The growth of the metaverse presents organisations with endless opportunities to engage with their customers, grow their brand and improve communication within the workplace. Whilst these are undoubtedly exciting times, there are a number of challenges that businesses may face when utilising this technology. We have prepared a series of articles to set out the key factors that businesses should be considering. This first article addresses perhaps the most frequently asked question – what is the metaverse? Look out for the next articles in this series which will explore NFTs, brand considerations in the metaverse, the protection of intellectual property and the use of the metaverse in the workplace.
Introduction to the metaverse
In recent times ‘metaverse’ has become a buzzword, and it is tempting to believe that this has been brought about by Facebook’s rebranding to Meta. The term, however, is not new and was actually first used in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. People in the novel created avatars and interacted with each other in a virtual version of the world, and this concept is still the crux of the metaverse. In the 1990s and 2000s computer games became more widespread, allowing users to live a second life in a virtual world with their avatars, and now the metaverse can be used to buy virtual objects, territories and even advertising space.
What is the metaverse today?
The metaverse is an umbrella term for a range of technologies that help create a digital universe. The metaverse is used in a wide range of contexts such as computer games, social media platforms, virtual conferences and events. For example, Microsoft’s new project ‘Microsoft Mesh’ is incorporating virtual and augmented reality into its Microsoft Teams platform. Furthermore, its usage is increasing at a seemingly exponential rate. For example, healthcare providers are considering how this can be utilised to offer virtual therapy and perform remote surgeries, and the public sector is exploring how best to use this to provide virtual consultations and civil services.
Future of the metaverse
The metaverse is still growing and evolving, and it is not yet a single cohesive concept underpinned by just one type of technology. While Meta is at the forefront of organisations pushing to create a complete virtual universe, most believe that we are years away from the metaverse emerging as a single immersive space. Meta itself has conceded that we are likely 10 to 15 years away from this stage. Therefore, as things stand, multiple virtual worlds describe themselves as ‘metaverses,’ and this will remain the case unless and until the different technologies join together, or one platform starts to dominate.
How do I become involved in the metaverse?
To join this virtual universe and be able to interact with others, individuals need to create an avatar, which is their digital representation in the metaverse. An avatar is an essential precursor to participate in the metaverse. The technology behind this can vary, and the theme and world of a specific part of the metaverse depends on its provider. This digital identity differs based on the platform used, however they can include pictures of individuals, or 2D or 3D models. Users can customise their avatar’s appearance by modifying its height, weight, skin tone, hairstyle and accessories. Look out for part five of this series which discusses the employment considerations relating to the use of avatars.
The idea is that each person has only one avatar in the metaverse. This is certainly Meta’s vision going forward – the intention is that an avatar will be a user’s identity in the whole metaverse, and can easily travel to all the different worlds available. However, currently some avatars are restricted to a single platform so multiple avatars are used.
A crucial feature of the metaverse it that it has its own economy. This has real value and is connected to the real-world economy.
To many people the metaverse is still a mystery, however developments over the last year or so indicate the importance of understanding and utilising this technology. In this series we will aim to unpack some of the key considerations for businesses looking to use the metaverse.
The Metaverse series
- Part 1 – Introduction to the metaverse
- Part 2 – Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
- Part 3 – Brand considerations in the metaverse
- Part 4 – Protection of intellectual property rights
- Part 5 – Employer considerations in the metaverse
If you would like further information about the topics covered in this series or the services that the Media and technology team provide, please contact Joanna Boag-Thomson.