The ‘Metaverse’ has become a hot topic post Mark Zuckerberg’s rebranding of Facebook to Meta, but what exactly does this mean? Currently, everything you do on the contemporary internet experience is 2-dimensional i.e., the browse and scroll features. Metaverse is a 3-dimensional, immersive next-generation version of the internet, mostly rendered by AR and VR technology. However, this may not be a radical announcement for some, the concept of a virtual world has been around us through numerous platforms over the past few years.
Millions of people are spending hours every day in virtual social spaces like Roblox and Fortnite. In March, luxury fashion giant Gucci, revealed they would be selling a pair of sneakers for £8.99 that could only be worn virtually, while Puma, Reebok and Farfetch also all have similar online-only ranges. Augmented reality apps like Pokémon Go that came out in 2016 is an early example of this model. Within the realms of social media, Snapchat is one of the best-case examples of how the metaverse is already entering the daily lives of millions without many realizing it. Their custom filters allow distinct brands to connect with consumers deeper levels using highly interactive content.
The metaverse has appeared in financial systems as well, entrepreneurs are building an alternate monetary system using blockchain technology, buying and selling virtual real-estate assets and digital currencies. With blockchain-based games like Axie Infinity, players can buy, train and breed creatures that are registered on the Ethereum blockchain. Specifically in the last few years, these digital opportunities have been inspiring a younger population to move towards a metaverse as a suitable place to make their fortunes.
As a consequence of Covid-19, there has been a huge shift in the digital world, especially with working remotely. Despite concerns at the beginning of the global pandemic, the opportunities for growth, collaboration, and creativity have been endless. The future of work seems to be more streamlined for employees and employers. In this world, people can create their own customized avatars (virtual representation of themselves) and use them to enter a meeting room whilst being at home. In that room they can collaborate on a virtual whiteboard or walk around a virtual 3D model of a car they are designing, says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on the idea to launch Mesh in Microsoft Teams. Furthermore, a metaverse will also enable retail giants to have more interactive in-store experiences. VR and AR sets will make it possible to try on products within the store whether it is in stock or not. The promise of this virtual world is to allow for significant overlap of our digital and physical lives in wealth, productivity, shopping, and entertainment.
Interest in an even deeper digital world has spiked dramatically, with crypto-currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) making real impact in global markets. However, if the metaverse is essentially an extension of the internet that we currently have now, it’s also important to think of the myriad of challenges that we are yet to solve in our current online presence, such as catfishing, harassment, cyber-crimes, hacking and hate speech. For now, metaverse seems more like a branding exercise with an attempt to unify elements already taking shape online. If it does come into fruition as ambitiously as planned, it is plausible that it will completely transform consumption and enterprise behavior.