The metaverse is taking shape and creating opportunities. Going forward, these immersive technologies and augmented environments will change the nature of business and life. People will act and interact in different ways, they will shop and purchase goods in augmented and 3D worlds, and new types of products and services will appear.
While the metaverse incorporates elements of the web, smartphone apps, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), it’s important to recognize that it’s more than a linear extension of today’s digital tools. The mashup of these various technologies will fundamentally change online interactions. As a result, it’s wise for business leaders to plan for the metaverse now. As pieces of this puzzle combine, coalesce and take shape, those that establish a robust framework—with talent and technology—will be equipped to navigate this new virtual world, expand their opportunities, create new experiences and value, etc.
It’s essential to understand what the metaverse is and what it isn’t. Although definitions vary, the metaverse exists as a persistent space with virtual content that delivers lifelike digital interactions. For example, immersive 3D environments on PCs and smartphone apps might dip into a metaverse and intersect with people accessing the metaverse through virtual reality. This is called a multi-modal experience.
With this, people will drop in and out of these spaces during the course of a day. They might peruse a 3D virtual storefront using a laptop or virtual reality headset, view items of interest — clothes, food, electronics, travel destinations, virtual objects, whatever — step through immersive environments, watch videos and gather information, and then head to a physical store. There, augmented reality on a smartphone might guide them to the products they previously looked at.
While the excitement around this topic is growing, a bit of perspective is necessary. The Metaverse has been quietly taking shape over the last several years. At this point, it isn’t a brand-new world to build from scratch. It’s more like a digital jigsaw puzzle that hasn’t yet been assembled.
Here are four critical factors that will make or break your organization’s metaverse strategy –
As people move between physical stores and digital locations, populating a storefront in the metaverse with the same products that line the shelves of a physical store is essential. This necessitates the use of digital twins, which create a virtual copy of a physical item, such as a pair of shoes, a piece of furniture, or even a house. In addition, there’s a need for 3D avatars because visitors to the Metaverse spend most of their time and money using their own digital identity – their 3D avatar.
Ideally, portability enables users bring their digital investments with them – once they switch to a different metaverse. It’s likely that the digital identity used to navigate the metaverse will take on greater importance than a Facebook profile photo was in 2010. 3D avatars will become ubiquitous. New ways for avatars to interact will emerge. And how people use these avatars and identities will change.
Once portable assets exist, the next step is to get them in front of an audience. While this is a straightforward proposition for a webpage because we have web browsers, things get more complicated with AR and VR in the metaverse.
This is where 3D rendering engines come into play. They deliver the fidelity and interactivity that the metaverse demands. Already, 3D engines from Unity and Unreal deliver deep and long-form experiences while Adobe Mercury serves up short-form interactive experiences in AR. There are also platform-specific solutions like Snap. Selecting the right delivery engine is key. It’s also critical to pull the right analytics from the engine. This makes it possible to determine how successful your content is and what is driving engagement.
In the metaverse, it’s vital that humans feel they are speaking and interacting with other humans. This is what makes an experience seem real—and compelling. Extended reality (XR) makes this possible. It melds virtual elements and introduces a human-machine interface that makes AI seem “human.”
With the combination of 3D, XR, and AI, it’s possible to have human-like digital companions populating our lives. Even more remarkably, these companions can understand who we are, what we’re looking for, and help at the precise moment we need it. But this cannot happen without preparation, including building talent and forming teams that understand everything from visuals and user experience to AI integration. A whole new world of human-machine interactions is in the making.
The nature of the metaverse is that it is “ persistent ”. With this, it’s important to attract people to your place and have activities that are enjoyable, rewarding and easy to participate in. Much like any new meaningful product or service, the need is to promote what you’re doing in the metaverse and make it easy to explore, engage, perform tasks, have new and rewarding experiences, etc. Further, with people moving from one metaverse to another, the expectation is they can do this seamlessly, quickly, and can pick up exactly where they left off from their previous visit — and overlay these experiences with actual premises and geography.
For this to occur, be mindful of complications when visitors may assemble in a completely virtual space, a virtual reality copy of the real world, or an actual physical location, with content layers created through augmented reality. This is no small challenge for content creators. In the case of a purely virtual world, like a video game, we can build experiences that take place in an ever-expanding virtual territory with a constantly changing map. However, when it comes to AR, actual physical spaces in the real world must overlap with the user’s experience. Therefore, locating persistent experiences at a micro level — even down to a centimeter at planet scale — becomes key to creating a compelling experience. Already, there are Virtual Positioning Systems (VPS) from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Niantic, and others. Since it’s difficult to predict which will prevail, it’s a good idea to implement a level of abstraction above those solutions or to look for one that’s easily integrated and highly flexible.
Recognizing the hype and uncertainty with new technologies having significant potential, it’s important to understand what your metaverse and capabilities need to be – today and in the future.
In addition, you need to determine how to – identify and make good on opportunities, attract visitors, have appeal, create and monetize value, etc.
This is where being good at business innovation and learning fast is important. While an option could be to dismiss the concept or wait a while, you would miss out on new learnings and risk falling behind more agile and forward-looking organizations – in your industry, related industries, and big Tech. Because of the upside potential and the huge risks of missing out, is why now is a good time to explore the options for your organization to leverage current competencies and have new abilities in the metaverse to increase relevance and revenue.
To succeed in the metaverse and this emerging world, business leaders must learn about the current framework and future possibilities, amass business and technical talent, and build a technology foundation that’s powerful and flexible enough to make good on opportunities in the metaverse.