Buzzwords in tech come and go. But some of them stick around. Artificial intelligence, virtual or augmented reality, crypto, blockchain — the list goes on and gets bigger by the day as technology makes bigger strides and evolves faster.
Meet the latest buzzword that’s here to stay: the metaverse.
What is exactly the metaverse? Simply put, the word describes (paywall) a world in which our day-to-day lives transcend a single reality and includes virtual reality as well. Over time, it has come to encompass the VR experiences, AR initiatives and other digital simulations that have become commonplace in the modern day and age.
With the metaverse having an independent, whole economy of its own, cryptocurrency and digital currency will likely become the key transactional method. The most widely known cryptocurrencies today are Bitcoin and Ethereum, but the list of digital currencies will likely become more and more diverse as new ones are introduced continuously. Either way, such currencies will be key to trading across the real world and the digital world, all while being supported and distributed by technologies such as blockchain.
Among the companies that are already first comers in this new economy are gaming companies — namely Epic with its Fortnite game that has been completely transforming virtual games as players know it by creating a convincing, realistic world around the game. Among the game’s biggest initiatives sparking the metaverse were the concerts, the game hosted, including shows with Travis Scott and more recently Ariana Grande. Other industries will be swift to follow as the lines between reality and digital get more and more blurry.
The metaverse will also impact — if not completely redefine — the way people work. No doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic has already been the biggest test for the corporate world, shifting work and employees to remote collaboration in no time and forcing people to merge their real and virtual personas. The world saw the even more abrupt rise of platforms like Zoom and Slack, which enabled collaboration at a distance and across time differences and proved to be key in fighting for high levels of engagement and productivity in difficult times.
With lives slowly returning to normal (but not fully), some things won’t change — and one thing that’s certain is that people have discovered that working remotely opens the door to new opportunities for collaboration, growth and success, even though it all seemed scary at the start of the global pandemic. The future of work in the metaverse is much more efficient, streamlined and convenient for employees and employers alike.
The future of commerce won’t be the same as well. While after the pandemic, online shopping and deliveries have become the new standard, the metaverse will only accelerate this trend. Consumers will no longer need to frequent physical stores to try new products before purchasing. VR and AR experiences will allow exploration of brands and their offerings from the comfort of customers’ homes. On the other hand, the metaverse will also enable more interactive in-store experiences. VR and AR sets will make it possible to try a variety of products within the store, no matter if the product is in stock or not.
These possibilities are no longer fictional — and they haven’t been for a while. Snapchat is one of the best examples of how the metaverse is already here without us realizing it. From customized filters that allow brands to connect with consumers on deeper levels to Snapchat’s study that reveals users would like to see more of such interactive content, it’s clear the future is here already even if people don’t fully realize it yet.
The metaverse might be another buzzword in the myriad of trends that spark in the tech world, but unlike many others, it has its roots in society already. With Covid-19 speeding up large-scale digitization and forcing people around the world to immerse themselves into the digital world, the metaverse is not a fictional, sci-fi future anymore. In fact, it’s one of the possibilities that is closer to a full-swing realization than any other.
Originally published in Forbes