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General population interest in the Metaverse in South Africa

Familiaritv with the Metaverse: The Statista (2024) market insights for the Metaverse in South Africa indicates that the user penetration rate is estimated to be 12.0% for 2024. A significant increase is expected, and the penetration rate is predicted to reach 34.9% by 2030. The number of users in the South African Metaverse market is expected to reach 22.5m users by 2030. This indicates a growing interest and adoption of the Metaverse market platform among users. Overall, the Metaverse market presents a promising opportunity for growth and development, within South Africa being a part of this evolving landscape. Interest in Metaverse related products, events and solutions is surging upward, but is restricted to already technologically literate people.

South African Business interests and awareness: The Virtual Reality South Africa Association (VRSA) was established in 2016 with the mission to "harness the transformative power of virtual reality (VR) technology for the benefit of South African businesses and software developers". The VRSA aims "to lead the South African VR industry towards global recognition, fostering a community where technology meets human-centric design, and where every virtual experience contributes to real-world progress" (VRSA 2024).Large South African firms are investing increasingly in Metaverse related functions. This growing interest is positioning South Africa as a leader in the Metaverse market for the African continent. Startups and SMME's have an important role to play in the Metaverse economy and are responsible for fast tracking innovation and expansion (Research and Markets 2023).The technology is still in its early stages of development, but already the digital media industry is being transformed by innovative design, IT and engineering companies.

Expected Metaverse Applications This Linkedln post (Rotenda, 2023), titled "#MetaverseSeries 4. Transforming South Africa with 3D Modeling and World Building in the Metaverse," highlights the potential of 3D modeling and world building to revolutionize South Africa's digital landscape. It emphasizes the importance of developing a robust digital infrastructure to ensure broad accessibility for this technology. The post goes on to discuss the need for targeted educational programs skill-building workshops to equip South Africans with the necessary expertise to thrive in the metaverse. Additionally, it underscores the significance of establishing clear policies and regulations for online interactions and content creation within the metaverse .The author emphasizes collaboration between tech companies, educational institutions, and the government to foster an environment conducive to innovation in the metaverse space. The post concludes by outlining various exciting opportunities within the metaverse, including the creation of multi-user virtual environments, immersive experiences through VR and AR, the development of social and gaming experiences, and the utilization of digital currencies and data-driven personalization within the metaverse.

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Located in Johannesburg's Keyes Art Mile, The Mixed Reality Workshop (TMRW) isn't your typical gallery. Founded as a non-profit, TMRW connects South African artists with The Digital Foundry, a team dedicated to exploring the intersection of art and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Established in 2018, TMRW has facilitated collaborations like Mary Sibande's "A Crescendo of Ecstasy" exhibition, showcasing various mixed reality installations and VR experiences until 2022 (Wood, 2018).

Electric South, a non-profit organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, empowers African artists to tell stories in new and exciting ways. Through workshops, production support, and funding, they help artists create immersive and interactive experiences using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other digital tools. Their 2022 New Dimensions AR/VR Lab offered demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies like Touch Designer, 3D scanning, VR content capture, and virtual sculpting. The workshop also explored the potential of social VR experiences and animation workflows within the Metaverse (Electric South, 2022).

The University of Johannesburg's Virtual and Augmented Reality STEM Education (VARSTEME) hub promotes the burgeoning trend of creating a metaverse in South Africa, propelled by local entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and educators utilizing Immersive Technology (IT) such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). While global tech giants like Meta, Google, and Microsoft are investing heavily in virtual world development, South Africa is carving its own path by leveraging IT to address African needs and tell African stories. Filmmaker Dylan Valley's documentary "Azibuye — The Occupation" illustrates the potential of Immersive Technology in storytelling, offering viewers an immersive experience that explores complex social issues. Meanwhile, entrepreneur Mic Mann is developing Africarare, a virtual marketplace showcasing African art and culture within the metaverse. Other ventures like Astra in Nigeria are also emerging, offering platforms for African fashion and cultural expression. In education, initiatives like the University of Johannesburg's VARSTEME hub are utilizing VR to enhance STEM education, providing students with immersive learning experiences. The ultimate goal is to expand access to virtual labs in schools across South Africa, althou challenges such as affordability remain (Boffard, 2022).

At the University of Pretoria, the Department of Mining Engineering has implemented a VR training program called the "blast wall" at the VR Centre. This program creates a realistic training environment where participants can practice their blasting skills virtually. It works by projecting an image of a blast wall onto a screen. Trainees then use VR tools to mark the wall, design the blast plan, and detonate the virtual explosives in the correct sequence (UP, n.d.).

The University of Pretoria is piloting exam writing in the Metaverse, with built-in biometric identification to verify students and deter cheating, potentially leading to fairer and more reliable results. A table (not shown here) compares traditional exam costs with Metaverse exam costs for a class of 100 electrical engineering students. Metaverse exams, despite requiring biometric scanning equipment, are estimated to be R6,000 cheaper due to reduced reliance on paper and staff for physical exam administration. The text argues that the Metaverse offers broader benefits beyond cost savings for South African universities. These include increased accessibility for students, greater exam security, and potentially even a more personalized learning experience. Ultimately, the Metaverse could transform exam writing into a more engaging and efficient process, leading to improved student performance and future career success (Thango, 2024).

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An ITWeb survey, in partnership with KnowBe4, explored South African businesses’ perspectives on emerging technologies. While most companies (82%) haven’t adopted blockchain yet, a surprisingly high number (540/0) plan to participate in the metaverse. This suggests an openness to virtual and augmented reality experiences, despite limited current usage (AR/VR headsets). The survey received 176 responses, mainly from executives and managers across various sectors (finance, government, telecoms being prominent). Interestingly, while blockchain adoption is low, 83% of companies plan to implement it in the future job, 2023).

Industrial and consumer applications of the metaverse in South Africa
Below are listed a few examples of contemporary practices making use of AR, VR and XR technologies, ranging from simple AR frame designs for photo booths to complex events installations: Speak Geek?: VR Training solutions for Forestry South Africa: https://youtu.be/K42Q1GmrieA?si=753PXv301hDI2KMg Speak Geek?: 3D Interactive AR: https://youtu.be/rLBOQiN4cUI?si=j3HMF8dY0DCG48We
Augmented and Virtual Reality South Africa: Custom Games for events: https://youtu.be/L6_Fqa9L1O8?si=X2GkOGMXKhG6EZp- Chillie Media: Simple AR frame designs: https://chiIIimedia.co.za/ar-designs/ BizAR: WebAR marketing campaigns such as this Toyota campaign: https://www.bizarreality.co.za/toyota-webar/ 360 Degree VR: https://www.bizarreality.co.za/kzn-film-commission/
Social Media AR campaign:
https://youtu.be/8CG62jpjRj8 TechVed:
AR automobile support application: https://www.techved.com/south-africa/case-study/user-experience-design/ar-a utomobile/

One of the examples listed above include the VR training developed for the Forestry South Africa. The Forestry Department, in cooperation with the Naledi3d Factory also developed VR training solutions for the forestry industry. The Naledi3d Factory reports “successful use of VR in training people in the forestry industry in the wider South- ern African region. They report using VR for skills development, particularly in local mines, as well as supporting the development of rural communities” (IQBusiness 2018: 8). As illustrated by the examples given above, digital marketing agencies are driving the adoption and implementation of AR and VR technologies for a variety of purposes, even beyond marketing. These agencies work closely with businesses to leverage the potential of AR and VR technologies achieve a brand’s specific objectives. Digital marketing agencies develop AR and VR solutions as an integral part of a brand strategy,which then drives the creative content creation and technical implementation. AR and VR marketing therefore requires strategic thinking, creative innovation and technical expertise and specialised knowledge. (Van Schalkwyk 2023).