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Do you want chips with that?

Gustavo Martinez of TyN Magazine noticed a dramatic change at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) held last week in Barcelona: mobile operators devoted a lot of time to discuss the metaverse, augmented reality, and virtual reality, instead of talking about the shift to 5G networks that took up so much of their efforts, and investment, in previous years. One example is Wayra, the innovation investment arm of Spanish telco giant Telefonica, which issued a global call for metaverse startups at the show:

Telefonica also announced a new partnership with Meta (Facebook) in a determined push to offer a new generation of online products and services. Telefonica CEO Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez, who doubles as board chair of show organizer GSMA, said on his opening keynote that “a new immersive world is almost here with Web3 and the metaverse, which are already causing a sudden disruption.” AWS, China Mobile, HP, HTC, Huawei, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, ZTE, and other companies including banks and car manufacturers, presented their new hardware, software, and online services at MWC.

You will be tempted to discount the announcements at MWC this year as “more phones,” but notice how the high-speed mobile networks coming online in different countries are in fact spreading digital technology from mobile handsets into every device at home and at work: cars, manufacturing plants, cities, and even agricultural fields. Because the change is so sudden, the only metaverse application you might have seen so far is on a gaming virtual reality headset, but it won’t be long until you start seeing other uses for the widespread connectivity and processing power showing up everywhere.  

It can be hard to talk about the metaverse when you don’t have a lot to show for it yet. At its virtual event held this week, Apple used so many superlatives that Wall Street Journal tech columnist Joanna Stern posted an “incredible” half-minute recap video with all the adjectives Apple execs employed. At Verb we’ve talked about the amazing accomplishment of Apple’s new M1 chips, and the new Macs introduced at this event are even faster than the ones we discussed then. But investor Om Malik said that it is the new Apple Studio Display, also introduced this week, that will give you “a peek into the future.”

At first sight, the Apple Studio Display is just another monitor, but Malik explains that Apple has put an A13 Bionic chip into it. This is the processor that powered the fastest iPhone only three years ago. With its own processor to power its 12-megapixel camera, three mics, and 6 speakers, Apple’s new display can “enable a future of computing that is more spatial and dimensional,” according to Malik. Beyond helping you look your best on your next videoconference, he imagines that such a display would connect with all kinds of devices, like smart glasses, to put a new “reality” on the screen.

In the meantime, continue watching this screen for more commentary on future technology from Verb.