June Founders Forum: Fortnite to Factories – Understanding the Metaverse

June 26th at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), professionals and curious minds gathered for the June Founders Forum. During the two-hour event, attendees immersed themselves in the future of technology, specifically, the fields of AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and the metaverse.

Moderated by Jon Curtis, the panel featured numerous technology experts from BMW Group: Dave Breeze, Innovation Design Lead; Alex Schlesner, a Clemson Innovation Fellow; Marcin Ziolkowski, Emerging Technologies Manager; and Brent Westmoreland, IT Director.

The panel kicked off by exploring the two types of digital experience: augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Breeze explained, “AR augments what’s real in your world, overlaying information seamlessly. On the other hand, VR offers a fully immersive experience, transporting users to entirely virtual realms.” Beyond gaming and entertainment, the panel emphasized the use of VR for training, visualization, and enhanced communication.

The term “metaverse” was mentioned frequently throughout. Metaverse was popularized by Meta (formerly Facebook), representing a digital universe where virtual and physical worlds collide. Schlesner painted the picture, “The idea is that we will basically have a virtual version of ourselves in the form of an avatar where we can communicate with others all over the world…The concept is that we can be together when we’re physically apart.”

While we’re getting closer to a world where the metaverse becomes reality, we’re not quite there yet. The panelists mentioned the Apple Vision Pro as the current leader in VR technology, highlighting some of the current drawbacks. Westmoreland compared the Apple Vision Pro to the iPod shuffle, the first iteration of an advanced future.

While there are exciting things to come with the technological advancements, the audience had some questions about societal and regulatory impacts. Ziolkowski reflected on the impact that technology has on government regulations, “Government policies are influenced by societal reactions. We need to consider how these technologies will integrate into our daily lives and what safeguards are necessary.”

Based on their various expertise, the panelists were able to explain a future where devices will integrate into our daily lives, enhancing our productivity and connectivity. They mentioned a time in the near future when a form of wearable technology will replace the traditional gadgets we carry around today like watches, phones, and computers, streamlining tasks and interactions.

As the panel came to a close, the audience was buzzing about the possibilities of the future. We were left with a closing remark from our Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Gary Shiffman, tying the Forum back to startup founders. Shiffman shared that founders need to be aware of this emerging technology and become early adopters because this is the future, and adopting technological advances will improve efficiency and productivity in their workplace.

This Founders Forum gave us a sneak peek into the journey of the multiverse, which is just beginning. Preparing the audience for a future where virtual and real-life blend into one offering new connections, collaborations, and possibilities.