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Singtel and SK Telecom host metaverse meet-up, but the jury’s still out

Metaverse VR

2023 looks set to be another year of ups and downs for the metaverse.

Device makers and software developers are continuously prepping new products and experiences, but consumers – faced with a tough economy – will take some convincing to shell out for a shiny new headset.

That’s not going to stop the industry from trying though. Last week, Singtel had a crack, hosting its first metaverse event on SK Telecom (SKT)’s ifland metaverse platform. Called ‘Destination: ifland’, it gave 130 competition winners an opportunity to virtually attend a virtual concert, and virtually meet a virtual avatar of American singer-songwriter, Alec Benjamin.

“Destination: ifland is the first instalment in The Meta Guide, a series of metaverse-themed events Singtel plans to develop in collaboration with SKT. The series is aimed at introducing new platforms and experiences in the metaverse for consumers to explore,” said Anna Yip, CEO, consumer Singapore, at Singtel, in a statement.

A virtual meeting with a YouTube musician doesn’t sound like a particularly compelling reason to spend hours every day wearing a clunky VR headset, but younger readers might disagree. Plus, OEMs are still working hard to tempt consumers with new metaverse-related products.

Indeed, CES kept the VR excitement simmering. HTC launched its new Vive XR Elite, which was promptly crowned the best headset at this year’s show. Sony was there too, showing off its upcoming Playstation VR2 headset. Device maker Lenovo also revealed its Project Chronos concept, a motion-tracking product that aims to let users control an avatar without having to use controllers or even a headset.

However, CES perhaps isn’t the best barometer for predicting short-term buying trends. While a lot of products are commercially launched at the show, it is also a platform to share ideas, concepts and fledgling projects that are still in the early stages of development. Ergo it blurs the lines between what people will buy in the next 12 months with what people might one day buy in five to 10 years.

A lot of these products also fall firmly into the discretionary spending category. As Telecoms.com reported last week, PC shipments fell around 30 percent year-on-year in Q4 last year, and due to a deteriorating economy, this year isn’t shaping up to be much better. The smartphone market is in a similar situation.

With that in mind, how likely is it that VR headset shipments will take off in 2023? In December, IDC lowered its forecast for 2022 shipments of AR and VR devices to 9.7 million from 13.9 million, due to a tough economic environment and rising prices. It also lowered its outlook for 2023 to 12.8 million from more than 20 million.

In addition, research firm GlobalData last week shared its predictions for this year, one of which is that the market will experience a ‘metaverse winter’, a investors and software developers scale back their ambitions to XR experiences that are more easy to monetise. Similarly, ABI Research in its own predictions piece warned that industrial and manufacturing (I&M) uptake of metaverse technology won’t happen this year.

“Staff will not be creating avatars and solving challenges in virtual worlds. The economic climate does not lend itself to investments that lack a clear pathway to value, such as virtual worlds,” the analyst firm said.

With all this in mind, the jury is still well and truly out on what 2023 has in store for the metaverse.

 

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