The metaverse is a lot like the Internet back in the 1970s and 80s. The building blocks were being laid, but few knew what it would look or function like. As with the Internet, it has turned out to be something much bigger than anyone could have imagined. By 2024, the market for the metaverse is predicted to reach $800 billion. And it’s a space that tech giants, such as Facebook, Apple and Google, are betting big on.
A virtual world, the metaverse is accessible through VR headsets such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and Oculus Rift, as well as mobile apps that run on augmented reality (AR) or web browsers. In this world, users become avatars that interact with other users. They can build their own worlds, visit existing ones or create and sell digital goods. A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which use blockchain technology to represent ownership of virtual objects. Examples include virtual collectibles, games and real estate.
As the metaverse becomes more popular, it’s also attracting companies looking for new ways to connect with consumers and employees. For example, Vans built an online skate park that’s gotten upward of 48 million visits. And Nike partnered with the VR creation platform Roblox to develop an online universe called Nikeland, where fans can connect and dress their avatars in Nike apparel.
In business, the metaverse can provide new opportunities for collaboration and training. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, it was common to hold online Google Meet or Zoom meetings for studies or presentations. These meetings have prepared the way for a future of remote studies and work.
The metaverse can also improve teleworker camaraderie, help cut down on office costs and speed up training. It’s important for companies to embrace the potential of the metaverse and develop a clear plan on how they will integrate it into their businesses.
What’s more, if used correctly, the metaverse can shrink our physical world by allowing us to flit between different immersive experiences. It’s not hard to imagine a future in which we can hold a meeting in the metaverse with a coworker, then jump into an online game or another immersive experience post-work.
Currently, the most significant barriers to the metaverse are cost and access. For instance, the most advanced VR headsets are expensive, and the average user doesn’t have the technical skills needed to participate in a meaningful way. But as the technology continues to evolve, both the hardware and software are getting better and cheaper. And the necessary infrastructure is in place, too, with 5G networks and edge computing making it possible for more people to participate in the metaverse.
To get started, companies should start exploring the metaverse by tapping into people who design and draw for a living. These individuals can help develop 3-D models and other assets for the metaverse, such as virtual environments and avatars. They can also be useful for testing metaverse chatbots, which are a critical part of any metaverse engagement strategy.