No matter where you get your tech news from, if there is one thing you have came across in the news multiple times over the last few months, it is probably the ‘Metaverse’.
And if you ever tried Second Life (an earlier less technologically advanced predecessor of the Metaverse but that had more than a million users way back in 2013!), you might be familiar with avatars and what living in a virtual world is like.
The metaverse is still a ‘work in progress’ if I can put it that way, and a simple way to explain it is a virtual world where many of the technologies of today (like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality) will come together and give us alternate, creative, maybe bizarre spaces and experiences to explore.
While it has been a much heard buzzword recently, the Metaverse got even more attention when Facebook rebranded itself as Meta in October and when you look back at all the developments that led to this rebranding, you can clearly see a pattern. From introducing Horizon Workrooms in August for work collaboration to revealing Facebook Horizon for recreation and entertainment, Facebook has clearly been taking steps towards its Metaverse plans. While Facebook steadily moving in this direction is one way to guess what the Metaverse might ultimately look like, other brands that are investing in this space also tells us a bit about what to expect.
Brands like Sotheby’s, Gucci and Burberry have already made a splash in this space of reality meets the virtual world. Gucci created the Gucci Garden Archetypes space on Roblox (an online gaming platform that allows players to connect virtually and among other things, play games built by other players) where users could experience different themed spaces, try Gucci outfits and even buy limited edition merchandise. A limited edition bag from the experience sold for the digital currency equivalent of over $4000 in the real world!
Sotheby’s went one step further and created it’s own metaverse with a curated selection of NFTs aimed at digital art collectors and the creators of Pokemon celebrated their 25th year anniversary by collaborating with Charli Cohen and creating a virtual city where fans could buy both physical and digital merchandise. Shoe brands are stepping up their game too and earlier this month Nike bought RTFKT, a company that makes digital shoes and collectibles while Vans created ‘Vans World’ which is a skate park on Roblox where the brand’s fans can both try out Vans gear and their skateboarding moves!
If shopping for your favourite brands and enjoying new spaces with your friends isn’t exciting enough for you, how does actually participating in a spin-off from your favourite Netflix show sound? Interesting? Netflix’s most watched show ‘Squid Game’ has been extremely popular recently. This popularity has extended to the gaming platform Roblox too where many creators have created games based on themes from the show. One of the most popular games is aptly called ‘Red Light Green Light’ and players are forced to play different games to survive.
Another brand that recently announced Metaverse plans is Disney and while it hasn’t shared too many specifics, Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek talked about ‘storytelling without boundaries’ in its own Disney Metaverse. Disney has already forayed into this space with virtual reality experiences around some of its biggest franchises but a Disney Metaverse sounds all the more exciting and I for one can’t wait to see what will be possible.
Even with all these plans and brands involved, it is still anyone’s guess what the Metaverse will finally look like and we will just have to wait and see, to begin with for technology to catch up to these plans. However, it definitely looks like the virtual spaces both now and in the future, will offer us entertainment, adventure, retail therapy, an escape from reality and just maybe a new community to belong to – one I hope will have even more freedom of expression and fewer prejudices and biases.