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While the industry grapples with what the metaverse is and isn’t, companies are imagining what it means for them and how they can experiment now. Bloomberg Intelligence forecasts that the metaverse market could be an $800 billion market by 2024. To put that into some perspective, another high-growth tech market — public cloud — is forecasted to be $716 billion the same year.
Companies are investing for a variety of business reasons; the vast majority of them to improve digital experiences. Internally for employees, the metaverse leads to the creation of digital workplaces that enable distributed workforces. For buyers, it means creating new immersive experiences — whether at home or in a physical storefront — that further elevate the bar for customer experience.
And, while there are obvious benefits in industries such as retail and gaming, there are benefits in not-so-obvious industries as well. For instance, metaverse-enabled technologies can benefit healthcare, where doctors and clinicians will have better ways to access information and interact with patients. Or, in the automotive industry, where metaverse technology can enable potential buyers to test-drive cars virtually.
Before you can run, however, you need to walk. No software is immune to the hurdles of testing and, in the metaverse, it’s important to understand how to test metaverse experiences and what determines success.
Some testing challenges will be familiar, like dealing with different platforms, techniques and considerations. To ensure customers have seamless, high-quality experiences on any device and with any payment source, testing with real people in real-world scenarios is crucial.
A new challenge that is emerging for metaverse testing is scale. The complexity of bringing together the technologies that create a metaverse experience, render it properly and deliver the appropriate content is quite vast in itself, but those experiences must also be continuously validated and refined as the metaverse evolves.
If the metaverse experience includes payments, nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies that will be accepted will need to be verified and validated. That leads to transactional validation at a scale that companies have not yet experienced.
While it’s difficult to be prepared to meet the challenges of scale that exist right now, it’s important to keep in mind that the metaverse is the rise of the seamless user experience. Doing so will put companies on the right path to delivering world-class experiences.
The three pillars of the metaverse experience
As companies adapt to the scale of the metaverse experiences they are creating and conduct usability testing to understand how real users are going to interact with emerging digital experiences, there are three major themes surrounding the role software testing will play in the metaverse, regardless of industry.
- API testing. APIs are the backbone of metaverse experiences. Nearly 60% of developers report that they are directly involved in API testing — and that number will grow as the metaverse evolves. They are key for operability, but new specifications for APIs are constantly coming to market before existing ones are obsolete, creating even more complexity for developers. APIs will be critical to support the interoperability, flexibility and decentralization that are critical for metaverse experiences. But they need to be tested to identify problems.
- Interactive and immersive testing. The success of the metaverse is completely dependent on the users it impacts. Metaverse experiences must be interactive, accessible and immersive, each requiring a comprehensive approach to testing. Companies must also ensure that metaverse experiences are inclusive for all users and should establish an accessibility testing program.
Over time, testing will best be done “in the wild,” where companies can better grasp the challenge of real users in real environments around the world. In-the-wild testing will become increasingly important as cross-application experiences become more mainstream, interactions become less dependent on devices and high-sensory experiences push demand for high-sensory testing. What does this look like in practice? An example of cross-application experiences would be testing a user flow that brings you to one app to shop, another to purchase, and a third to schedule delivery.
- Cybersecurity. The scaling challenges and complexity of the metaverse mean there are more pathways to attack and spread. Cyberattacks on vulnerable networks increased 50% in 2021 — and that is in danger of increasing significantly as potential vulnerabilities grow. With developer talent at a premium, many companies may not have the talent needed to support the complexity of a meta experience architecture, let alone do so in a safe and secure fashion. Security testing is already a critical part of the software development life cycle (SDLC) but will need to be advanced to keep up with the evolving tactics of hackers in the metaverse.
The metaverse presents the next great opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves and transform their digital user experiences. While most of us are not ready to capitalize on all the business benefits the metaverse will ultimately deliver, we are in a place where we can experiment and have success, provided we are thorough in our design testing.
Rob Mason is CTO at Applause.