Tech and crypto jargon appears out of nowhere and suddenly becomes an integral part of everyone’s personal vocabulary. Often, these concepts are discussed fervently before they’re fully coherent.
As jargon begins to stick, people talk about loosely related things that merge into a single comprehensible thing. This happened with “the internet” and is about to happen with “the Metaverse.”
But what is the metaverse?
Introducing the Metaverse
The term “Metaverse” was first used in the cyberpunk novel Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson in 1992. In the novel, the Metaverse is a 3D virtual world that’s shared between individuals. It’s a universe of shared experiences and users could teleport between virtual spaces.
Over the past decade, the gaming and tech industries have breathed new life into the Metaverse concept with multiplayer games such as Fortnite, Roblox, Decentraland and Minecraft. These games create digital worlds that combine the Metaverse inspired by Stephenson, and the real world that has become digitised as a result of the pandemic.
Essentially, the Metaverse is a successor to the modern internet, with the same content but fewer limitations. Existing online platforms allow users to move freely between specific services within their own platform, but users are restricted between platforms. The Metaverse will allow users to seamlessly generate their own content and distribute it wherever they want in the digital world.
The Metaverse means users will experience changes in real-time. If a user makes a change, it will be immediately visible to all other users. This also means users won’t have to have separate social media accounts—they can have one, ultimate digital presence. This gives continuity of identity, which is a core factor in how users consume content in the Metaverse.
NFTs, Virtual Assets and the Metaverse
A popular entry point to the Metaverse for consumers and brands is through making and buying NFTs. Non-fungible tokens are units of information stored on a blockchain about a good or service that isn’t interchangeable. NFTs allow individuals to own digital assets and art pieces.
NFTs are the building blocks of the Metaverse. Within the Metaverse, every conceivable asset could be bought, sold or traded as an NFT. NFTs within the Metaverse means that there will be no constraints of real-world limitations such as resource supply limits, supply chain risks or physics. Anything and everything could be made and sold.
Throughout the pandemic, users have adopted a predominantly digital and online lives. With online multiplayer games in which players can socialise and watch concerts, the gaming industry has benefited hugely from the online shift.
Within these games, developers make money by providing extra in-game assets users can purchase. The popularity of these in-game purchases has resulted in illegitimate secondary markets for these virtual assets.
But it’s not just the gaming industry getting involved within the Metaverse.
Coca-Cola has created its first series of NFTs alongside Tafi to support the Special Olympics International. The company’s digital asset debut was a pixelated version of Coke’s classic 1956 vending machine. The “Friendship Box” was inspired by a gaming loot box, and instead of cans, included a metallic red bubble jacket wearable. Also included were digital versions of Coke’s 1940s trading cards and a sound visualiser that featured a Coke bottle opening and a drink being poured over ice.
Auctioned over 72 hours, the loot box sold for $575,883.61.
Coca-Cola is no stranger to offering collectable items and has generated collectability over three centuries. The development of NFTs creates a collectable item that is timeless.
Social Media and the Metaverse
At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would start transitioning into a Metaverse company. The social network will focus on products for communities, creators, commerce and virtual reality that will assist in realising this vision.
What does this mean for the company and its users?
Currently, Facebook users experience the platform through a smartphone. With Metaverse developments, users will experience the platform superimposed over the real world through AR glasses. Facebook is experimenting with how it can create a map of the real world so the digital social layer can be added over the top, with particular digital items anchored to physical places.
The platform is also planning to take this one step further by superimposing the social details of a person over their heads, including their name, city, relationship status, interests and message history. Virtual meetings between avatars can happen in real-life places thanks to glasses that can detect where a user’s eyes are moving.
Zuckerberg said the Metaverse will bring huge opportunities to creators and artists, those who want to work from home and away from cities, and those who want to live in places where education or recreation are limited. A Metaverse would provide them with a teleportation device. This means people can be in one place, and everywhere at once.
Decentraland: The World Built on Blockchain
Amid a crypto boom, the price of the cryptocurrency MANA climbed the charts in Coinbase. MANA is the currency of the virtual world Decentraland, where plots of digital land are sold for the equivalent of hundreds and thousands of dollars.
Decentraland is made up of user-generated NFTs. The creators described Decentraland as an infrastructure upon which to build. Decentraland users create scenes and experiences for users to enjoy; there are even two casinos where virtual avatars are paid to work.
Decentraland is an experiment in digital property. Businesses have begun purchasing plots within Decentraland. Sotheby’s constructed replicas of its London galleries and hosted its first show within the Metaverse. The digital gallery has over 3,000 visitors. Sotherby’s has said the exercise was good for helping customers conceptualise NFTs that the auction house is already selling.
The future of the Metaverse
It’s not new news that the world is shifting to favour digital experiences. Many brands, in all sorts of industries, have begun dipping their toes into the Metaverse through creating NFTs, purchasing digital land or hosting in-game concerts.
As social media platforms enter the Metaverse, it will become essential for brands to join the virtual world. As opportunities within an omniverse grow, the virtual economy will be just as important as the physical economy.
Brands need to find a way to transition their activities into the virtual world in preparation for the inevitable cross-platform Metaverse. Many brands operate with a digital-first mindset as it is, with many creating a digital presence before an actual product. Brands that understand online culture, digital art and the importance of gaming experience will thrive in the Metaverse.
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