opinion | Metaverse: an opportunity for French technology

Posted 3 Feb. 2022 at 19:05

It is now impossible to escape the attack of the metaverse. As the sensational announcements of multi-million dollar NFTs or the last sentences of the “true reality” proponents multiply, a little perspective is needed: Behind this scum might be a real ground swell. Described as “the future of the Internet”, the metaverse, if it is to be defined even better, would present many opportunities that France and its talents should not (again) pass up…

Technologically, the metaverse does not offer radically new features: an interface based on immersive reality solutions (AR/VR), interoperability ensured by blockchains, all supported by significant computing power and ever-expanding networks, powerful (fiber optic and 5G).

While the concept is still vague, many companies are already building it, such as Decentraland or The Sandbox (founded by Frenchman Sébastien Borget), which will allow their millions of users to participate in community events. .

Customer relationship transformation

If some compare the phenomenon to Second Life and predict the same failure, the context has changed somewhat… Because the tech giants are all here now: Meta, Microsoft, Apple, Google and others less known to the general public, but equally powerful such as Nvidia or Baidu, all undoubtedly attracted by activity forecasts announcing up to $1,500 billion by 2030.

Simple fashion effect or radical transition, hard to decide at the moment, but impossible to ignore. Like the social networks brands have had to leverage to stay visible, retain and attract new customers, the metaverse appears to be the next channel for transforming customer relationships.

In addition, the evolution of e-commerce is underway and many brands have already realized the potential of these virtual worlds, such as Nike recently acquired RTFKT, a player specializing in creating virtual goodies cards that allow you to customize your avatar. equip trainers with the comma mark depiction.

Technological and legal challenges

Before providing an optimal experience, the technological and legal challenges of the metaverse are significant: immersive reality experiences are largely to be perfected, the interoperability promised by blockchains is still difficult, the development of infrastructures apparently contradicts the digital sobriety aspirations of the Paris Agreements, all in a context where the protection of personal data and users’ mental health are at the heart of the debates.

Only here: for now the road is covered without France. If the idea of ​​a French metaverse seems as implausible as that of a French Internet, our country has solid assets to become a key player in the construction of this Web 3.0, witness the national talents: among others the two French unicorns Ledger and Sorare, who are blockchain benchmarks, or researchers Yann Le Cun and Luc Julia, recognized experts in artificial intelligence.

An immersive reality industry

To find a place for itself, France must lead the way and develop a ‘deep tech’ industry in immersive reality and ‘wearables’ (haptic combinations, spatial sound), by better directing funding; it must play its full role in shaping tomorrow’s interoperability standards, for example by mobilizing public procurement and European funding programmes; and anticipate the essential and formidably complex regulation, which will be useful even in a world without metaverse, once even more personal data can be captured… Didn’t the French GDPR inspire the Californian and Chinese regulations?

France has the resources to play in the big leagues, show its innovative capacity and reap major benefits for its economy. With deadlines as important as this year approaching, wouldn’t it be appropriate to put technology and its potential in the public domain?

Morgane Soulier is founder of Now Futures, Florian Carrière is a senior manager at Wavestone.

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