A key trend that was observed at the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Davos meeting this year was the metaverse, which is set to reimagine the world as we know it.
This has been the most highly anticipated technology revolution in a long time, and it is staring right at us.
For the uninitiated, metaverse is an alternate platform where your physical world is juxtaposed and, in a way, merged with the digital world. Additionally, this platform will require a confluence of technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), 5G, Blockchain, Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) and many more to build a whole new virtual reality.
This new dimension will open a world of opportunities where we will learn to live, co-exist and thrive.
Some of the areas in which metaverse is likely to bring in transformation are as follows:
India is likely to play a key role when it comes to using metaverse technology in the gaming space .
The Indian online gaming sector reached over $1 billion in 2020, a growth of more than 17.3 per cent from $543 million in 2016. With its current trajectory, it is expected to reach $2 billion by 2023, in terms of rake fees earned, according to the EY-All India Gaming Federation (AIGF) report titled ‘Online Gaming in India – The GST Conundrum’.
Seeing the numbers, we can just imagine the potential the gaming industry holds while it is still at a nascent stage in India. Now bring this together with the metaverse and you have a lethal combination that will propel the industry to another dimension.
Interestingly, Spartan Poker recently became India’s first gaming company to enter the metaverse with the 13th edition of the India Online Poker Championship (IOPC). This edition of IOPC was unique with their launch of Spartan-verse having a 3D-reconstructed “Hall of Fame,” a place to honor all the winners of IOPC and the pioneers of the Indian online poker industry.
Metaverse at Work
Repercussions of the pandemic include work from home or hybrid workplaces. What metaverse will offer is a new immersive work environment where colleagues can bond, collaborate and learn. It can also lead to new skills being acquired along with an avenue for new work roles. For example, India’s Hyderabad-based NextMeet is an avatar-based immersive PC/VR metaverse platform that enables remote working, collaboration, meetings, distance learning and networking for business and education and events.
Metaverse will transform how people meet and engage socially. People can ditch the physical world and hop on to the virtual platform where they can engage, socialize, exchange information and build communities with people across continents and all over the globe. For example, this year, Asia’s first metaverse wedding reception was hosted by a couple from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Metaverse will also transform gatherings, social events and conferences, which can all happen in the virtual world and, interestingly, allows for considerably lower carbon footprints than in-person meetings.
Real estate, virtual retail and shopping
Buying property in the virtual world is increasingly lucrative. After all, who would not like to have a virtual house or purchase land for doing business and even for investment just like you would do in the real world?
E-retailing has been around for some time, but brands now have an opportunity to have their physical spaces replicated in the metaverse. The whole customer experience will undergo a massive transformation to become more personalized, immersive and interactive.
The Indian jewelry brand Tanishq hit headlines when it launched its “Polki Wedding Collection” in a virtual press conference hosted on the metaverse platform. The audience could view the jewelry pieces in 3D and had a great visual experience. They could also try on the showstopper piece by merely scanning a QR code.
Going ahead, metaverse will provide more exciting avenues for marketing and advertising campaigns for brands.
Online consultations with doctors and hospitals led to a major behavior change in the health care space during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. This has led to the emergence of another huge innovation with virtual clinics now available for consultations around mental health, nutrition, etc.
Your digital avatar could take a doctor’s appointment and walk into a 3D clinic. This, of course, cannot be considered a replacement for more serious and physical consultations, but still it could be a start that will help reduce the overwhelming pressure that the healthcare systems have already undergone. For example, Yashoda Hospitals is the first health care group in India to be on the metaverse platform.
A new era for content creators will be unfolded—artists, entertainers, influencers and brands will have a whole new way to engage with their consumers. This will not only help them think out of the box for engaging with their target audience but also enable them to capitalize on this new medium which has lesser restrictions and more room for creativity.
For example, this year back in January, Punjabi singing icon ‘Daler Mehndi’ drew 20 million spectators from around the world, making India’s inaugural metaverse concert a huge success. Mehndi joined the ranks of international musicians like Travis Scott, Justin Bieber, Marshmallow and Ariana Grande who have hosted similar metaverse concerts.
There is a reason why the Ed-tech industry and educators are enthusiastic about metaverse and are anticipating this to have a huge impact on learning. This space will empower students from schools and universities across the globe to experience immersive learning sessions transcending boundaries and timelines. Jumping on the bandwagon, ed-tech and competitive test preparation platform Career Launcher announced the launch of CL Meta, a metaverse for students, complete with virtual classrooms, study rooms, career counselling sections and a virtual shopping mall for students to buy educational products.
Upskilling and training would be easier to manage since being physically present at a specific location or undergoing a certain preparation that might have safety implications will not be a constraint anymore in the metaverse.
One of the biggest boosts to the travel and tourism industry will be the launch of the metaverse.
One can only envision the kind of engagement that the digital world can offer. Imagine being able to virtually visit/experience a monument, location or hotel and then making a decision to travel there physically.
Historical travel is another area where the past can be recreated to experience, learn and preserve. One can digitally get transported into a different era–literally time travel!
While we cannot ignore or negate the huge positive disruption that is going to happen with the metaverse entering our lives or should we say humans entering the metaverse space, all this brings with it a whole set of challenges including the big question: do we have the infrastructure and resources in place to support this digital universe?
Presently, there are no specific regulations around this space, and we are still trying to navigate data and privacy protection related matters.
Additionally, questions have been raised about how feasible and affordable will this alternate digital planet be when it comes to the mass audience? Would we be able to ensure that the metaverse is safe, secure and accessible to all from the beginning?
We only hope that we have the answers soon because the new future has already descended upon us, and the biggest question is: are we ready?