What will be the effect of the metaverse for business?
It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. – Yogi Berra
So let’s start by saying this is not going to be a very useful blog. I’m writing here about the metaverse the meaning of the metaverse for business in the future. There are other people who’ve written on the metaverse. Generally, they are people who know more about it than I do. But their articles are likely similarly useless. Why?
Well, take a look at what people thought about computers in the 70s or even the internet in the 90s.
Few predicted a computer would be anything more than a gaming system or that the internet would be much more than a novelty or a place to house digital brochures. Now it’s hard to imagine life without either.
No one expected calls to be made over the internet or that phone lines would be being phased out for VOIP. Streaming services were unimaginable when it took hours to download a short video.
Similarly, not many predicted in the early 2000s that there would be no more Blackberries (Blackberrys?) today.
It’s hard to predict what will happen with technology that’s still being developed. That out of the way, I’m going to talk about it anyway.
Meta vs. Metaverse
First off for the casual listener let’s define some terminology. The metaverse and the company once known as Facebook are not the same thing.
The company Meta is the parent company to Facebook, Instagram, and many other companies and subsidiaries and a way for Mark Zuckerberg to try to take the bad taste of some of his companies from affecting his others.
The metaverse is basically a catchall term for virtual and enhanced environments. Virtual reality is in the metaverse and enhanced reality (like Pokemon Go) uses similar technology.
If it sounds like the Matrix or some other science fiction, that’s no accident. The term metaverse actually came from the 1992 book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash depicted a virtual world called the metaverse owned by cooperation. Real-world futurists and commentators borrowed the term to describe the current use of virtual technology online today.
That being said, the metaverse is a pretty broad term that can cover anything from games like Second Life to broader concepts of technologies that have yet to come into being.
Metaverse in the Present
Today the metaverse is not one space but a disparate group of virtual technologies used by various companies in the gaming, entertainment, and business industries.
Like many technology jumps, the metaverse has grown primarily in the entertainment fields with games like Second Life, virtual concerts, and even (briefly) Google Glass.
Unlike the internet, the various aspects of the metaverse are not seamlessly linked.
You cannot, for example, jump from one virtual environment to another using an avatar the way you can hyperlink from one website to another because all or most aspects of the metaverse are proprietary.
Metaverse for Business in the Future
How will the metaverse for business look in the future? Particularly for your business?
When talking about the future of the metaverse, one of the most frequently touted uses for business is augmented reality.
Here’s an example. Imagine you’re meeting with a contractor to remodel your house. As you try to picture the changes you put on some glasses that allow you to virtually project the changes into your current environment and make adjustments in real-time until you have something that you like.
Another common projected use of the metaverse is meetings. Over the past two years, we’ve had a lot of conference calls over zoom and other video meeting services.
Many have complained about the strangeness of zoom. Others worried about having to let people see inside of their homes or having to worry about how they were behaving on camera. Finally, there is an uneasy feeling of seeing oneself on the screen. You can turn it off, but will you?
The metaverse promises both more and less naturalistic virtual gatherings in the future. Perhaps feeling like you’re actually in a room with others will feel less awkward than viewing them two-dimensionally. Conversely, you may be in a meeting with real people whose avatars look like Avatar.
Perhaps the biggest implication of the metaverse for business is in training. If developers are able to crack the code to get the metaverse out of the uncanny valley, that can open a whole new world of training.
When you can let your employees make their mistakes and learn skills in a real-world setting without having to pay by the hour for individual trainers and actors that’s a change in the game.
The importance of real-world training in the metaverse for business is doubled when you think about dangerous jobs like bomb diffusion or combat.
But all of this is speculative and honestly, we really don’t know what meta will hold for the future and what we’re predicting today might seem as antiquated as saying the “w,w,w” part out loud when telling a friend about a website.
In the future, the metaverse will likely be helping us solve problems in ways that we have no way of predicting in much the same way that we never realized how affordable the internet would make phone calls.
In 1993, crowdsourcing solving a crime through matching videos people had taken on their phones to a shared online universe of virtual photo albums would have seemed like science fiction.
Meta itself may not even be the term we use anymore much like the worldwide web is uttered fairly infrequently.
I’ll sum it up with another sports quote, this one from a fictional athlete. Mild Spoiler Alert for anyone who has not yet seen the 2nd season of Ted Lasso (but wants to).
Spoiler after this line…you’ve been warned
In season 2, retired star player Roy Kent becomes frustrated while working as a talking head on a SportsCenter-like tv show. The host asks him what he thinks the players are thinking. Kent says he doesn’t know and then goes on…
“I don’t know. All we do is sit around here and guess what a bunch of little Expletive are going to go and do out there. Then we come back at halftime and we complain cause they didn’t do exactly what we thought they’d do.”
And that’s the truth. All any of us are doing here is guessing. IF we were to be cooperative, creative, and mindful, the metaverse could do a lot of good in ways we haven’t imagined yet. Right now, we’re mostly just imagining ways it can help make money and let us pretend.