At this point, it’s pretty clear: The future is virtual. Now that people are used to doing their shopping, socializing, working, learning, entertainment, and working online… It’s hard to imagine trading in the convenience and opportunities it brings to our life. But what if the apps we use to do this were…better? More natural, more fun? Welcome to the metaverse. And the company that’s quietly helping make this possible: Matterport (NASDAQ:MTTR).
Metaverse platforms allow us to leave clunky, 2D websites behind and enter an “embodied internet.”
When we’re finished attending an online meeting (as our digital avatar), we can simply teleport back to our virtual “living room” to hang out with friends. It’s as easy as clicking from Microsoft Teams to a “Zoom hang” with our college buddies… But it’s more seamless – no more downloading and juggling all sorts of different apps to do it!
Up until now, though, 3D worlds have had a hard time realizing their full potential for one big reason: logistics. Objects and landscapes had to be drawn by hand; as you can imagine, this is an incredibly time-consuming, expensive process!
Today, two major advances are breaking down this barrier: artificial intelligence, and 3D capture of “digital twins” of physical spaces.
Matterport Digital Twins
For VR and AR developers, true digital twins are a leap forward comparable to “the invention of the camera” versus “the old days of painting,” says Matt Bell, co-founder of Matterport.
Matterport provides 3D cameras (which bring depth to an image), 360 cameras (which bring multiple angles), an app to capture these images on your smartphone, software that pulls this all together into one digital twin of the space, and applications to layer on AR features. According to Matterport.com:
A Matterport digital twin is the most accurate virtual 3D model of a real place – whether it be a room, an entire building, or an outdoor space. Digital twins enable industries like real estate, hospitality, construction, and insurance to simplify how they work and connect with customers and vendors.
Below is a Matterport “dollhouse view” of a high-end home, where you could tap any room and take a virtual tour of the space. Retailers, hotels, and travel rental companies also find it handy to show their offerings in such detail. As of its latest, Q3 report, Matterport’s customer base includes 13% of the Fortune 1000 companies.
The company has built “a global network of Matterport Service Partners” you can hire to bring a Matterport camera to your museum, office or coworking space, event venue…any type of property you want. Once they’ve captured the digital twin, you could offer a virtual tour of the facility to prospective clients or visitors.
Is Australia a place you’ve always wanted to visit? Well, the flights alone cost a whole paycheck. Not to mention that the journey takes 24 hours of your life.
In the metaverse, you could explore the Australian Outback more easily than you can get into an Outback Steakhouse in your hometown. You could see La Bohème at the Sydney Opera House, check out the street art on Hosier Lane in Melbourne (shown below), then stroll the Swan River in Perth – all with zero travel time.
Several sights like these are already captured as Matterport digital twins. From there, the Web3 metaverse incentivizes Matterport Service Partners to map out ALL the major cities and destinations. All in a tiny fraction of the time graphic designers would need to sketch everything out.
Then metaverse tourists can buy digital souvenirs to dress their avatars and show off to their friends afterwards. It’s the logical next step from virtual showrooms, like this online experience from Harrods, the luxury department store in London.
Beyond these hypothetical examples, Matterport already works heavily in the realty business, modeling real-estate properties on sites like Redfin (NASDAQ:RDFN) and ReMax. Other clients include Airbnb (NASDAQ:ABNB), Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H), Nationwide Insurance, the clothing retailer H&M (OTCMKTS:HNNMY), and the U.S. State Department.
Matterport and Mark Zuckerberg
Matterport’s big project that got a lot of investors excited in 2021 is a collaboration with Facebook AI Research (FAIR), now called “Meta AI.”
Matterport has its own AI, Cortex, that it uses “to create precision 3D spatial data at scale.” Cortex has been taught all about room dimensions, object and room recognition, and more. Now Meta will train its Habitat AI to gain the same understanding by feeding its neural network with the Habitat-Matterport 3D Research Dataset (HM3D).
The initial announcement of HM3D is more geared towards training AI assistants, “like robots that can retrieve medicine from a bedroom nightstand or AR glasses that can help people remember where they left their keys.”
But given Zuckerberg’s metaverse ambitions, Matterport can bring a lot more to this partnership. After all, an AI trained with Matterport’s data (five million rooms’ worth!) can not only analyze digital twins… It may also be able to create realistic spaces to help build out the metaverse, more quickly and robustly! And realistic spaces were exactly the vision Zuck presented at his big metaverse event in October.
Meanwhile, Matterport has brought in some additional firepower that could help the company add new revenue streams in the metaverse:
Earlier this month, Matterport announced that it closed the deal to buy out Enview, a geospatial analytics company.
Enview’s “technology performs a variety of 3D spatial operations, including object recognition, feature extraction, feature-based change detection, 2D and 3D measurement and attribution.” In other words, the new subsidiary of Enview will complement Matterport’s Cortex AI – and help build out Matterport’s technology for outdoor spaces.
As of Q3, Matterport has already captured an astounding 18 billion square feet as digital twins. Tourism, retail, education, and online meetings are just a few of the businesses Matterport could get into – monetizing their vast data library by turning it into a metaverse… or partnering with those already building such platforms.
Whichever route the company chooses to take, the math is very much on investor’s side at this stage. From $100 million annual revenues today, Matterport’s total addressable market could be $240 billion, still in its very “early stages.” And within this competitive landscape, that huge dataset of digital twins gives Matterport a very strong first-mover advantage.
On the date of publication, Ashley Cassell did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.