It’s hard to resist the vision offered by Meta (formerly Facebook) and other platforms in the virtual world. A digital utopia that can transform lives in myriad ways – whether it’s how we socialize, work or even stay healthy – is hard to refuse.
This is especially true considering that these platforms are described as the greatest technological disruption to human life and a multi-trillion dollar opportunity for businesses. However, some are skeptical that this is all too good to be true, at least for now.
The technological architecture that would allow this promised immersive experience to come to life is lacking. Take the example of the live performances used in Facebook’s Metaverse video in October. The idea of experiencing these authentic real-world sensations through a headset seems far-fetched. What seems even more unlikely is that a virtual reality headset will become a household staple.
Advanced VR equipment will most likely be required to allow us to immerse ourselves in these virtual worlds. Yet customers have already shown resistance to buying VR headsets and other often expensive and bulky hardware. The first Oculus headset launched over five years ago. It hasn’t come close to the same mainstream adoption as more compact and convenient hardware, like the cell phone or laptop computer.
Expensive equipment is not a necessity for the foundations of the metaverse. It is accessibility that is essential to begin integrating users into any technological innovation.
Pokémon GO is the perfect case study. The augmented reality game brought users into the real world to collect the titular fictional creatures. It was successful not only because of the engaging gameplay, but also because of its accessibility – anyone with a cell phone could participate.
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Use cases and metaverse
We have seen accessible metaverse platforms for quite some time now. Second Life was one of the first, launching in 2003. But in its 19-year history, it hasn’t come close to integrating the number of users envisioned by Meta.
Decentraland is a newer platform and has taken off since Meta was announced. It captures the imagination of businesses through the incorporation of economic and blockchain elements like NFTs and its MANA token.
As customers are confined to their homes by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the decline of physical stores, Decentraland is giving brands a chance to revitalize audience engagement.
Instead of just filling a virtual shopping cart, companies have turned to these existing metaverse platforms with creativity in mind. JPMorgan bought virtual real estate and opened its own metaverse lounge. Suddenly, it does not seem exaggerated to be able to create a real bank account in a virtual world.
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There are more subtle tactics to get users talking about a brand. Take pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which gave vaccinated players a blue badge for their avatar.
It’s not just the marketing team that gets their hands dirty in these virtual worlds. There are many opportunities for sellers to monetize content and profit from the metaverse.
Blockchain technology was waiting for this behind the scenes. NFTs give real value to digital assets and lend themselves perfectly to the metaverse. Artists can trade virtual paintings, architects can sell digital real estate, engineers can auction Metaverse-based vehicles.
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Currently, fashion is the industry that arouses the most interest. If the Metaverse becomes a staple of modern life, users will want to look good. High fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Louis Vuitton sold NFTs and most fetched high prices.
E-commerce giants are also jumping on this trend and generating a healthy and competitive space. Nike bought virtual shoe company RTFKT as it tried to create a metaverse-focused brand.
Acquisitions could be crucial for the survival of large companies in this rapidly changing virtual environment. Having a young, capable and forward-thinking squad could mean the difference between sinking or swimming.
Not without problems
Even though the rules for the metaverse have yet to be offered, let alone an agreement, some of the issues that have plagued the internet are already beginning to plague our shiny new reality. The all-new Horizon Worlds is Meta’s first metaverse project for Oculus VR headsets. Already, Currency.com has reported on the sexual harassment taking place in this metaverse, as well as the dangers lurking in the corners of other platforms.
Toxicity on social platforms is nothing new, but solving it in the Metaverse is going to be crucial if it is to be a digital utopia. Businesses and, more importantly, users will find it difficult to commit to a future governed by hostile virtual realities.
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Meta has already implemented a solution in the form of a “secure zone” which can act as a protection bubble where no one can touch or talk to a user. This also makes blocking others as easy as possible.
While Meta has laid out these general plans for community moderation, it has yet to detail suggestions for policing a large-scale metaverse. Regulating hate, harassment and free speech may be its biggest stumbling block.
Horizon Worlds feels like an experiment, testing the current capabilities of the Metaverse. There is no public timeline for the release of the full Metaverse of Meta or any other similar platform. So, theoretically, it could take years or even decades for the metaverse to become a part of everyday life.
That hasn’t stopped companies from announcing metaverse projects or branching out into existing platforms, be it JPMorgan, Disney, Adidas, Coca-Cola or Gucci. But the fuzzy delivery times evoke comparisons to the dotcom bubble and its equally lengthy sales pitches. Without the delivery, there is every chance that this too will become a bubble with the attendant risk that it will eventually burst.
Related: Why are major global brands experimenting with NFTs in the Metaverse?
With the dust of Facebook’s rebranding yet to settle, it’s too early to call it. It is certainly plausible that there is a place for the Metavers in the world, but it remains far from the immersive and idyllic vision sold to us by those who hope to profit from it.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Stephane Gregoire is the US CEO of Currency.com, where he is responsible for developing and managing the platform’s growth strategy in the US and Canada. Currency.com is a high-growth cryptocurrency exchange that saw 343% growth in its customer base in 2021, making it one of the fastest growing cryptocurrency exchange platforms in the world. ‘Europe.