The Metaverse: what you need to know about the Next Big Thing
Perhaps you’ve heard the term ‘metaverse’ and wondered what it means, and what it might mean for your business. Here’s what you need to know about ’the next big thing,’ which may be here sooner than you think.
Definition of metaverse
The dictionary definition of metaverse is ‘a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.’ It’s also been described as the convergence of physical, augmented reality and virtual reality in a shared online space. In short, in the metaverse, people can interact with one another as avatars in cyberspace.
What is the metaverse used for?
While the first practical uses for the metaverse will likely be gaming applications, there will be many uses for this emerging technology.
Picture a brick-and-mortar retail clothing store. You can walk in, look around, choose clothes off the rack and try them on. In the metaverse, your avatar, which looks just like you, right down to your physical measurements, can go into a virtual clothing store. Once there, you can also look around, choose clothes off the rack and try them on. The difference is, you can do it from anywhere in the world.
The metaverse will change the way you conduct business in other ways. The virtual meeting over Zoom or Webex has become commonplace since the pandemic, but the metaverse will take this one step further. Rather than seeing your colleagues on a two-dimensional computer screen, you’ll be able to see and interact with their avatars the way you used to do in ‘real life.’
In manufacturing, the metaverse will allow products to be created and tested virtually, which will let engineers identify problems before manufacturing even starts.
One critical feature of the metaverse is interoperability. Ultimately, multiple metaverses will exist, but they need to be able to interact with each other. You’ll need to be able to access the metaverse you want regardless of the device you’re using to do it.
Who will create these metaverses?
There are several companies that have metaverses in various stages of development. Looking at where each of these companies is headed can provide some insight into how the metaverse is being used now, and may be used in the future.
Look no further than Mark Zuckerberg’s recent decision to rename Facebook ‘Meta’ to see how committed this company is to the metaverse as the future of technology. In 2021, the company invested $10 billion in metaverse R&D. Zuckerberg calls the metaverse the ‘successor to the internet’ and the ‘embodied internet.’ You can be sure Meta will be at the forefront of the metaverse, both literally and figuratively.
Epic Games, creator of Fortnight, recently completed a $2 billion round of funding, $1 billion of which came from gaming giant Sony. This investment is likely to fund Epic’s development of a gaming metaverse which will support its Fortnight and Unreal platforms.
Gaming may lead the way to the metaverse, but retail isn’t far behind. Fast fashion juggernaut Zara has teamed up with Zepeto, a South Korean metaverse that already has over 2 million daily users. This metaverse has its own currency which users can use to purchase the physical garments they shop for and try on virtually.
Disney may have a leg up on many other metaverse hopefuls, with their experience in animation and technology. In fact, Disney already has a patent to create interactive attractions at its theme parks that are customized for each visitor.
How will the metaverse actually work?
Here’s an example of how a metaverse might work in the not-too-distant future.
Suppose you have a new business and you know you need to get business insurance. Today, you’d go online to a website like Hiscox.com and look around at the different options. Then you’d answer some questions about your business – what type of business, where you’re located, how many employees you have, how long you’ve been in business, and so on. Then, you’d get a recommendation for the type(s) of insurance you should have, and a quote so you’ll know how much it will cost.
In the metaverse, you’d don your headset and walk into a Hiscox ‘store.’ You’d be greeted by a licensed insurance advisor, who would ask you some questions about your business. They might ask you to specify exactly what you do or who your customers are. And you could ask questions too. You’d get a recommendation and a quote from the advisor, but you could ask them specifically what it includes, and whether you could make adjustments to bring your costs down. While you’re there, you might also get some information on resources for small business, or you could ‘run into’ another business owner you know!
This might sound very futuristic and far-fetched, but it’s not. It wasn’t long ago when most businesses didn’t have a mobile app and didn’t see the need for one. The metaverse is the same – before you know it, it will just be an accepted part of doing business.