• Opinion is divided about the metaverse and extended reality, finds a new survey by Ipsos for the World Economic Forum.
  • Emerging countries are far more upbeat about its potential.
  • But most respondents are expecting apps using the metaverse to change their daily lives over the next decade.

Opinion is split among the global public about the opportunities and promise the metaverse holds for daily life. A new survey conducted by Ipsos for the World Economic Forum finds that half of adults across 29 countries say they are familiar with the metaverse, with a similar number having positive feelings about engaging with extended reality (XR) in their daily lives.

A graph showing the % familiar with virtual reality, augmented reality and the metaverse by highest and lowest countries.
Turkey has the most familiarity with extended reality technology.
Image: Ipsos/World Economic Forum

But anticipation about this new era of digital technology is significantly higher in emerging countries than it is in most high-income countries. More than two-thirds of people in China, India, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Colombia say they feel positive about engaging with XR, compared to fewer than a third in Japan, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, France and Germany.

Unsurprisingly, younger adults are the most familiar with - and look the most favourably on - new technologies. Also those with a higher level of education are more positive about the metaverse.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the metaverse?

Experts believe that the metaverse will come to represent the next major computing platform, transforming consumer experience and business models across industries.

Fashion brands are one example. Over years, apparel companies have perfected the design, manufacture, and distribution of clothing to anticipate consumers’ wants and needs in line with seasonal changes. But today, most of their revenue is surpassed by the $3bn worth of sales of digital cosmetic items in Fortnite, which have a cultural significance that extends far into the physical world.

This is one of the economic opportunities of the metaverse - the possibility to “assetize” digital content, creating a framework of digital ownership for users. If it is replicated at scale and across sectors, then entire industries will be reshaped by changes to their traditional value chains.

However, the promise relies on the advancement of several key technologies, including augmented, virtual and mixed reality (collectively known as XR), as well as blockchain, connected devices and artificial intelligence. How should these be governed in a way that promotes their economic upsides while protecting individuals’ safety, security and privacy?

The World Economic Forum is bringing together leading voices from the private sector, civil society, academia and government to address this precise question. Over the next year, it will curate a multistakeholder community focusing on metaverse governance and economic and social value creation.

It will recommend regulatory frameworks for good governance of the metaverse and study how innovation and value creation can be strengthened for the benefit of society. Updates will be published on the World Economic Forum website on a regular basis.

Despite the varying levels of enthusiasm and awareness, respondents are widely expecting apps using the metaverse to increasingly have an impact on people’s daily lives over the coming decade. The biggest changes are likely to be felt in virtual learning, entertainment and virtual work settings, people feel.

A graph showing the % expecting various types of metaverse apps using XR to significantly change people's live in the next 10 years.
Two-thirds of people expect extended reality to change the face of virtual learning.
Image: Ipsos/World Economic Forum

Cathy Li, Head, Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment & Sport at the World Economic Forum said, "The positive sentiments and high expectations around the metaverse’s impact in everyday life, indicate an increasing readiness for its adoption. To meet this opportunity, we need to make sure that the economic potential and corresponding governance frameworks are realized in a fair and equitable manner for all."

The survey was conducted between April and May 2022, and takes into account the views of more than 21,000 adults.