Welcome to the metaverse. That sentence might sound like the beginning of a techno-dystopian movie: a jumble of words that only works in science fiction.
And yet, in the top groups of Silicon Valley’s most important companies, it’s very real: the Internet’s movers and shakers are planning for a future in which the digital and the physical are inextricably intertwined in an all-encompassing virtual reality that allows us to exist together, whenever and wherever.
That is, the metaverse.
The future of the Internet is here.
The point is that a large part of the population will probably never understand it. That says a lot about where we’ve come from and where we’re headed.
The concept of the metaverse emerged before most people sent their first email of their lives.
Neal Stephenson coined the term in 1992, in his novel Snow Crash.
We will be the characters accessing another world available on our screens, where we will live a life as full as the one we experience away from them.
This future metaverse, its evangelists explain, is not just a “virtual world” or a virtual reality, or an economy, or a theme park or space, and it is certainly not just a game.
The metaverse is more than that because it will include countless parks and themed spaces, and because all of that will be integrated into a cohesive experience that will serve not just one human need or purpose, but all of them.
A new seismic wave of web innovation is on its way.
Brands that sit on the sidelines too long do so at their own risk.
The metaverse, once developed, is a more immersive way to communicate with people who are physically separated.
As hybrid work evolves and more workers become physically separated from their peers, immersive work experiences, ranging from hiring to onboarding, training, understanding yourself in relation to others, and communicating and collaborating effectively to build strong relationships that get people moving in the same direction and working toward common goals, meeting, sales, marketing and more, will become increasingly important.
However, there are several barriers and challenges, both in the improvement of technology and its adoption in business and human capital management.
A very serious game.
Perhaps the easiest way to imagine the metaverse is not through abstraction but rather by using a bunch of hypothetical cases: Epic Games already lets you buy Air Jordan sneakers as part of a skin for your Fortnite avatar, and today you could wear them to battle royale in the morning before sporting them at an Ariana Grande concert at night.
Now, imagine if you could show up on an island in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing wearing the same thing.
Epic Games has shown that in the world of marketing there are always new ways to reach consumers, and it is not the first time that this video game developer has teamed up with other brands through its video game franchise.
Fashion designer Balenciaga decided it needed to increase its popularity among the younger generation and young people love Fortnite, right? And here we are with a Fortnite x Balenciaga collaboration.
Epic Games captures 2 billion from Sony and Lego to boost the metaverse and the company is now worth nearly 29 billion.
Operations are accelerating among the technology giants to take positions in the metaverse.
Okay, now imagine if you could show up to your workplace in your outfit obtained from the web and from there go to a group spinning class at the gym. Imagine you could even gift your outfit to a friend on Instagram, or exchange it for an artwork in the form of non-fungible tokens (or NFTs).
You could take your data, possessions and yourself from place to place and platform to platform, sometimes in 3-D, sometimes in today’s 2-D, sometimes with the help of virtual reality helmets or augmented reality goggles, and sometimes with just our eyes.
Maybe it all makes sense, intuitively, to you. Maybe it doesn’t seem to make any sense to you.
Many people who grew up without the Internet see it, in essence, as a tool: something that fosters experiences and helps, for example, to plan a picnic, book a ticket to a Rolling Stones concert or buy a vacuum cleaner. They don’t see it as a place that provides experiences in and of itself.
Even for these people, social networks exist simply to provide information about the offline lives of their loved ones.
Many people who grew up with the internet see it as a place that does provide experiences. However, they also see it as a place separate from the offline world, a complement to what happens when we close our laptops or step away from our phones, which is the reality that really counts.
Why else would video gamers and members of the old chat rooms use the term “IRL” (in real life)?
However, there are more and more people who grew up not only with the Internet but on the Internet.
Sometimes they interact with people they know “IRL” just as much as they interact with people they don’t, and sometimes they talk to people they know IRL the same amount of time online as they do in person.
They are in the digital world one instant, in the physical world the next, and in both at the same time.
The internet cannot be separated from real life. The Internet is real life.
So the value of a metaverse with all the paraphernalia the rest of us associate with the real universe seems obvious: to connect two spaces between which we already move constantly and make them even more similar.
All of this is more of a possibility than a likely thing at this point, yet those who have the greatest influence over our technological future are intensely dedicated to an idea that is completely unintelligible to the denizens of the analog past.
Events in the metatarsal, fashion shows, concerts, conferences, medical symposiums, sports tournaments, academies, entertainment, shopping, weddings, divorces, sex, love…
Our minds, and our lives, have been transformed.