It’s hard to resist the vision that Meta (formerly Facebook) and other virtual world platforms weaves into our heads. A digital utopia that can change lives in so many ways – be it how we socialize, work or even stay healthy – is hard to reject.
This is especially true when you consider that these platforms are being described as the greatest technological disruption to human life and a multi-trillion dollar opportunity for businesses. However, some are skeptical that this is all too good to be true — at least for now.
It lacks the technological architecture that would bring this promised immersive experience to life. Take the example of live performances used in October’s Facebook Metaverse video. The idea of experiencing these authentic real-world sensations through a headset seems far-fetched. What seems even more unlikely is that a virtual reality headset will become a household must-have.
Advanced VR gear will most likely be required to enable us to immerse ourselves in these virtual worlds. However, customers have so far resisted buying the often expensive and bulky VR headsets and other hardware. The first Oculus headset was launched more than five years ago. It hasn’t achieved anywhere near the same mainstream acceptance as more compact and convenient hardware like the cellphone or laptop.
Expensive equipment is not a necessity for the foundations of the Metaverse. It’s accessibility that’s key to onboarding users to any technological innovation.
Pokémon GO is the perfect case study. The augmented reality game brought users into the real world and collected the titular fictional creatures. It was successful not only because of the addictive gameplay, but also because of its accessibility – anyone with a mobile phone could participate.
Related: More games and less money make better Metaverse games
Use cases and the metaverse
We’ve been seeing accessible Metaverse platforms for a while. Second Life was one of the first, launched in 2003. But in its 19-year history, it hasn’t come close to reaching Meta’s target number of users.
Decentraland is a newer platform and has caught on since the meta announcement. It captures corporate imaginations by incorporating economic and blockchain elements such as NFTs and its MANA token.
With customers tied to their homes by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the demise of brick-and-mortar stores, Decentraland gives brands the opportunity to revitalize audience engagement.
Rather than just filling a virtual basket, companies have leveraged these existing metaverse platforms with creativity in mind. JPMorgan bought virtual real estate and opened its own Metaverse lounge. Suddenly, being able to open a real bank account in a virtual world doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.
Related: The Metaverse is booming and bringing a revolution to the real estate industry
There are more subtle tactics to get users talking about a brand. Take pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which gave vaccinated players a blue badge for their avatar.
In these virtual worlds, it’s not just the marketing team that gets their hands dirty. There are many ways for sales reps to monetize content and monetize the Metaverse.
This is what blockchain technology has been waiting for in the wings. NFTs add real-world value to digital goods and are perfect for the metaverse. Artists can trade virtual paintings, architects can sell digital properties, engineers can auction Metaverse-based vehicles.
Related: Blockchain-enabled digital fashion creates new business models for brands
Fashion is currently the industry that arouses the most interest. When the Metaverse becomes a staple of modern life, users will want to look good. High fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have sold NFTs and commanded the most premium prices.
Ecommerce giants are also jumping on this trend, creating a healthy, competitive space. Nike bought virtual footwear company RTFKT to build a Metaverse-powered brand.
Acquisitions could be crucial for large companies to survive in this rapidly changing virtual environment. Having a young, capable and forward-thinking team could mean the difference between sinking and swimming.
Not without problems
While the rules of the metaverse are yet to be proposed, let alone agreed upon, some of the problems that have plagued the internet are already beginning to plague our shiny new reality. The newly released Horizon Worlds is Meta’s first Metaverse project for the Oculus VR headsets. Currency.com has previously reported on sexual harassment in this metaverse, as well as the dangers lurking in the corners of other platforms.
Social platform toxicity is nothing new, but its resolution in the Metaverse will be critical if it is to be a digital utopia. Enterprises and, more importantly, users will struggle to buy into a future ruled by hostile virtual realities.
Related: If the glass slipper doesn’t fit, smash it: Unraveling the myth of gender equality in cryptography
Meta has already implemented a solution in the form of a “safe zone” that can act as a protective bubble where no one can touch or speak to a user. It also makes it as easy as possible to block others.
While Meta has outlined these general plans for community moderation, it has yet to make detailed proposals for overseeing a full-scale metaverse. Regulating hate, harassment and freedom of expression may be the biggest stumbling block.
Horizon Worlds gives the impression that it is an experiment that tests the current abilities of the metaverse. There is no public timeframe for the release of Meta’s full Metaverse or any other similar platform. So, theoretically, it could take years or even decades for the metaverse to become part of everyday life.
This hasn’t stopped companies from announcing Metaverse plans or embarking on existing platforms, be it JPMorgan, Disney, Adidas, Coca-Cola, or Gucci. But the blurry delivery times evoke comparisons to the dot-com bubble and its equally long promise of sales pitches. Without delivery, there is a risk that this too will become a bubble, with the associated risk that it will eventually burst.
Related: Why Are Big Global Brands Experimenting with NFTs in the Metaverse?
As the dust has yet to settle on Facebook’s rebranding, it’s too early to tell. It’s certainly plausible that there’s a place for the Metaverse in the world, but it falls far short of the immersive, idyllic vision we’re being sold by those hoping to capitalize on it.
This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendation. Every investment and trading move involves risk and readers should do their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Stephen Gregory is the US CEO of Currency.com, where he is responsible for developing and managing the platform’s growth strategy in the US and Canada. Currency.com is a high-growth crypto exchange that saw its customer base grow by 343% in 2021, becoming one of the fastest growing cryptocurrency exchange platforms in Europe.
https://cointelegraph.com/news/there-is-room-for-the-metaverse-in-2022-but-the-virtual-space-is-far-from-perfect There’s room for the Metaverse in 2022, but the virtual space is far from perfect