Is Metaverse the Future of the Digital?

Is Metaverse the Future of the Digital?

An immersive world would be full of opportunities, but let’s not live in a curated glass bubble

“Metaverse” means beyond the universe. While it may sound either too spiritual or too futuristic, the fact is – this might be the way we could see the internet evolve into. It would be a combination of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe – an alternate digital reality that would allow both work and entertainment opportunities. Now we engage with the internet only when we decide to log in.But the future might be so immersive that –aided by advanced connectivity, innovative gadgets and paradigm-changing technology – the metaverse will be the space in which we would belong to all the while; always connected and forever in-the-zone.

Augmented reality has already hit the tech scenario big time. It is in the process of plotting a near-perfect 1-to-1 map of the real world on a virtual matrix. When everything has been plotted, it would allow a seamless merger of the two worlds – real and digital. Even now we experience such alternate realities of life in immersive video games, where our real self is represented by an on-screen digital persona – an avatar. That virtual world in the game is always changing and evolving depending on certain conscious choices we make during the game. In the brave new world of tomorrow, we would be entering the metaverse, or interacting with it real-time and in the physical plane, aided by augmented and mixed reality devices. It would be the next level of man-machine interaction.

Developers are already hooked to the idea. Popular gaming companies like Minecraft or Animal Crossing deals with large scale user bases as well as resultant user-generated content and have crafted detailed virtual environments. Facebook is focussing on its virtual reality social media platform, Horizon, and Live Maps. Other major players in this sector includes: Microsoft, Niantic, Magic Leap, among others.

To quote Nokia’s Head of Trend Scouting Leslie Shannon, describing this future evolution in a recent talk during the VR/AR Association’s Global Summit: “The spatial internet is the culmination of everything that AR and VR is developing today. It’s the idea of taking information about things, locations, or historical events and actually locating that information out there in the world where it’s most relevant.”

It would be a world where information would remain layered around us – opening up a whole new gateway for interactive possibilities.Especially for marketing and communications, the metaverse is going to be the next frontier to target. For them, what had so long remained “online” would become a “surround landscape” – and they will have to devise new strategies to tackle it. The pandemic has already initiated us into a no-touch world, where remote and virtual options for our everyday tasks would become a huge area to explore.

Businesses are already thinking of shifting their marketing strategies from a web-based environment where the consumer takes the initiative to enter – to a shared, virtual space which proactively allows the consumer to be immersed in the experience. Of course, a lot of research and analysis still need to be done to find out the exact behaviour pattern of consumers from a metaverse perspective. These could be entirely different from either real life or online/web-based behaviour traits. And the human-machine comfort level will need to be monitored to extract unexplored areas, as virtual assistants and automated service delivery becomes the norm.

All this is bound to have serious implications on the culture and ethical boundaries. The metaverse is not only about you, but your entire existence, along with all your intersection points with other people – friends, family and work relations. And so it will be for everyone else. This is going to affect behaviour and decision patterns, as well as relationships and lifestyle choices. In a highly commercialised world like that we live in, brands must handle this with utmost care and responsibility. Ethical considerations will have to be a guiding force, without which the world might turn into a giant glass bubble within which we would be leading designer lives curated by sponsors and brand owners – just like Jim Carey in the fascinating movie “The Truman Show”.

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