Written by Christopher Wiles, Investment Director at Foresight
The Metaverse. Possibly one of the biggest technology buzzwords of the last two years.
Regardless of whether you think the metaverse is an exciting paradigm shift, enabling us to live more of our lives in the digital world, or whether you believe it is taking us one step closer to the dystopian world portrayed in The Matrix, no one can deny that this megatrend will fundamentally impact how we interact with technology and ultimately each other in the months and years ahead.
Delivering the Metaverse
Today, much of the Metaverse hype has centered around the application level, including games, social media and virtual worlds. However, we think there is an equally exciting opportunity to invest in the underlying technologies which are required to deliver the Metaverse.
For investors who are able to identigy Metaverse-enabling companies, an opportunity arises to drive the growth of truly disruptive technologies, protected by IP, which are targeting large addressable markets. We believe these will be the firms enabling the next generation of immersive experiences.
Take, for instance, VividQ, a Cambridge based company developing a technology which reduces the processing power required to generate a hologram by a factor of up to 1000x. This breakthrough will enable truly immersive, holographic displays to be integrated into lightweight AR headsets, next generation automotive heads-up displays, or even full-size display screens.
Or how about Audioscenic. Audio cues are just as important as visual ones in helping us perceive the real world. This will carry over into the Metaverse. Audioscenic’s proprietary algorithm combines head tracking technology with beam forming acoustics, allowing users to enjoy the full benefits of spatial audio (a truly immersive, 360° sound experience now used on most video games and much of the content produced by the streaming services such as Netflix) without the need for headphones. The first soundbar product using Audioscenic’s technology was launched at CES in January 2023 to widespread acclaim and the Company is now seeing demand for its technology in laptops, video conferencing, public display screens and even automotive applications.
The ’Corporate Metaverse’
Equally, a sub-theme we are already seeing emerge is that of the ‘corporate metaverse’. This development will allow workers to collaborate in a more immersive and frictionless manner.
One example in our portfolio is Masters of Pie (MOP), which has developed a flexible software development kit that allows users to collaborate in real time on very large datasets. Initially serving customers in the Engineering Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) market, MOP is now seeing strong demand in the defense sector, allowing command and control centres to aggregate data from across the operating environment and display it in an easy to consume format using Microsoft Hololens headsets.
Another recent investment, Kognitiv Spark, provides a highly robust mixed reality platform which allows engineers and technicians to have critical information overlaid on the physical asset they are working with via an AR headset.
Finally, our portfolio includes several technology solutions which lie deep in the systems enabling the Metaverse. These ‘Deep Tech’ companies provide solutions which are based on tangible engineering innovation or scientific advances and discovers.
For example, Zero Point Motion’s high precision, low-cost inertial measurement unit (IMU) will allow more accurate tracking of AR/VR headsets, eliminating the latency effects which can cause nausea amongst some users. Novosound is exploring how its wearable ultrasound technology, as applied for healthcare monitoring, could be used to bring about more immersive AR/VR experiences. And Vector Photonics is developing a unique semiconductor laser technology that has the potential to greatly improve data transfer rates in data centres, the centralised hubs through which all information related to the metaverse must pass.
We are also seeing clear signs that large technology companies are taking note of the cutting-edge technology being developed in the UK. In 2021 Snap, developer of Snapchat, acquired UK-based company Wave Optics for $500m. Snap was keen to access Wave Optics’ proprietary technology around optical waveguides, the part of an AR headset which ensures the image is accurately delivered to your eye.
We believe there are many more UK-based deep tech companies developing similarly impactful technologies. By investing in and working closely with portfolio companies, there is an opportunity to help develop transformative technologies and capture the rapidly growing market opportunity that the Metaverse has created.