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| 4 minutes read

A Step Into The Metaverse

From the inception of the digital age, the technology industry has been driven to enhance mankind’s ability to transfer and absorb information. The metaverse itself goes further than previous examples by combining the sharing of information, personal connections, and connections to the physical world.

The overall aim of the metaverse is to facilitate virtual interaction using real-time information. One of the paramount elements of the metaverse, is the underlying technology that allows virtual objects to be placed within an augmented version of the real world. This is extremely similar to our basic understanding of augmented reality (“AR”) and the idea of connecting digital content with the real world. However, by combining this technology with the use of hardware devices and real-life information, the metaverse can be much more than AR which readers might have experienced.

On 28th October 2021 it was announced that social media giant Facebook, which owns platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, would be rebranded as Meta. In what came as a huge surprise to millions of its users, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that the new name would reflect the company’s growing ambitions of working and playing in the metaverse. Where social media platforms allow us to apply digital content to the real world, the metaverse will allow us to apply real world characteristics and features to a digital environment. In the past two weeks, Twitter and Meta have announced the launch of a feature through which users can showcase and display their non-fungible token ("NFT") avatar as part of their profile. The tool will also allow users to connect their social media account to their personal crypto wallet. Youtube have also expressed their interest in this space, with CEO Susan Wojcicki suggesting that the company are looking to branch into NFTs in the future as another source of revenue for creators. These moves are indicative of the direction these companies are taking in the industry and the potential scale of the metaverse.

With the increased adoption of smart technology and hardware devices that enhance our interaction with the virtual world, the days of using a single interface such as a desktop computer have become a thing of the past. It has now become acceptable to speak to a piece of hardware, which can provide real time information and learn about your day-to-day life, through the application of artificial intelligence. Amongst others, users have widely adopted to applications such as Siri (on iOS), Alexa (on Amazon) and Google Nest (on Google) and supporting devices.

However, the metaverse has created new opportunities for products, service providers, digital commerce, and content creators. It is for these reasons that cryptocurrency-based companies are utilising the metaverse to create virtual economies and allow users to inhabit an online space with their own avatar or NFT. An example of this is Ethereum-powered virtual reality platform, Decentraland. This platform allows users to purchase virtual plots of land in the form of non-fungible digital assets using their native cryptocurrency token MANA. This land can then be used to produce digital depictions of real-life streets, buildings, and stores.

Commercial Implications 

When thinking of the metaverse, people often picture themselves using a controller to steer through a 3D digital depiction of real-life elements. However, the metaverse is far from this, it provides a virtual environment with an abundance of commercial potential.

Let’s take the mundane example of online shopping, at the moment, you can visit sites and see what your purchase will look like in the form of a 2D picture. At best, some retailers will allow you to apply a product to a picture of yourself, or live video. Now, imagine a world where, from the comfort of your living room, or a tropical beach, you can walk into a retailer in New York, and in true colour and scale, view their products on the shelves, pick up and try on the latest trainers and walk around with them on to see how they look. This world is already unfolding as huge corporations including Apple, Samsung and Nike acquire virtual real estate in the metaverse with the intention of creating online stores that serve as an extension of traditional e-commerce. Samsung have recently opened a virtual replica of their flagship New York City store, allowing users (via their avatars) to browse and purchase digital assets, as well as real-life products. This is not intended to replicate the real-life experience of purchasing a product, but to improve the consumers experience using the connective features of the metaverse.

Nike Inc recently revealed a virtual world called Nikeland that was modelled after their headquarters on the video game platform Roblox. This created a full-scale experience that allowed users to engage in gameplay and organically explore and eventually purchase the company’s range of apparel, shoes and accessories.

Consumer interaction and accessibility will be significantly enhanced, providing an indefinite scaling opportunity for businesses by increasing customer reach and advertising opportunities. The metaverse will facilitate the ability of advertising through storytelling, as businesses will be able to create immersive advertisement experiences that tell the brand story. Brand exposure will also be increased, as the metaverse will create advertising and collaborative opportunities that would require far more resources if attempted using a traditional marketing campaign. Overall, consumers will be exposed to a platform that provides information, entertainment, products, and social experiences simultaneously.

The above is merely a snapshot of the opportunities which the metaverse provides. As we explore a sample of the features which the metaverse brings in the coming weeks, we will also highlight consequential legal questions.

...imagine a world where, from the comfort of your living room, or a tropical beach, you can walk into a retailer in New York, and in true colour and scale, view their products on the shelves, pick up and try on the latest trainers and walk around with them on to see how they look...

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