The metaverse is a virtual universe that promises to give us an online experience like never before. Let’s see which industries are among the first to adopt the metaverse, and what the future holds for it.
The metaverse is well-known today. However, there are many misconceptions about it. These include: it is meant only for gaming, the banking sector is adopting metaverse faster, the metaverse is subject to many security threats, large investments are needed for its infrastructure (wearables, GPU based systems), and so on.
Technologists claim that metaverse is digital nirvana, as it immerses users into the digital world and gives them a virtual experience of anything they do to interact with the platform.
For CIOs and CTOs, the metaverse opens new business models and new ways of architecting solutions for an improved customer experience in a connected digital world.
The Gartner ‘Predicts 2022’ report claims that by 2026, 25 per cent of the world’s population will spend a minimum of one hour per day in the metaverse. Metaverse is a revolutionary technology that will open up new age business models in healthcare (virtual hospital consultation, virtual advice for critical treatments), retail (3D immersive experience based online stores), manufacturing (virtual quality checks and inspection), banking (branchless digital banks), insurance (digital avatar for marketing new insurance products, consultation for claims), and many more.
The technologies that make up the metaverse
Metaverse is not a technology in itself – it is an amalgamation of a range of technologies. Some of the important ones are listed below.
Augmented reality: This offers a virtual immersive user experience that combines digital and physical worlds to give a real-life experience using devices like a head mounted display and HoloLens.
Virtual reality: This gives a virtual world experience to users (like a digital game) where they start feeling they are part of the virtual world.
Blockchain: This helps create a virtual network of users that interact through the metaverse. For example, a student can attend an online class in the metaverse as though he/she is in a classroom and interact with other classmates (who also attend through online virtual platforms). This gives a real-life experience of the virtual classroom through a connected 3D network.
NFT and cryptocurrency: To provide a secure way of currency transactions and authenticated access, metaverse uses NFTs and cryptocurrencies. If you are a customer of an online retail store, you can use metaverse to walk through the store, touch and feel the products through AR/VR devices, and pay for them through cryptocurrency/NFT tokens.
Most importantly, we should not forget the importance of cloud services, as they form the foundation for the infrastructure, auto-scaling, reliability and availability of high performance solutions from the metaverse.
Metaverse in the banking industry
As already stated, metaverse technology is a fusion of diverse existing technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), extended reality (XR), artificial intelligence, cloud computing, 5G, and Internet of Things. The metaverse has a strong potential to change the way end users interact with banking services; banks can now offer new services and also offer new marketplaces.
In the metaverse, banks can change the way they interact with customers. They can enable high-touch services for customers by giving them virtual avatars. Also, ATMs and bank branches can enter the virtual world and offer better customer connections. Banks can also enable digital payments, NFTs, cryptocurrency and digital twins in the metaverse.
Metaverse in learning and development
Metaverse can revolutionise learning and development like never before in the following ways:
- With multi-user virtually immersed in reality (MUVIR), the learning becomes more meaningful and interactive as compared to traditional learning management systems.
- Metaverse provides a simulation experience; in the virtual world trainers can interact better with students and conduct both technical and soft skills training.
- Metaverse can enable learning by imagination using AR and VR technologies.
- Metaverse also enables fast track collaborations to create fully endorsed goals, metrics and plans; it enables proactive learning by analysing individual needs.]
Metaverse in the retail industry
Metaverse will soon make a mark in sectors like retail.
Indian retail giant Flipkart is planning to launch its first metaverse based retail shopping experience for customers this Diwali (October/November 2023) during its next edition of the ‘Big billion day sale’. Flipkart has partnered with metaverse giant Meta and cryptocurrency platform provider Polygon using its Ethereum solution. This solution is named Flipverse and there is already some excitement about it. Customers are waiting eagerly to experience the switch from 2D platforms on their mobiles to an immersive 3D experience in the metaverse.
Flipverse is expected to be built on web 3.0 technology with Ethereum Layer-2 architecture for secured crypto transactions, using the new service design called eDAO (eCommerce Decentralized Autonomous Organization). eDAO uses token currency for crypto transactions in a secured and scalable platform like Ethereum Layer-2. eDAO is expected to be used for media and entertainment for virtual experience platforms like virtual concerts.
Flipverse is expected to be accessible through mobiles and the browser itself. It will not only create a virtual online retail store experience for end users, who can feel, touch and immerse themselves into the platform, but can also host product launches, brand activation, and games/contests for a better customer experience.
This could be the beginning of ‘Metaverse as a service’, where startups like Polygon may offer consulting, ideation and storyboards for metaverse-based solution development for a better market reach and customer experience. This will require robust and scalable cloud platforms like AWS, Azure and GCP, and we can expect some native metaverse services on these platforms in the near future.
The current state of the metaverse can be clearly visualised by looking at the massive user base across the world for Roblox, Sandbox, Decentraland, Otherside, and many more.
In the near future, we can expect the following with respect to the metaverse.
- Businesses will adopt metaverse technology in their daily operations and consider this as a strong opportunity to engage better with their customers. Some big brands have already adopted the metaverse — Nike: Nikeland; Gucci: Gucci Garden.
- Top tech giants will add every physical asset as a virtual element in the metaverse. Some have already done so — Facebook: Metaquest2; Nvidia: Omniverse.
- Luxury brands will use AR technologies in the metaverse to enable end customers to try virtual clothing, see real estate to buy, and even play games and enjoy virtual holiday experiences.
In 2023, the metaverse is expected to evolve into:
Realistic avatar technology
- Decentralisation and Web 3.0
- Advanced MR and XR
- Digital workspaces and metaverse marketing.