Why Digital Matters Now: Dr. Mark van Rijmenam on the Metaverse

PublishedDec 20, 2021ByNikki Shum-Harden
Dr. Mark van Rijmenam, “The Digital Speaker,” works with the world’s top companies to use emerging technologies to create digital transformation. As Van Rijmenam explains, “Digital transformation is more than getting online. Companies must be digital.” In a recent conversation, Van Rijmenam explained why digital transformation is essential, why it must happen now for companies to succeed, and how the current internet infrastructure must change to accommodate those demands.

The Digital Speaker Joins the Metaverse

Dr. van Rijmenam describes himself as “a future tech strategist, international keynote speaker, author and expert on disruptive innovation and how we can benefit from emerging technologies such as big data, blockchain, AI and VR/AR.”
He began his career in hospitality management and has gone on to receive a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Technology Sydney. He is the founder of Datafloq and co-founder of AKVO. He recently launched the Between Two Bots podcast with Dan Turchin, covering the cultural, technological and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, technology and the metaverse.
Van Rijmenam traveled the world pre-2020, speaking and delivering his message. He tells companies that “digital transformation is more than getting online—companies must be digital.”
That became more evident than ever with the 2020 pandemic. Each December, Van Rijmenam makes annual trend predictions for the coming year. He remembers back on the projections he released in December 2019.
“If I had said that within three months, 95% of the world would work remotely, everyone would have called me an idiot. But that’s what happened. The pandemic kick-started the digital age. It pushed us into the digital age, and we didn’t have a choice.”
As a result of the pandemic—and taking his own advice to be digital—Van Rijmenam created The Digital Speaker, a concept where his avatar speaks virtually to real-world audiences. In fact, on October 10, 2020, he delivered the world’s first TEDx Talk in virtual reality, discussing the rise of digitalism. Today, he speaks in person, virtually, or as an avatar or hologram in what might be considered the metaverse.

The Metaverse: Are We There Yet?

Van Rijmenam explains that the metaverse is the “immersive internet, the next version of the internet.”
But are we there yet, and when will we know when the metaverse is here?
“Some say we are already there,” explains Van Rijmenam. “It’s much like mobile and internet 2.0—when did it start? Was it with the introduction of the iPhone or was it before that? If you see what’s happening with Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, Meta and work on VR at Microsoft, then yes, we are already merging the physical and digital worlds.”
There is now even a term for this merging of physical and digital worlds—phygital. In a June 2021 Forbes article, strategist Paul Prior explains that phygital is “the combination of physical and digital for enhanced experiences.”
He points out that society is already experiencing a bit of this phygital world through companies like Amazon, Alibaba, Nordea and b8ta. He uses the Amazon Go Store as an example, where shoppers explore the store, and items immediately charge to their credit card when they depart the physical location.
In a recent interview for Morning Brew, Craig Donato, chief business officer at Roblox, explained that things are moving toward the metaverse, but it remains a work in progress. While the platform has 47 million daily active users, 9.5 million developers and more than 24 million player experiences, Donato emphasizes that the world is only in the infancy of the metaverse. “We are still in the very early days of the metaverse, and it will be a while before we see things like interoperability between metaverses and full immersion.”
Van Rijmenam agrees with Donato. “Yes, we are already merging the physical and digital worlds, but the Metaverse—the magical space where digital and physical worlds meet—isn’t here yet. It will take a while to make that happen. The interoperability, openness, social components aren’t there yet.”

Why Does a Digital Transformation and the Metaverse Matter to Business?

Van Rijmenam explains that we were on the edge of the digital age, but the pandemic propelled society forward in 2020. “We must be digital. We stand at the start of an exponential decade and it’s about to explode.”
Van Rijmenam points to the youngest generations, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009) and even the youngest members of society, Generation Alpha (those born since 2010) will demand a digital experience.
“To reach Gen Z or Gen Alpha, we see that they are metaverse natives. They live in Roblox. They see their friends more often in virtual worlds than in real worlds.”
He reminds us that the earliest Gen Z members are already in the workforce while the oldest Gen Alphas will reach the workforce in the next 10 years. “They will expect a different approach. Technology will not stop. Organizations need to be aware of how they can benefit from the next version of the internet.”
If company leaders wait until the world around them is digital, it is too late. “If you want to remain relevant in the next decade, you need a digital transformation,” explains Van Rijmenam. But to enable that transformation, Van Rijmenam explains that we must solve the problems inherent in today’s public internet.

Digital Transformation Requires a New Infrastructure

Despite this apparent need for an immersive experience and a digital transformation, Van Rijmenam cautions that we have much work to do. He points out that today’s internet was developed decades ago and never intended for immersive experiences.
“What is important [to immersive internet] is the compute needed. It’s enormous.” He explains that latency, lag and jitter aren’t something you can tolerate when you are in an immersive experience. “We must have the infrastructure in place to make that happen.”
Van Rijmenam can found on Twitter @vanrijmenam.
That is where Subspace can help your company meet the demand for digital transformation. To indeed be digital, you need to operate in real-time, without worrying about frozen video, lag, and old connections. You need a new internet designed for today’s digital world. Subspace is that solution.
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As van Rijmenam explains, “Digital is here to stay. If you don’t digitally transform your business now, you will be out of business.”
With Subspace GlobalTURN, you can have edge-to-edge acceleration for any service you deploy. You can move beyond regional limitations and deliver your real-time traffic in real-time.
Digital transformation is necessary to survive in today’s world. But it doesn’t have to be painful or costly. Subspace offers a simple API, so you provision, point your traffic and go. And you get always-on DDoS protection without sacrificing speed.
Van Rijmenam sees the potential for the Metaverse and digital transformation. “There are so many opportunities for organizations to improve communication,” he says. “It will revolutionize how we work, where we work, with whom we work.”
The time is now. Don’t just survive the digital world. Be digital and thrive. Transform your business today when you get up and running in Subspace to make real-time work in real-time.

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