Every ten-fifteen years, there is a significant shift in technology. The last major shift was from desktop to mobile; the next evolution will be from mobile to metaverse .
Consumers have become more conscious of the metaverse since Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of Facebook to Meta in October 2021. However, the term and technology behind the metaverse had been around long before Mark announced the change.
The term was first used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, in which the main character hangs out in an online virtual fantasy world. The idea was updated in 2011 with the film Ready Player One, in which people gather in the Oasis metaverse . The technological concepts behind the metaverse, such as virtual reality augmented and 3D computing, pre-date 1992 .
The metaverse is a virtual reality or realities in which consumers can communicate and transact with each other and with digital 3D items . Virtual reality encompasses the entire social and economic structure in both the actual and virtual worlds .
The technology behind virtual reality is already being used. For example, virtual reality is common in many games such as Roblox and Minecraft. In augmented reality, virtual overlays are superimposed on top of the actual objects the user sees. Mixed reality encompasses the different spectrum of realities.
These types of virtual realities exist among multiple brand versions of virtual reality; for example, Apple Augmented, Meta Augmented, Microsoft Augmented, Google Augmented.
Part of driving the growth and expansion of the metaverse is the conviction the internet needs to be re-imagined. This re-imagining is possible because the technologies are already present.
Brands such as Google, Apple, and Facebook have invested billions of dollars to secure their position in this evolving world.
Microsoft recently stated they would purchase ActivisionBlizzard for $69 billion as part of their expansion into the metaverse. Meta (Facebook) indicated they would spend $10 billion on their metaverse projects this financial year.
However, it isn't just the big IT brands investing money in the metaverse. Tokens.com, a Canadian company, spent almost $2.5 million on virtual property in Decentraland, a 3D world platform. Barbados has indicated it wants an embassy in the metaverse.
The ABC in a report on 4 February 2022 wrote about a retired school teacher in Perth who recently paid just over $1,000 for a penthouse in a place called Uphoria one of the many metaverse worlds. The reasoning behind the purchase was to enable the buyer and her friends to meet in luxury rather than on Zoom meetings. A family in Sydney have spent a significant amount of money purchasing property in a metaverse called TCG World.
While the interest in virtual land is not widespread, Facebook’s change of name has lent credibility to the idea of the metaverse and helped generate the current boom.
Technology moves faster than other structures of society. The legal and ethical implications are worked out once the new technologies are in place. The initial rollout of new technologies is often like the wild west, where anything goes because it is unregulated.
People often write in glowing terms of the metaverse, where individuals can "walk around with their friends, visit places, buy things and attend events. Musicians can perform virtual gigs, and companies can create virtual apparel for people's avatars to wear in the metaverse."
It sounds ideal, a virtual reality Garden of Eden. Yet, given the money being invested, there is potential for bribery and corruption, for unethical practices not addressed by current laws.
There is also the personal impact of living in virtual realities. When we can live in multiple realities, do we need to engage deeply and soulfully with any reality or flit like a butterfly, trying to avoid anything that becomes "too heavy" in any reality?
Despite the legal and ethical concerns, the metaverse may pose, given the money invested and the race by corporations to establish themselves as leaders in virtual realities, as businesses, we need to prepare for these new realities.
How do we do this?
Continue with our existing marketing strategies.
The products we are building and creating today will likely become doorways into the metaverse in the future. However, in continuing the strategies, we need to ensure they are underpinned by a strong ethical foundation.
Our marketing strategy needs to be client-focused and centered around meeting their needs or solving their problem. The ethics of our strategy will guide us as we move into virtual realities.
Experiment with the early glimmers of the future
It is essential to try out and experiment with new technologies that can assist our current operations. For example, Facebook recently unveiled Horizon Workroom, a new method for office workers to communicate using virtual reality and headsets.
Microsoft is also investing in creating a digital twin of the real world in which we can conduct business via mixed reality.
The advantage of these experiments is that they get us familiar with using mixed or virtual realities. We have a clearer understanding of how and where we can use these realities most effectively.
3. Ask yourself – what would I do if all the existing physical limitations of the world were removed?
As challenging as it may be to think about, it is in considering and answering this question that we can begin to understand the potential of the metaverse and how it will impact business delivery in years to come.