Welcome to the Metaverse!
If you’ve also seen this invite plastered across websites, banners, and a plethora of other places in the past couple of years, but, upon entering, been a bit underwhelmed, don't worry.
The call is still a bit premature. While there are nascent iterations of metaverses, from games to Snapchat AR filters and or even platforms like Decentraland and Sandbox, they often fail to live up to the immersive and lifelike pictures of the Metaverse painted in SciFi.
There are a few elements that will help bring us this reality. Of course, better XR. But, one point that is often overlooked…and will help resolve the disparate makeup of the Metaverse, as a singular, realistic space, is by creating unified virtual identities.
And, these new identities, that mirror our own physical body’s singularity, will, and are, also changing the digital services we ask for and how brands interact with us.
Currently, for each platform, you often have a different login, different interests, and trouble carrying over content to other platforms. For instance, my LinkedIn me is vastly different from my Instagram me. And, while professionalism and propriety definitely feed into that, even on the backend, I cannot connect the two if I want.
The Metaverse seeks to change that, creating the ability to have a single virtual identity to manage all of your different platforms, giving you, as a user, an experience that will much more closely mirror real life, where you often have only one identity (excluding spies in the movies), even if you have different personality traits that get played up based on the setting.
This is just one reason why depictions of the Metaverse as only immersive AR/VR worlds is limited. Yes, more immersive rendering is definitely part of the Metaverse. But, the world as we understand it is also dictated by unique representations and connecting threads to make up a person's life and world.
And, this is where blockchain came out gunning. With dApps that allow a single sign in from your wallet, crypto was years ahead of Apple and Google who are just figuring out the single sign in….and are still delayed by the nature of competition in the space.A single virtual identity, especially if this identity is on-chain, has the potential to vastly change data collection and analytics, though. As Tom Sargent, Head of Growth at Land Vault told us in a video interview, this will paint "a very good picture of who someone is. You can potentially see their eating habits, their listening habits, and more. All in one place. This can be very overwhelming and we need to think about it carefully as a society. About how we let brands in on that information and what bits are relevant for them."
For instance, would it make sense of a food brand, like McDonald's, to have access to your medical record. Or would you even want them to have access to all of your eating habits?
This debate, as well as others about who will, or should, build the Metaverse should be central for everyone. And, may even require that we pull more from blockchain and Web3 as we think about companies, ownership, and governance. But, I digress.
Changing Digital Services
All of this has the potential to radically change the services that brands provide and how they interact with customers. Just as linking your digital footprint under one identity will change the information that brands have access to, it should also change the types of services they offer.
Below, we explore just a few of the opportunities that have already appeared. But, as the Metaverse continues to develop and more leaders emerge with more radical reimaginings of how to engage, brand/consumer interactions will continue to evolve.
Avatars are already growing in popularity. And, projects like Ready Player Me are exploring the possibility for one avatar for a variety of platforms. They also integrate NFTs to give users ownership over their avatar and the ability to carry it with them in their wallet across platforms.
Want to meet people online with less awkwardness? Platforms are building out 3D rendered landscapes, with both open and private rooms, where you can take your avatar, run into and chat with other avatars and explore.
In the future, Sargent sees this as replacing 2D social media, so instead of a static 2D page on Facebook or Instagram, each person will have "a piece of 3D, digital land where your avatar exists. Guests can come and walk around your 3D land. You might have an 'About Me' section that has all your favorite books, your music collection, and your art collection — in other words, your NFTs and all."
But, one thing that is needed is more integration between the various versions of the metaverse that exist now…so that users can more seamlessly move around a unified Metverse to more easily explore and interact.
Fashion is perfect for the Metaverse in two aspects.
One is that people like to dress up and look their best in the real world. With digital avatars, why should this be any different? Skins in games started looking at this ages ago. And, now, Meta is launching their digital clothing store, with partners like Prada and Balenciaga.
The other side of this is that people are willing to pay a lot of money for luxury fashion, like the two aforementioned brands. Adding perks, like the ability to dress your avatar in the same luxury clothes you just bought IRL, track the life cycle of those garments, or enable a second-hand market helps make the money you might be about to drop seem more worth-while.
Fandoms have flourished online. But, the current constellations of fandom make it difficult for fans to be rewarded for greater commitment or to receive additional bonuses.
The Metaverse promises to make fandoms and fan events more immersive in digital spaces, even with the possibility for massive events without needing to actually brave the crowd, like Travis Scott's early foray. His 2020 Fornite concert drew over 12M viewers worldwide, which is equal to 278 sold out Madison Square Gardens shows. These digital events can bring the added bonus of accessibility, whether due to global, financial, or personal mobility.
But, beyond that, metaverses built with Web3 principals and blockchain return ownership over fan communities to the hands of the fans. This means that fans who dedicate a lot of time and energy to building and engaging the community can have a formal say in its direction. And NFTs enable unique relationships between creators and fans, that allow fans to financially support creators and creators to reward them through unlockable bonuses added to NFTs.
The Metaverse of today sits on the precipice. There are already services and products available. But, there is also a gap needed to bring the full promise of the Metaverse to fruition.
While many focus on the more sexy aspects of this, like an XR world that can be carried with you…potentially without a bulky headset, there are other aspects that need to be developed as well.
Virtual identity is just one of those, but it's already revolutionizing brand consumer relationships and changing the nature of available products and how we engage with digital services. And, these changes have just begun.
Anyway, hoping to welcome you to the Metaverse soon.
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