Firstly, the concept of the metaverse as it currently stands *is* the internet, basically. It’s a more open, inclusive iteration of the internet as we know it, allowing the creation of digital realms where we’ll be able to walk, talk, work and play.
To access the metaverse, you need a (high speed) internet connection. Perhaps we can think of the metaverse as a move from one-dimensional, flat-screen internet to an immersive, three-dimensional iteration of the internet?
But once you’re in, you can explore a world of your own making – at least, that’s the idea. Companies, brands, and people are all helping shape this nascent technology – but will it outgrow the internet?
I think, in many ways, it will. Why would you log in to a soon to be deemed old-fashioned internet search page when you could stroll into a metaverse library, information centre or chat room with real experts?
Why would you buy a car from a static web page when you can test drive it on the road or racetrack of your dreams in real-time?
And, why would you chat to people on various platforms when you could fully interact with them – albeit in avatar form – in a virtual space of your choosing?
But let’s go bigger. I think that not only does the metaverse have the power to overtake the internet as everyone’s favourite virtual hang-out, but it will also alter the global economy.
Take manufacturing, for example, a Swiss engineer could virtually enter a factory in Sri Lanka to help show the staff how to repair a machine. This will save time, costs and mean far greater opportunities for real skill sharing.
Work, thanks in part to the pandemic, has already become more remote and WFH (Working from Home) may evolve into WFM (working from the metaverse).
Global collaboration will be achievable on levels we’ve never seen before.
While we attend important annual meetings in faraway cities, we can actually be at home in our pyjamas. We are already seeing increasing interest in digital clothing designed for metaverse meetings. Traditional haute couture houses are pivoting to providing virtual designer outfits for discerning avatars.
Healthcare can be delivered right into the home in new, exciting and more accessible ways via the metaverse, with time and cost savings. Could the metaverse, from this perspective, help save lives? I believe so!
Sports fans can not only watch metaverse-hosted live events from the (virtual) front row but from the player’s perspective. Imagine watching your favourite football team from the viewpoint of the team’s best striker, or enjoying a boxing match through the boxer’s eyes.
Education will reach new heights in the metaverse. It will be a great leveller, avoiding the disadvantages of poor educational opportunities due to location or wealth. Students can potentially gain access to world-class teaching talent and sophisticated, interactive digital learning tools. The chance to tour globally significant sites such as museums, historical places and walk around some of the world’s most impressive environments will surely make learning a much more fun, immersive experience.
And while there are clearly early adopters, as in any sector, one of the differentiators about the metaverse is that it won’t be owned as a platform by one company. This encourages greater innovation, fairness and inclusivity.
In conclusion, production of digital elements for the metaverse will possibly lead to a widening of the technological chasm that already exists between developed and developing countries. It’s already apparent that countries with a strong technology sector and advanced internet infrastructure are set to benefit most from the metaverse.
How we achieve fairness and balance in the new metaverse era is still very much up for discussion. What’s for certain is that while the end vision of the internet might be a few decades off, whatever it becomes will definitely enhance our current experience online.