Experienced internet connoisseurs will know a good buzzword when they see it. The latest in a series of them is the conceptual metaverse, touted as an all-inclusive virtual reality experience for people who perhaps prefer not to touch grass all that often.
The totally real, breathing and living fellow human being (definitely not a lizard person in disguise) Mark Zuckerberg is trying his best to lead the charge with an all-encompassing rebrand of Facebook to Meta. But people aren’t really asking for a modern Second Life clone which is seemingly what is on offer here.
Tangible value in a metaverse stems not from a total replacement of existing platforms, but instead a complementary experience which enhances existing mediums.
One of the aspects enthusiasts like to talk about is the potential for meetings, which at rapid pace have moved online since the pandemic and have mostly stayed there, in a sense that you can gather in a virtual reality room and walk around.
Those of you who have sat in meetings waiting for your turn to talk while irrelevant (to you) topics are discussed might delight in this. Conversations can turn into offshoots as efficient-minded people split off and discuss matters with the appropriate colleagues without disrupting the flow of the main meeting.
It possibly won’t be natural at first, but indicates wider scope for a business-focused metaverse to revolutionize how our workspaces, now often conducted virtually, can be adjusted to better fit the perennially online nature of work.
Now we get onto the subject which has marketers salivating in anticipation. For decades the 18-34 age group has been the crème de la crème in terms of who brands want their adverts to be placed in front of. Funnily enough, these are also the most likely consumers to log on to a metaverse for meetings or leisure.
Beyond the potential for immersive ads, in the next decade we are going to see a radical shift in retail markets. Right now, if you’re lucky, there will be an app designed to streamline the shopping experience. But in the future, you might be able to use a headset whether browsing online or in-store, offering consumers the chance to ‘try on’ outfits digitally or shop throughout aisles in a digital grocery store.
Customer service agents meanwhile will be afforded much higher agency than ever before. Effectively standing right next to you, though digitally, they can pull up policies and direct you in what is basically an in-person experience — all from the comfort of your desk or living room.
Exploring digital worlds created by others is made possible by metaverse development and this is why experts are predicting it to take off in a big way. You can climb a mountain, cycle in rural Italy or, and this could be huge, play video games in lobbies which give the feel of an in-person experience.
There is plenty of work left to do before this becomes (virtual) reality. However, the effects on mental health could be a massive boon to the human race. There are many out there who depend on video games for a social life, yet are not put in the position to practice body language and other vital social skills. In the metaverse, these same people will be placed into low-stakes, high reward social situations with others from a range of different backgrounds.
Though it might be too early to say properly developed, mature metaverses can help cure social division and tensions, potential abounds for it to move users towards a more inclusive society which exists above the petty.
Right now, the internet can be faceless. With the metaverse it can be so much more personalized and at the same time, incredibly fun.