The Dawn of the Metaverse: Are we ready?
What is the Metaverse?
The idea of the Metaverse seems like it came straight out of science fiction. If you are like most people who own cryptocurrenices, you have probably heard of the Metaverse, but are still confused as to what it really is.
Basically, the Metaverse is an interconnected virtual space generated through the merging of the virtual versions of elements of the physical world and the physically persistent virtual world. It is the fusion of all virtual worlds, the Internet, and augmented reality. In other words, the Metaverse is an alternate digital reality where people can play, work, socialize, and even create an entirely new system of economy. To make it easier to understand, you may refer to the movie Ready Player One.
Believe it or not, the Metaverse is already here. There are already companies and businesses taking a shot in owning a significant chunk of it. Centralized institutions like Facebook and Epic Games have invested billions of dollars already to prepare themselves for what they see as the greatest economic shift of our lifetime. Decentralized organizations/teams like Decentraland, Sandbox and Axie Infinity have laid the foundations as well have started to replicate real life economics and apply it to their respective games.
While the Metaverse is still in its early stages today, the idea of the Metaverse has actually been imagined by tech enthusiasts even as early as the 1970s — the dawn of the Internet. This begs the question: how long will it take until we see the mainstream adoption of the Metaverse?
Before I get to the equation, let me first clarify that when I say mainstream adoption, it is moving from public awareness to public usage. Mainstream adoption is the development from simply know about the innovation to accepting and utilizing the innovation for practical use.
So, what is the equation for mainstream adoption? Take the mainstream adoption of the Internet for example. When you have the hardware widely available (smartphones, tablets, and computers) + accessible software (daily apps that provide the users’ wants and needs) + public demand (the general population seeing the Internet as a necessity) = Internet mainstream adoption. The same equation applies for the mainstream adoption of the metaverse. When we get to the point of having the hardware widely available (VR headset, gaming PC, internet availability, and low-latency infrastructure) + accessible software (apps and games where people can “live” and “exist” virtually) + public demand (the general population seeing the metaverse as a necessity) = metaverse mainstream adoption.
Opportunities in the Metaverse
Fundamentally, the mainstream adoption of the metaverse can literally reshape life as we know it. Having a digital version of our physical life and existing in a virtual universe at the back of the Internet can open up many opportunities for us and can revolutionize our lives in terms of business economy, culture, and entertainment (among many other aspects).
Companies will be forced to transition their marketing strategies to adapt to the virtual economy of the metaverse. We may see a move from traditional digital ad placements to digital brand experience — which is a concept that we are already seeing in Web 3.0. In the metaverse, brands will not just be virtual billboards that you can choose to ignore; they may actually be part of shaping the metaverse itself in terms of the virtual experience.
In culture, people in the metaverse will not just be looking around. They will be interacting with other people and brands to create relationships that will contribute to the overall experience of the metaverse. Looking at our physical world today, we are separated by geographical boundaries. The metaverse removes these boundaries and creates a virtual world with potentially endless connections. This will play a major role in cultivating a culture that transcends boundaries.
Entertainment and Gaming
Imagine being in a world that is both a game and a digital living space. The entertainment industry will be revolutionized by the coming of the metaverse. If you are familiar with Fortnite, Rocket League, and Fall Guys by Epic Games, then this will be exciting news to you: Epic Games just raised $1 billion to fund the development of the metaverse.
Barriers to the Metaverse
The potentials of the metaverse are very promising. However, the question remains: are we ready for the metaverse? Here are some current barriers that we will have to deal with first.
The Identity Issue
As we explore the idea of a digital world, one of the concerns that arises is the whether users will have to stick to a single digital identity or “avatar” across the entire metaverse or will there be different avatars for different micro-pocket communities of the metaverse. This can be likened to today’s experience of logging in to an IOS app using your Facebook ID which is linked to your Google Account. In essence, you are using three different IDs just to access the app. How will identification and transparency work in the metaverse? This is something that needs to be settled by the developers first as the wallet address is just not enough.
Speaking of developers, it still being debated whether the metaverse should be operated and developed by a single entity (Facebook lol) or should it be decentralized in a sense. Most advocates of the metaverse believe that in order for the digital world to be truly successful, it must be decentralized. This raises issues on the development, setting of protocols and standards, and backend operations of the metaverse.
Large-scale Availability and Affordability
Lastly, in order for the metaverse to move towards mainstream adoption, the general public must be able to access and afford the hardware and software needed for the metaverse. While first-world countries will have easy access to these, some third-world countries at the present still struggle with Internet connectivity and hardware availability. If we want to build a realistic digital world, access to this technology must also be made available to third-world countries who may greatly benefit from the innovations of the metaverse.
Where do we go from here?
While there are still barriers for the metaverse, this situation is no different than the time when the Internet also had to face hurdles in its early days. With the metaverse inching closer, we will all have to prepare how we will adapt lest we get left behind and become dinosaurs. Brands will need to be more creative, interactive, and experientially relevant. The different industries must figure out how to utilize the technology for their growth. We, as the future users, will need to strap ourselves in as we anticipate the coming of the revolutionized digital world.