The Metaverse: Shaping the future of immersive digital experiences
The metaverse is a persistent, immersive three-dimensional virtual space where users interact with each other and with digital environments. Combining elements of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), it is a realm where real and virtual worlds merge, opening endless possibilities for collaboration, exploration and creativity.
Exploring the metaverse
The metaverse has found its applications in various domains, revolutionizing the way we engage with technology and each other. In video games, it offers an entirely new dimension of experience for players by allowing complete immersion. One of the most populated metaverses in the gaming industry is Roblox, which has evolved past gaming since its release in 2006, providing potential marketing and eCommerce opportunities for retailers.
Roblox host metaverses for brands like Nike, Gucci and Vans, allowing players to purchase from virtual collections in the platform’s native currency for a branded gaming experience. NIKELAND was visited by over 21 million players in the year following its launch. By hosting challenges and even offering players the chance to meet sports star LeBron James, NIKELAND has managed to maintain high levels of engagement, paving the way for other fashion brands to capitalize on the metaverse as a marketing tool.
Retailers can also bring the digital world into the physical world through AR technology. In 2019, Ikea released the app IKEA Place, which displays three-dimensional models of their products that customers can position in their home. The products are shown true to scale, allowing customers to experiment with different furniture sizes and styles before purchasing. IKEA followed it with the Kreativ Scene Scanner app, which lets customers virtually replace their own furniture with virtual replicas of IKEA products.
Even the food and beverage industry is experimenting with AR technology to bring their products to life. Wine producers 19 Crimes have partnered with the app Living Wine Labels, which uses the camera from a mobile device to animate wine labels and bring consumers face-to-face with the infamous personalities that their wines are named after.
Retail is an early adopter of metaverse technology, but there are other industries where metaverse applications can deliver real business value. In manufacturing and engineering, the metaverse could allow engineers to design, build and test product components virtually, highlighting potential issues early in the process to drive cost efficiencies and mitigate risk.
In fact, BMW ran a simulated production line, building virtual cars in the metaverse for six months before it finalized the layout of a factory. During that time, it is estimated that they changed the design of the factory about 30% from the original, highlighting the value of immersive simulation.
Practicing first in the metaverse is already enabling safer, more cost effective, more productive manufacturing processes. It could also facilitate more dynamic design workshops, displaying and testing lifelike virtual versions of products in CX labs.
The impact of the metaverse on society
The metaverse has the potential to reshape society in profound ways, transforming the way we live and interact in areas like healthcare and education.
The metaverse is a paradigm shift in digital experiences, and represents the future of immersive and interactive virtual worlds.
In 2021, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeons performed their first AR-assisted surgeries on live patients. The surgeons wore headsets that overlays their vision with images of the patient’s internal anatomy based on CT scans, essentially providing the physicians with X-ray vision.
Going a step further, the metaverse could even be used to treat patients in their own home. We have already seen examples of immersive technology being used to support people with anxiety and agoraphobia. Using a VR headset, they can explore a variety of scenarios including going shopping, visiting the doctor and using public transport. The therapy itself is automated, and a virtual character provides psychological support as the patients explore the virtual environment.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Research, virtual reality therapy can help treat the avoidance and distress of agoraphobia faster than traditional approaches. It requires less therapist time than usual care and can be delivered by staff with no talk therapy experience.
In recent years, museums and galleries have been incorporating immersive technology into their displays to life to make them more interactive and engaging. The Van Gogh immersive experience allows visitors to journey into some of his most iconic works through the use of VR goggles, and London’s National Portrait Gallery offers a similar experience with its Talking Heads exhibit that enables guests to interact with historical figures. Google Arts & Culture also allows guests to explore 12 world famous museums, all from the comfort of home.
Going beyond virtual museum tours and interactive exhibits, the metaverse could transport users to other periods in history, or bring the past back to life. The creative community hub Tutera is developing Metatut, a metaverse-based experience that brings King Tutankhamun to a modern setting. The vision, according to Business Monthly, is for the city’s residents and visitors to “live a unique experience that combines ancient Egyptian civilization in a modern way with an imaginary civilization of the future.”
With this in mind, the metaverse could completely turn classroom learning and the traditional field trip on its head, as it unlocks the potential for teachers and students to explore new (and ancient) worlds without physically travelling anywhere.
Embracing the next wave of innovation
The metaverse is an ever-evolving concept. As it matures, we can expect to see increased adoption across various sectors of society, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, education and beyond. Becoming more accessible and integrated into our daily lives, it can transform the way we work, play and interact with technology.