Why money is pouring into Metaverse projects and all the big brands are expanding their territory into the 3D world
We are still a long way from mass adoption of extended reality (XR)—which is the collective name for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). But among tech giants, the battle is raging for what they see as the next big computing platform. The corona crisis has only added fuel to the fire. That is why, every month, I serve you with an overview of the most important, notable events and changes in the XR landscape.
Back to the future: 2021
2021 will go down in the history books for many reasons, few of which I personally wish to remember. Allow me, in this overview, to highlight only the events that we would care to recall indeed. And who knows, if we keep repeating last year’s fine, exciting and spectacular occurences to each other, we may start believing that the year, all things considered, was not so bad after all.
“We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet. We'll be able to feel present – like we're right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.” — Mark Zuckerberg
Not to be ignored: the name change of Facebook. When an empire like that alters its name, there must be a good reason. We can see the glass half empty, in which case this is nothing but a paltry PR stunt to stem the flow of complaints and whistleblowers. Or we can see the glass half full (shall we?) and see the name change to Meta as the inception of the Metaverse, an evolution that is possibly even greater than the advent of the Internet.
Needless to say, Facebook—sorry, Meta—and Microsoft keep an eye out on each other, so it was only natural that the latter would move in the direction of the Metaverse as well. Microsoft is now building Mesh and plans to launch it this year. Quote: “Microsoft Mesh enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere, on any device, through mixed reality applications.”
“Microsoft Mesh enables presence and shared experiences from anywhere, on any device, through mixed reality applications.” — Microsoft
If you care to know where ‘it’ is all going to happen, just follow the money, right? Well, in 2021, it flowed en masse towards Metaverse projects. Those who are crypto-linked saw their assets go through the roof. Decentraland now hosts auctions where NFTs go under the hammer for a fortune’s worth in MANA coins. In Sandbox, Snoop Dogg and Adidas bought bits of land or pixels, or whatever you want to call them, with the SAND coin.
The Metaverse is the flavour of the year, that much is clear. All major brands are expanding their territories into the 3D world. In Roblox, Nike built ‘Nikeland’ and Vans ‘Vans World’. That may sound a bit silly, shoes founding countries and all, but they do attract 50 million users, every day. RFTKT, the largest virtual shoe designer, has already been acquired by Nike, so that everyone in Nikeland can look equally glitzy.
“In Roblox, Nike built ‘Nikeland’ and Vans ‘Vans World’. Shoes founding countries, it may sound a bit silly, but they do attract 50 million users, every day.”
Fast Forward: 2022 - ...
However much we would like to have a clear outlook on the future, we have no crystal ball. Nevertheless, the planet’s collective intelligence does provide us with some advice, guidelines or useful hypotheses. Even if only to adjust them along the way. I tried to answer some of the questions that characterise 2022 for me now, with the help of that same intelligence.
How can I capture people's attention today? Three magic words: interact, interactive, interactivity. Don't say that young people can't sit still or pay attention for long when they are quite able to spend hours and hours in front of a screen building kingdoms, farms or football teams and defeating dragons or terrorists. These young people do not watch commercials, they do not listen to the radio, they do not consume what you put in front of them. They want to stand in the kitchen and cook along.
“The thirtysomething who still lives in his parents’ basement, eats nothing but pizza and has a neon-lit office chair is a stereotype buried deep beneath the fortunes that circulate in the gaming industry.”
How do I reach my audience? Follow your audience! That makes sense. That’s the open door. But where is that audience in 2022? Possibly on Fortnite. But make no mistake, there is no such thing as ‘the’ gamer. The thirtysomething who still lives in his parents’ basement, eats nothing but pizza and has a neon-lit office chair is a stereotype buried deep beneath the fortunes that circulate in the gaming industry. There are classic media, blogs, social media and there are games, and each of these media require a specific approach, language and strategy.
How do I take hold of the Metaverse? I have written it before and I will keep repeating the message: the universe is passé. Games, blockchain, AR, VR and web 2.0, where everyone helps to produce the content, form the basis for the Metaverse. You have to jog along with these evolutions if you want to understand the final result. Unless if you want to be stuck somewhere halfway in the past, this is the time to set up a Metaverse team in your company. Do not populate it with your second cousins who happen to play games, but with creative thinkers and doers who not only produce technology but dare to fantasise about what the Metaverse might look like.
“We, humans, are going to expand. To our reality we will add a virtual reality and the two will merge and seamlessly blend. That symbiosis is what we call the Metaverse.”
Do I have to build a whole Metaverse then? No, silly! You can go fast, but do so in many baby steps. That is why we sometimes speak of miniverses. On platforms like Roblox or Fortnite, you can create small virtual communities. They are the ideal environments for brands, who are all about building identities, to explore some uncharted territory in the digital world. Another advantage of these miniverses is that you can experiment on an existing userbase that is probably a lot younger than the people who still notice your ads in the newspaper.
How will we work in 2022? Now there is a tough one. The use of augmented and virtual reality in the workplace is becoming bon ton. Think of remote teams, digital meeting rooms, virtual collaboration platforms or even fully digitised exhibition floors, including your people’s avatars that shuffle around. Team building? A trade fair? A boot camp? It can be done. And it could look amazing. Platforms such as Glue, Horizon Workrooms and Mesh are the bright and shining examples.
“The use of augmented and virtual reality in the workplace is becoming bon ton.”
The year of hardware
It was hard to keep track of all announcements from the big fish who are going to develop their own new headsets. Both augmented and virtual reality are still heavily dependent on hardware, on the quality of the glasses that you wear. Apple, Playstation, Snapchat, Meta and Google are all planning to blow us away with a new model in 2022. I can only applaud that.
Working in this industry has always been a joy, but this year is really going to be a blast. The simultaneous rise of hardware and the wide acceptance of (and need for) virtual worlds makes creativity explode. So many new virtual worlds will be built. 2022, I am to-tal-ly ready. Are you?