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How the metaverse is influencing 2022’s tech trends

Join us to watch Yory Wurmser, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, discuss the latest tech trends from our recently released report, Tech Trends to Watch in 2022. We identified five trends that will influence investments and innovation this year, including the metaverse, emerging privacy regulations, space-based internet, ethical AI, and voice assistants. You can find out more about these trends by tuning into our Meet the Analyst Webinar, Tech Trends for 2022, on January 13.

It’s too early to know whether the metaverse is more than hype, but it’s a potent idea that’s already driving investments. Facebook, now Meta, has done the most to push the idea into the mainstream and is pouring vast resources into augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) devices and operating systems for both, but they’re not alone. Apple, Snapchat, Samsung, and Microsoft all have—or soon will have—AR or VR devices and developer tools in development. Many game and design platforms such as Roblox, Nvidia, Unity, and Epic are also investing in the metaverse.

We’re at the beginning of a surge in AR and VR devices. AR shipments will jump from 1 million in 2021 to 21 million in 2025, and VR shipments from 8 million to 29 million, according to the International Data Corporation. The first generation of these devices goes back years, but the influx of research dollars, better developer tools and sensors, and faster radio technologies, such as 5G networks, will propel the development of products that consumers will buy.

Wearables will also benefit from metaverse investments. As companies look for ways to blur the physical and virtual worlds, they’ll need better biometric sensors and feedback to measure things like eye and hand movements or gait measurements. In November, Facebook showed off an early version of gloves that would provide haptic feedback so that users could “feel” virtual objects. These gloves are far from production quality, but they hint at the types of investments companies will make in order to make the virtual world more real.

AR is set to make a bigger near-term splash than VR. Although lightweight and fully functional AR smart glasses are still a few years away, they’re coming as a result of today’s investments by Big Tech. All of today’s investments will also lead to more sophisticated mobile AR. Despite the current visions of a metaverse based on VR, it’s still unclear whether consumers will embrace VR headsets en masse. The bar for smart glasses and mobile AR seems lower.