The idea of the metaverse can already be found in the 1991 novel "Snow Crash" by Neal Stephenson, which describes a virtual world into which the protagonists repeatedly withdraw from a richly absurd real world characterized by capitalist exploitation. People enter the metaverse in the novel through augmented reality glasses, which allow them to be in both the material and virtual worlds at the same time. It goes without saying that this life between two worlds leads to many conflicts.
"The metaverse is a collective virtual space created by the convergence of virtually augmented physical reality and physically persistent virtual space-including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet." - Wikipedia.
What Stephenson describes as a dystopia in his novel is not so far from our reality today. The latest developments around Facebook aka Meta give the Metaverse a whole new relevance in society and even if you look around otherwise, you quickly realize that the future is closer than we might think.
Many brands and companies are already taking advantage of the opportunities offered by advancing technologies. More and more brands are relying on virtual experiences to bring their products closer to consumers. The increasingly sophisticated algorithms of social media marketing platforms are already enabling companies to reach their exact target group and persuade them to make a purchase with targeted ads. Behind the scenes, technologies are also evolving all the time - from programmatic advertising to geo-based tracking to automated ads, there are more and more ways to target users and incorporate targeted advertising into their daily lives. Even at the level of virtual reality, there are already many examples of how brands are bringing in new innovations.
In virtual stores, there is the possibility to view products three-dimensionally, to map dimensions and to get an in-depth impression of the products. There are no limits to the range of products: there can be virtual stores for cars, sports accessories, clothing, jewelry, shoes, furniture, technical accessories or home accessories. In addition, there are already very strong product demos today. Samsung, for example, developed a comprehensive virtual demo for the launch of the Note 20, in which viewers can get to know all the features and functions of the new smartphone. Even though there are "only" 3D stores in the virtual world so far, it remains to be expected that 4D experiences will also follow.
Did you know that 75% of the images in IKEA catalogs are not photos, but computer-generated images? This means that the product images are created and rendered on the computer. Special programs offer the possibility that the products can be integrated into a real context, in which light incidence, shadows and the mood of the image can also be determined. For companies, CGIs bring enormous advantages: For one thing, their creation is much less costly and time-consuming than organizing and carrying out several photo shoots. In addition, image material can be reused much better and CGIs do not bring any disadvantages for the quality of the images. Although CGIs are not directly part of a metaverse reality, they nevertheless show how artificially created images change reality in the creation of images.
The Corona pandemic has changed the way we work. For many months now, many employees have been used to working remotely and meeting their colleagues via virtual meetings. The range of platforms for online meetings has already grown considerably and there are various offerings. The provider Horizon, which now also belongs to the Meta Group, is revolutionizing the nature of virtual meetings once again: Here, people come together in virtual rooms in the form of avatars. These avatars embody emotions, reflect facial expressions and gestures, and give virtual communication a new liveliness.
Video games in particular already show how brands can use virtual spaces to present their products. More and more brands have collaborations with game developers so that gamers have access to limited collections and can wear their characters with accessories from Gucci, clothes from Marc Jacobs or Valentino, and drive cars from Ferrari. The luxury label Balenciaga even had a completely separate game "Afterworld" developed for the presentation of their latest collections, in which guests at the fashion show could explore the new collection within the game. In many aspects, the cost factor also plays a decisive role here. For Ferrari, for example, it is apparently more profitable to create a campaign entirely in virtual reality than to shoot it in real life. Above all, the creation of computer-generated images and videos offers the possibility of completely recreating reality. There really are no limits to imagination this way, and with the necessary skills, you can create your own universe. The general turnover of the industry is also immensely high. Currently, the sales forecast for the year 2024 is 200 billion US dollars. Who would have thought that the nerds in their rooms would play such a central role in our future?
It's big, it's confusing, it's scary, we don't know what's coming – but still, the Metaverse is well on its way to turning our lives completely upside down. Why is that, and how can it be successful?
Baby boomers were yesterday. The digital world is dominated by Gen Z and Millennials – the generations that grew up with digital media, smartphones and video games. It is therefore understandable that the affinity for new technologies is also significantly greater in these groups than in older generations. It is impossible to imagine everyday life without various digital tools, apps and communication channels for most young people, and they are constantly on the lookout for new trends and innovations.
In the financial market, digital services are becoming increasingly relevant. For some, it seems as if the end of the cash era is just around the corner. There is no doubt that blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies, NFTs and smart contracts are on the rise. Meanwhile, there are many companies in the financial market that are completely relying on digital innovations, paving the way for an independent economy in the metaverse.
As mentioned earlier, the changes in everyday work due to the Corona pandemic and the general transformation in society play a major role in the increasing relevance of online meeting platforms. For many months now, virtual meetings have been the reality for many workers:inside. And yet, many people continue to find that these meetings in front of a screen are not on par with meetings in real life. However, platforms like Meta's Horizon, where all participants are represented by their avatars, can change that.
Globalization does not stop at the virtual world. South America, Southeast Asia and Africa in particular are among the digital-emerging markets that are producing more and more young talent who want to be part of the global economy. Global collaboration is also becoming more relevant on a virtual level and is easy thanks to diverse offerings. A development of the Metaverse would further facilitate and reinforce this development, allowing people from all over the world to come together in a virtual space.
"The Metaverse is a promise by some of the largest technology players in the world to aggressively take global connectivity to the next level" – A Brand Guide to The Metaverse
Facebook attracted a lot of attention in October 2021 with the renaming of the group from Facebook to Meta. Mark Zuckerberg presented his vision for the Metaverse in his 1.5-hour keynote. He sees Meta as the future of the one big Metaverse. There, the boundaries between virtual and augmented reality are to merge; and there is to be a persistent, synchronous environment in which people can meet virtually without feeling any drop-off in interpersonal communication. Rather, communication is to be enhanced. It also aims to provide people with a teleportation-like space that they can enter with VR Glasses.
Since Facebook's founding in 2004, the company's vision has always been to connect people. That vision is now being taken to the next level by shifting its focus toward becoming a social technology company. Zuckerberg himself says, "We will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company." In the context of this transition, Facebook announced back in October that it will create 10,000 new jobs in the European Union over the next 5 years to create the metaverse.
If the vision of Meta's Metaverse becomes a reality, it can be expected that the reality of work and also social life will change significantly. There will be more and more virtual encounters and events such as concerts, sporting events, social initiatives, universities, workplaces and much more could possibly take place purely virtually in the future. Meta goes to the Moon - and everyone wants in.
So far, it's not entirely clear what the Metaverse will really look like in the end, but one thing is certain: it has the potential to completely change our lives as we know them. Everything Meta does in the next few years will be working toward creating the Metaverse. What was described by Neal Stephenson 30 years ago as a dystopia is on its way to becoming our reality. And once the Metaverse is available to the general public, there's pretty much no turning back.
Every revolution has a dark side. Thus, the Metaverse also harbors many still undreamt-of dangers. So far, at least for the outside world, the entire structuring of the Metaverse is still a great mystery. Who determines which rules prevail in the Metaverse? Are there any rules and laws at all? How is it ensured that they are followed? In the keynote speech introducing Meta, Marc Zuckerberg said that he sees security in the Metaverse as being similar to security in a city. He said that it must be ensured that there is some kind of police force that intervenes when incidents occur; and at the same time, it is implied that there will never be a completely violence-free and safe city. So far, there is no concrete information on regulation in the Metaverse.
The issue of data protection is similarly unclear. Those who already complain about being tracked too much should prepare themselves for the Metaverse. With permanent monitoring of people in the metaverse, the AIs will quickly learn to read any emotions and the algorithms will adapt precisely to this. On the one hand, this is of course an advantage, because it allows us to quickly find the right things, places, people and offers, but on the other hand, it also means that privacy will become increasingly smaller.
What will the economy look like in the metaverse? In an environment where everything is dominated by cryptocurrencies and NFTs and there are no longer banks and states in the classic sense, it remains questionable whether there will still be tax, credit, interest, etc. Some may be happy about the absence of bureaucracy, but completely without certain frameworks, this supposed freedom will bring entirely new problems.
Another critical aspect - probably the biggest - is posed by the Metaverse for the development of our entire society. Humans are social beings, but what happens when social interactions and all of human life soon become entirely virtual? What happens when we work, play sports, meet friends, have family reunions, date, search for inspiration, educate ourselves, and explore new places in the Metaverse? What impact does the Metaverse have on people with mental illness? The transition between losing reality and creating a new reality is fluid in the Metaverse.
This Metaverse is not really tangible at the moment for anyone who is not behind the scenes. For Meta, this revolution in social life is a further step towards ticking off the supposedly wacky ideas from Marc Zuckerberg's head. And Meta is not alone with these advances, which can already be seen in various innovations in the direction of Metaverse and in developments in the gaming industry. It is no longer a question of whether the metaverse will exist, but rather when it will begin to change and dominate life as we know it today.
The Metaverse definitely offers some advantages that facilitate remote working and flexible living in general. Also, we all might not have been so exposed to the Corona pandemic if we didn't rely so heavily on real-life social life. It may well be that in a few years it will be quite normal for all of us to hardly leave our homes and really spend our entire daily lives in the metaverse. However, it is also clear that there will have to be some concrete measures in the area of data protection and security to ensure that the Metaverse really is a safe space for everyone.
At the moment, the whole thing still sounds more like a science fiction movie than like our lives. It will probably be quite a while before we shift our human encounters completely to the metaverse. And that might not be such a bad thing. So let's all enjoy real life until we can tell our grandchildren at the Christmas party in 2053 how much better (or worse?) everything used to be.