Metaverse, metaverse, metaverse…it was a common theme at CES as brands attempted to capitalize on a buzzword of the moment. One crafty Twitter user began collecting any mentions of “Metaverse” on booth signage throughout the show, which ended up being quite hilarious for some in its reach and bravado but, for others, a downright blatant misuse. And while I wish I could have attended in person this year to see it all for myself, my view from the virtual seats still allowed for some interesting insight into what’s next for all things consumer tech.
So who actually broke through the clutter and confusion around the buzzword? One brand at CES 2022 that actively moved the Metaverse discussion forward was Hyundai. They presented a true futurist vision called “metamobility” where robots in the real world can augment humans within the metaverse as a sort of “digital twin.” Sounds very sci-fi on the surface, but when you consider the implications for hazardous environments, dangerous jobs, remote surgeries, etc., it starts to actually click. The foresight to imagine a world where the physical and virtual are so deeply integrated is not only impressive in its own right, but also presents a great example of the kind of practical innovation that will be required to make the Metaverse a reality with actual utility.
Another major brand, Samsung, showed that they are trying to be a major voice within this conversation with a couple key moves. First, they created a virtual showcase called “My House” on Asia’s biggest metaverse platform ZEPETO. This experience allowed users of the platform to decorate their virtual homes with up to 18 different Samsung products. Samsung’s position here is one of style and atmosphere, not tech specs, that directly engages consumers’ creative capabilities and imaginations. While, for me, “My House” was a bit cumbersome and tedious to go through all of the steps to experience its virtual world for myself, those directly in the sights of this target market would likely find it quick and easy to engage with.
The second move Samsung made in an effort to become a leader in this space is a forthcoming “NFT Aggregator” experience for their TVs. Set to roll out on higher-end models in 2022, this TV-based application is “a groundbreaking platform that lets you browse, purchase, and display your favorite art—all in one place,” according to their press release.
Why does this matter, especially in a time when most consumers don’t even understand NFTs? Because they are adding useful utility to a chaotic space. This practical innovation is exactly what a technology like NFTs needs to garner mass-market appeal. It’s more than just a practical way to display these expensive digital tokens—which is desperately needed—but also a way to simplify the ecosystem around learning, browsing, and buying NFTs. And like it or not, NFTs will be a foundational part of the metaverse moving forward so any traction here is very important.
This year we also saw a bevy of practical technologies that will allow us to experience this virtual world with more of our senses. From Shiftall, a Panisonic subsidiary, whose wearables let you feel hot and cold in VR, to Razer, whose full-body haptic gaming chair allows you to feel everything else, brands are making significant hardware advances that will help the concept of the Metaverse come to life. Other tech brands like Vuzix and TCL made huge strides in AR and VR glasses, while stalwarts like Sony introduced their new Playstation VR 2 platform which will attempt to bring VR to the masses.
“Alright,” you may ask, “what does this mean to me? To my brand? Today?” While these trends will continue to get a lot of buzz over 2022, the reality of the Metaverse is years—if not decades—away. Even as a creative technologist, I found myself rolling my eyes a bit last fall when this term first started to take off in the zeitgeist. Until, that is, I looked at the concept through the eyes of my boys, 9 and 12.
My youngest spends hours each week in VR already, constantly begging me to get a new game or purchase a new experience for him to try. He loves spending time playing in virtual worlds he creates in Minecraft. My oldest is constantly asking for more virtual currency for Fortnite (or whatever he’s playing at the moment) to buy skins, passes, or modes of play. My boys are primed for the inevitable virtualization of the real world that they live in everyday, and they would be eager to embrace any of these visions for what I see as the experiential future of the internet.
While any true realization of the Metaverse is miles down the road, I’m now a believer in the concept—especially for future generations. And that is what matters to brands today. Taking steps now to embrace the Metaverse is key to building relevancy with younger audiences, all the way down to Gen Alpha, who will become our future customers, fans, and ambassadors. Building a 5-to-10-year roadmap of how our brands will be and stay relevant for the next generations of consumers is critical.
So strap on your AR goggles and lace up your “Back to the Future” boots, it’s time to start taking this metaverse journey! Don’t want to take it alone, or don’t know where to start? Reach out to your friendly avatars here at MERGE, and we can help guide you through it.