Boardroom spoke with three industry experts to learn why we can’t afford to ignore what the metaverse means for the future of technology, community, and, entrepreneurship.
The rise of the metaverse, virtual and augmented reality devices, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies are going increasingly hand-in-hand as we enter the brave new world of Web 3.0 (a.k.a. “Web3”). And in real time, we’re watching more and more companies get with the program in creative ways.
From Facebook’s corporate rebrand as Meta to Square’s transformation into Block and Staples Center’s upcoming re-christening as Crypto.com Arena, business leaders across any and all industries are gearing up for the new digital era that the metaverse promises.
And just as with blockchain, there isn’t one brand or entity that can “own” the metaverse. That’s what makes it so exciting — everyone can have a piece if that’s what they desire.
But let’s take a step back. What is a metaverse, anyway?
As I’ve written previously, I loosely define the metaverse as a virtual space where users can interact in digital environments. But I’m admittedly not a technologist; like so many of us out there, I’m still learning the lay of the land here, so I asked an expert from the world of academia to expand on my simple definition:
“The Metaverse is an ecosystem where digital and physical worlds collide,” said Travis Cloyd, a Global Futurist for Arizona State University’s School of Global Business Management. “It’s a realm where we can be anything we want and a place where we can create our own digital identities. The metaverse is also a computing environment where we can engage and connect based on particular metaverse capabilities and our personal inner desires.”
That’s some serious food for metaversal thought. It sparked Boardroom’s desire to internalize this phenomenon further, so we spoke with several industry experts to better understand why the metaverse is essential right now, why you should care about it, and what it all means for the future.
Managing Director, Republic Realm
Janine Yorio, managing director of Republic Realm, defines metaverses as “alternate digital realities where people socialize, work, play, and transact.”
Launched in April 2021 as an arm of real estate fintech company Republic, Republic Realm is the developer of a metaverse and NFT innovation and investment platform. The company has holdings in 19 metaverse platforms and owns over 2,500 NFTs.
Yorio said the metaverse is in its formative years, and the foundation is being built faster than when the internet went mainstream in the 1990s. She credits the emergence of the metaverse to the pandemic normalizing society’s digital interactions at an accelerated rate, but it’s not a concept that just popped up this year.
“The idea of the metaverse isn’t by any means new, but over the past two years, there have been profound societal shifts in how we socialize and how we work,” Yorio said. “Today’s metaverse startups will be some of tomorrow’s Fortune 500 companies. While that might sound a bit far-fetched, consider that Coinbase — now valued at more than $54 billion — was founded in 2012 when one Bitcoin (BTC) sold for about $12.”
(As of this writing, one Bitcoin has a market value of over $51,600.)
Yorio predicts that just as business leaders realize they need websites to compete, they will need a presence in the metaverse to thrive. The metaverse can also change how we conceptualize ownership across the digital sphere — small business owners could buy their own metaverse land and operate their stores entirely online instead of paying for physical storefronts.
Republic Realm paints a stylized picture of what that world can look like.
Simply put, Yorio said consumers should care about the metaverse’s rise because we all can play a part in shaping it. The metaverse can offer new business opportunities and alleviate various hardships entrepreneurs face in attempting to launch their ventures.
“Consumers should care because the metaverse is already here,” Yorio said. “At least right now, consumers can have a real and meaningful impact. There are tremendous opportunities once you start to enter this space, with things happening in the metaverse that cannot be seen in the physical world.”
As for some of the big players Yorio suggests we look out for in the metaverse space? Animoca Brands, Dapper Labs, Polygon, and Avalanche.
Co-founder & CEO, Streamline Media Group
Streamline Media Group co-founder and CEO Alexander Fernandez thinks the metaverse’s reach can go far beyond the worlds of virtual real estate and running virtual businesses.
He launched his entertainment and enterprise video game development company in 2001 alongside three other fellow gamers. Streamline now boasts a team of 200 employees and is one of the developers behind games like Final Fantasy XV, Bake n’ Switch, and Nightstream.
Fernandez agrees with Yorio about the pandemic helping move the decentralized, democratized phenomenon of Web 3.0 along, which aligned with the metaverse’s hastened emergence. He said advancement in technology has accelerated to the point where the metaverse is more accessible and immersive, with the convergence of media, technology, entertainment, and business all driving it forward.
“[The metaverse is the] driving force showing decision-makers that creative communities matter, brand loyalty is currency consumers want to monetize, new voices are necessary to stay relevant, and the tech will continue to evolve to support that,” Fernandez said.
According to Fernandez, businesses, and brands finally acknowledge the staying power and overall impact of online community, specifically the gaming community, as relevant sources for technical and creative talent. Employers could use metaverse to build their teams soon. Most notable, the metaverse could give the gaming industry a whole new edge. It’s almost impossible not to feel like you’re gaming when interacting in a metaverse, and Fernandez believes the metaverse will mature quickly for that reason.
“It will demonstrate how relevant the skills of making games are to the digital transformation of industries as global corporations adopt these technologies’ increasing demand for talent,” Fernandez said. “It means the ‘passion economics’ of the video games industry will compete with real-world economics of established businesses willing to pay top dollar to get their products to market.”
Another aspect Yorio and Fernandez agree on? The opportunity for consumers to be a part of metaverse’s creation. There are no rules or guidelines — and perhaps most importantly, no hierarchical power structure. That makes room for a lot of adventures that wouldn’t otherwise be feasible.
“Imagine being able to go back to 1994 at the start of the internet and having the opportunity to help create and shape where it is today. What would that mean for you as a person or as a business?” he said. “I can imagine it would be a lot, and that’s why this is so important to understand at this phase of the metaverse’s development.”
When asked about the top companies he’s watching right now in the space, Fernandez named Microsoft (specifically the company’s development of Microsft Mesh), Epic Games, and Genvid Technologies.
CEO, Worldwide XR
Travis Cloyd, the CEO of Worldwide XR in addition to his role at Arizona State’s business management school, says the metaverse is such a significant phenomenon right now because, as he put simply, “it’s the future of engagement.”
Each person and company has the chance to personalize the content they create for their audiences to connect based on desires and interests. Cloyd also believes that as the metaverse grows, so does the need for more advanced gadgets.
“There will be an influx of heads-up super-computing devices driven into the market by leading big tech brands,” he said. “Consumers won’t stand in line to get a handheld device, but to get a hands-free device. Head mount displays will provide us the hardware to explore virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality like never before.”
Cloyd predicts billionaires will be born overnight based on innovation and technological advancements to come that the metaverse helps to realize. He said the days of clicking, liking, and viewing content are over; scanning and engaging will soon replace these habits, and companies will shift their marketing efforts to reflect that.
A maybe-not-so-good realization is that consumers already spend more than eight hours in front of digital screens daily. Those hours may drastically increase if we are “living” within the metaverse. This possibility makes me think about how consumers will indulge in activities like working out, reading books, studying, and even working. WIll the metaverse align with all of these daily habits, as well? Cloyd thinks so.
Some top companies working on metaverse tech that Cloyd is watching include Nvidia, Coinbase, Snap, Roblox, Microsft, Unity Software, Unreal Engine, and Meta. He’s keeping an eye out for hardware devices coming from Apple and Amazon as well.
“We will look back at hand-held devices the same way we look at the yellow pages today,” Cloyd said. “We will display real-time spatial content if it’s AR. We will touch it and engage these assets with MR capabilities. We will enter into new worlds with VR devices. All stories will have to be retold using these formats, and the metaverse will be a way of life — and eventually, an afterthought.”
Business development, gaming, and hardware devices are top of mind for all of these experts as the metaverse comes alive. We may be having a completely different conversation a year from now, like discussing the best gadgets to buy to reach maximum engagement in the emerging digital landscapes of the day.
But although so many worlds are yet to be formed, we can still say one thing with confidence: The metaverse is here to stay.