A familiar truth in XR is that sometimes the biggest news is news that you can’t put your hands on. In recent weeks, some big news has been coming down the pipes but it isn’t the kind of news that you can put on your face or download onto your phone. Between the Metaverse ETF, the Glimpse Group IPO (initial public offering), and other big trends, XR might be finally coming of age.
You Can Now Invest In the Metaverse. Kind Of.
Roundhill Investments recently put together the “Metaverse ETF.” ETF is a financial acronym that stands for “Exchange Traded Fund.” It’s like a pre-packaged portfolio of stocks. Those stocks are in companies included in the “Ball Metaverse Index.”
The Ball Metaverse Index is “the definitive ranking and listing and ranking of the companies that are building the next version of the internet.” Curated by the analyst, writer, and venture capitalist Mathew Ball and partners, the index includes companies like Cloudflare, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Unity.
While people would like to invest in “the metaverse” that’s not really possible. That’s largely because the metaverse (arguably) doesn’t exist yet. It’s also because a number of players are involved. Investing in the players working on developing whatever the metaverse will eventually become is the next best thing and the Metaverse Index and Metaverse ETF attempt that.
Glimpse Group Goes Public
An ETF isn’t the only way to get in on a “basket” of XR options. Glimpse Group is composed of eight subsidiary XR companies. While these companies are all either B2B or B2B2C, the services that they offer are diverse across the XR space.
Glimpse Group recently went public with a successful Nasdaq IPO with the ticker “VRAR.” While other tech, social, and “metaverse” companies with varying degrees of direct engagement in actual XR technologies and experiences have gone public already, Glimpse is the first dedicated XR company to do so. It’s a moment the Glimpse Group has been waiting for.
“This is the right time to pursue this. This is a big time for our industry,” Glimpse Group President and CEO Lyron Bentovim told ARPost. “When we built Glimpse, we knew we wanted to go public but we had to wait for the public to be ready for us.”
So, what’s changed? The main indicator that Bentovim has been watching has been investment in hardware companies, including through options like the Metaverse ETF. The relationship between hardware and software impacts consumers and producers alike, but it also impacts investors, according to Bentovim.
“[XR] is beginning to be perceived as real,” said Bentovim. “People are seeing the vast investment in hardware and realizing that this will have implications, not just for the people selling the hardware, but for the whole ecosystem.”
But, Isn’t VR Dead?
So why all of this optimism seemingly on the heels of the most recent bout of announcements that VR is dead? XRTech Marketing founder, James Watson, holds that calls that VR is dead look at consumer hardware, which has its ups-and-downs, despite being just a share of the overall XR market which shows consistent growth. Per Watson’s guest post in ARPost this Spring:
“To all those out there who are keen to proclaim the ‘death of VR’, I would advise you to take a broader look across both consumer and enterprise. Indeed, as headsets become cheaper, more content is available and the benefits of 5G kick-in, we may even have to consider using ‘VR is alive and well’ for both consumer and enterprise.”
Excitement over hardware can be driven by awareness through increasing consumer adoption, but increasing consumer adoption still hasn’t shifted the stance of enterprise-first experts, including Bentovim.
“We need adoption, not in terms of how many times people have tried [VR] once, but when are we at console-level? When do people have regular access to it?” explained Bentovim.
The concern is that some studies measure how many people have experienced VR, but that could have been at a location-based experience or at a friend’s house rather than in their own home on their own hardware. For example, the number of people that have played a PS5 game and the number of people that own a PS5 would be very different.
“When we talk to people and want to do a demo, they still don’t have a headset readily available,” he said.
Further, recent increasing adoption figures are largely driven by one factor: Oculus.
Hardware, Software, and Adoption
Depending on the report, the Facebook-owned company took between a quarter and a half of the entire wearables market last year thanks in large part to their ability to sell headsets below cost recouping the loss through app store sales – a luxury that not all manufacturers can enjoy.
“In a sense, it’s a double-edged sword,” said Bentovim. “It places companies like HP in a hard place because they only make money on hardware. It’s good for Facebook, but I don’t know if it’s good for the industry.”
While consumer VR is seeing a content explosion and a hardware bottleneck, consumer AR is largely faced with a content problem. While we have AR headsets to look forward to, right now most AR is experienced through mobile devices where quality and anticipation have to outweigh friction.
“The test until we have a wearable is what experiences will make you take your phone out of your pocket or purse and right now a lot of experiences don’t pass that test,” said Bentovim.
While we have yet to see glasses materialize in a significant way, the components that will one day make them are being tested in mobile devices. This is particularly true in the case of seemingly absent industry players like Apple.
Follow the Money
The takeaway is that non-XR companies contributing to XR and contributing to the metaverse are gaining stability and investor trust. This trend is allowing non-XR companies to become XR companies, not to mention what it’s doing for companies contributing to the metaverse.
And, all along, it’s creating an environment in which dedicated XR companies like Glimpse Group can thrive through conventional and institutional funding opportunities.