Are you “Ready Player1?” This is the new reality where all worlds meet. And it is not a game. A fully-fledged metaverse has not yet materialised, but as virtual and augmented reality technologies advance, its arrival is imminent.
First referred to in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, the metaverse blends the physical and the digital and has since been referred to as the embodied internet, the digital twin of our world and the convergence of virtual and physical realities where communities can socialize, share experiences and where there is continuity (presence). It is powered by a virtual economy. Imagine this – you can go to a virtual store with your avatar and buy shoes for your virtual persona; then go to a Zara store for an outfit that gets delivered in your physical world, and then you pop into a Roblox virtual concert. After that you go to the beach with friends. All these worlds merging, connected by the Metaverse.
Imagination is the limit to what can be done. Real progress will happen when we see past the obvious and welcome the dawn of a new age, where it is time for new metaphors because XR is more than a novelty. Reality Engineers and new talent will assist in creating an enhanced reality and new business models will emerge. Focus will be on experience ahead of technology although technology will be the enabler.
What is possible now that was not possible before? Communities can construct a new world from political campaigns to real estate (instead of buying a website, you can buy a building or a gallery) and entertainment. It is forcing consumers and brands to rethink our conception of places and spaces – liminal spaces are already revolutionizing art and culture. MoFE has an installation Liminality that evokes a dreamlike experience for the senses and ZeroSpace Museum creates an art playground in an immersive experience.
Luxury brands have led the way in the new metaverse creating experiences to attract the new generation. LVMH have developed an NFT in Louis The Game. 30 NFTs created by the artist Beeple (who sold an NFT at Christies for $69 million) were placed in different locations for players to find. Balenciaga released a collection of digital clothes in Fortnite. It was the first high fashion label to do a drop within Fortnite. Gucci released a limited collection of handbags on Roblox, selling them in a virtual “Gucci Garden”. Ralph Lauren released a 100,000-unit collection on the Zepeto Metaverse. It sold out in a few weeks. The business model here is also interesting as additional revenue streams are generated in a virtual world without needing to physically produce goods.
Mainstream brands have also entered the Metaverse. Procter & Gamble’s Herbal Essences, in partnership with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, enable their consumers to visit a virtual garden and authenticate natural, plant derived ingredients in the product line. For each authentication, a tree is planted, reinforcing P&G’s commitment to sustainability. Coca-Cola launched a line of NFTs based on some of their most iconic brand assets, in honor of International Friendship Day for a charity auction benefiting the Special Olympics. The NFT collection immediately went viral, shared widely by desirable influencers. Walmart is planning to create its own cryptocurrency and collection of NFTs and that it filed several new trademark applications. The news was viewed as an indication of Walmart’s intent to make and sell virtual goods, capable of generating large, profitable, incremental, new revenue streams.
Many Metaverse lands can be entered only through the purchase of an NFT: kind of a ticket to an exclusive club that allows access to community Discord chats. Some NFT collections organize exclusive real-life events or distribute physical merchandise for club-members only. In NIKELAND in the Roblox Metaverse, fans can connect, create their own mini games, compete, and share experiences. Nike learns from the creativity of the community.
In the metaverse, content creators will have the freedom to monetize their content however they choose without interference from the host platform. In Roblox, developers can unanimously decide the price of their game passes and in-game assets. Roblox provides all the tools and platform services to host and manage your game at zero cost. This is different to the approach that big-tech companies like Apple and Google operate. Apple charges an annual fee of $99 to list an app, and they take a cut of 30% on the app revenue. Thirty percent is a lot to an up and-coming developer. Music artists and fashion designers can all go on the metaverse and monetize their content without having to pay one big tech company excessive amounts of money to host their content.
In the present-day internet, a large portion of our lives is online – from our communication to our work ecosystem and our economy. Most economic transactions including production, sales, distribution, or consumption, occur on the internet because it is faster, easier, and accurately time-stamped (recorded).
And as we propagate towards a more realistic, faster, real-time experience, even more of our transactions will move online. There are moves to move our financial system online with the advent of cryptocurrencies and decentralized finance networks.
Some regard it as an escape from a dystopian reality as global economies crash; federal governments lose power, and a few giant corporations control the world. There will no doubt be an impact on how people step into a new way of living and communicating. This has and will create serious security gaps for individuals and society. Cybersecurity is an important focus and will need to become a critical component of the metaverse and its people and behaviour. There has already been a lot of reported fraud and bad behaviour. The latter has been excused by the perpetrators and they feel they can bully and misbehave in another dimension. There is not a clear road to all things bright and beautiful.
“Before long, billions of people around the world were working and playing in the OASIS every day. Some of them met, fell in love, and got married without ever setting foot on the same continent. The lines of distinction between a person’s real identity and that of their avatar began to blur. It was the dawn of new era, one where most of humanity now spent all their free time inside a videogame.” ― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
The technology behind the Internet was created to achieve new transparency and undiscovered values for the user. The longer we are dependent on the cyber dimension,the more one-sided its benefits have become. It has become a medium for providers and data collectors and it us set to implode if it continues.
Let us invite a positive impact on society in this new hyper-personalised metaverse and hope that the data universe and technology giants bring purpose and meaning back to the people so that there is true mutuality, and a better world is restored. We hope that we can collaborate across borders with thought leaders across business, politics, education, healthcare functions and areas of expertise in applied sciences, finance, mobility, and industrial production amongst others. A REAL LIVING PURPOSEFUL OASIS ACROSS THE METAVERSE, PRACTISING MUTUALITY, NOT A FANTASY ONE.
References The Sci-fi guru who predicted Google Earth explains Silicon Valley’s latest obsession. Vanity Fair, Joanna Robinson, 06.23.2017. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/06/neal-stephenson-metaverse-snow-crash-silicon-valley-virtual-reality The Swiss platform for cybersecurity. https://swisscybersecuritydays.ch/the-swiss-platform-for-cyber-security/ This is how the metaverse might be monetized. Stefan Brambilla Hall & Cathy Li. World Economic Forum, 02.02.2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/02/metaverse-monetization-business-guide/ Why NFTs And The Metaverse Can Be So Strategic For Brands, Even Providing Profitable New Business Models And Revenue Streams. Michelle Greenwald, Forbes, 02.03.2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michellegreenwald/2022/02/03/why-nfts-and-the-metaverse-can-be-so-strategic-for-brands-even-providing-profitable-new-business-models-and-revenue-streams/?sh=793ef8f43a6f What Is a Metaverse? Ashutosh Gupta, Gartner, 01.28.2022, https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/what-is-a-metaverse What Is The Metaverse? Everything You Need To Know As a Brand In The Digital World. Underreality, 03.11.2022.https://underreality.com/insights/what-is-the-metaverse-everything-you-need-to-know-as-a-brand-in-the-digital-world/Our Global MBA in Digital Business that Tania has completed is been designed for professionals who want to foster their technological and decision-making skills and add a differential value to increase their competitiveness in the global market.