The metaverse explained: - 'Need to Know' in association with BPE Solicitors
Everyone’s talking about the metaverse – but why should it matter to business? We find out.
In our Business & Innovation Magazine brand new series 'Need to Know' series, in association with BPE Solicitors, we look at what is the metaverse and why should I care?
In October 2021, the parent company of Facebook changed its name to Meta in reference to a developing technology called the metaverse.
But what is the metaverse, could it become the “next big thing”? Why does Mark Zuckerberg want to own it and what could it mean for business?
The first question is relatively easy to answer: The metaverse combines social media with virtual and augmented reality (think of it as a 3D internet). Imagine being able to participate in world events without leaving the office, fight a bush fi re in Australia or coming face-to-face with world leaders or that captain of industry you’ve always admired – all without leaving your lounge.
Mark Zuckerberg wants to “own” the metaverse because he can see the vast economic potential of a new virtual economy as the value of his fi rst-born Facebook diminishes. According to Bloomberg, the metaverse could be a $800 billion market within just a few years.
For businesses, there is huge potential, and some are already taking advantage. Callum Gill is Head of Insight and Innovation at creative communications group DRPG, which has its headquarters in Kidderminster.
Callum leads a core team of 10 already working in this new creative sector. “The metaverse is complicated and at the moment frankly it’s a mess,” he said.
“There are many platforms – none of which integrate. Meta’s metaverse platform is called Horizon, and you can only access it through a virtual reality headset. Microsoft’s is called AltspaceVR and no headset is needed, but a user’s avatar can’t move from one to the other. And there are literally thousands of other platforms vying for supremacy.”
For those of a certain age, think Betamax versus VHS. For Gen Z’ers, think Apple versus Android. They do the same thing, but they’re totally separate technologies.
Some platforms only accept blockchain and cryptocurrency, while others will take real world currencies.
| Big brands lead the way into the metaverse So in this wild west world, who’s using the metaverse?
It’s the big brands such as Gucci and Nike which are leading the way, according to Callum.
“Gucci is present in Roblox, an online gaming platform. Earlier this year the luxury brand set up “Gucci Town”, which includes games spaces, a café and a virtual store where players can buy virtual Gucci gear for their Roblox avatar.”
And here’s the thing: a Gucci handbag on the high street could cost you £1,000, but in the metaverse, it could cost £1,200 – such is the value that Gen Z’ers put on virtual reality possessions, according to Callum.
So what’s in it for smaller businesses? “If you’re in luxury consumer goods, you should be looking at the metaverse now, because the big brands are already there,” said Callum.
“If you’re in other sectors such as, for instance, banking or consumer services, it’s likely that it’s not going to be of benefit to your business yet.”
But pre-warned, is pre-armed, and Callum suggests that every business should get itself a VR headset and have a “mooch around”, see what it’s like, because you could spot new opportunities, if not now, for the future.” Callum predicts that a universal platform, or at least the coalescing of technologies so that an avatar can wander from Microsoft’s AltspaceVR to Meta’s Horizon and carry the virtual goods they’ve bought in one into the other, is more than a decade away, but it will come.
“Your use case has to come down to your audience. If your business is targeting the Gen Z audience, my advice is look at the metaverse now,” he said.
Stepping into the metaverse...
Christine Jackson, Partner and Head of the Tech team at BPE steps into the metaverse
Businesses are beginning to step into the metaverse, using it for its creative experiences across all sectors including construction, entertainment and advertising.
As legal advisors at the forefront of this emerging technology, our role is to not only help our clients to benefit from its rich commercial opportunities and enhance their enjoyment of its potential as a communications channel, but to support our clients in identifying and addressing the new legal risks that arise, in particular given the inability of legislation to keep up with the pace at which technology is developing.
Oliver Bruce, CEO & Founder of Pinpoint Media expects the metaverse will certainly have a role to play in our daily lives over the next 3-5 years, with the potential surrounding the emergence of web3 and blockchain technology which could enable a crossover from reality into mixed/virtual reality (VR), which he feels has a greater chance of adoption than VR exclusively.
For James Nam, Creative Director at DRPG, the ability for VR and AR to enable fluid interaction with each other is paramount to extracting the best level of collaboration and creativity. DRPG regularly assists clients to engage audiences in the metaverse, with exciting opportunities arising as hardware is developed to integrate visual experiences seamlessly into our daily lives.
Jan Heuff , CEO and Co-Founder of Spaceform, a platform which provides metaverse solutions, champions the metaverse as a tool for experiencing and developing plans for new buildings, spaces and cities, as it allows you to use your entire body to sense scale and proportion.
Despite such opportunities, companies need to deal effectively with the novel risks posed by this new technology which include risks like safely handling unprecedented amounts of personal data (including eye movements and facial gestures) and guarding against cyber-attacks (such as hacked avatars).
Whether you are concerned about the risk or excited to introduce the metaverse in your business, BPE’s Technology team can help.
Christine Jackson, Partner
LinkedIn: BPE Solicitors LLP