"The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed." -William Gibson
The word Metaverse will undoubtedly be the most frequently used technology word of 2022. That is understandable; the virtual and augmented worlds the Metaverse represents are not just fascinating concepts, but will likely be the basis of innovation for the next era of computing.
On October 28th, 2021, Facebook made a key announcement: they renamed their parent company to “Meta”. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, asserted that “from now on, we’re going to be Metaverse first, not Facebook first."*
While this announcement might influence the way some people define the Metaverse (using an over-simplified and centralized view), it did shine a light on all of the work that pioneering companies have been doing in this space for many years.
The Metaverse is a virtual world where you can live life in parallel, and intersecting, with your life in the real world. Unlike the 2D internet of today, the Metaverse is made up of many interconnected virtual worlds. It is a space where builders make the rules and provide Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and mixed reality (XR) scenarios to appeal to all consumers/users. Using rapidly developing VR and AR devices that, like the desktop computer and mobile phone before them, will become the dominant platforms for the next 20 years, as the Metaverse moves from experimentation to mainstream adoption.
What does the Metaverse mean for you?
Like most early-stage technologies, the creations of early entrants can be primitive and disconnected, but the benefits are clear, and the early-stage experience isn’t deterring builders and consumers from finding viable uses.
New use cases are appearing daily as brands find ways to test the market implications of this tidal trend.
“I don’t think I’ll be allowed to pick [my daughter] up from school with a pair of sneakers that doesn’t have some sort of digital shadow [in coming years],” he said. “Maybe three months ago, brands were curious. Now every single one of those brand managers we speak to has to have a plan for NFTs.”
-Justin Banon, CEO and Co-founder of Boson Protocol
“Here we are, overeducated overthinkers, trying to spell out what the metaverse should be,” Loewenstein said. “Our users ended up showing us what the metaverse is. It turned out that these basic tools we’ve built, a lifelike avatar, joining from any device, and customizing any environment — those all actually allow people to interact with each other in a lot of different contexts.”
-Jacob Lowenstein, VP of Business Development & Strategy, Spatial
Business Applications of the Metaverse:
- Conduct natural, lifelike conversations with co-workers and customers around the globe, shifting time and space. 3D interactions are much more effective and natural, maximizing the benefit of communication that is 70% non-verbal.
- Automate customer interactions, transforming conversational bots into 3D avatar experiences.
- Operate a virtual business in a VR world where the owner can interact with prospective customers in a VR space that showcases their products, whether real-world items or virtual world NFT’s. Numerous art galleries moved into the metaverse when the pandemic prevented doing business in the real-world. Online has a "twin" in the Metaverse of our Winnipeg-based HQ. This main floor allows visitors to experience the space and meet with others. For the amount of international and remote Onliners we now have working with us, this is a fun tool to use for introducing them to our roots.
- This environment was built in Microsoft AltSpace, and can can be viewed via desktop here.
- However, for the most immersive & intended experience, visit AltSpace with your Oculus Quest and enter this access code: BAT342
- Provide a virtual “storefront” to greet, inform and educate customers.
- Simulate the real world for training purposes – whether it is a surgeon being trained using a virtual patient, a pilot docking a ship in a harbor, or an autonomous vehicle being trained inside a virtual world based on a digital twin. The Metaverse provides the ability to have simulated, repeatable and testable experiences, safely.
- Visualize and analyze complex data in a way that can be experienced, interacted with, and explored.
- Explore and experience a large-scale, real-world object, wherever you are. The object might be a gigantic mining truck, it could be a construction project to be built, a residential property to be insured, an urban plan, or an entire solar system. The Metaverse brings the object to life, in a way that is exact and easy to engage with.
- Embed a piece of a virtual world in the real world, using augmented reality to provide data and functions in the context of a real-world view. For example, you might want to see the shop floor blueprints appear virtually while on a job site.
- Provide completely immersive and spatially accurate visual/audio experiences, to improve communication in the fields of education, tourism, retail and others.
IMPACT 1: Converting Back to the Real World
Up until now, Digital Transformation has represented the transformation of physical products and services to the digital world; the Metaverse is the ultimate 'turning things to data’ transformation, adding a third dimension to everything we do. Any real-world item becomes data in the Metaverse and converts back to physical form or AR if brought back into the Real world. The reverse transformation begins with this question: how can I use a Metaverse virtual product in the Real world?
IMPACT 2: Digital Communication Advancement
We are in for a major evolutionary phase of how the public internet is constructed and experienced. The Metaverse is a new computing platform that uses rapidly developing VR and AR devices. Like the desktop computer and mobile phone, it will become the dominant computing platform for the next 20 years.
The pandemic has driven corporate virtualization on the inside (virtual meetings are now corporate norms), and accelerated Metaverse development on the outside (exploring better ways to engage with their customers and provide more immersive, virtual experiences). This evolution will take several years, but many use cases have already been realized or are very close to inception.
IMPACT 3: Interaction Intelligence- A New Measure?
Consider a virtual world where every aspect of that world, and your complete behavior and interaction with it, is observable data. If you glance twice at a billboard, the world will know. Where you look, what you touch, and how you spend your time in each place within the virtual world is necessarily part of the program, so to speak. Knowing where you are looking is needed to display it to you. Tracking what you are touching is needed so the system can react (for example, rotating a virtual book you might pick up and flip over). Monitoring you and others in each place is needed to facilitate all those interactions.
Just like when playing online video games or browsing the web today, much data will be generated, recorded, analyzed, processed, and even manipulated as you interact with the virtual worlds in the Metaverse. You will be able to decide how you appear, where you go, and what you do. So will everyone else. Our very presence in the Metaverse will be tracked and governed by each world; an inescapable observer literally in the virtual room with you. New requirements and standards that translate today's privacy and security concerns to these immersive worlds will necessarily emerge, and existing standards will be re-expressed in terms of the new technologies and constructs.
IMPACT 4: Intersections Between Worlds
An interesting part of the Metaverse is the intersections between worlds, where the Real, Digital, Virtual and Augmented worlds intersect. Where business is transacted using platforms and experiences that are woven together. The loom for weaving this experience does not exist yet, and this is a major area of research for Online's Innovation Lab.
Our portfolio of services is evolving to assist our clients with what we call Up-Dimensioning™ - adding that new 3rd dimension of opportunities to how they conduct business.
While the real impact of the Metaverse cannot be quantified, what we can determine is that the opportunities and business applications are only limited by the creativity of the builders this new frontier.
For more information about how these technological advancements can turn into opportunities for your organization, contact our Innovation Lab today.
Allow us to provide you with an executive briefing, and be your virtual tour guides.
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