The Metaverse

The great, big Metaverse is here – or is it? The “Metaverse” has been a frequent buzzword ever since Facebook rebranded its parent company to Meta. But it’s not a new term, by any means. Authors, TV shows, and movies have been capturing this concept for years. Ever seen Ready Player One or Black Mirror? If so, you have already seen a glimpse of what the future of the Metaverse could look like.  

What exactly is the Metaverse? 

The Metaverse is being coined the next step of the internet. Instead of consumers logging on to their computer to browse the internet or scroll social media, they would be logging into a virtual reality (VR), utilizing a headset to do so. The idea is for consumers to not just be on the internet, but to be immersed in it. A large reason why 2021 was the year this began to gain traction (and funding by Meta) was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The world experienced, for the first time in a long time, a separation from communities and society. People have been experiencing this isolation for a few years now, and the Metaverse could be a solution to regain the sense of a common society. It could increase the opportunity to engage and interact with others. This includes interacting with brands and businesses on top of just with other people.  

It is important to remember that VR technology is also not new. In fact, the first VR headset was created all the way back in 1960! In more recent years, the latest advancement in VR technology was in 2016. That was the year Sony released its first PlayStation VR headset. The Oculus began to gain popularity, as well, after its Kickstarter funding in 2012. The even crazier thing is that VR technology advancements have really died down since 2016. It never quite reached mass popularity among the majority of consumers. So, what makes Meta think that consumer adoption will change in the coming years? 

Similar to VR technology, but one step back from full Matrix vibes, is augmented reality (AR). Once again, the idea of this technology is not new. Do you remember the hype of the first release of the Google glasses? That was back in 2014 and had a rather failed launch and adoption by the everyday consumer. It seems that these big technology companies have been trying for years to merge our digital and physical worlds with no success. That hasn’t stopped them from working behind the scenes to continue to adapt and try again. In fact, Google is actively working on a new edition of its AR glasses. Adobe is focusing its efforts on Adobe Aero to create unique ways for users and brands to interact with the augmented world. Google and Adobe are not alone; Apple and other big tech companies are shifting their focus on creating unique experiences using AR. 

We know what you are thinking, there’s no way I would ever spend my days and social interactions with a screen strapped to my face. Why would I choose that over exploring the actual world around me? If that’s what you are thinking, you are not alone. A recent survey by Morning Consult found that 68% of adults were not interested in the Metaverse. 

What about NFTs? 

Just to add another buzzword into the mix, let’s talk about NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens. To break it down in the simplest form, it is the digitized version of buying fine art. Instead of a consumer purchasing the one and only version of a famous Picasso piece, they are buying a digital file with a very distinct and unique code on the blockchain. This could be in the form of digital art, videos, or graphics. So, what does this have to do with the Metaverse? Well, in the same way some consumers jumped to buy the early-access tickets for The Batman to get an exclusive Batman NFT, consumers are buying unique VR realities in the Metaverse. For example, purchasing a NFT real estate in the Metaverse allows you to “own” a unique piece of property in the Metaverse similar to physical world real estate. 

What does this mean for businesses? 

In the coming years, as the Metaverse begins to make its ramp up, it will be important to have your brand present digitally. In fact, McDonalds and Panera have already filed for stake trademark in the Metaverse. They hope to have virtual stores that would allow for consumers to interact with unique virtual aspects to their brand, in addition to being able to order food that would be fulfilled in the real world. So, now is a great time to begin to understand what means would be necessary to have your brand present in these new realities. How can your brand create a unique experience digitally? It will require you to look towards a new way to interact with consumers. In the end, if this is adopted by the majority, you will not want to be late to the game. 

 

Co-authored by Elle Dean