18 May Into the Metaverse
I sit at the door of my daughter’s room watching her click away at the speed of light on her laptop. She has headphones on, and every once in a while lets out a giggle. Nothing wrong with this picture except it’s Friday night, she’s 16, and she’d rather be at home and online than out and about sneaking drinks and cigarettes and kissing boys.
She has a different persona in the Metaverse. The games she plays require avatars, and she is often a gothic fairy wielding an enchanted sword. She spends her allowance on her avatar’s wardrobe.
What exactly is this curious and surreal world dubbed ‘The Metaverse?’ To answer that question, we invited some awesome speakers to our ‘Into the Metaverse’ event to unpack what it means, where it’s going and how we can all benefit from it.
We now have a Metaverse thanks to the gradual development of the Web, according to Melody Maker, digital partner at M&C Saatchi Abel: “It started with Web 1.0 where we were connecting information at scale, taking encyclopedias and developing them into a search engine. Web 2.0 was about connecting people, so it was focused on socials. Web3 is the Metaverse, which aims to remove physical barriers, making the experience more immersive and fuelling the need for escapism” Maker said.
“It is an intersection between Web3 and a combo of AR and VR,” added Sea Monster CEO Glenn Gillis, who moderated the talk. Gillis brought a few Virtual Reality headsets for us to try – an amazing, floaty, dreamlike, and weirdly satisfying feeling of being transported to Table Mountain on a sunny day, riding the Cable Car to the top, with all the thrills and feels of actually ascending to scary heights!
“People use the terms AR and VR interchangeably but they are actually two very different projects. AR or ‘Augmented Reality’ is actually pretty old; in fact, you’re sitting with it in your pockets right now! AR is developing into less hand-held devices – like Apple, with their AR glasses, or GPS, which layers digital info over the real world. VR is completely immersed in the virtual world,” Gillis said.
Why would you go to the Metaverse?
Tyrone Rubin, founder of MetaLabsAfrica, Picturescope, and SenseVirtual, a VR arcade in Cape Town, is also a true NFT fanatic, and was quite excited by this question: “I see the Metaverse as top funnel Social Media – Facebook, Tik Tok, etc will continue to serve the Metaverse in terms of where they’re positioned. They’re an entry for your avatar into the Metaverse. And crypto is big in this space – how brands can use these things to get results will be very interesting indeed,” he said.
And Maker agrees: “VR is going to be about escapism; connecting to something you don’t have access to, so people are naturally going to be drawn to it. AR may prove more interesting, after all, we are still people, so perhaps a mixed reality would suit us best. For example, imagine cooking with AR help? It will definitely be adding value to your life,” she said.
M&C Saatchi Abel is currently developing AR solutions for South Africa’s online retail giant Takealot, trying to find ways of experiencing the products before buying them instead of just looking at them in 2D on screen.
“Our desire to immerse ourselves in stories, to immerse for social reasons, or just for wanting to experience and learn is fundamentally a human need and it’s anthropological; none of that has changed – it’s just the tech that has changed,” Gillis said.
Africarare’s Metaverse ‘Ubuntuland,’ the first African metaverse, was launched in February 2022 and both MTN and M&C Saatchi Abel have bought real estate in the realm:
“We are building our agency in it – a virtual agency, and we are figuring out what the value add is, and how we can maybe provide things people don’t have access to. We can maybe have Ben Golik (Chief Creative Officer of M&C Saatchi London) teach us a Master Class in the Metaverse all the way from the UK, for example,” Maker said.
What Does the Future Look Like in the Metaverse?
The currency in Ubuntuland is the $UBUNTU token, which is built on the Ethereum blockchain. Once you buy land in this metaverse, you can create, innovate, and interact. Landholders can customise their territory to do anything from hosting shops, producing resources, housing NPCs and developing games or any other applications. Staking, DAO and blockchain play-to-earn gaming is also on its way.
According to JP Morgan, global metaverse revenue opportunities like live events, ads, social commerce and hardware are going to reach over $1 trillion. Google, Meta, and Microsoft are all participating. Gaming and entertainment brands, as well as some fashion labels (like the Gucci Garden in Roblox), are paving the way for brands seeking to navigate the metaverse.
But all of this giddy excitement to join in comes with problems as well. Gillis spoke about the very real issue of how we will go about regulating disputes in the metaverse. “Binding arbitration: It’s the thing that is going to be the most fundamental issue that we will have to deal with. The first war will be in the cryptocurrency space; there is a lot of dispute resolution needed because you don’t necessarily own the digital version of your business,” Gillis said.
And with all the different NFTs and crypto currencies, how will we be able to connect? Maker explains: “Just like with Meta buying Instagram and Oculus and other companies swallowing up other companies, there will be a monopoly to buy out everything, but in this same vein, everything should be able to connect.”
And what of my daughter sitting staring at the screen all day? Will she be truly alright in the Metaverse?
Studies in relationships between avatars actually showed that avatars have a much deeper connection. “Our archetypes are much deeper together. There are avatars that are ‘married’ that have complex, real relationships,” Gillis said.
I guess we just have to accept the fact that it’s the future and it’s here and for younger people, this will be their life. As Gillis said, the metaverse is the 4th Industrial Revolution and companies better jump on the digital bandwagon sooner rather than later! Where to start? Perhaps where it began: Start with a serious gaming strategy. You need to lay the groundwork that will set you up in the Metaverse.