Metaverse: is it a new outlet for leeks? Or the real economy booster? Golden Finance

Metaverse may become the “next generation Internet” after PC Internet and mobile Internet?

Because of such a halo overhead, metaverse quickly became a global “top stream” topic in 2021, and even 2021 was named “the first year of metaverse”.

Virtual reality (including VR / Ar / XR, etc.), digital twins, 5g / 6G, blockchain, NFT, artificial intelligence, brain computer interface… Although these technologies and scenarios used to build metaverse are not new things, when they are packaged into the new concept of metaverse, they have become “sexy” topics that excite many people.

The hype of metaverse and the severe criticism of metaverse are intertwined, and the crowd is noisy and lively. However, there is no consensus on the discussion basis of “what metaverse is”.

Being touted, deified, stigmatized or demonized, from the Internet, mobile Internet to cloud computing, blockchain… Almost every new technology that is considered subversive will go through a similar process. After some confusion and game, a more unified consensus can be formed.

Technology itself is not good or bad. It depends on how it is developed and applied, how it is combined with business, and how it coexists with society. Metaverse, which integrates virtual and real, is also facing an important path choice: whether to become a “virtual” illusory capital story to harvest “leeks”, or an innovative tool to empower the “real” economy?  

No blowing, no black. Let’s talk about metaverse’s “emptiness” and “reality”.

In 1992, Neal Stephenson, the famous American “cyberpunk” stream science fiction writer, published a science fiction novel called snow crash, from which the word metaverse (Chinese translation “metaverse”) came.

Stephenson formed this composite word with meta (transcendence) + verse (universe), which literally means “another universe beyond the real universe”. In metaverse in the novel, different from “surfing the Internet” to enter a two-dimensional Internet, people can “enter the yuan” into the three-dimensional internet through a device similar to VR glasses, and the virtual world and the real world are integrated with each other. Everyone can have an avatar in metaverse, This has also become the source of the name of James Cameron’s science fiction film Avatar.

In the past year or two, this book has been frequently mentioned, and some even joked that Silicon Valley would like to have an avalanche. Especially in March this year, roblox (rblx. NYSE), known as the “first stock of metaverse”, was officially listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Metaverse quickly became the focus of attention in the science and technology circle, venture capital circle, capital market and media. From its listing to November 23, roblox’s share price has soared by nearly 200%, with a market value of more than $60 billion, surpassing the old game company ATVi. NASDAQ.

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In April this year, NVIDIA announced a breakthrough in building a virtual world, and then revealed that Huang Renxun, the founder and CEO of the company, was actually a “digital double” (although only 15 seconds). Before “self disclosure”, no one found that the 15 second “Huang Renxun” was “false”. This wave of operation can be called the “cooking oil” of metaverse and NVIDIA’s stock price.

What’s more eye-catching is that Huang Renxun also describes the “gold absorption” of metaverse: it can help partners complete the “metaverse infrastructure” through NVIDIA Omniverse platform. NVIDIA is expected to generate up to $1000 per person among nearly 40 million virtual world developers. From the beginning of the year to November 23, the share price of NVIDIA (NASDAQ) has increased by about 150%, and the market value once exceeded US $800 billion, almost four times that of Qualcomm and Intel.

But it was Mark Zuckerberg who finally brought metaverse into public view, especially in China. On October 28 this year, Facebook announced that it would change its name to meta to become a metaverse company in five years, and Zuckerberg also revealed that it would set up a metaverse R & D team with more than 10000 people.

Microsoft also made heavy bets and announced its entry into metaverse. Satya NADELLA, chief executive of Microsoft, revealed that Microsoft will launch its first “metaverse product” in the first half of next year: Microsoft teams chat and conference program with digital avatar function.

In addition, Apple’s ar device to be launched next year and Tesla’s upcoming “Tesla bot” robot… Have also been put into the “basket” of metaverse by various public opinions.

“Metaverse is suddenly on fire. In addition to Zuckerberg being a topic figure and Facebook being a banner company in the global science and technology industry, every move will have an amplification effect, it also has a certain foundation. After the epidemic, people are more and more adapted to online and virtualized work and lifestyle, such as online conference and remote office, and people need to stay at home for a long time The conference will spend a lot of time online. All walks of life are in the process of rapid digitization, so people’s expectations for the speed of integration of virtual and reality have also accelerated, “Li keobo, executive vice president of China Institute of economic thought and Practice (accept) of Tsinghua University, told China Economic weekly.

In recent years, the innovation of Internet technology and application has been relatively flat. The explosion of metaverse has also revealed the anxiety of capital and technology companies about the future to some extent.

Metaverse’s “birth” seems to have finally brought an “epic tuyere” to the whole field of science and technology. As Zuckerberg said, Internet platforms from computers to mobile devices, from text to photos and videos, but the progress is not over. The next stage of computing platform will make people more immersive. You will be on the Internet, not watching from the side.

Metaverse, regarded by many as the “next generation Internet”, quickly became a hot topic in the science and technology circle and the capital circle, and soon entered the vision of the media and the public from the academic, investment and industrial circles.

The A-share market reacted rapidly. The so-called “metaverse concept stocks”, such as zhongqingbao, Tom cat, Baotong technology, perfect world, Shengtian network, Shunwang technology, Tianshen entertainment, gibbet, Sanqi mutual entertainment and century Huatong, all rose wildly in a short time.

Taking zhongqingbao (300052. SZ) as an example, its share price once soared by about 300% in two months. Shenzhen Stock Exchange has issued regulatory letters to it many times, asking it to explain the relevance of relevant businesses and metaverse concept.

According to the reporter’s incomplete statistics, the seller’s Research Institute has published nearly 200 metaverse investment research reports, and the number of research reports released by China Sheng securities, Guosen Securities, CITIC Securities, Guotai Junan, Huatai Securities and Tianfeng securities has exceeded 10, and some are even more than 100 pages. On November 11, Anxin securities even officially announced the establishment of the first metaverse Research Institute in the whole market.

But in fact, under the concept of metaverse, the current A-share market may not provide many high-quality target companies.

A netizen’s comment looks a little mean, but it has won high praise on the social platform: “in the past, people who thought that securities companies should write research reports should write science fiction, but now they think they have developed to fantasy.”

On a knowledge payment platform, 48000 people have joined the paid course called metaverse 6 lectures. Estimated at the unit price of 29.9 yuan, the revenue of the course has exceeded 1.4 million yuan.

Luo Yonghao also said on his microblog that his next entrepreneurial field is metaverse.

However, the lecturer of metaverse 6 lecture is not a technical background, but a senior media person. The metaverse Development Research Report 2020-2021 of Tsinghua University, which has also attracted great attention, is published by the new media research center of Tsinghua University.

Among the head investment institutions, Yikai capital, which took the lead in issuing a metaverse report, has also attracted much attention. But when China Economic Weekly contacted Yikai capital, the other party declined the reporter’s interview: “what we want to say is in that article.”

In October this year, Wang Ran, CEO of Yikai capital, released a 20000 word “self question and self answer” report on metaverse. He believes that metaverse may be bigger than the Internet and mobile Internet. The essence of the Internet and mobile Internet is to connect the world, and metaverse is to recreate a world or universe. In the future, metaverse and the original universe are two “parallel and intersecting” universes. Finally, the boundary between the two is blurred until they disappear. When they are combined into one, they become two sides of a coin.

Wang Ran said that from the perspective of business value, metaverse means larger user scale, longer online use time and higher ARPU value. Tencent is the company most likely to get the first “ticket” of metaverse in China, followed by byte beat and iqiyi.

However, the relevant person in charge of Yikai capital told reporters that the report was issued only because of interest. Yikai capital has not invested in any metaverse related projects at present.

According to the reporter, among the head investment institutions, metaverse has indeed been a hot topic for a long time, but the primary market as a whole is quite cautious and there is no large investment.

A partner of an investment institution who asked not to be named told China Economic Weekly that although several projects invested by the institution were used by the media to prove that they were laying out metaverse, in fact, they were optimistic about VR / AR, which started before this year, but now they are forced into the concept of metaverse by the media.

“Now, as long as there are three words metaverse in the business plan handed over by entrepreneurs, I won’t read it. Investment institutions invest real gold and silver, and we don’t look at the concept. Entrepreneurs who really want to create value will stay away from this still unrealistic concept.” the above investors said half jokingly.

In general logic, innovative technologies, applications and scenarios should first incubate in the primary market and then affect the secondary market, but now there is inversion.

“Metaverse contains people’s curiosity about the future and the desire to change nature. It’s normal to be concerned. But there are some problems in the current momentum. For example, it’s a gimmick to attract investment and pull up the stock price, which means that some people, especially small and medium-sized investors, will pay for the bubble.”

Talking about metaverse is too far away unless you master very low-cost energy technology?

“Distant”, this is the word that the reporter heard most in the interview. Whether enterprises or scholars, many declined interviews with “it’s really too early to talk now”, including some companies that have been considered by the outside world to be laying out metaverse.

“Not to mention the implementation of metaverse, even defining metaverse is very difficult and has great differences. What exactly is metaverse? Facebook, NVIDIA and Microsoft, which are the same technology flow, have different ideas, which is far from the fantasy generated by the public based on science fiction,” said Li keobo.

The metaverse Development Research Report 2020-2021 released by the new media research center of Tsinghua university synthesizes various concepts, and summarizes the basic meaning of metaverse: “Metaverse is a new type of Internet application and social form integrating virtual reality generated by integrating a variety of new technologies. It provides immersive experience based on extended reality technology, generates a mirror image of the real world based on digital twin technology, builds an economic system based on blockchain technology, closely integrates the virtual world with the real world in economic system, social system and identity system, and Allow each user to produce content and edit the world. “

The key point of refining is that metaverse needs to integrate different new technologies, such as virtual reality (including VR / Ar / XR), digital twin, 5g / 6G, blockchain, artificial intelligence

In this way, it is not surprising that the various actions of major technology companies have been interpreted as “layout metaverse”. Tencent has frequently acquired game companies, Alibaba has launched XR laboratory and virtual human, spent a lot of money on acquiring VR manufacturers, Netease has developed new games, and Baidu and iqiyi have laid out VR for six or seven years

“Metaverse is related to many technologies. The reason why the concept of metaverse is attractive is that it can include many new technologies we discussed earlier.” Sun Yulin, senior researcher of Ouke cloud Chain Research Institute, told China Economic Weekly.

However, compared with the “metaverse concept stock” company that excitedly shouted “I want to be metaverse”, the head Internet company that is considered to be the first to get the “ticket” is quite cautious about “the business is defined as metaverse”.

This year, we spent 9 billion yuan to acquire Pico, a VR company, and applied for registration of “Pico metaverse” In response to the reporter, Zhu Jun, vice president of trademark, byte beat products and strategy, said that byte beat is optimistic about the future application of VR / AR technology in office, training, video, entertainment and other fields, but this has nothing to do with the concept of metaverse; the registration of relevant trademarks is mainly to prevent Pico brand from being rush registered for the hype of the concept of “metaverse”, which is a protective registration.

“We have always been cautious about very grand and abstract concepts. Internally, the team is also required to avoid using such concepts and maintain a down-to-earth style to carry out specific work,” Zhu Jun said.

According to tianyancha app data, up to now, there have been more than 600 registered companies of metaverse related trademarks in China. Tencent, byte beating, iqiyi, Xiaomi, Netease, xiaohongshu, ideal car and Nubia have all applied for metaverse related trademarks. Up to now, 4479 metaverse related trademarks have been registered, of which 4461 were registered in 2021, and 4421 are concentrated in The second half of this year.

“The continuous iteration of technology will produce a digital scene with better user experience, but is this metaverse? Not necessarily, and there is no need to install it in the concept of metaverse. If one day, the virtual world and the real world are integrated into each other, and the boundary can not be distinguished at all, you should respect the virtual world as you respect the real world, and the virtual world does not only serve the real world, That may really be another new world, also known as metaverse, but it may be quite far away, “said Li keobo.

Li keobo believes that metaverse is beautiful and dangerous, and its development faces many uncertainties.

“The first obstacle to the development of metaverse is the process of technological progress. Even if metaverse’s own technology is mature, it can’t support the establishment of metaverse world as far as the energy foundation of the earth is concerned. For example, blockchain technology is extremely energy consuming. If the energy problem can’t be solved, the large-scale application of metaverse can only be a piece of empty talk. Unless human beings master the extremely high cost Low energy technologies, even 0 electricity prices, can support the operation of such a world. Moreover, materials science, quantum computing and new energy technologies all need long-term technological accumulation, “he said.

Sun Yulin also believes that with the construction of the economic system of metaverse world, it will bring many potential risks and challenges, such as the security risk of innovative financial model, data security risk, cyberspace security risk, etc.

“It is a general consensus to establish a metaverse economic system based on the blockchain, which is also determined by the characteristics of the blockchain. The metaverse economic system is not a replica of the Internet economic system, but aims to realize the efficient flow of value. In the real world, fraud brought by virtual assets has become the mainstream of financial fraud, causing a per capita loss of more than 130000 yuan in China, It ranks second in the world, and this situation should not be reproduced in the digital world, “Sun said.

There may be deeper challenges. Li keobo believes that the current understanding of metaverse is only from the perspective of technology, not from the perspective of social ethics, government governance and other more comprehensive perspectives.

“The decentralized nature of metaverse poses great challenges to the real world economy, security, governance, ethics and other aspects. For example, who will provide metaverse algorithms? Who will support metaverse’s operation? Many concepts have not been clarified with the development of digital economy today. In the future, metaverse also needs a set of economic models and governance rules. At present, it is even more important There is no discussion, let alone research, “said Rick OBO.

Despite the concept of metaverse, these technologies can be expected in the future

Let’s put aside the questions such as “what is metaverse” and “what is included in the concept of metaverse”. Let’s see how bat and other Internet giants view the “next generation Internet”.

At this year’s Alibaba cloud habitat conference, Tan Ping, head of XR Laboratory of Alibaba Dharma Institute, introduced the newly established laboratory of Alibaba for AR, VR and metaverse technologies.

“With the migration of computing platforms, Internet applications will also iterate. Social networking, e-commerce, education, games, payment… These various Internet applications we are familiar with today will have new presentation methods in metaverse,” Tan Ping said. He also showed a variety of new applications, such as holographic shops, virtual humans, AR art exhibitions, construction robots and so on.

At this year’s Tencent ecological conference, Zhang Zhengyou, chief scientist of Tencent and director of Tencent AI Lab and robotics x laboratory, called the era after PC Internet and mobile Internet the Quanzhen Internet era. “True” is the real world, and “true” corresponds to the virtual world or digital world. “All true” means that the virtual world is the same as the real world, and the two are inseparable, “Zhang Zhengyou said.

Zhang Zhengyou believes that from a technical point of view, Quanzhen Internet is not VR, AR, Mr or digital twin, but a close combination of the real virtual world and the real world, which he calls “virtual and real integrated world”. Zhang Zhengyou also showed the Igrow smart agriculture platform developed by Tencent AI Lab in agriculture, the oldest and least digitized industry.

It is reported that the platform is full of sensors in the real greenhouse to measure temperature, light and humidity, and create a virtual greenhouse simulator. It can simulate 82 growth cycles in 15 seconds, calculate the most suitable temperature, light and watering amount, and then use the actuator to automatically adjust and control, saving energy and increasing income.

Ma Jie, vice president of Baidu, shared his views on metaverse at Baidu AI open day. He believes that metaverse involves seven clear industrial chains: infrastructure, decentralization, human-computer interaction, spatial computing, developer ecology, advertising and content distribution. It will take the lead in realizing experience upgrading in entertainment, games, social networking, video, shopping and other scenes, while office and social communication will follow up later.

“VR is the first entrance to metaverse, and VR will also become the killer app of metaverse,” said Majie.

Iqiyi also lays out the metaverse entrance. Since 2016, iqiyi has started with hardware, content and technology to lay out VR industrial ecology across the line. For example, iqiyi’s “cloud performance” is the first “immersive virtual” online performance content product in China. In March this year, iqiyi launched the world’s first film and television level XR live concert The9 “virtual and real city”. Relying on the cutting-edge extended reality (XR) technology, it realized the real-time interaction of high-level immersion between The9 and fans, which caused a great sensation in the industry.

Likobo believes that some metaverse related technologies, such as VR / Ar / XR, blockchain and digital twin… Can almost certainly develop rapidly and quickly enter people’s work and life in some scenarios.

Taking virtual reality as an example, with the significant progress of chip computing power, the rapid development of visual hardware and the continuous improvement of communication technology, the prediction from the industry is that the existing problems such as time delay and dizziness will be solved in two years at most, and the immersion and fidelity of VR / AR / XR will be greatly improved, It is difficult for human eyes to distinguish between virtual and real scenes.

“This means that in the future, some industries will develop rapidly under new technology scenarios, such as online education, online cultural tourism, virtual concert, business conference, virtual social networking, game film and television… Are all industries that may get breakthrough development,” said Li keobo.

In addition, there is the “industrial metaverse” that is highly expected. In fact, the core is digital twin technology, which is also a metaverse closer to the real economy.

“Digital twinning, simulation and simulation are actually ‘old’ concepts, which have long been applied in intelligent manufacturing, smart city and other fields. These are very good technologies, and with the progress of software and hardware, digital economy will certainly develop more new technologies and models. However, it may be far fetched to belong to metaverse.” Li keobo said.

In Li keobo’s view, it is normal for foreign technology giants to enter metaverse with a high profile, and domestic technology Internet companies to feel the pressure. On the one hand, they are afraid of unclear policy guidance and dare not enter easily; On the other hand, I’m afraid of being late and being eliminated by the next era.

“The gene of China’s Internet industry is used to high-speed growth and attacking cities and land. It is particularly worried and anxious that it will lose its position or be abandoned by the times. However, in recent years, all parties have rethinked more about the development of platform economy, and Internet enterprises have begun to be rational and will consider policy risks,” said Li keobo.

Recently, it is the time for major Internet companies to release their third quarter financial reports one after another. At the telephone conference after the financial report, metaverse almost became a must answer for the CEO.

When asked by investors about “Netease’s technical capability and layout in metaverse”, Ding Lei, CEO of Netease, said that metaverse is a popular concept, but no one has come into contact with metaverse at present. “Netease has made preparations for metaverse related technologies and rules. We believe that Netease has the ability to run quickly on the day when metaverse really comes,” said Ding Lei.

Chen Rui, chairman and CEO of BiliBili, also said at the third quarter earnings conference: “If you hear the concept of metaverse now and then announce the layout of metaverse, it may be too late. Because metaverse is not a product, this concept includes a series of technologies and products, such as virtual reality, close social system and self circulation ecosystem… These have been implemented by the company, and station B has also implemented some of them. But in general, all are closed now The discussions at metaverse are all at the capital and media levels, and almost no one who really makes products can discuss it, because it is too far away and requires a lot of technological breakthroughs. “

Li keobo also believes that if the application scenario of metaverse technology can help work and learn more efficiently, Chinese companies should also make efforts to PK with international giants. “But if it’s a highly immersive social networking, games, etc., it’s not necessarily a good track. Today’s two-dimensional games can make people addicted. If it’s a highly immersive ecology, it’s easier to get out, which must be an important issue that regulators will consider,” he said.

Li keobo also expressed concern: “metaverse has stimulated the public’s excessive imagination and pursuit of the virtual world. It is a pity if human beings are highly immersed in the virtual world and give up their due ability to transform nature.”

Liu Cixin, a famous science fiction writer, also said publicly recently that the future of mankind will either move towards interstellar civilization or immerse itself in the virtual world all year round. If mankind has realized a highly realistic virtual world before moving towards space civilization, it will be a disaster.

Chen Rui also said that technology itself is just a tool, and talents are the motivation. People decide whether a tool can benefit the society or bring negative value to the society. “Whether a technology is addictive or knowledgeable depends on who uses it. For example, after all, only a few children in Shanghai planetarium can see it. If metaverse can be realized, there is a virtual planetarium in which children in China can see the rings of the sun, Mars and Saturn, it will be a beautiful thing,” he said.

Li keobo believes that China’s digital economy has a very good foundation and may be an important tool for China’s future economic development. “Put aside the concept of metaverse, there should be a ‘Chinese voice’ for the next generation Internet, and China should participate more in the governance of the digital economy,” Li keobo said.

China Economic Weekly reporter Sun Bing reports from Beijing

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