Unless you have been off-grid, or completely avoiding all media outlets, you must have heard the term “metaverse” somewhere in your day-to-day life. For many of us, it is a topic of conversation at work: for others, a random discussion among friends. Science fiction fans have heard the term for decades (Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film Ready Player One, based on the 2011 book by Ernest Cline, is one example.)
But here is the big question lots of people are asking:
What exactly is the Metaverse?
The honest answer – it’s complicated! If you google “what is the metaverse,” you get a robust search that provides over 123 million results.
As you scroll through, you’ll find there are some commonalities in detail but also quite a bit of disagreement.
The best question to ask might be more like “what does metaverse mean to me today, and what will it mean in the future?”
According to Merriam Webster, the definition seems straightforward.
Metaverse(s): a persistent virtual environment that allows access to and interoperability of multiple individual virtual realities. also: any of the individual virtual environments that make up a metaverse.
Three key things to take away from this stated definition:
- It is a virtual environment, based in virtual reality.
- It has plurality. There is not ONE metaverse. It is not “THE METAVERSE.” Instead, there are metaverse(s). Multiple!
- Conceptually, it is persistent and interoperable. There is consistency and connectivity between virtual experiences.
At its most basic level, that third point is the critical thing to understand. Today, technology has not caught up to the idea of “Metaverse.” Metaverses do exist today, and many are highly popular – Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, Second Life. Many people also think of Meta, Facebook’s new corporate name AND the metaverse affiliated with its Oculus headsets. However, they are all independent ecosystems with their own worlds, economies, and scale. Your personas in each ecosystem are unique to that metaverse.
True metaverses – that bring people together to interact and engage for entertainment, training, or business – are limited right now. Gaming platforms like PlayStation and Xbox are the key conduits to engage, and penetration – while growing – is limited and primarily focused on those aged 45 and under.
While metaverses are limited, the elements used to create metaverses are pervasive.
Have you ever used augmented reality (AR) in an app to assess a paint color on your wall, place a piece of furniture you are considering buying in the room where you want it, or played Pokémon Go? Congratulations! You have interacted with an element that contributes to building metaverses.
Have you ever watched a Pixar movie, shopped at a virtual store, or even looked at a product online in 3D on an eCommerce platform? Yep – all of these things rely on 3D visualization which is the primary building block of metaverse experiences.
Have you chatted with someone online when you had a question or problem with a company’s products or services? Held a call on Zoom? Played a video game where you could talk to others playing at the same time? The ability to communicate simultaneously with someone virtually is one of the fundamental elements of metaverse experiences.
What does all this mean?
For companies and brands trying to make sense of what they hear as they are inundated with news about “The Metaverse” and how it is going to change the way we live, work and play, remember we are just at the beginning of what is possible.
Organizations need to prioritize how they engage with extended reality (XR) today (including augmented and virtual reality) and how it can drive scale and efficiency. Then, they need to start thinking through where metaverse experiences fit down the road.
At InContext, we have provided the building blocks of the Metaverse for nearly 15 years. Contact us to learn more about how you can leverage our extended reality solutions to your retail planning, training, testing, and digital commerce challenges.
This post was written by Diana Sheehan, Principal – Consulting Services.