VR: The key enabler of the metaverse

9 mins read

The metaverse, as conceived by the likes of Meta and Microsoft, is intended to radically change the way in which we use and consume content online. It promises a fully immersive, dynamic 3D space which connects the virtual and physical worlds and will fundamentally change the way in which people interact with one another.

While the metaverse as conceived is on a very grand scale and is multifunctional, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have a crucial role to play in delivering what is being described as the next generation of the Internet and a growing number of companies and businesses are looking to use online virtual platforms to deliver new experiences and content.

From advertising and tourism, to education, entertainment, retail, design, and engineering the metaverse offers some interesting future opportunities.

But to get there will take time – just look at Meta’s experience and the costs associated with its development work to date. But along with 5G, VR/AR will help to lay the groundwork and establish the conditions for the metaverse’s successful future development.

“When you think about the metaverse it is a market still undefined,” says Michael Corrigan, Staff System Engineer, Analog Devices. “The potential use cases for the metaverse are as vast and varied as your imagination can take you. One thing metaverse experiences have in common, however, is that they all rely on strong underlying and complementary technologies.

“Today, wearable technology has become ubiquitous, and the category has expanded far beyond watches to include AR and VR headsets,” explains Corrigan, “and headset technology continues to mature, and with it, popularity, demand, and competition are increasing.”

Meta has just released the Quest 3 headset, which according to Leo Gebbie, Principal Analyst, Connected Devices, CCS Insight is a more powerful and compact headset than its predecessor.

“Meta is aiming for it to become the new VR headset of choice for the mass market and is placing a strong focus on passthrough mixed reality with Quest 3 – meaning that external cameras will sense the outside world and allow users to combine that with virtual imagery inside the headset. This is the hot trend in VR right now and is the same direction Apple is expected to take with its rumoured headset.”

As we go to press Apple is expected to unveil its own extended reality headset, which could help to reignite excitement around the technology.

“Apple’s presence would drive interest in the industry and investment in the ecosystem, benefitting all players. Furthermore, the excitement around VR and AR should result in more people looking to buy headsets,” explains Gebbie.

The issue for both headsets is likely to be the cost of the devices, with some suggesting that Apple’s headset could cost upwards of $3000, consequently will the user be a developer who wants to invest time in getting ready for the eventual launch of a cheaper model, or someone with a specific commercial need for this expensive gear?

With VR/AR it is all about delivering a realistic simulation that immerses users in a computer-generated virtual realm with which they can interact. It’s a computer-generated three-dimensional world that uses digital technology to simulate an interactive 3D environment where users can completely immerse themselves, allowing them to explore and interact with objects and people.

According to analysts at IDC AR/VR headset shipments grew by more than 92% year-over-year (YOY) in 2021 and are predicting double-digit growth through to 2026 as global shipments of AR/VR headsets surpass 50 million units by the end of the forecast.

“The predominant driver behind this growth is gaming, but it won’t be long before gaming becomes just a subsection of the broader metaverse,” says Corrigan.

The metaverse itself won’t be built overnight and will require a comprehensive infrastructure that will include cloud, network, and energy infrastructures as well as edge devices.

A JPMorgan Chase study estimated the metaverse to be a more than $1 trillion market opportunity, suggesting that it would, “infiltrate every sector in some way in the coming years.

“Business leaders and boardrooms around the world are now asking themselves, ‘What is my metaverse strategy? What am I supposed to be doing in the metaverse?’”

Technological challenges

The metaverse is expected to require 1000× the computing power that is available today. “If you’re looking to leverage the metaverse in any way, this figure should guide you in determining how to approach a successful deployment,” suggests Corrigan and he points to four key areas that need to be addressed when developing the metaverse.

Cloud Compute Power

“The ways in which we use the internet today are already pushing rapid growth of hyperscale data centres. When the metaverse reaches its potential, the required compute power will grow 1000-fold according to Intel and, thus, more sophisticated data centres will grow along with it,” Corrigan suggests. “Successfully powering the metaverse will require high density servers, AI accelerators, storage, and networking systems, as well as optical control solutions for gigabit connectivity and sensor solutions for data centre infrastructure development.”

Network Infrastructure

Lagging video, long load times, and poor connections are a nonstarter in the metaverse. “The real world around us doesn’t buffer and, therefore, the metaverse shouldn’t either. If you think latency matters in today’s world, imagine latency impacting the way you interact with people, products, and places in the metaverse,” adds Corrigan.

Studies have also shown that latency is the leading cause of VR headset-induced motion sickness.


One study showed that one AI language processing model’s estimated carbon footprint was over 626,000 pounds of CO2. “For the metaverse, the energy consumption and emissions would be astronomical; therefore, it must rely on green energy sources (solar and wind),” warns Corrigan. “Storing and distributing that energy is the biggest challenge as batteries typically store unused green energy to maximise their effectiveness, an effective battery management system (BMS) is needed to closely monitor, control, and distribute the reliable charge and discharge of the entire battery system during its lifetime.”

Edge Devices

The intelligent edge revolution is here, and edge computing has been developed in response to the massive growth of bandwidth demand from distributed devices, especially in the metaverse where real-time applications require local processing and storage capabilities for data generated around the world.

According to Corrigan, “To deliver such immersive experiences, the metaverse needs multiple technologies embedded in the vision, audio, and human machine interface subsystems, all of which need significant processing power at the edge.

“For lowest latency and increased processing, at the lowest power possible, AI at the edge will be key. Processing closer to the sensor reduces power to transfer data off a device and ensures lowest latency with compute power locally rather than in the cloud.”

Is VR the future?

VR, as a technology, certainly has immense promise, but for many there remains a sense of untapped potential. But while gaming has dominated the discussion there are plenty of other use cases to examine.

Research conducted by CSS Insight last year found that among VR users 90% of people who own a VR headset would be willing to use one at work if asked, and in its Senior Leadership IT Investment Survey, 2022 it found that almost 80% of businesses had explored some sort of investment in extended reality.

According to Nadav Avni, CMO of Radix Technologies in its current form, VR applications are helping to revolutionise industries worldwide. “Along with AR, VR is being used in everything from designing precision instruments to exploring the metaverse,” says Avni. “It is having an impact whether in training, design or in meetings and collaboration.”

A typical VR setup involves a user wearing 3D goggles and interactive controllers but while current VR technology shows impressive results, there’s room for further improvement, according to Avni.

“Gains in 3D rendering as well as motion- and eye-tracking equipment, will bring VR to the next level,” he suggests.

So which sectors have been embracing VR and how is the technology being deployed?

Education and Training

“In terms of digital transformation higher education has always led in the VR space,” says Avni. “It was the first to adopt remote learning with online degrees and with secondary schools, especially after Covid-19, we saw a huge shift to remote teaching. It was seen as a great way of supporting disadvantaged children and preventing them being left behind; so, consequently, we have seen significant government investment in the digital classroom including in VR.”

VR, according to Avni, allows the education and training sector to show as well as tell, allowing students to go on virtual field trips to places and, in addition, VR training modules enable students to work together to create models and solve problems.

“Combining a 3D environment with opportunities to work with fellow students toward the same goals can provide a more immersive and retentive learning experience,” according to Avni.

Healthcare and Therapy

The provision of immersive experiences to engage students and show things in a different way also extends to healthcare. Teaching future doctors and medical staff high-precision skills such as surgery or other lifesaving procedures is high on the list of every medical institute.

“Outside of VR, giving students hands-on training means exposing them to real-life situations they haven’t yet prepared for. VR lets medical students and responders get all the practice they need, and they can do so without unnecessarily risking patient lives or utilising actual medical equipment,” explains Avni.

VR can also give patients immersive and engaging ways to complete therapy sessions.

“Studies have shown that around 27% of patients needing therapy will refuse treatment if it involves live sessions. In contrast, only 3% of patients will say no to VR-assisted therapy sessions.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also demonstrated that many illnesses that typically meant going to the doctor’s office could now be effectively diagnosed and treated from the comfort of a patient’s home.

According to Avni, the advent of the metaverse will take that concept a step further by creating virtual offices that some are dubbing ‘metahealth’ where a patient’s avatar is met in reception, waits in a virtual waiting room and then meets with a doctor’s avatar, or an actual doctor.

The doctor could then call on a specialist, wherever they are located, to speed up diagnosis and keep the patient better informed, all while being treated at home.

Work and Innovation

In terms of the workspace, VR is playing a major role in making specific tasks easier and more efficient. Construction companies and real estate developers offer virtual walkthroughs of their projects before ground-breaking, while engineering firms can design complex parts and test-run prototypes without manufacturing a single widget. Manufacturers can simulate the performances of their products in VR to identify future potential issues.

“Similarly, businesses can use VR to train their workers on properly using equipment or completing complex tasks. Setting up a VR training centre reduces the need to allocate a substantial number of manufactured products for actual training,” says Avni. “Trainees are now able to perfect their skills before they get the chance to use real equipment in actual scenarios.”

Entertainment and gaming

 “There are more than 400 million active users visiting the metaverse every month,” according to Avni, “where they play games, shop online, go on virtual dates, attend digital concerts, or hang around with other avatars. The future is bright for standalone VR gaming as well. Many iconic sports, racing, shooting, and fantasy games are now releasing VR versions providing an immersive experience as players embed themselves inside the game and take on the hero role.”

Investing in VR

A growing number of companies are prepared to look at, if not invest in, VR and how the metaverse could benefit their operations.

For companies that do decide to invest in VR, it does mean a substantial outlay for VR headsets, controllers, smart devices, and software. “Amassing a fleet of VR equipment can be a significant investment and they’ll need to secure investment with device management software to handle an entire VR fleet,” explains Avni.

“The right device manager can ensure your entire VR equipment inventory receives regular maintenance work, updates, and patches. However, making these maintenance jobs available on demand means having secure cloud access to all the tools and documents.”

So, according to Avni, the ideal device manager should utilise reliable and encrypted connections such as those managed by Amazon Web Services (AWS). This also ensures low latency and end-to-end encryption.

“But be warned, managing multiple VR brands running on different operating systems can pose a major headache,” says Avni.

“To counter that, ensure your device management software offers a device-agnostic system that treats all units running different operating systems as the same. It should also have no problems performing low-level device management, enterprise mobility management (EMM), and security components.”

Speaking of security, data privacy is a significant concern.

“Securing your fleet devices from data theft or unauthorised use can better preserve your VR investment. It should easily detect attempts to launch unauthorised apps or copy sensitive data in violation of GDPR, HIPAA, or other privacy guidelines.”

When faced with this problem, device management software should be able to shut down or disable the compromised device to prevent further data breaches.

The Future

For years those involved in VR/AR have talked of the sector reaching a tipping point, but with the launch of new devices from the likes of Apple and Meta and more companies and industries starting to use VR perhaps we have finally reached that point.

“I think we have, and VR is starting to shape businesses worldwide” says Avni. “While Meta may have spent billions on the metaverse concept with disappointing results, organisations actually deploying VR/AR solutions are seeing a real return on their investment. The metaverse is a broad concept while the actual use cases of VR tend to be focused on specific sectors. For example, HTC has addressed the needs of the corporate space. But in each case, they have been able to add significant value to those markets.

“If you’re looking to capitalise on this technology, you will need device management software to keep everything running smoothly,” adds Avni.

“This will ensure you can provide the management, maintenance and services your entire VR device fleet needs anywhere and at any time.

“While the existing technology remains far from perfect, there’s enough potential to ensure VR will play a major role in the future,” Avni concludes.