This has been a long journey into a future that is coming. As with the internet, no one is exactly sure how it will evolve. The innovations creep up on us with the early adopters starting to use them. Today’s users of Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft will be tomorrow’s customers and will therefore expect richer engagement experiences with brands. They will drive the cutting edge and the construction of the metaverse future.
While the metaverse will be led by our desire to share experiences in the form of space and time with others, the µniverse will be driven by the need for a brand to offer differentiated and rich experiences for its most valuable and profitable customers – that little extra that wins them over for life. Just as it was very difficult to imagine all the possibilities of the Internet in the mid-1990s, it is our 2D and small screen imagination that limits our exploration today of the possibilities of the metaverse future. But that future is coming. Technology has a relentless forward march and early failures are but small blips in the path of progress.
In this series, I have, in a limited way, explored some ideas. Atomic rewards to counter attention recession, a micro-currency Mu to provide access to the new world, gamification and 3D interfaces to combine with avatars, digital twins and software agents to provide a persistent presence in this parallel universe. All of these are individually there; what entrepreneurs need to do is to start putting them together.
One of my first projects when I started working at NYNEX in 1989 was to explore an Intel technology called Digital Video Interactive (DVI). I would imagine replicas of places which one could explore via the desktop. Later, in the early days of IndiaWorld in the late-1990s, I would imagine a 3D mall as a manifestation of the global marketplace that I wanted to create. And then came SimCity, which enabled the development of buildings, offices, factories and their interplay. Video games and movies fed our fascination for alternate worlds. The big difference now is that the technologies are finally ready to place us in these new worlds. Instead of static, detached, game-like interfaces, we are getting to a future where reality gets extended into a “mirror world.”
The metaverse is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to completely reimagine and construct something very new and different. My lens in this series has been the brand-customer relationship. The physical and anonymous past of that relationship has now become digital and data-driven. The µniverse will transform it further. As Alan Kay said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” The best way to imagine the metaverse future is to build it!