Does the Metaverse Exist?
What is the absolute definition of Metaverse?
Fact is there isn’t one. And, as of this year, 2023, it is my feeling that we shouldn’t actually talk about the “Metaverse”. Currently, the Metaverse has multiple definitions depending on who’s describing it. The definitions tend to be crafted around agendas, whether it be specific to an industry, or area of focus such as marketing, B2B, B2C, etc. The result can be confusion for those unfamiliar with the evolutions of Metaverse enabling technology, and result in long conversations and explanations that can often still turn fact seekers round and round in circles. Let me try and unfurl some of the basics by adding my own thoughts and insight in a hope to cut through some of the noise you may hear.
My Definition of the Metaverse
My approach and outlook on the Metaverse is to look on it as the embodiment of the “Internet of the future”. By this I mean what we know as the internet today, will evolve, and eventually become, a fully immersive Metaverse. What we reference now that is helping define our impressions of the possible Metaverse “experiences” of the future, through movies such as Ready Player One, will simply become the norm replacing what we refer to as “websites” today…eventually.
If we think of the Metaverse as tomorrows internet, who’s to say what that internet can be? It can be, and already is, so many different things. The fact that it’s a technology thats ever evolving, means that list of the things it can be can be also be ever grown to infinite levels. That is my, all be it very open ended, interpretation of the Metaverse.
The Many hats of the “Metaverse”
The Metaverse, or future of the internet, has many roles to play in B2C and B2B. For customers, it naturally has this entertaining quality that we can already see being leveraged by marketers where the ability to take users into new experiences and escape reality is a powerful and memorable lever to pull on.
For B2B, the Metaverse can be seen as more of a tool to create value for the business, develop deeper engagement and connection to employees. We also see a strong demand for tools such as safety and onboarding training, especially where mimicking a physical experience where it leaves a far more memorable imprint on users resulting in far better information retention. Thats not to mention the savings in cost such when you can deliver this training to anyone, anywhere, with no costs of employees or equipment around to physical locations.
The thinning of the value chain
I see high potential for the uses of Metaverse technology, particularly in this area. The distance and layers from manufacturer to consumer are thinning out as companies react to economic influences such as the price of raw materials increasing, that in turn results in higher production costs. As the margins reduce, the productions chains are melting. We’re already seeing an increase in our work at Younite-AI in direct to consumer models in everything from fashion and apparel to automotive. The result is a need to shift the touchpoint of customer experience to more openly accessible place through virtual showrooms that can now be made possible with Metaverse technology. Technology shifts altering products at the manufacturer level are having the same effect with the automobile industry being a good example. The cost of manufacturing an electric vehicle is far higher than conventional vehicles. As a result, the margin you can share across the whole value chain is getting thinner and we more direct to consumer models being explored with companies looking to reach consumers directly as opposed to relying on dealership networks.
Metaverse supporting this shift
Given the fact that Metaverse can allow users to get closer to the experience of a physical real word product, as well as increasingly interact and engage with them in more natural and familiar ways, its ability to pull brands and manufacturers closer to their end consumer is huge. Users can explore products in showroom like experiences much as they would in the real world, wander around, engage with products, absorb information, even converse with sales assistants in more familiar and human ways. “Chatbots” will not be text entry widgets floating at the bottom right of your screen anymore, they will be human like avatars driven by AI and NLP to blur the lines of man and machine even more.
Metaverse use cases that add value
Our focus at Younite-AI is to look at the ways we use the Metaverse to drive real business impacting and value. We take the tools and processes we already use for designing any product and service today, and use the same principles to figure out what the real challenge is, and where the opportunities are, to home in on the true valuable solutions. We’re applying our existing thinking to this new canvas of the Metaverse, and leveraging the experiential options it opens up to us to create new UX thinking. These truly valuable tools will be the driving of force behind the Metaverse becoming ubiquitous. Without practical application, we’re just leveraging its properties for attention seeking gimmickry. These gimmicks do have their place, and fact is they do draw more attention to this technology. But, over time meaningful uses create more value for everyone than one-off marketing events.
Getting back to the overall question, “does the Metaverse exist?”, obviously the answer is yes. Honestly, it has for some time now if we are just talking about the core technologies. I would consider myself working in the Metaverse, and on Metaverse technology, for 20+ years. The “Metaverse” is simply a label that has been created out of increased attention to what these technologies can do, and how accessible they have become. I think the pressing question should more be “What will the Metaverse be?”. That is far more open ended and up for debate. We, as Metaverse creators and tool makers will be the ones to shape and define it. From my point-of-view, Metaverse technology will be something that is part of everyones every day life moving forward. It will gradually disappear from our vocabulary as it becomes as familiar to us as “the internet”, and our focus will, rightly, shift to the truly valuable tools and experiences that live on it. Something we’re dedicated to creating at Younite-AI.
About the Author:
Sami Heinonen leads all things Metaverse for Younite-AI, bringing his strong technical background in all things 3D, Mixed Reality, and a deep understanding of the foundational technology that makes the Metaverse feasible. Sami is a true innovator with superb technical skills combined with business understanding. With two decades of experience in the world of “the Metaverse” he has been involved in navigating it since before it was even known as the Metaverse.
Throughout his career Sami has worked as a Customer Experience Designer, Service Designer, Full Stack Proto Developer, Extended Reality Strategy and Experience Designer. As a prototyping mastermind, he truly lives the “show me don’t tell me” mantra of Younite-AI where his background as a virtual reality pioneer is evident.