Getting Versed in the Metaverse—And Why Communicators Should Embrace It
— October 5th, 2022
Until recently, the idea of the metaverse didn’t meant a lot to me.
It seemed like some conceptual and not particularly relevant thing that was somewhat in the future.
I figured I’d get my head around it in due course, or not. A bit like “Secondlife”—where the hype in the early noughties didn’t match the reality and it all sort of fizzled out.
While I was intrigued by its creative potential, my friends and I use to joke that “If you had a “Secondlife” you probably didn’t have a first one!”
But over the last few months I’ve changed my mind. The metaverse is well and truly here and could create a $13 trillion economy by 2030. Millions of people are already spending time on metaverse platforms, whether in games, virtual concerts, sporting events, or viewing real estate.
What is the metaverse? Simply, it’s the next generation of the internet or web 3.0. It combines the physical and digital worlds in an immersive manner (i.e. by using augmented reality, virtual reality, and other technologies). Its application ranges from gaming to advertising, manufacturing, health care, and education.
For example, a health and safety organization in the US I was recently talking to was using the metaverse to train people on how to do emergency CPR. Using a VR headset and dummy, users get real-time feedback on the speed and position of their compressions, complete with distressed spectators in the background; all designed to prepare people for a scenario that could save someone’s actual life.
Some organizations are even starting to provide VR headsets to their employees as they would a laptop and having them sign up to the metaverse in induction.
Sick of zoom calls? Imagine being able to brainstorm with your team on Mars or run your next CEO roadshow at your virtual offshore production center. Not too far off you’d expect that our employee directories are all going to be replaced with a workplace avatar.
Organizations will also need to think through the “digital twin” version of their product and how customers will interact with it. We’ll have the opportunity to try out new products in the digital world before we buy the physical version.
Tiffany, Sotheby’s, Gucci, Walmart, Nike, and Snapple are just a few of the brands taking this seriously. Fancy some jewelery or a new pair of trainers for your avatar? The creative possibilities are endless. What’s also clear is that the metaverse experience has to be both enjoyable and connected to the brand’s values.
The implications for professional communicators are potentially staggering. So, when my weekend plans were thwarted, thanks to rain, I decided to tackle something that had been on my to-do list all year and get hands-on.
First, I needed to choose which metaverse platform to go with. After checking out some recommendations I chose Decentraland, but there are plenty of others depending on what you want to do.
On the home page, I’m greeted with “Welcome to Decentraland. Create, explore and trade in the first-ever virtual world owned by its users.”
There are trending items such as “The regular goose” (??) and land for sale in cryptocurrency. You can even buy a movie character’s name like “ClariceStarling”, or AlexMashinsky, to give your avatar a Russian entrepreneur vibe.
But what do I do now? This is where the setup gets a little bit complicated. Bear with me. To take full advantage of the platform you need to create an account so that you can buy and trade NFTs (Non-fungible tokens)—the wearables, land, art etc.
And to do that you need a web 3 wallet. I chose Metamask which lets me buy Ethereum dollars (a type of Cryptocurrency used in Decentraland and others). I was greeted with a whole lot of tech jargon at this point; apparently Metamask also enables access to Dapps, tokens, ICOs, erc271, and more, which sound more like the names of one of Elon Musk’s children!
I have no idea what all that means but you are given a helpful video. Basically, the Metamask wallet keeps your money and data secure from hackers and gives you ownership and control of your digital identity.
Once you have a wallet you need to put money in it and to do that you need to use an application like Coinbase. Then you can purchase your crypto using your credit card, confirming your identity with your driver’s license or passport. The final step is transferring your crypto into your wallet. Now I’m ready to explore.
Creating my avatar was quite easy and fun to do. Soon I was bumbling around with a few others not really knowing where to go or what to do. Browsing the highlights gave me some direction, and from here I could “jump in” to a bar and grab a virtual beer (for over 21s only), get tickets to a virtual live concert from a Swiss pop star, attend a Ukrainian virtual art exhibit, listen to AI poetry, go to the “Petaverse” (!) or play a range of games.
I confess I did not find it easy to navigate around and I’m sure gamers would have a distinct advantage here.
Metaverse Art Week 2022 was particularly cool; an array of immersive art installations, NFT exhibitions, AI-generated art, panel talks, and audio-guided art. I loved Frida Kahlo‘s Red House (that's my avatar in her Red House below) showcasing her life and never-before-seen artwork.
It took me a while to find the door and how to get in, but once there, it was impressive (if not a bit frustrating at times due to my novice navigating status).
My next goal in the metaverse is to purchase a wearable and perhaps a little piece of land. Hopefully, I will improve my ability to get about. Love to hear tips anyone has!
I have no doubt the metaverse will have a huge impact in all areas of business and on our lives. I encourage everyone working in communication, change management, marketing, or advertising not to wait until the metaverse is fully mainstream.
Get on board and experiment now so you can help shape how it’s used and innovate for your business.
Hope to see you there —and, hopefully, we'll all know more about what to do than I and fellow avatars do in my metaverse visit below!