Into the Metaverse
Into the Metaverse
There’s this really famous scene from the Matrix – a pale and rather dishevelled looking Neo (Keanu Reeves) sits in front of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in a darkened room. “This is your last chance,” Morpheus tells Neo. “After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Facebook’s recent rebranding to Meta, and the subsequent media storm that has followed about ‘The Metaverse’, reminded me of this very scene. Sure, the picture Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg painted of what the Metaverse will look like is a lot less dystopian than the scenes depicted in the Matrix but the idea is quite similar.
In the Metaverse, we will be able to get inside a super advanced version of the Internet where people interact via digital avatars. It will incorporate aspects of online gaming, social media, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
It’s the next evolution of connectivity where everything starts to come together in a seamless, doppelganger universe, explains says Victoria Petrock, an emerging technologies analyst. “So you’re living your virtual life the same way you’re living your physical life.” No longer just viewing the digital world from the outside, the Metaverse presents us with a virtual space that we, or our avatars at least, can interact with and explore.
And, perhaps most importantly for people like Zuckerberg, it’s a space where we can buy a range of virtual stuff that will enhance our experiences in this online world. In science fiction, the Metaverse has typically been depicted as a place where people can go to escape the difficulties and troubles of the real world. Whether or not that’s how we engage with it, remains to be seen.
The blue pill or the red pill
Much like Neo, I believe we’re all being presented with a choice. Do we embrace the Metaverse and enjoy this new virtual world where we can be whoever we want to be or is this taking things a step too far? Beyond this, it’s also very important to be discerning about who is going to be in control of this powerful, virtual ecosystem. In the Matrix, people are controlled by machines. In the Metaverse, many suggest that we’ll be controlled by some of the tech industries biggest and most prominent brands.
Luckily, we still have some time to decide how we feel about it because, as Zuckerberg put it, the Metaverse doesn’t fully exist just yet. In fact, it could be five to 10 years before some of the key features of the Metaverse hit the mainstream.
But we are seeing parts of it already. As a pretty simple example, consider how many aspects of our lives went online in 2020 when the pandemic forced us all to stay indoors. We had birthdays and baby showers online, our pub quizzes went virtual and some of us even closed big business deals without ever meeting the people we were working with in person. Obviously, this is a hugely watered down version of the Metaverse experience described above but it does illustrate just how quickly and easily the entire world could make such a mammoth move online.
For brands, the Metaverse presents opportunities to develop entirely new products and to engage with customers in unique ways. For advertisers and marketers, this virtual world will make it possible to create truly immersive experiences. Both will need to do a lot of market research if they want to speak to and entertain these digital customers.
What all of this will look like, no one really knows. And when it comes to answering questions about just how much more time we’ll start spending infront of, or rather inside of, our computers, only time will tell.