Original title: Where is the end of the meta universe, technology giants vote with their feet
There are a thousand meta-universes in the eyes of a thousand technology practitioners.
Beijing News reporter Bai Jinlei Editor Yue Caizhou proofread Zhang Yanjun
Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson (Neal Stephenson) put forward the term “meta universe” thirty years ago, is leveraging another large-scale iteration of the Internet industry.
From the end of 2020, Tencent Chairman and CEO Ma Huateng put forward the concept of “True Internet” in internal publications; by March this year, Roblox (Roblox, a multiplayer online game company) U.S. stocks went public, and the market value of the concept of Yuan Universe is approaching. 40 billion U.S. dollars; in August this year, Bytedance acquired Pico, a domestic VR equipment manufacturer, for 9 billion yuan, and Metaverse became an obvious outlet; now, as Facebook (Facebook, social platform company) partly changed its name to Meta (Metaverse) The abbreviation of “Meta Universe” is also translated as “Meta Universe”), and the “flame” of Meta Universe spreads all over the world.
In fact, before going to FireWire, the giants have already begun to deploy the meta-universe through investment, in the underlying computing power, communication technology, blockchain, application-level games, office and social networking, and external AR (augmented reality). , VR (virtual reality) equipment, etc., more or less have the shadow of giants.
In accordance with their genes, Tencent has deployed social networking and games, Meta has mastered headsets and traffic, and NVIDIA is better at technology and computing power. The layout of the entire industry chain of the universe. However, when the bubble is on the rise, many companies’ irrational marketing and capital hype are rapidly overdrawing the future of the industry, related assets become more and more expensive, and even arouse the attention of regulators.
On November 18, the “People’s Daily Review” public account stated that the popularity of the meta-universe concept is whether it is a capital hype or a new track, a new bottle of old wine or a new technological breakthrough. You may wish to “let the bullet fly for a while” before drawing conclusions. . On the same day, the A-share Meta Universe concept sector plummeted. Yishang Display, Dafu Technology, Shengtian Networks, Zhongqingbao, Century Huatong, Baotong Technology, Jiachuang Video and other companies fell sharply.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle, can the speculators quickly harvest in this feast and get out of their bodies; can large companies that emphasize “long-term investment” rely on their existing advantages to keep up with the times in this rapid iterative revolution ; How can VCs, PEs and fund managers who have experienced many battles avoid taking the “last shot of drumming and passing flowers” in the air?
“False fire” in the capital market?
Is the meta universe a digital utopia or a golden track
There are a thousand meta-universes in the eyes of a thousand technology practitioners. But what is a metaverse and what is not a metaverse, the concept urgently needs to be defined, and because of this, everyone and institutions have the right to interpret the metaverse.
Yu Jianing, executive director of the China Mobile Communications Federation’s Metaverse Industry Committee, told the Beijing News that Metaverse is the next-generation Internet, that is, the third-generation Internet (Web 3.0). The most important keyword is integration, that is, the digital world and the The in-depth integration of the physical world, the in-depth integration of the digital economy and the real economy, the in-depth integration of digital life and social life, the in-depth integration of digital assets and physical assets, and the in-depth integration of digital and real identities.
“At present, Metaverse is still an abstract concept. In theory, any person and organization has the right to interpret. This is also the key to being able to be hyped.” Liao Xuhua, a senior analyst at Analysys Entertainment, believes that “Metaverse is the foundation of digitalization. The system built on the above and interacts with reality. The key is to interact with reality. Social development does not need a virtual world, but a digital system that can promote the development of reality.” Liao Xuhua told reporters.
A secondary market seller analyst told reporters that Metaverse should be large enough and immersive enough to accommodate tens of millions of users online at the same time to explore a very rich scene; Metaverse should be diversified, with PGC (Professional production content), UGC (user production content) and AGC (artificial intelligence production content) can ensure content consumption and continuity; there is a stable economic system, due to the low production cost of the virtual world and the low difficulty of copying, users are required to create The virtual items of ”are unique and cannot be tampered with. However, due to the existence of supervision and large companies, someone still needs to formulate rules; there are social attributes, based on large, immersive, and diversified, social attributes are what they should be. With social networking, Users will spend more time on the meta universe.
Based on the opinions of many interviewees and the research reports of Shenwan Hongyuan, Orient Securities and other institutions, the Beijing News reporter believes that the industry chain of Yuan Universe can currently be divided into seven layers, that is, the infrastructure that guarantees low latency and immersion, such as Communication networks, cloud computing, semiconductors, etc.; devices for human-computer interaction, such as VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and other wearable devices, brain-computer interfaces, etc.; decentralized blockchain, edge computing Etc.; spatial calculations between the virtual world and the real world, such as digital twins, voice and potential recognition, spatial mapping, etc.; systems that help creators continue to update, such as development tools and monetization methods that lower the threshold; exposure methods that can reach users , Such as advertising systems, application stores, game channels, etc.; users’ sense of participation and experience, including games, social networking, entertainment, business, etc.
Also because of the extensive industrial chain of Metaverse, it seems that everyone and institutions have the right to interpret Metaverse and are striving to shift this definition to their own.
According to survey data, as of early November 2021, my country has 663 meta-universe-related companies, of which 315, or 48%, directly contain meta-universe keywords. Since mid-to-late November 2021, some cities have been restricted from registering with “Yuan Universe” as a corporate keyword. Therefore, some companies use the homophone of “Yuan” in Yuan Universe to replace the word “Yuan” for registration. The actual company name is The number of companies that include Meta Universe exceeds 50%. It is estimated that by the end of 2022, the number of Metaverse-related companies across the country will exceed 3,000.
Crunchbase data can also be glimpsed. Data shows that so far this year, companies related to Metaverse (labeled as games, online games, virtual worlds, and augmented reality) have raised nearly $10.4 billion in funds in 612 transactions, of which games have attracted about 7.5 billion. US dollars (382 rounds), online games attracted approximately US$2.5 billion (110 rounds), augmented reality attracted approximately US$2.1 billion (176 rounds), and virtual worlds attracted approximately US$62.8 million (9 rounds). This is a big leap from the US$5.9 billion raised by companies in these categories last year. This is also the year when companies in the “Meta universe” category have raised the most funds in the past ten years.
In the domestic A-share market, since October, many meta-universal stocks have risen sharply. The share prices of Zhongqingbao, Jiachuang Video, Chinese Online, Baotong Technology, and Shengtian Network have risen by more than 50%. Immediately aroused the attention of the regulatory authorities. The Shanghai Stock Exchange or the Shenzhen Stock Exchange has issued supervision letters and letters of concern to many companies such as Tianxia Show, Zhongqingbao, Shengtian Networks, Yishang Display, Dafu Technology, etc., requesting to explain whether they are in the “Meta Universe” Hotspot. However, many investors and funds in the secondary market still use their money to vote, and the capital market is flourishing.
Is it a false fire in the investment world? Or is it the “returning light” of hardware and the currency circle? Liao Xuhua told the Beijing News reporter that there are currently no real meta-universe companies in the market, including Facebook and Roblox. The former is a social network and VR company, and the latter is a UGC sandbox game company. Currently, the so-called meta-universe company worldwide , Both use the abstract features of the meta-universe concept to abstractly interpret existing businesses.
“The analysis team closer to the secondary market is more enthusiastic about Metaverse. The analysis team closer to the business department like ours does not want to have anything to do with Metaverse.” Liao Xuhua bluntly told reporters, “Metaverse is derived from American inflation. Wall Street in the background is derived from Roblox and Facebook. In the context of American inflation, both the capital market and the virtual currency market around the world are very crazy, and this crazy market environment has created such an abstract concept as the meta universe.”
The above-mentioned seller analyst who is closer to the secondary market told reporters that the current secondary market’s attention to Metaverse is more of a thematic investment during the year-end performance vacuum period. And because of the entry of giants such as Facebook, the capital market has to pay attention. The investment boom of Meta Universe this round is actually a resonance of the Internet industry (inclined to VR, AR) and blockchain (inclined to the currency circle), so the overall performance is also very strong.
Yu Jianing also reminded that 2021 is the first year of Meta Universe, and the window of opportunity is gradually opening, but it is still at a very early stage, attempts may fail, and related stocks and other assets have higher risks. If you ignore the law of technological development and unrealistically hype related concepts, it may lead to bubbles, and the bubbles will inevitably burst, which will delay the development, construction and application of the meta-universe.
However, he also emphasized that Metaverse is not a digital utopia, but a new digital world that integrates the real world and the digital world, and can promote the development of industry and economy. Meta Universe is not the so-called “virtual economy” of “removing the real to the virtual”. Instead, it allows people from all over the world to communicate and collaborate efficiently, effectively interoperate with fully networked smart devices, and make the industry chain collaboration transparent and efficient, thereby empowering The real economy is moving towards a higher stage of development.
Mesmerizing and charming eyes
Some giants smashed tens of billions of cards, and some warned that the bubble burst
As of the end of 2020, the global mobile Internet population is 4.46 billion, with a penetration rate of about 59%, and there are nearly 2.7 billion game users worldwide, with a penetration rate of about 35.5%. In China, where mobile Internet is more popular, the penetration rate of netizens is as high as about 70%, and the average daily duration of mobile Internet is about 6 hours, which has obvious signs of slowing down. In the context of peak user growth and home-based epidemics, Metaverse has also become the current focus of technology companies’ layout. The giants have also made key bets on the track with resources and endowments.
Sorting out the layout of the giant manufacturers in the meta universe found that they are mainly concentrated in three directions: VR, AR technology and product development (corresponding to immersion); UGC technology and product creation (corresponding to economic system and content richness); social Meta-universe construction (corresponding to social networking). Among them, Meta, Tencent, and ByteDance have layouts in the above three areas, while Microsoft and Nvidia focus more on their areas of expertise.
Specifically, Facebook, which was renamed Meta, has carried the banner of “meta universe”, and has a layout in the fields of applications, hardware, and underlying technologies. The reporter combed and found that from the 40 million U.S. dollars in 2014 to participate in the B round of financing of the intelligent hardware company Vicarious, Meta has invested 20 in the related fields of Metaverse, involving more than 3.158 billion U.S. dollars (excluding some unannounced investments). Its core The goal is to start with VR headsets, deploy meta-universe traffic portals, and adopt a low-price strategy in 2020 to increase the market share of VR headsets to 75% in the middle of this year. In addition, Meta is also enhancing immersion in content areas such as games, education, and office. Meta has accumulated artificial intelligence, network computing and other technologies before, and is actively stocking blockchain technology.
On the other hand, the domestic social giant Tencent, which has both QQ and WeChat, already has the ecological prototype of the True Internet (Tencent does not call it “Meta Universe” but is referred to as “True Internet”). There are also layouts in artificial intelligence and cloud games. In addition, through the adjustment of the organizational structure of PCG (platform and content business group) at the beginning of the year, Yao Xiaoguang, president of Tianmei Studio, also serves as the head of the social platform business (ie QQ), and began to use QQ as the foundation. Explore the real Internet. In terms of investment, Tencent is mainly deploying AR equipment and perception interaction technology, and the software has focused on investing in two game companies, Epic and Roblox, to enhance the strength of the game engine.
Since 2016, Tencent has publicly disclosed 12 investments in the True Internet (Meta Universe) field, costing a total of US$828 million (excluding some unannounced investments). In terms of hardware, from 2016 to 2017, Tencent invested in two AR companies, namely Meta and Innovega; in June 2021, Tencent invested in Ultraleap to deploy perception interaction technology. In terms of software, Tencent bought a 48.4% stake in Epic for US$330 million in 2012, invested in the first stock of Meta Universe Roblox in February 2020, and invested in Yuanxiang Vision in January 2021. In addition, it will also invest in 3rd of 2021. Invested in Ubitus and Doji Studios in the gaming sector in January and May, respectively, and invested in Berry Technology and Weike Data in the cloud computing and artificial intelligence sectors in February and April 2021, and invested in Vientiane Culture in the entertainment sector. .
Beginning in 2019, ByteDance has successively invested in 20 Metaverse-related technology companies in the fields of artificial intelligence, semiconductors, smart hardware, and games, with a total cost of more than 13.47 billion yuan (excluding some unannounced investments). The more representative events are: In April 2021, 100 million yuan was invested in the game company code Qiankun, the main game company of Meta Universe, and “Restart the World” was officially launched in August; Pico was acquired in August 2021 with a purchase amount of 9 billion yuan. In RMB, Pico VR products take the low-price route.
Microsoft focuses more on the field of enterprise services. In July 2021, Microsoft clearly put forward the concept of “enterprise meta-universe” in Microsoft Inspire, trying to realize the integration of the Internet of Things and mixed reality by constructing digital models of assets and products. Core technologies include Azure cloud, Dynamic 365, Windows Holographic, etc. In the following November, at the Ignite conference, Microsoft announced the official launch of the meta-universe project and announced the mixed reality platform Mesh for Teams, which is expected to be launched in the first half of 2022. Microsoft is also cooperating with Accenture to develop a virtual space, which is based on online training scenarios.
Nvidia’s layout is more focused on the infrastructure of the meta universe. In November of this year, NVIDIA released Omniverse new functions and underlying technology updates at the GTC conference, including machine learning, graphics processing, speech and natural language processing. The core is to create a digital twin world that can be adapted to AI through technical iterations. The platform promotes the continuous improvement of the underlying ecosystem of Metaverse Software. The company focuses on the update and iteration of basic technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge computing, and video memory technology. Compared with other platform-based and content-based meta-universe development directions, NVIDIA positions the cornerstone of technology and focuses more on the iteration of basic technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge computing, and video memory technology.
Among the giants competing for the meta-universe, there are also relatively prudent ones. In a recent public event, Ma Jie, the vice president of Baidu Metauniverse business, issued an unusual warning that, according to the Gartner technology maturity curve, Metaverse is currently at the peak of the expected period. He even gave a specific time, “By the second half of next year or the year after, this round of bubbles will definitely burst.”
Chen Rui, chairman and CEO of Station B, also stated at the analyst meeting after the end of the third quarter report that Metaverse is a concept, not a product. Metaverse contains some elements, such as the ecosystem in the game, virtual reality, and social relationships. Wait, these are not new, some companies have already realized part of it. “Currently, it is at the media and capital level. Few people who make products discuss Metaverse, because there must be enough products and technological breakthroughs to realize Metaverse, which cannot be achieved in recent years.” Chen Rui said bluntly.
Recently, Zhou Hongyi, chairman of 360 Group, participated in CCTV’s “Dialogue” column, said that the concept of meta universe has been very hot recently, and many people have found new ways to collect money. He believes that meta universe does not represent the future of mankind. It represents the decline of mankind.
Regarding the layout and investment of the above-mentioned giants, the above-mentioned secondary market seller analyst told reporters that Internet platform companies, such as Tencent and Sony with rich experience in game content, may be less experienced in game content than Facebook and Bytedance. Take a step ahead in the meta-universe; for VR equipment and hardware companies, “heavy” is the only way out. Relying on mobile phone stands or light-weight devices for “small troubles” has no future; and pure Game companies, such as Mihayou, NetEase, etc., and even major open-world game companies in Europe and the United States have great opportunities, even though they are still on the sidelines.
Liao Xuhua, a senior analyst at Analysys Entertainment, said that Metaverse should be a collection, just as no company would say that it is the entire Internet today. They are all verticals of Internet social networking and Internet media. “I don’t think any company can become a metauniverse company, but any company can become a company in a certain aspect of metauniverse. For example, Nvidia can become a metauniverse-computing service company, and Pico can become a metauniverse hardware service company. .” Liao Xuhua told reporters.
When will the mature meta-universe arrive?
The key is the need for low-level technological innovation and infrastructure construction
In his science fiction novel “Avalanche” published in 1992 by science fiction writer Neil Stephenson, he described the metaverse as people competing with each other by controlling their digital avatars in the virtual reality world to improve their social status.
So, corresponding to real life, when will this round of meta-universe iteration come? The above-mentioned secondary market seller analyst believes that the most important thing is a content platform that can carry a large number of users and supports UGC as a carrier. It is generally believed that social and game categories are the most suitable. I prefer games. People in many industries or investment fields I believe that “GTA” and “Fortress Night” are the prototypes of the meta universe. VR provides a realistic sense of immersion for the metaverse, AI provides the operating “brain” for the metaverse, and NFT builds an economic system for the metaverse. They are all important, but not necessarily necessary. Roblox does not satisfy many aspects, but it is the pioneer of the meta-universe.
“The development process of Meta Universe is not linear. Breakthroughs can be achieved without investing resources. The key is to achieve low-level technological innovation and infrastructure construction. As the third-generation Internet, Meta Universe has four major technical pillars, namely The four technology categories are: construction, mapping, access, and application. Each pillar corresponds to a series of technologies, and also represents the conditions required for a mature metauniverse business system.” Executive Director, Metauniverse Industry Committee, China Mobile Communications Federation Yu Jianing told the Beijing News reporter.
Specifically, Yu Jianing believes that, first of all, there must be sufficient computing power and data storage space, that is, the level involved in “building” technologies; secondly, the entrance to the meta-universe, that is, the level of user access, which involves access. Into the popularization of terminals and the construction of high-speed and low-latency networks; again, the physical world and the digital world need to be connected and superimposed in both directions, and “mapping” technologies will play an important role; the last is the development of applications in the meta universe to help people in the meta universe Realize deep human-machine interaction, extensive interconnection of everything, and the continuous operation of the intelligent economic system, creating new value. “To build a complete meta-universe ecology, it is necessary to accelerate the deep integration of a series of cutting-edge information technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, distributed storage, artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of Things, digital twins, virtual reality, and blockchain, and promote integration. Innovate and integrate applications to accelerate the construction of new infrastructure.” Yu Jianing said.
“The most important condition is the revolutionary change of computing materials. Because the development of computing power and efficiency in recent years has been slow, the existing computing costs are simply not enough to support a meta universe.” Analysys Entertainment senior analyst Liao Xuhua hit the nail on the head Pointed out. However, he believes that it is not known what time point will be needed in the future, but it must be done after the supply chain problems caused by the epidemic disappear before the next step, otherwise all the so-called meta-universe exploration is a concept of existing products and technologies. Packaging, not true innovation.
Since September, the special rectification action “Resolving Blocked Web Site Links” led by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has become the focus of the industry, and the “Personal Information Protection Law” that landed in November has also triggered heated discussions. Interconnection and network security have become the annual hot words of my country’s Internet.
According to Yu Jianing, executive director of the China Mobile Communications Federation’s Metaverse Industry Committee, the world of Metaverse should also reflect interconnection and digital security. “One of the core attributes of Metaverse is open source innovation, including open source technology and open source platforms. By formulating a series of standards and protocols, we can realize the intercommunication of various digital worlds at the protocol layer and the value layer, thus forming a whole Meta universe.” Yu Jianing told reporters.
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, once expressed a similar expression: “The ecosystem of Metaverse needs more benign competition in all aspects, and it is promoted by technical interoperability standards… If there is no open standard, Monopoly platforms will get more revenue from creators’ works than creators. The story of Apple and Google is a lesson for the past.” In addition, based on decentralized smart contracts, individuals, organizations, and even objects can achieve high efficiency. And the extensive collaboration of “no trust”, all contracts are automatically executed, so that the smart economy in the meta universe can continue to operate and create huge value.
Yu Jianing also said that data security issues in Metaverse should also be taken seriously. Metaverse will be the crystallization of numerous people’s co-creation, and users will be the main builders of Metaverse. How to effectively ensure data security, improve data resource confirmation, openness, circulation, and transaction related systems, protect personal privacy data, and strengthen the foundation of key information Facility safety protection and strengthening the protection of key data resources are all issues that require great attention.