, does it have to be worthwhile for me as a consumer to wear these things at some point? It must get me something that my phone–
DAN O’BRIEN: And at the consumer level right now, you really don’t see anything outside of gaming that…
JULIE HYMAN: Yes, that’s what I wanted to ask. But what’s the use case other than just–
DAN O’BRIEN: Gaming and entertainment?
JULIE HYMAN: Yes. Exactly.
DAN O’BRIEN: So some companies can come up with an infinite mindset or think if they’re just thinking about the short-term game and just trying to get a number of users to just play a game or something, they’re really not playing the long game. The long term is actually about bringing the headsets and the technology into lighter, more portable and simpler ergonomics connected to a network. And then actually change the use cases.
Once you can start interacting through phone calls, once you can interact with content that actually has value to you at a consumer level, you will see broader adoption. But for now, we’re still in the early adopters and enterprise use case phase.
DIANE KING HALL: And how high is the expectation that the market value will have an impact in terms of the overall market value worldwide? Because, for example, China announced a stake-back metaverse platform this week. For example, what are the expectations for the next five years?
DAN O’BRIEN: Sure, I mean, I think if you look at the city valuation, they expected it to be a $13 trillion economy. And I think that shows a significant opportunity to actually grow into the different use cases. But I think overall we’re going to see very, very aggressive growth.
In the next two years, we’re going to see really big adoption from the financial services and banking industries using this technology in their enterprise environments, whether it’s for training, simulation, hard skills training, soft skills training, or collaboration. And then I think what you’re going to see is very similar to smartphones. Well, that was – how we brought that into our lives and then how we brought that into our consumer lives. You’ll see a very similar trend in immersive technologies and products.
JULIE HYMAN: Just really fast. There’s immersive technology, there’s ARVR, and then there’s the metaverse. And I think the fact that we still don’t really understand what the heck the metaverse is is part of the problem here. What is the difference? How are we supposed to even think about it? Is the metaverse really a thing or is it just immersive technology?
DAN O’BRIEN: First it is – today the metaverse is the Internet. It’s what we interact with from a digital perspective. Without going too far into the future landscape of trying to understand it. Today the metaverse is an intranet use case within a corporate environment where you can use it for these 20 training simulations.
Now it can be connected to your regular internet. And then you’re actually going to be able to have brands and things of that nature, deal with consumer goods and consumer products.
JULIE HYMAN: So when it’s basically bigger, it becomes the metaverse?
DAN O’BRIEN: And at the moment it’s small bags with interactive experiences. And today – and today – we are doing that in automotive, aerospace and healthcare. In these specific segments, we bring great value and efficiency to these companies. And then we’ll look at that broader thing later. But we’re actually going to see the incorporation of the world’s Verizon Wireless and the world’s AT&T Wireless to actually push that realization forward.
DIANE KING HALL: Well, next time I think maybe we’ll do this interview in the metaverse with our avatars. (LAUGHS) I know. I’m a skeptic too. That was just – I don’t think this will be replaced anytime soon. But we will see. We will see.
DAN O’BRIEN: It will happen.
DIANE KING HALL: OK. In order. In order. You heard it here first. Thank you Dan O’Brien, President of HTC America and Global Corporate Executive –