If you only have 60 seconds, here's what to take away:
· It not just gaming and avatars · Content creators could win big · Metaverse is here, right now, it’s all up for grabs · Metaverse isn’t one thing you plug into, it’s your world with added layers · Get use to hearing terms like blockchain, NFT, smart contracts, they are here to stay · The Metaverse = people, process, platform, props, payment and policing.
Let Talk Meta
So last week the artist, formally known as Facebook, announced a big name change including a focus and change of direction for the company…
Its name change and direction is focused on what their take of the Metaverse could look like.
Having been interested in the Metaverse for a while I figured I would get my thoughts, questions and concerns down here. This post will touch on Meta but it won’t be focused on it, instead of for me it’s a future casting exercise, from the near to maybe the next ten years and beyond...Please take note, there are many people out there who are so much more clued up on this and I am sure there are many gaps or flaws in my views so feel free to build on them.
So what is the Metaverse?
My understanding is it's the next gain leap in the web, often you can’t talk Metaverse without discussing Web3.0, Blockchain, NFTs, and mixed realities.
In a nutshell, I like to think of the Metaverse as similar to photoshop...
If you ever had the first build of photoshop you would often have to edit the image directly, however in 1995 photoshop created layers, this allowed you to edit a layer above the image and remove the risk of damaging your image by editing it directly.
Fast forward to 2021 and photoshop can handle much more than multiple layers, however as a feature, it’s still at the core of photoshop, that’s kind of the way I like to see the Metaverse.
Let me explain...
Right now you connect and browse the Internet via your phone, tablet or desktop (the equivalent of using photoshop pre-1995), there is only one way to do it and often it’s limited to a device such as your phone.
Instead, what the Metaverse want to do is add a layer to that experience (Photoshop post-1995) and rather than you connect to it via a device it’s surrounding your real-world, adding a new immersive experience layer on top means it no longer is something you connect to but instead, it’s something you're in. It’s a new layer of experience from how you engage with brands, artists through to when you go shopping or even an event. (Image to the left shows a person in the real world, with the potential layer of the metaverse over it?
I am leaping ahead in years here but hopefully, that gives you an overview of it. While I am sure the next few iterations of the Metaverse are going to be in gaming and avatars in the basic VR space (where you are limited to clunky headsets), it’s much more than that, it includes mixed realities, Digital Twins and IOT as well as everything in between
Structure of Metaverse and which one
The structure of the Metaverse I think will come down to some key pillars (excluding any deep tech)
People: In the past, I've used the analogy of ‘where the fish live’, meaning rather than build it and they will come, go to where they already are... it’s about mass adoption, which is clearly where Facebook have the biggest advantage with its volume of users. Facebook, with a wide range of demographics, groups and communities, from a 'normal person' through to people with quirks and extremist views, clearly have the biggest pond of fish. However, with the largest growing group being in the 50+ age range it will be interesting to see how Facebook (now Meta) can re-attract that younger audience.
Process: While in theory, we all have access to the Metaverse, the one that can make it a frictionless experience from how we create and how we consume content will have a great early advantage
When I say frictionless, I mean in all aspects from designing to enabling, Snaps Spectacles, Facebooks and Ray-Bans stories
Both products give a layer of immersion away from the phone... and these are only the early versions of their products. When you strip it right back, all of them remove un-needed touchpoints and make the journey from A to B shorter for the human. However, I think the biggest player who is yet to show their cards, known for creating frictionless processes and experiences, is Apple
Think about your Apple AirPods for a second, they enable the user to capture, consume and create content and they don’t feel clunky like a VR headset.
I spend all day with my AirPods in, listening to music, taking calls, they are as part of me as my Apple Watch. Add in Apple glasses and link them all together you have a person locked and loaded in an echo system that “just works” for a much more layered metaverse experience.
Sidebar: I have said many times Google Glass was a great product just ahead of its time and while I am sure the learning from that helped with projects, like Google Assistant, there is an argument for a relaunch using the insight they collected some years back.
Platform: I use the word platform lightly here, as the Metaverse is supposed to be a decentralized shared platform. However, with orgs like Facebook (aka Meta) coming along, creating their take on what the Metaverse should look like, it starts to become a little confusing and drives competition... if it goes this way it can lead to choice overload effect, so how does this play out if we go down this owned approach to the Metaverse?
Throughout the years there have always been battles:
· IOS vs Android, · Mac vs PC, · Jacob vs Edward (Twilight fans) · Coke vs Pepsi
However, in times of need like this, I turn to my old faithful, the adult entertainment industry.... as one battle that stands out more than any is Betamax vs VHS. Back in the 1980s, there was a battle between them, one provided a sharper image, the other provided longer recording time, and, while that’s probably the reason why one lived longer than the other, it is also thought the adult entertainment industry had an impact on this as well. Due to the mass production of adult entertainment videos, it was believed that the video type these consumers opted for would be the one adopted by the masses.
The choice for which Metaverse has the biggest clout, will again, come down to which gets adopted large scale and while there can be many Metaverses, you have to ask whether wealth is going to creep in and impact this.
The cost of getting people to see and be part of the Metaverse might be one of the biggest hurdles. Do I want Apple Glasses, Snaps, Facebook? Which can I afford? Will all be questions consumers will have to deal with and ultimately that choice will lead to a potential Metaverse:
· Androids Metaverse · Apples Metaverse · Facebooks Metaverse and so on…
This will in turn drive the demand for assets to be built for that Metaverse. It is similar to what we see now with apps, often new apps get priority in devs and while there will be services allowing you to swap or transfer assets, growth will always go to the highest demanding area where the money is.
When it comes to which players have opportunities in the space Google, Snap, Twitch all have a good hand to play, as do any partners in this space.
Props: Props can be anything, from property, skins, clothing and everything in between, this is often where you hear the term NFT (non-fungible token), NFTs right now show up as some form of digital art but that honestly is the tip of the iceberg. Any digital asset can be an NFT or any real-life asset for that matter, NFTs use smart contracts which means you can track ownership, belonging etc. In theory, anything that has a physical copy could be an NFT to prove authentication.
The bigger ‘what if’ question for me is, if brands such as Adidas or Nike start to partner with Metaverse props creators, how about Netflix, Warner and Disney and so on. Relationships like the one seen between Secret Cinema and Netflix or Sony could become the standard, you need to look no further than Travis Scott with his Fortnite concert.
You know my take on Experience Design and Shared experiences, but the impact of these in the Metaverse could be next level.
We are seeing an increase in demand for awakening experiences, such as the Ayahuasca journey, and while this is classed as medicine to many people you have to ask yourself if something can manipulate your senses with the surroundings you are in, is there an opportunity here?
These shared experiences are happening in really simple touches, Apples new SharePlay which on paper, is about getting people together virtually and sharing a simple moment of time, often these are reactions, dialogues to TV show finals, or maybe even sporting events.
If you're a fashion designer right now, I don't think I am being too out there to suggest there may be more money to be made in designing assets for people in the Metaverse or even creating a marketplace for them especially if you jump on it early.
Payment: It's fair to say that when you hear Metaverse, you hear Blockchain, and when you hear Blockchain you hear Crypto. The issue is which Crypto to have, honestly, I don’t have a clue. However, the important thing is to understand the Blockchain behind it, the biggest right now is Etherum, it’s a decentralised 2nd generation Blockchain and has smart contracting ability, it also has its crypto called Ether. It seems like every man and his dog are developing crypto and it is hard to keep up, I imagine the biggest winner of all will be Coinbase, which acts as a crypto exchange platform, and its approach to constantly adding new crypto to the platform. Coinbase is shaping itself to be the one-stop-shop, however, I assume Facebook will go about creating its token system for Meta, to make the most out of transactions and the mass adoption from people
Policing: I ask myself this question a lot:
“If we know then what we know now about social media, would/should we have designed it any differently?”
I don't know the answer to that one, but rarely do we get an opportunity that the Metaverse gives us in starting from scratch. In a world where I can be me, a female, a hippo or even a Neo Nazi, we have to look at the past lessons from social media and try not to repeat the bad ones.
In the social media world, there is often too much emphasis on showing our best lives, the snapshot, which leads to peer pressure, if you amplify that to the Metaverse where does that lead us? While it may be an evolution in expression it could also become something to hide behind and compare to.
How we do this in a decentralised Metaverse or Metaverse is tricky, what the Metaverse gives us in being able to be our inner self also allows us to hide who we may truly be.
As humans, we look for patterns and we seek to find those who are like us and cast out those who are not, again what this creates in friendship circles, communities and support groups can also take the form of bullying and extremist groups.
A hell of a lot of thought needs to be given to that. Speaking of thought that leads me on to the last point I want to air and it doesn’t start with a P:
Sustainability & Technology the biggest factor is the power needed to run all this, NFTs Bitcoin and Blockchain have all been in the press around how much energy is needed and by-products of carbon off the back of them. Blockchain, for example, currently accounts for 0.58% of the global electricity consumption, with Bitcoin alone using as much energy as the US federal government according to an article by Forbes
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, next-gen Blockchain and people like Ethereum are moving to proof of stake, all indicating it’s moving in a positive direction, for example, Ethereum suggests they could reduce energy consumption by up to 99% in the move to proof of stake. Until then it’s still an issue we should keep at the front of our minds (unless your Iceland and have all the natural energy needed)
While it's safe to say there are lots of unknowns in where the future of Metaverse is going to take us, the reality is, it is going to happen and already has in a lot of cases.
The first level of this will be seen in gaming/VR and will feel clunky like a version of Sims or Second Life, but over time it will level up, like anything, this game time of Metaverse will only be as good as the users. If we opt into a Metaverse experience for work and in the experience, we are all in a meeting room sitting around a table then what true value does that have?
Our way of working outside of work will need to change first, example during the Covid pandemic conferences moved to virtual experiences where you could move around stalls but to say it was tragic was an understatement.
Over time I am sure the Metaverse will follow that of AI with its ‘odd paradox’ (Odd Paradox = when a new thing moves from the fringe into the mainstream, it becomes invisible and part of the furniture) Like all things there will be people early to the scene, people who come a little later and people who get left behind... the choice ultimately will be yours, however, these things have a way of slowly but surely sneaking in… look your home assistant
I remember when these first came out and I had to have one imported over from the USA only for people to laugh and say it will never catch on, only for a year or so later to have those same people come asking for help and advice on setting up their smart homes.
As always you will have the big nine all making a play for this, but if I was a betting man I would bet on Apple nailing their premium version of it and it will be less gaming Metaverse and a much more layered experience over our current world.
(Check out Lil Miquela, the first digital influencer)
Links to geek on -More closer to reality links
Lil Miquela a digital influencer -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6wnHsEoTmc Travis Scott experience - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYeFAlVC8qU Apple SharePlay - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbJRknQN5cg A darker take on things Playtest - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdptmzBVZLo 15 Million Credit - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0oRgU4A5bs Surrogates - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGwQ74cH5O0
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