As more information surfaces about what Facebook’s Metaverse will look like, we have more and more questions. How does this affect privacy? Can I use it to advertise my business? Am I living in an episode of Black Mirror?
In short, the Metaverse is a combination of virtual reality concepts of virtual worlds that continue to exist after you log off, and augmented reality combining aspects of the digital and physical worlds to superimpose images and digital realities on top of your own.
The Metaverse cannot exist without avatars. They are the single element that makes this newfound world feel more human. The Metaverse working towards featuring hyper-realistic 3D avatars using artificial intelligence and sophisticated modeling to accurately depict human features and movements.
Users will be able to create, buy, and sell products that function within the digital space. Take Nike for example – the sneakerhead community is massive and Nike has melded this with the rising popularity of NFTs that can be sold and potentially worn in the future Metaverse.
You might be asking, “Doesn’t any open world video game do this already?” The answer is, kind of. Virtual congregation spaces have existed for years in games like Second Life, World of Warcraft and Fortnite, allowing users to buy and sell skins and products, buy land to build homes, and even attend virtual concerts like this one featuring Travis Scott in 2020. The difference is for the Metaverse, the priority on integration and volume across the platforms. These existing platforms have rigid, non-transferrable virtual identities and are unable to host large volumes of people on a single server. The Metaverse aims to create a seamless transition with similar programs like Decentraland and Horizon Worlds, which are seemingly dupes for Second Life. Ideally, you would be able to transfer from platform to platform seamlessly and bring the purchases your avatar makes in one platform across any platform you visit, similar to buying shoes from the mall and wearing them to work.
Barriers and Privacy
With all new technology comes barriers to access, particularly financial ones. For example, to access the Horizon World platform, users must purchase a $300 Oculus headset from Meta. Similarly, Decentraland requires crypto wallets for the game’s proprietary ERC20 token, and crypto financial literacy is far from mainstream learning.
Another concern is privacy. Data has surpassed oil in value and the Metaverse will allow an even more detailed and thorough profile to be built about each and every one of us, including a new dimension of biometric data collected by the Oculus headsets required. Netflix asks, “Are you still watching?” after a period of time, but a VR headset won’t have to. It can scan your retina to recognize if your eyes are open and focused, so it’ll know.
The more accurate our data profiles are, the more accurately products can be marketed to us, although this can also be seen as invasive.
What can we as communications professionals use the Metaverse for in our business endeavours? The Metaverse gives us a new opportunity to host worldwide events for hundreds of thousands of people from the comfort of their homes, superimpose advertisements on everyday products or settings, and host virtual showrooms for real-life products. While much of the Metaverse has yet to be revealed, what we know is that it will bring an entirely new universe of opportunities for businesses, advertisers, and creators.
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