No physical interaction, no leaving your home, talking to people over the internet – a COVID nightmare, or the future of our society? The metaverse is a topic that has gained a lot of traction recently, particularly with Facebook’s rebranding to ‘Meta’ and its announcement that it will now be especially focused on creating its ‘metaverse’.
In order to understand what the metaverse is, it’s best not to think of it as a singular place, but rather as an adjustment in how we interact with the online world. Generally, it involves an aspect of virtual reality, whereby users access the metaverse through a ‘virtual reality headset’ that places them inside the world. Many companies are now looking at ways to capitalise on this, by creating ways for customers to interact with them in a virtual world as opposed to real life.
In essence, it isn’t too different from when you shop on the internet. The metaverse simply aims to make the experience more immersive, bringing you closer to the ‘real-life’ experience.
By now most of us have heard the crazy headlines – virtual real estate sales in the metaverse topped $500 million last year, with someone spending $630,000 just to buy a digital home next to musician ‘Snoop Dogg’. While stories like these may appear hard to relate to, there are genuine business applications ‘in’ the metaverse.
As technology advances, the face-to-face business meetings we have today could be replicated in the metaverse, allowing us to interact and converse in a more natural way, as opposed to awkward zoom calls. In terms of real estate, you could walk through a home you’re interested in and get a real sense of the space, without having to leave your living room. Or perhaps you want to ‘try on’ a multitude of outfits without going through the hassle of going through the store and finding everything.
In a post-COVID society, businesses are scrambling to find ways to continue to exist, without the threat of pandemics and lockdowns. The metaverse may be key to providing a way for businesses and customers to interact, regardless of what is happening in the outside world. Is it a case of “get on the bus or get left behind”? Maybe not. A recent survey by research firm Gartner found that 63% of CEO’s see the metaverse as not applicable or unlikely to be a key technology for their business.
In reality, we are a long way off from the metaverse becoming the norm. However, like with any new technology, having an early awareness could open opportunities for many businesses, while ignoring it could see businesses get left behind.