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THE METAVERSE HAS ARRIVED – HERE ARE 4 PLACES IT WILL TAKE US

Wed Sep 28 2022 Michael McQueen

We are already seeing the metaverse transform things. All the way from work to play, this immersive and interactive version of the internet is engaging users across every field of life.

It’s worth noting that as recently as July 2021, the word ‘metaverse’ was nowhere to be found in the world of business and technology. While the term itself had been used by science fiction writers previously, the idea of a metaverse entered the mainstream lexicon in late 2021 when Mark Zuckerberg and others began to tout it as the way of the future. Facebook’s high-profile rebranding as Meta in October 2021 only solidified this idea.

By way of definition, the metaverse is an extensive virtual reality where people exist and interact through their avatars. Mark Zuckerberg refers to it as the “embodied internet” – not something we log onto but somewhere we essentially live, work and play.[1] As industry analyst Emily Safian-Demers suggests, the metaverse is “about virtual and physical sharing the same space.  You’re not online or offline. We’re just in it—there’s no distinction anymore.”[2]

In financial terms, the metaverse will represent an $800 billion market opportunity by 2024 according to Bloomberg Intelligence.[3] When considering all the parts of our lives that are set to be lived out partially in the metaverse, these numbers are not hard to believe. Here are 4 fields of life that the metaverse is set to infiltrate.

1. Work

One of the areas the metaverse is making the most headway is in the workplace. In 2021, Meta launched its VR workplace solution, Horizon Workrooms, which is designed to facilitate a far more immersive and engaging meeting experience than a Zoom call, for instance. The platform allows users to virtually dial into a meeting or presentation format using an Oculus VR headset. Everything from the device a user is taking notes on to their gestures and facial expressions are replicated in the meeting via an avatar. The spatial audio feature of Horizon Workrooms means that users hear the voice of another virtual attendee from the direction of that person’s avatar.[4]

Among those making way for the metaverse in the workplace, Microsoft is leaving their mark with their virtual reality platform called Mesh. Designed to integrate with Microsoft teams, Mesh allows, “a shared, immersive experience,” according to CEO, Satya Nadella. 3D avatars interact in a shared virtual space, able to share and collaborate on virtual holograms. The same object can be seen in 3 dimensions, from different angles, by different people who can interact with it via their avatar.

However much the workplace has changed in the past 3 years, it is about to evolve even further.

2. Play

The benefits of the metaverse for areas like gaming are easy to see. VR is commonly associated with interactive gaming, with videos of users who are overenthusiastically immersed in their game frequently going viral. However, fun in the metaverse is not limited to gaming. Concerts in the metaverse are quickly gaining traction, as the capacities of virtual and augmented reality are opening live music up to global listeners. Twenty One Pilots, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande are among the first of those jumping on the technology, performing concerts in the metaverse that have been hosted by online gaming platforms like Roblox and Fortnite.[5]

3. Shopping

With the inability to try on clothing before buying being the primary disadvantage of online shopping, the metaverse is about to remove a lot of friction for shoppers. Companies like Amazon are set to create 3D body models for customers who will be able to virtually try on clothes in holographic form. This virtual try-on technology will enable customers to gain all the benefits of in-store shopping without leaving the home. AI will then go further to provide suggestions for styles and sizes, granting the customer as good a tailored experience as in-store could offer.[6]

However, the intersection of the metaverse and retail does not end there. Brands are using the technology to engage customers in new ways and open up new avenues for sales. In September 2021, skate footwear company Vans launched a virtual skate park in Roblox where users can try new tricks and earn points by hitting waffle-shaped floating coins while skating. They can use the points to redeem items such as virtual shoes and skateboard customizations.[7]  Within its first two months, ‘Vans World’ had attracted more than 48 million visitors.[8]

4. Love

The role of the metaverse is expanding even into those areas of life we perceive as the most necessarily physical, namely, love. Online dating apps are commonplace now, but they are about to burst into a new era, with metaverse-based versions beginning to proliferate. One such app, aptly named Nevermet, allows individuals to meet ‘in person’ in the virtual world. With the endless capacities of virtual reality being available, many dates are even more elaborate than they might be in real life. Users emphasise the benefits of being able to develop closer connections and share experiences in ways other versions of online dating cannot achieve. Eager to maintain their position on the dating scene, apps like Tinder and Bumble have expressed their interest in launching metaverse dating platforms, allowing users to meet in person online.[9]

It’s important to note that the metaverse is unlikely to replace our normal, lived reality. The value of meeting physically in workplaces, for concerts and on dates is not being forgotten. However, the capacities of this technologies are certain to enrich our experiences of the ever-expanding online world like we have never seen before.

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Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 9 books. His most recent book The New Now examines the 10 trends that will dominate a post-COVID world and how to prepare for them now. 

To see Michael speaking live, click here.

For more information on Michael's keynote speaking topics, michaelmcqueen.net/programs.

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[1] Heath, A. 2021, ‘Inside Facebook’s metaverse for work,’ The Verge, 19 August.

[2]  Safien-Demers, E. 2021, ‘How offline brands can prepare for the metaverse,’ Wunderman Thompson, 28 October.

[3]  2021, ‘Metaverse may be $800 billion market, next tech platform’, Bloomberg Intelligence, 1 December.

[4]  Heath, A. 2021, ‘Inside Facebook’s metaverse for work,’ The Verge, 19 August.

[5] Marr, B 2022, ‘The World Of Metaverse Entertainment: Concerts, Theme Parks, And Movies’, Forbes, 27 July.

[6] 2022, ‘The virtual fitting room: How Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, and others are using AI and AR to transform shopping’, CBInsights, 15 June.

[7]  Laporte, N. 2021, ‘Vans is launching its own world inside of Roblox,’ Fast Company, 1 September.

[8]  Bruell, A. 2021, ‘Brands no longer see metaverse-like worlds as abstract gimmicks,’ The Wall Street Journal, 29 November.

[9] Westenhaver, D 2022, ‘Looking For Love In The Metaverse’, Forbes, 7 August.