By Kim Callaghan
Metaverse. Sounds a little sci-fi, right? The term was coined by an American author, Neal Stephenson, in his dystopian sci-fi novel, Snow Crash. So yes, it’s a bit sci-fi, but it’s also become a part of today’s reality. Parts of the metaverse are already in operation and the creation of a complete, universal, cross-platform metaverse is coming.
So what is it? The metaverse is the universe that’s inside of video games, the internet and smartphones. It comes from meta, which means ‘beyond’ and verse, which refers to the universe. It includes the digital things that people wear, see and use, including digitized versions of real-life places, buildings, roads and more.
Right now, the metaverse exists within certain games and apps and includes only the contents within those specific platforms. But the idea is that eventually, the metaverse will grow to include cross-platform data so that people can travel between games, platforms and websites. With a universal metaverse, when users travel between metaverse locations or apps, they maintain their virtual belongings, visuals, and any other data they include as part of the metaverse.
A lot of the metaverse will be accessible through virtual reality (VR) technology. Only 29% of gamers have VR devices, let alone members of the general population. So what’s the big deal about the metaverse? It sounds just like another thing for avid gamers to use.
Gamers might be the first adopters of the metaverse, but it is created for everyone. In the future, people will use the metaverse to interact with others, see different places, and visit distant friends and relatives. Metaverses are interactive, immersive, and collaborative - everything the younger generation value in online spaces
Epic Games is working hard to add to the metaverse, hosting virtual concerts attended by millions, and allowing users to interact with intellectual properties from Marvel and Star Wars, as well as other retail consumer goods. In Fortnite, users interact, talk, create and socialize in the digital world.
In the metaverse, most people act very similarly to how they do in person. While the metaverse offers the opportunity to construct a new identity, free of geography and social ties where one can take certain liberties, like trying death-defying stunts, gamers create avatars that are quite similar to their real-life personalities. They maintain their same personal preferences and interests, thus making the metaverse a more authentic reflection of reality.
People can talk and visit in the metaverse as if they are in the same room, even though other participants may be physically located across the world. The world in one room. Imagine how that can help with education, live events, conferences, concerts and business. In August 2021, Facebook announced the launch of their app, Horizon Workrooms. With Facebook’s Occular Quest 2 VR headset, remote workers users can work together in a virtual workspace using the app.
The metaverse is about as close as we will ever get to teleportation. It might be digital, but it gives us the capability of visiting any place at any time, all from the comfort of our living room - or wherever we choose to access it.
From a business perspective, the metaverse takes content marketing one step further. It offers the potential for brands to showcase their products, including clothing, goods, real estate, galleries, stadiums and parks, to visitors across the globe.
In 2018, the popular food chain, Wendy’s organized a ‘food fight’ mission in Fortnite and asked players to go after ‘Durr Burger’ the in-game restaurant, to mock their competitors. This request gained them 7500 Twitch followers (they had none before) who made 43,500 comments during the game.
Companies will need to find out how their customers interact in the metaverse and target their customers accordingly. Customers will react negatively to brands that create billboard-type or direct advertisements, as these will degrade their metaverse experience. Instead, brands will need to engage their customers. It will be an excellent opportunity for brands to connect with their audiences and become a valuable part of their metaverse lives.
Companies can create challenges or tasks for metaverse users to complete, either for rewards or as part of advertising campaigns. They can create stores to replicate real-life versions of retail locations, and people could try on clothing or test other items virtually. It would allow users to see and examine the products and places that interest them.
They could purchase items in a virtual store and own both the physical object and the digital version, such as an NFT, that exists in the metaverse. Or, if they have no use for a physical object, they could purchase the digital version and show it off to their friends who visit them in the virtual world.
So, why have a metaverse? It’s the next step to connecting people and brands virtually. As we become more interactive online, the metaverse will become an extension of our real lives. A place that anyone can visit, anywhere in the world.
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