Is the metaverse hype or opportunity?

Taking a look at the new digital landscape of Web3

By: Nitin Thukral

Is the metaverse hype or opportunity?

Although the term “metaverse” was first used by Neil Stevenson in his 1982 novel, Snow Crash, its popularity seems to have increased exponentially in recent months. Stevenson’s metaverse was a virtual place where characters could go to escape a dreary totalitarian reality. Today, the metaverse is an early framework for the future vision of the internet. It holds the potential to become one of the leading technology forces to shape the next decade of digital innovation. The business impact is still early, and there are a myriad of ideas on how broad-spanning the metaverse will become.

The metaverse is the next generation of the internet.

The first generation of the internet, Web 1.0, was primarily centered around the desktop and consumer adoption. It focused on infrastructure and is dubbed the “Internet of Data.” Web 2.0 has been about the mobile and smartphone experience, synonymous with the sharing economy, and is thought of as the “Internet of Social.” 

We’re now in the early days of Web 3.0 (Web3, for short), which goes beyond simple people connections to elevate physical world experiences. It is focused on ownership and is taking shape as the “Internet of Place.” To bring these experiences to life, it relies heavily on technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and cryptocurrencies.

The metaverse of the future is intended to be fully immersive, where users will be able to access simulated worlds and interact using personalized avatars that closely model reality.

What does the metaverse look like today?

Of the different virtual worlds available today, leading brands are getting involved in public spaces such as Decentraland, Sandbox, and Roblox. There seems to be a virtual gold rush of corporations staking their claims in the metaverse, focusing on brand marketing and audience expansion to start. Here are a few examples that I find especially interesting:

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Corporate Innovation Summit at Collision Conference 2022  in Toronto and moderate a roundtable discussion of senior technology leaders. We discussed the hype around the metaverse and related technologies and the business opportunities for enterprises and corporate brands.

It was evident that there is no single “killer app” for the metaverse as yet. Innovation leaders all agreed that the metaverse is the next evolution of digital experiences; however, they also acknowledged that making a business case and articulating ROI was challenging since payoffs from metaverse-related investments aren’t always immediate. The speed of adoption seemed to vary as some corporate brands were prepared to jump in head first while others were still standing at the sidelines formulating strategies.

Of the many use cases that were discussed, these are the ones that seem to be gaining traction:

  • Training and onboarding of new employees and partners.
  • Employee engagement via virtual water coolers and lounges, tying in gamification and tokenized incentives to drive active participation.
  • Team collaboration and brainstorming, including whiteboarding.
  • Immersive customer experiences delivered contextually via AR.
  • Industrial equipment troubleshooting and remote assessment using VR to maximize uptime.

Some hearty discussion ensued with questions like:

  • What relevance and impact would corporate metaverses have on businesses?
  • How quickly can brands adapt to metaverse adoptions and deepen relationships with consumers?
  • What are the challenges that early adopters are facing?
  • Is there a (dis)advantage to being a “fast follower” i.e., letting others lead and following closely behind?

Is the metaverse the future?

As we enter the second half of 2022, many are wondering whether the hype will abate or whether the metaverse will truly emerge as a new vision of the internet that shapes collective digital experiences in the coming decades. My belief is that this new digital technology must bridge gaps and reduce friction before it goes mainstream. I’m optimistic about the future of the metaverse and think the time is ripe to shift the focus toward substance, interoperability, and the long-term vision.

About the Authors

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Nitin Thukral

VP, Service and Delivery

Nitin Thukral is a proficient subject matter expert in the areas of Digital Platforms and IT Transformation. He is passionate about leveraging innovative technologies to deliver superior customer experiences. In his current role as Vice President, Digital Solutions at Aquent Studios, Nitin leads the digital capabilities practice and works closely with Fortune 500 brands, including Audi of America, CVS Health & Aetna, John Deere, Fiat Chrysler Automotive, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley.

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