Into the Metaverse

With not a lot to work with in terms of "what" the metaverse is, it can be difficult to shape your companies roadmap to navigate into the future of this new idea.

We’ve all been hearing the metaverse hype for a while now, but the question businesses find themselves asking is “What does this mean for me?”. That is the right question to be asking and it is the question we will try to answer in this post.

Before we get into what the metaverse means for your business, we need to start with defining what is meant by “metaverse”. The hype around the term of late has turned it into yet another abstract, all-encompassing buzzword with no concrete definition, and it certainly means different things to different people. However, conceptually, we can extract some of the meaning that is relevant to our discussion today. The primary focus of the metaverse is more immersive experiences as opposed to simply screen viewing. This largely means virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences via headsets, glasses, various haptic feedback devices, and our phones. The idea is to enable things that were previously only possible in person or in the movies; things like attending a concert with friends while everyone is physically located in their own homes, or, in the case of AR, things like being at a baseball game and having relevant metadata always showing in your glasses, depending on where you are looking (e.g., the current batter’s batting average, or the pitcher’s pitch count, or the two-for-one deal that the hot dog vendor is offering).

Beyond the “what”, the other aspect to consider, and one that is just as abstract at present, is “where is the metaverse?”. Being still a fairly young concept in industry, there is not one unified vision of where things are at now and where they will go. The larger players in the space, like Facebook and Microsoft, would obviously love for the metaverse to be a single large walled garden that they fully control (meaning within Xbox, Oculus, and team communication software). Smaller companies and newer entrants in the space necessarily want and need a more decentralized and diverse metaverse; one that allows easily moving from one virtual world to another. Many also see the augmenting of the physical world as the place most development will happen long-term, as opposed to being fully contained in and only accessible through a VR headset. For now, though, things are mostly happening in the gaming and virtual reality space, and mostly within walled gardens.

Now that we’ve got a base understanding in place, how are these developments affecting your business? And, more importantly, what do you need to start doing to not get passed by? Certainly, we are still in the early days, and some of this stuff won’t be fully baked for a while (some of it will never be realized), but there are some things you should start thinking about. Right now, that largely revolves around creating a presence in the metaverse and starting to grow your footprint.

The focus of your presence in the metaverse will largely depend on the type of business you are running. At the end of the day, the presence you build out in the metaverse will generally parallel what you already have done or would do in the physical world. Below are some thoughts on the types of things to start considering, based on various situations:

Office employees: Start thinking about ways to add virtual reality enhancements to your team communication tools. This should always start with learning what your employees need and want to help them feel more productive.

Marketing and advertising: Start looking into ways to get advertising into games, vehicles, and all other virtual worlds. The big players will no doubt have solutions here, but find ways to be creative and to get in early.

Products that buyers like to see and feel before buying: For things like clothing and vehicles, buyers generally prefer to spend some in-person time with the product before purchasing. The advancements in virtual reality have made this something that can conceivably be done completely virtually. Moving now to create the interfaces that allow your customers to experience your products in this way will keep you ahead of the pack.

Street vendors, restaurants, brick and mortars, event venues: As previously alluded to, these are areas where augmented reality can really provide value. If you haven’t already, start looking into platforms that offer location-based augmented reality displays to get your business into their systems. Additionally, start looking at enhancing your own apps with functionality that can add to the experience (be it something similar to the sports enhancements mentioned earlier, or deals on products, or any other way to enhance the user experience at your location).

Companies looking to make money in the metaverse:

  • Content Creators: Start looking at the current NFT marketplaces. While these may presently still seem silly to many people, this technology will be an integral part of how third-party content works in the metaverse.
  • Tool makers: Make no mistake, the metaverse represents a potential gold rush, and the tried-and-true way to make money in a gold rush is by selling the tools that the miners need. This means things like content creation tools, tools to manage assets across virtual worlds, platforms or widget sets to facilitate and/or simplify development of some of the solutions described above. There will be an absolute ton of opportunity here.

While it can seem yet another reinvention of the wheel just for the sake of it, this is where things are headed over the coming decades. In much the same way that the web became more interactive and real-time, and that mobile became the dominant computing platform for the masses, the metaverse is inevitable. In reality, it is just an acceleration and a bit of a coalescing of the trends that have been forming over the last decade, but with new terminology. It will be a decades-long journey, but also fast-paced, so brace yourselves and head steadfastly forward into the metaverse.

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