Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a splash late last month, revealing the social media company he co-founded was rebranding itself as Meta Platforms Inc. (Nasdaq:FB) and bringing the concept of the metaverse to mainstream attention.
The metaverse is an iteration of the internet that eschews staring at 2D screens in favour of immersive digital worlds people can access through hardware like VR goggles or even smartphones. For Facebook, it means diving deeper into developing communities, albeit in a 3D virtual realm in which users adopt avatars.
The metaverse concept existed long before Zuckerberg’s announcement – the term was coined in the 1992 dystopian sci-fi novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – and the business applications have long been under development within B.C.
Here are some of the top business applications ahead for the metaverse.
“This is a huge cost savings, not to mention a reduction in carbon footprint,” said Ashley Crowder, CEO of Vntana, a platform for developing 3D digital and augmented reality e-commerce. “Taking this one step further, the metaverse provides a whole new revenue stream for digital goods. So fashion, furniture and other companies can not only benefit from increased sales by using 3D but they can sell the digital assets in the metaverse.”
“[There’s] a potentially much more profound and important impact that the concept of the metaverse in general will have on the way business is transacted,” said Jack Newton, CEO of Burnaby legal-technology firm Themis Solutions Inc. (Clio).
While important client meetings are frequently done in person, he told BIV he sees wider adoption of the metaverse creating “potentially zero need for that in the future.”
“Organizations like Boeing [NYSE:BA], Hewlett Packard [NYSE:HPE] – anything that involves complex assembly of machinery that would have required significant training and resources, now they’re doing it with virtual reality, augmented reality that are overlaying instructions in a real world environment and giving somebody a step-by-step playbook on how to put together a jet engine, for example,” said Matt Burns, founder and chief innovation officer of BentoHR.
“Pardon the explanation: I spent 20 years in retail myself – they’re a low-skilled workforce, high turnover, so the game in a business like a Walmart [NYSE:WMT] or Amazon [Nasdaq:AMNZ] is speed to productivity [when training].”
“From a sales perspective, I love it because I’m able to connect with the client in an intimate way that otherwise I’d have to hop on a plane to meet them in their office,” said Burns.
“But now they’ve got this headset on, they’re doing it from their home, I’m connecting with them in a way that no other salesperson is spending with them.”
Collabstr Ventures Inc. co-founder Kyle Dulay, whose Vancouver company specializes in connecting influencers with brands, foresees the metaverse changing how companies spend marketing dollars.
“Advertising spend may become more distributed amongst independents, rather than being focused on platforms,” he said, referring to social media giants like Facebook.
Interest in cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – both backed by blockchain to ensure security and authenticity – have heightened throughout the course of the pandemic. Wider adoption of the metaverse will see users wandering through virtual worlds, interacting with other people and making purchases online that depend on crypto and NFTs.
Lending and exchanging such assets in these virtual worlds is also expected to expand.
“We’ve seen how NFTs skyrocketed with mainstream attention in 2021 following Beeple’s auction at Christie’s,” said Wilder World co-founder David Waslen, referring to the US$69 million sale of artist Beeple’s artwork in digital form. “Now we’re witnessing the first interactive digital art galleries where anonymous NFT avatars can shop for art.”
He said the metaverse is also priming the gaming world for payments that rely on crypto assets and NFTs.