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VR: Explaining the metaverse and its real-world applications

HTC Americas President Daniel O'Brien joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the concept of Vive offering VR training for real-world workplace scenarios and the value of the metaverse.

Video transcript

[VIDEO LOGO]

JULIE HYMAN: Meta's Reality Labs division cost the social media company almost $4 billion in the first quarter alone, weighing heavily on profits amid Meta's so-called year of efficiency. The company is now aiming to drum up support by pitching the metaverse as a haven for job training and education.

That's familiar territory already for HTC. Their live headsets have been put to use by surgeons and firefighters, allowing high stakes training in the safety of a virtual world. Here to discuss is Dan O'Brien, HTC Americas President and global head of enterprise. Thanks for being here.

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DAN O"BRIEN: Thanks for having me.

JULIE HYMAN: It's so interesting to me because we talk about the metaverse. We see Mark Zuckerberg legless, moving around a meeting. But we already are seeing in-use applications for this stuff. So talk to me about HTC's-- like where is it being put to work?

DAN O"BRIEN: Sure. And I think the metaverse in general has been really grandiose. And everybody thinks it's this new thing that has to happen right away. It is down the road. It is something that actually will evolve into. But right now, there's a lot of real-world applications, professional use cases, whether it's in the public sector health care.

We are seeing architecture, engineering, construction, great efficiencies, training and simulation, designing new products. This is across the board. These are real applications being used today. We all have a version of the metaverse, but we have something we call the VIVERSE. But this is for businesses. This is for corporate use. This is for benefiting your company.

Down the road, this avatar and all of us interacting with each other, that's things that are going to happen down the road. And there's a bunch of hurdles that we actually have to solve to get there before that can become a reality.

DIANE KING HALL: So I have two questions for you now then. So first, the hurdles, I imagine some of those are legal hurdles, and then-- but actually, before you get to that, you made a comment to us, before we got to live with this, about immersive products like the VR headsets replacing this and being just as--

DAN O"BRIEN: ubiquitous.

DIANE KING HALL: --in daily-- yes, as ubiquitous, that's the word I was looking for, as the smartphone. How can you say that?

DAN O"BRIEN: Well, I mean, we made a huge leap this past year in building what we call the XR elite, which is something that's on the realm of just glasses. These products, we will introduce radios into them just like it does in your smartphone. We have a long history of making smartphones and what we call radiated endpoints or terminal points, which is a smartphone.

These products will become connected. That needs a Verizon Wireless and AT&T wireless, a T-Mobile, a Vodafone. You will see 5G networks and eventually 6G networks in 2030, where you will actually have connected wearables.

And then you'll see headsets that actually have multifunctionality of mixed reality, where we can see the real world as well as digital overlays and digital introductions. And then things become much more ubiquitous and easy to use. But you actually have to deliver content to all of these wearables wherever you are. That's a huge hurdle to solve.

JULIE HYMAN: So part of that is the technology that in getting to that 6G, or what have you. What about the human element? Because we've seen some of these products come out before. What was it, the Google specs? Snap had the spectacles, I believe they were called. And like people--

DIANE KING HALL: They were just trendy.

JULIE HYMAN: --well, people got made fun of, there was that-- like there's that aspect of cultural adoption that sometimes can be a big hurdle--

DAN O"BRIEN: That's right.

JULIE HYMAN: --to solve.

DAN O"BRIEN: So that's why we start with-- our company actually stands for innovation, technology, and humanity. So all the solutions that we've been focused on since 2015, 2016 has been solutions that actually bring value, whether it's cost savings into your corporate environment, efficiencies of collaboration, and designing new products, or training nurses, doctors. We work we fund, actual developers that create solutions to training surgeons.

JULIE HYMAN: So in other words, down the road, it has to be worth it for me that's on a consumer level to wear these things? It has to bring me something that my phone--

DAN O"BRIEN: And on the consumer level, you really don't see anything outside of gaming right now, which--

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, I was going to ask that. But what is the use case besides just--

DAN O"BRIEN: Gaming and entertainment?

JULIE HYMAN: Yes. Exactly.

DAN O"BRIEN: So what some companies can fall into that or thinking, I guess, with an infinite mindset is if they're just thinking about the short-term play and just trying to get a number of users to just play a game or play something like that, they're really not playing the long game. The long game is actually bringing the headsets and the technology into lighter, more wearable, easier ergonomics connected to a network. And then actually changing out the use cases.

Once you can we start interacting with phone calls, once you can start interacting with content that's actually valuable to you from a consumer level, you'll see that broader adoption. But right now, we're still in early adopters and enterprise use cases.

DIANE KING HALL: And what's the expectation for what the market value will bear out in terms of the overall market value globally? Because, for instance, this week China announced a stake back metaverse platform. What's the expectation for, say, within the next five years?

DAN O"BRIEN: Sure, I mean, I'm thinking looking at like cities evaluation, they expected it to be a $13 trillion economy in business. And I think that shows one significant opportunity to actually grow into the different use cases. But I do think that overall, we will see a very, very aggressive growth.

Over the next two, years we'll see really great adoption across financial services, banking with the use of this technology inside of their corporate environments, whether it's training, simulation, hard skills training, soft skills training, collaboration. And then, I think, what you'll see is very similar to smartphones. Now, that was-- how we brought that into our lives and then how we brought that into our consumer lives. You're going to see a very similar trend with immersive technology and products.

JULIE HYMAN: Just really quickly. There's immersive technology, there's ARVR, and then there's the metaverse. And I think the fact that we still don't really understand what the heck the metaverse is is part of the issue here. What is the difference? How should we even think about it? Is the metaverse really a thing or is it just immersive technology?

DAN O"BRIEN: One, it's-- today, the metaverse is the internet. It's what we interact with from a digital standpoint. Without going too far into what the future scape of trying to understand it is. Today, the metaverse is an intranet use case inside of a corporate environment where you can use it for these 20 training simulations.

Now, that will then be able to be connected to your regular internet. And then you'll be able to actually have brands and things of that nature, get involved into consumer products and consumer--

JULIE HYMAN: So it Becomes the metaverse when it's bigger basically?

DAN O"BRIEN: And right now, it's small pockets of interactive experiences. And today-- and today, we do that with automotive, aerospace, health care. In these specific segments we bring strong value and efficiency into these companies. And then we look at this broader thing down the road. But we will actually see the inclusion of the Verizon Wireless of the world and the AT&Ts wireless of the world to actually then bring that fruition to the forefront.

DIANE KING HALL: Well, next time, I guess, maybe we do this interview in the metaverse with our avatars. [LAUGHS] I know. I'm a skeptic too. That was just-- again, I don't see this replace that fast. But we'll see. We'll see.

DAN O"BRIEN: It's going to happen.

DIANE KING HALL: OK. All right. All right. You heard it here first. Thanks to Dan O'Brien, HTC America's president and global head of enterprise--