Next Stop: The Metaverse

Meet the virtual world beyond the Internet where people can exist as avatars to work or participate in social, recreational, or commercial activities.
December 30, 2021
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In October 2021, Facebook announced its new company name: Meta. According to CNBC, “Facebook, now known as Meta, has adopted the new moniker, based on the sci-fi term metaverse, to describe its vision for working and playing in a virtual world.” Facebook has confronted many criticisms over the years and hasn’t always responded to them effectively. But one thing the company does well is understand emerging trends, and the trend it’s seeing now is the future of the metaverse. 

For Facebook, the new direction has meant a shift in focus toward hardware-based services, such as virtual reality headsets. But the metaverse will mean different things to different types of companies. To help you sort out what it might mean for your business, in this post we address what the metaverse is, some of its applications, and how it’s likely to evolve in the coming years. 

The Metaverse Defined 

The metaverse is a virtual world beyond the internet where people can exist as avatars to perform work or participate in social, recreational, or commercial activities. This vision doesn’t exist in full today, but you can experience elements of it when you play games or use platforms designed to bring virtual work teams together. In its Metaverse Cheat Sheet, TechRepublic explains, “If you’ve played Animal Crossing or Fortnite, those online worlds give a hint of what the metaverse could look like.” 

While the metaverse does contain elements of virtual reality, they are not one and the same. Rather, their relationship can be compared to the relationship between the mobile internet and mobile apps. The familiar headsets associated with virtual reality may be needed to access the metaverse in the early stages. However, experts foresee a time when they won’t be, when the metaverse and real life (known in discussions of the metaverse as “meatspace”) will coexist side by side. 

Metaverse Use Cases

As metaverse technology evolves, watch for deployments in the following areas. 

  • Manufacturing. Metaverse technology can make it possible for warehouse workers to gain access to technical assistance projected onto their workspace. 
  • Training. Metaverse platforms can be used to train professionals in fields as diverse as medicine, education, machine repair, and the military. 
  • Healthcare. Doctors can use virtual reality components to view critical information about their patients while they are performing surgeries. 
  • Education. Teachers and students can gather in virtual spaces to mimic the experience of in-person learning or take lifelike field trips to historical sites. 
  • Real estate. House hunters can tour a home from a different city, state, or even country. 
  • Hybrid work. The metaverse will be able to connect workers no matter where they are in or what kind of environment they’re working from. 
  • Sports and entertainment. Operators will be able to capture live performances and put metaverse users right into the action. 
  • Retail. Shoppers will have a cross between online and live shopping when they visit immersive virtual stores. 

How It’s Relevant to Your Business

In a recent article and associated video, futurist Bernard Marr describes several areas where businesses can benefit from the metaverse:

  • Advertising. Just as the internet is filled with advertising possibilities, the metaverse will be as well. 
  • Event sponsorships. Marr notes, “As more events and concerts are hosted in the metaverse, companies will have a plethora of opportunities for potentially profitable sponsorships.”
  • Digital-only products. Marr explains, “Pretty much anything people have in the real world might be something they want to buy for the metaverse, from cool clothes and outfits to homes, cars, and other things we can’t even imagine right now.” 
  • Remote work. Companies that provide online workspace platforms will have the opportunity to make their offerings metaverse-friendly. 
  • Games. While the metaverse isn’t limited to gaming, games are a big part of its foundation. Companies that create games should be thinking about how they can shift to a metaverse-friendly model. 
  • Services to help companies move into the metaverse. Just as companies now take advantage of social media experts, they will need metaverse guides to help them make the transition. 
  • Metaverse hardware. Companies that make hardware to support the virtual world will be called upon to create things like haptic suits, lightweight glasses, and even contact lenses capable of helping people navigate the metaverse. 

Marr’s video explains in more detail business opportunities that will be made available within the metaverse: 

What to Look for in Coming Years

In the coming years, watch for technology capable of taking advantage of the building blocks already in place, such as multiplayer games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox. Metaverse-specific cryptocurrencies are likely to emerge, and they, along with the items they can purchase, will be usable between metaverse worlds. 

For example, “you could take your pixelated sword from a Roblox game and turn it into a powerful gun in Fortnite,” according to Sifted. Operators will also be scaling computing power to a point that’s capable of handling considerably more use. 

Time to Get Meta? 

While it’s important to look ahead and think about what applications the metaverse could have for your business, you may also want to wait a few years to see how some of the current challenges get resolved. For example, anything in the metaverse — like all other virtual and electronic services — must be programmed. Yet, the ethics of ensuring virtual assets are nondiscriminatory and equally accessible to everyone are still being worked out. 

Other challenges include a limited number of qualified engineers, designers, and administrators to operate the technology, intellectual property issues, and the potential for failed attempts to create a cohesive meta-landscape. Despite these limitations, however, the metaverse is likely to progress in a way similar to the internet. In other words, eventually, most businesses will want to have a presence there and it will be up to you to decide when you’re ready to jump in.

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