The metaverse may seem like an overwhelming prospect to many. In some possibilities it can be seen as a stark departure from the internet we are currently using; some see it as a fully 3D virtual reality (VR) space, while others view Web3 as a more consumer accessible experience guided by our smartphones. Whether you’re gung-ho for the next internet revolution or a little more trepidatious, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about the metaverse.
Fear of Web3 is natural – we’ve become very attached to our Web2 lives, but much like the original advent of the internet, we’re standing on the precipice of something which could change the digital landscape for the better. It’s going to take a while for us to get used to the changes or see how some of them will directly benefit us, but as more creative and innovative people come forward, we’ll see some genuinely mind-blowing changes to our digital lives.
For Those who Want to Express Themselves
Our online identities are becoming more important than ever. In Web1 we were a static avatar on a message board or a blank face behind a keyboard. As we moved into Web2, our identity grew and we established who we were with social networks, or photos and videos shared. With the advent of Web3, the possibilities grow into a more 3D oriented concept. We will be able to display ourselves as 3D avatars which can be dressed and animated to either represent how we see ourselves in reality or become something new and unique.
Much of this expression will be done through micro-transactions and NFTs (non-fungible tokens), allowing us to buy clothes or avatar items in order to sculpt a visual identity for others to interact with. Some avatars will be bought ‘off the peg’, some will be designed from scratch; all of our Web3 avatars will range from the casual to the outlandish and all will mingle together in the metaverse. Users will be able to design clothes and accessories for each other, swap and sell items, or even become a different species. There has never been a better time to express yourself.
For the Collectors and Investors
It’s time to talk NFTs. Whatever your thoughts on the Blockchain movement, NFTs are here to stay. You may aspire to one day own an ape or punk, or you might not really care about them at all, but you need to be aware of how NFTs will evolve and operate. Non-Fungible Tokens don’t need to be JPEGS, they can be music tracks from posters, tickets to online shows tied to your crypto wallet, they could be 3D models from your favourite videogame or they may be the next Banksy.
It’s not really the content which should get you excited, but the possibilities. Smart contracts and protection of the blockchain go far beyond JPEGs, they can protect your purchases elsewhere, allow you to directly fund an aspiring artist or musician, or simply build a collection of media that you own, rather than stream or rent. Digital ownership is something that could be revolutionary to consumers, particularly if fees and resale rules are well thought out and protect the owner.
For Your Spare Time
We already play games together and companies like Netflix and Disney+ allow users to pair their accounts and group watch content, so it’s easy to see that this could grow within the metaverse. It’s likely that these watch parties will be expanded to larger groups, with everyone’s avatar sat together in a small screening room. Home cinema rentals, which became popular during the pandemic, could also find themselves moving to metaverse digital twins of cinema chains.
We would imagine that large streaming providers – Twitch, Facebook, YouTube – may also launch a metaverse component to their repertoire, bringing a whole new aspect to streamers playing through videogames or eSports tournaments. And this is all before even contemplating how massively multiplayer videogames could be played in these new realms. The possibilities are huge: Interactive concerts, videogame charity marathons, book clubs, and more.
For Family and Friends
If the past couple of years has taught us anything, it’s that being isolated is terrible for our mental health and that video conferencing could be better. Especially when gathering with your friends and family. The global pandemic has accounted for huge growth in video networks such as Skype, Zoom and Discord, but they are simply small squares on a 2D screen. Moving into the metaverse will bring a whole host of new functions, many of which would accompany a videogame or DnD session quite nicely.
Meta, formally Facebook (when can we stop writing that?) is pushing itsHorizon World VR app pretty hard, attempting to bring fun mini-games and group chats into virtual reality. While Microsoft is pushing Mesh for Teams, allowing users to create a 3D avatar to make things a little more fun. With other services – Decentraland, Roblox and Somnium Space – constantly evolving, we could see some more fun and unique ways to communicate with loved ones as time trots on.
For the Shoppers
When we say that shopping will change drastically with the advent of the metaverse, we don’t mean you’ll be strolling through a virtual supermarket clumsily grabbing bottles from the shelves. However, the metaverse and the technology that comes with it will make some of your shopping experiences much easier and more interesting. AR technology is leaning towards being an AI companion in your smartphone, by reading product images and delivering more information to the consumer. For example, you might pick up a can of tomatoes and along with the nutritional values, you may see a recipe.
Of course, the interactivity of the metaverse will bring nice bonuses when shopping. If you want to buy a new car, a 3D model could be dropped into the metaverse for you to inspect every detail from interior tech to the sound of the engine; buying an album from a digital vendor could see the physical vinyl delivered to your house in reality, with some simple address pairing. Advertisements will shift and change also, becoming more passive through the use of billboards, park benches and product experiences, as opposed to pop-ups and banner ads.
With Mesh for Microsoft Teams and dedicated apps appearing to lead the way for metaverse conferencing, the way we work from home can dynamically shift. There are so many opportunities to interact with your colleagues; 3D avatars that mirror real-world movements, VR headsets that fully transport you to a new working environment or even software that can emulate several computer screens within a headset to up your productivity without cluttering your home office.
Now so many of us are working from home, it might be worth investigating how we can work within a metaverse setting. Offices and employers can implement new digital workspaces where meetings can be hosted, team building games can be played and you can experience the office atmosphere without someone cooking something gross in the shared kitchen microwave.
For the Artists
We’ve already touched on NFTs above, but it’s worth noting that metaverse technology will usher in a new era in the creator economy. With a decentralised metaverse, artists can set up exhibitions on their own to sell NFTs, or simply show off their work for purchase in reality; musicians can hold concerts large and small; independent game of movie studios can showcase their new products within interactive experiences.
Best of all, if these items are sold on the blockchain, the creator can set their profits themselves. There’s no middleman taking a slice of the pie and any NFTs sold in a secondary market will still see profits going back to the creator using smart contracts. We’re only just seeing surface scratches of what’s possible, but content creators will soon begin leading the way in how the metaverse can boost creators’ revenue and portfolio.
For Teachers and Pupils
As with most of us working from home during the pandemic lockdowns, we saw many kids having to study from home. While the majority of them are back to school, the metaverse can provide new and unique ways to learn. Through digital twinning, people can explore locations that might otherwise be unavailable to them – a zoo or museum, a submarine or the International Space Station! Educators can more easily tailor-make lessons based around abilities within the metaverse. Dangerous chemicals can be mixed, physics can be broken down, historic simulations can be observed closely. Universities can host digital lectures without the many-tiled Zoom screens.
Away from formal education, experts in a particular industry can find new ways to teach their professions or train new members of staff, or Ted Talks can be held in your living room. All of this can utilise the many ways we already interact with the internet. Where possible VR technology can provide full immersion, AR can be capitalised through pupils phones or tablets and desktop computers can still provide a gateway to a new form of learning, as long as everyone is connected to the metaverse.