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AR / VR, News, Social Media, Technology

What On Earth is a Metaverse? – Part III

Kenton Reynolds

Kenton Reynolds, Writer
@uxconnections

We have looked into what the metaverse is and who is making it. Now we focus on why it is being made. This final part of the series will detail the possible functions of this new platform and how it could change the way we interact with technology.

Gaming and Socialising

Gaming is probably the area that we are already exposed to something close to a metaverse. The boom of VR headsets in 2016 initiated their presence in global mainstream consciousness as cheaper headsets became available that did not need gaming PCs that were paired with expensive software but instead users could download a free app and slide a smartphone into the headset. However, the novelty of this technology wore off quickly with most games being basic with no real depth or story and functionality being limited with price.

Metaverse gaming will build on this with more sociable and developed gaming. We can expect large lobbies and realistic interaction with other players as the gaming industry will merge with platforms like Decentraland that is an online social space – a successor of chat rooms. These will form a grey area with the new iteration of social media which is sure to play a large aspect in both Experience and Discovery in the metaverse. The classic ‘News Feed’ will most likely be scrapped or see major changes in exchange for more personal viewing. Social media firms who thrive on data mining will see multitudes of data come their way as they can monitor movements and even eye track to see what content attracts you which will in turn lead to an incredibly personal space to explore.

Shopping

There are a few examples of e-commerce already fusing with virtual or augmented reality. Apple’s incorporation of LiDAR with iPhone 12 Pro meant that shoppers could try on shoes in AR as well as enabling the creation of Ikea Place with which users can place furniture into their home to see how it fits with their current room with Amazon creating a similar feature.

We can expect the metaverse to bring through a more eclectic variety of immersive shopping experiences that are not as specific. Entire shops will be found within VR – ideal for businesses who can make the most of the ‘storefront sales’ that they lose with current e-commerce – where the try-on features we already have will be widespread.

Tourism

Tourism is an industry that is still pretty inefficient and untouched by technological innovation. Journeys are still long – albeit a lot quicker than they once were; overcrowding limits enjoyment; tickets can be hard to purchase through sites that are often clumsy and awkward; less practical, physical tickets are often still used; and huge emissions are given off by the whole process. The metaverse could eradicate all these problems by making tourism a club good – it will be excludable but non-rival.

Tickets to concerts and e-sports will be unlimited and there will be no seat allocation, everyone can grab the best seat in the house. This is good news for the suppliers too, who essentially will achieve perfectly elastic supply and gain a lot more power in the market. Similarly, travel to new places will become virtual and – as a result – almost effortless.

Workplaces

The workplace has seen rapid development over the pandemic period with Teams and Zoom usage skyrocketing but the Metaverse will ensure that the expansion does not halt anytime soon. This is seen with Microsoft Mesh – the next iteration of Office – that will integrate AR, VR and holographic projections into software like Teams. Peers will appear in virtual meeting rooms in a realistic form or as an avatar. For those working in sales, a more human meeting room will make sure clients feel safer and more comfortable in conversation. Realism will be helpful for educational uses too as teachers will be able to engage students more successfully in online settings.

Technology like this will bring a new element to collaboration too. Whilst the personal feel that will be created for meetings is important, certain industries will see even more gains from teams being able to work together on design projects – especially in manufacturing industries or architecture. 

Fitness

All of these features being available at home creates a serious concern – where will people get their exercise in? So many people walk around at work, spend their day doing physical activity, partake in physical activity at home or simply use their commute to exercise. The metaverse will bring a whole host of hobbies that is sure to keep many of us more housebound than ever.

The answer is that the metaverse will provide fitness possibilities too. Firms like Peloton and Zwift are already making home exercise more immersive by having an interactive trainer or a competitive race to cycle in. Integrating these services with VR will mean that the experience can seem even more real. The social aspect of exercise – whether running with friends or meeting people at the gym – could also come to fruition via VR with concepts like virtual classes.

The metaverse is sure to bring huge changes to the lives of consumers and producers in nearly all markets. Current estimates place the metaverse at a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 10 years away. The creation will be slow and gradual and the timescale for widespread usage will be even longer, but this next iteration of the internet will change our technology permanently and hopefully for the better.

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