From augmented reality and virtual reality to the everyday nature of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, the metaverse - and the question of how we will use virtual space in the future - is currently a widely debated topic. Unsurprisingly, chatter isn't just confined to the tech space, it has also been making waves among digital pioneers and sparked interest by those in political, legal, and ethical circles.
This online world has exciting promises in-store, but the existence of the metaverse isn't entirely new, in fact, it has been discussed under the Metaverse Roadmap Project since 2006:
"What happens when video games meet Web 2.0? When virtual worlds meet geospatial maps of the planet meet pervasive web video? When simulations get real and life and business go virtual? When you use a virtual Earth to navigate the physical Earth, the internet swallows the television, and your avatar becomes your online agent? What happens is the metaverse."
In his presentation "Approaching the Metaverse for Businesses and Brands", Dirk Songür, Specialist at Microsoft, shows a model from the Metaverse Roadmap Paper that demonstrates approaches to creating and using digital space. The model is divided into four quadrants:
- Augmented Realities, as we know and use them in applications such as Pokemon Go or Yelp, for example
- Mirror Worlds, which are already part of everyday life thanks to Google Earth or Uber
- Lifelogging, which includes Facebook, Snapchat and Co, but also portals in the digital workplace
- Virtual Worlds, we are already moving towards this in the form of Fortnite, Minecraft or AltspaceVR
Source: Lecture "Approaching the Metaverse for Businesses and Brands", Dirk Songür, Enter the Metaverse Conference 2021
Where is the metaverse journey heading? Here's what our experts say:
Metaverse - exactly is it?
When and why did you first deal with the topic?
Is the metaverse going to be 'the new normal' in the long run, or is it a passing trend?
What use cases do you foresee for the metaverse?
What development and investment challenges do you foresee?
The Metaverse in the news and on social media
To find out where the metaverse journey is heading, we caught up with Malte Landwehr, Head of SEO at idealo; Thomas Johann Lorenz, founder of Journee - the metaverse company; Benedikt Faupel, Blockchain Advisor at the digital association Bitkom; Zuzana Bastian, founder of Jevels; communications expert, Christof Schmid, and Ben Harmanus, International Brand Strategy Lead at Hubspot.
We asked the experts how they define the term 'metaverse', what possible applications are emerging for companies and private individuals, and what challenges current developments and investments pose.
Here's what we found...
Q: Metaverse - exactly is it?
"To me, the metaverse describes a time when virtual goods have the same value, and carry the same status as physical goods. It started with Fortnite skins and now it's art NFTs. Everything else (virtual jobs and virtual lots in virtual worlds) are a logical consequence of this development."
Thomas Johann Lorenz
"The metaverse means the next iteration of the internet."
"The connection of all virtual worlds into a seamlessly interacting.. metaverse."
"The metaverse is a virtual space where anything is possible - a place for limitless creativity, self-realization and also interpersonal/inter-avatar relationships and co-creation."
"For me, the metaverse is the merging of different virtual 3D worlds into a digital universe in which we can be active interactively and across platforms."
"The metaverse is the sum of all virtual encounters."
Q: When and why did you first deal with the topic?
"In late 2020 I started looking into crypto, and in early 2021 I stumbled upon the metaverse trend within this framework."
Thomas Johann Lorenz
"When the March 2020 pandemic forced us all into lockdown and we began asking ourselves: How do we make it possible for people to have better interactive experiences on their devices?"
"Trying out Second Life and discussing alternate realities within it."
"The end of 2020, since that's when I started to get involved with digital fashion and its possible applications."
"I got to know and tried out the idea of metaverse for the first time when using Second Life. Even then, I was fascinated with the idea but at the time the technical possibilities were still very limited."
"I've been dealing with blockchain since 2017. At the beginning of 2021, I took a closer look at NFTs. In order to see which NFT projects actually have an exciting use case, I looked at projects with coins that, measured by the Market Cap, were already very valuable. I wanted to understand whether there was just hype surrounding the coins - meaning short-term profits. What caught my eye was the existing collaboration with well-known brands, so I put a few of the cryptocurrencies down in my portfolio and observed the projects ."
Q: Is the metaverse going to be 'the new normal' in the long run, or is it a passing trend?
"Certain aspects of the metaverse (virtual goods with real value, decentralization of ownership, monetization, and pseudo-anonymity will become part of the new reality. I don't think that we will experience everything in VR worlds in the near future."
Thomas Johann Lorenz
"The metaverse will fundamentally change the digital part of our lives."
"It certainly won't become 'normal' for everyone, but people who spend time in virtual realities today will find their way around the metaverse quickly."
"The metaverse will evolve into a complement to our physical world over the long term."
"For me, the Metaverse is more than just a trend. It's a fascinating idea from which a completely new area of application and new possibilities can develop. I believe it will expand our normality."
"I think we are still a long way from the 'Ready Player One' reality. However, we have seen in the past that new technologies and trends are overestimated in the short term at first, but underestimated in the long term. All the platforms that are currently building their part of the metaverse do not, for the time being, offer anything that is fundamentally different from virtual worlds such as Second Life or World of Warcraft - and these worlds are several decades old. The metaverse won't necessarily be 'the new normal', but it will permeate and transform all areas of life, whether professional or personal."
Q: What use cases do you foresee for the metaverse?
Thomas Johann Lorenz
"'The metaverse' is like 'the internet' - it offers endless possibilities for companies from all industries and private communication."
"Companies can promote information exchange between their employees in completely new ways. For private individuals, the gaming industry will certainly be a strong driver in the years to come."
"People can meet each other in the metaverse no matter how far apart they are physically. For brands, this means that they can create digital clothing and accessories for our 'virtual twins' (avatars), cars, work, living spaces etc. This allows for a lot of creativity in product design and marketing."
"The metaverse will create a self-contained digital reality that we can enter for different purposes - opening us up to many new possibilities. Individuals will be able to connect, interact and communicate with each other on a new level. This will enable cooperation and significantly impact businesses in terms of interactivity and dynamism, while at the same time, brands can reach and communicate with their customers in entirely new ways. Any marketing communications available in our reality can also be carried and augmented into the metaverse."
"I find it exciting that blockchain-based games or worlds allow users to receive items and virtual money that they can carry out of the gaming world. If I receive an antique sword that was integrated as an NFT into a game, I sell it through an external platform like OpenSea or send it from wallet to wallet to someone.
The coins earned can also be exchanged for fiat money such as euros on crypto exchanges - or for other cryptocurrencies. In addition, users can create objects and even entire areas in the metaverse! Already, people around the world are building cars, avatars, clothes, or furnishings that others buy.
A completely new creator and influencer economy is emerging that goes far beyond videos produced for social media. Companies and brands must also think about how they can participate in this trend. Otherwise, the metaverse creates a parallel world in which your own brand does not appear - but other brands do. Of course, companies can transfer their stores 1:1 to the virtual world, but it would probably be more exciting if you actually dealt with what excites users about the metaverse and create experiences that are authentically tailored to the platform and its possibilities. Virtual meetings are interesting in the B2B context, but it will probably take more time before VR finds its way into companies as a collaboration tool."
Q: What development and investment challenges do you foresee?
"I think films and series like Black Mirror, Ready Player One, Surrogates, or The Matrix do a good job at showing where we could end up - social isolation, escaping into a virtual world, and decay of your own body while hanging out in the virtual world 24/7."
"It remains to be seen whether the metaverse will be adopted by large internet companies, or whether a new ecosystem based on blockchain and Web3 ideas will develop."
"Interoperability of virtual worlds and regulation to protect people and their data."
"I think it's important that there is interoperability in the metaverse and that you can move around in it, across platforms and applications. But designing this together with the idea of an open internet, which is equally accessible to everyone, will be a great challenge."
"The metaverse is the sum of the many virtual spaces that exist and are emerging. As with social media platforms, questions surrounding this include: which virtual spaces will prevail and where is the best place to reach target audiences? My advice is to get in early. Get hands-on with blockchain, wallets, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, the metaverse, and their use cases. This is the only way to really understand what it can be used for - and where hurdles still lie.
Technically, it's the wild west, even if usability is improving rapidly. These hurdles ensure that, in my experience, the metaverse has tended to be developed and driven by men so far. With this, many real-world problems - and those of social media - are carried over into the metaverse as well. It's important that a diverse part of society engages, invests, and shapes the metaverse as soon as possible so that we can create a safe place where discrimination doesn't exist. It is also important that the financial entry barriers for users are not too high. If you invest in a metaverse that only works with a high-end PC and VR glasses, you will not develop a pull in the short term. Here it makes sense to invest in the metaverse 1.0 or 2.0."
The Metaverse in the news and on social media
So what are these posts and conversations taking place across media about? In addition to the debate about Facebook and Meta as a company, the focus is on the games industry, as well as blockchain technology, and the influence of current developments on cryptocurrencies.
Want to learn more about where the conversation is heading? Tweet us, we would love to chat!