Is metaverse the future of the internet (...and humanity)?

Amy Kleppinger
Publication Date
9 February 2022

Is metaverse the future of the internet (...and humanity)?

If you could work in your pajamas but send an avatar clad in Armani to a virtual conference room in your place, would you? What if you could stand arms length from Ariana Grande while she belts out her latest tune? (even during a pandemic) Would you like to go shopping without having to find parking? Tech giants are banking on the appeal of these experiences as they set their futures on metaverse.

But just what is metaverse, again?

Metaverse is an evolving concept of an online, virtual world that combines virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and video where users "live" within a digital universe. Metaverse can be accessed via a smartphone or computer but often includes virtual reality headsets to create more immersive experiences or augmented reality that can insert virtual objects into the real world.

The New York Times quoted expert Matthew Ball as explaining that metaverse "represent[s] the fourth wave to computers, following mainframe computing, personal computing and mobile computing. It’s moving into what people call ambient computing. It’s about being within the computer rather than accessing the computer. It’s about being always online rather than always having access to an online world.”

This idea represents the potential of the next evolution of the internet, Web 3.0, and many believe it will dramatically change the way we all interact with technology, with brands, and with each other. 

Why are people so excited about this future?  

With the help of AR, VR headsets, digital avatars and connected devices, people can do almost anything they can dream: socialize with far away friends, shop in a virtual space day or night, attend world renowned universities, virtually present to international co-workers and clients - the possibilities are limitless. 

Metaverse use cases include:

  • Entertainment - Video games are the easy example here but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine virtual travel, meta concerts, or immersive films - all could be possible.
  • Socializing - Metaverse could enable you to visit with friends or family members who live thousands of miles away. Or even those who you can’t see due to injury or illness. (wouldn’t that have come in handy recently) While technology can often be seen as something that brings people away from the physical world, it equally has the potential to create human connection where it was never before possible.
  • Business - The days could be numbered where a client brainstorm or strategy session requires days of travel, time away from family, and the use of a stale hotel conference room. The future of business collaboration, whether it’s for selling, collaborating, or simply team building could be easily accessible without the economic or physical toll of traditional business travel.

The potential of these concepts are so appealing that top technology companies are already vying for the #1 spot in this virtual world. But there are certainly pitfalls to be considered, as well.

Challenges of metaverse

Metaverse brings with it all of the privacy, security, and mental health challenges that we battle with on the internet and social media today. The exponential opportunities of metaverse also present compounded challenges. Cyber security threats and economic incentives to mislead will certainly not get easier to battle with metaverse. And these are just the societal challenges - there are certainly many technological challenges to tackle before the future of the internet can be realized.

Experts feel it’s likely 8-10 years before the full vision of metaverse can be realized, so there is some time to consider these hurdles. Perhaps the lessons learned from social media 1.0 will inform a better, safer metaverse. In the meantime, the race to the future will keep us all dreaming of the ways technology will continue to shape our virtual and real worlds.

How will specific industries be impacted by metaverse? 

We reached out to our experts to get their take on how major industries may respond to the opportunities and challenges metaverse presents.

Financial Services are Integral to the Future of the Internet 
Matthew Williamson

How do we know that Financial Services will be a part of metaverse? The simple answer is because consumption and commerce are a big part of the future of the internet. 

Someone needs to be there to manage currency and, in some cases, finance creation of metaverse infrastructure and assets. Both traditional banks and FinTech corporations have specific advantages that could help them succeed in this space - we’ll see if there’s room for both to win.

The implications of how the development of metaverse will shape the future of finance is still a game of speculation, but many are placing their bets on the expansion of blockchain and cryptocurrency. The thinking is that these digital tools will enable the flexibility and security that users will need in the virtual world and that metaverse will help them each realize their full potential.

This issue, of securing digital security and identity, is certainly not one to be considered lightly. After all, a large part of the appeal of metaverse is that it’s a space where people and companies can reinvent themselves into whatever and whoever they want. With that in mind, the challenge will be how to authenticate that virtual beings encountered in metaverse are connected to authentic and individual people and - perhaps most importantly in the financial services space, that the transactions being made are authorized. This will require financial services leaders to develop new and more sophisticated solutions for their customers.

Beyond how financial tools will enable the growth and safety of metaverse, the industry must also contemplate how the nature of their existing business transactions may transform to take advantage of the new opportunities metaverse presents. 

Across industries, technologies like VR and AR are already enabling remote workers to collaborate efficiently and in financial services; these technologies can enable data visualization and analysis in ways that would not have been possible just a short time ago. This clarity of communication is an aid both within the employees of a financial institution and also between financial advisors and clients.  

But the opportunities for expanded client interactions could also include the retail banking experience. A lot of attention has been paid to how consumer behavior is shifting away from in-branch interactions to virtual. Metaverse could provide the benefits of both: the personalized attention of the physical experience combined with the convenience of banking from anywhere.

It’s impossible to know exactly how metaverse will shape financial services, but it almost certainly will and the institutions who take the longer term strategic approach, engage, learn, and fuel the growth of metaverse in financial services are positioned best to win.

How can companies prepare for metaverse?

As excited as everyone is about the potential for metaverse, the good news for everyone with questions about planning for this future is that we’re not there yet - and we won’t be next week, next month, or likely even next year. A few thoughts on some things that leaders should be doing now to set themselves up for success in metaverse:

  • Make your brand experiences more immersive today. For example, a well known seller of office printers currently uses AR to help office managers assess which printer models will fit in their available space.  Even in mature markets and companies, opportunity to leverage immersive technologies is readily available right now and can be the first step in the journey to a presence in metaverse.
  • Consider your current brand experience on wearable devices. A great example of this is to check out how your internet platforms appear in the browser of a VR headset. As sales of wearable devices skyrocket, the likelihood that people will engage with your brand on new platforms will increase in parallel.
  • Never lose sight of the human experience. Technology for technology’s sake is never a good idea. If the capabilities of metaverse don’t add value to your customer’s experience with your brand, they’re unlikely to engage with you there. The brands that will be successful will be the ones who best understand user needs and find immersive ways to create new and better solutions.

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