The metaverse will be able to expand to include the whole world, and this will have many implications for CX.
While the metaverse has been a huge buzzword in 2022, customer experience (CX) has largely remained unaffected, but that may soon change. Through the use of augmented reality (AR), the metaverse will be able to expand to include the whole world, and this will have many implications for CX. Customers walking through a store will have instant access to product information and advertisements, and a simple walk down a city street will provide them with details about stores, venues, products, services, directions and more.
Justin Hochberg, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Brand Group (VBG), a metaverse creation company, told CMSWire that as we continue to see the increasing interchangeability of virtual and physical worlds, augmented and mixed reality is becoming part of our normal behavior patterns. “We are at the forefront of creating the physical plus virtual (aka ‘phygital’) retail environment that delivers new products and more revenue faster than you’ve ever seen before,” Hochberg said, adding that as we look forward to 2023, VBG sees AR becoming essential, extremely fun and eventually well accepted like ecommerce is.
The Meta Vision of the Metaverse Is Becoming Obsolete
Gartner defines a metaverse as a collective, persistent and virtual 3D shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. Meta’s grand vision of the metaverse is that of virtual worlds inhabited by millions of users, each of whom is represented by an avatar, where users are able to see and interact with other users in stunning 3D using virtual reality (VR) glasses, goggles or headsets. It’s an amazing vision that includes metaverse worlds for gaming, home life, social networking, work, education and more. Although some version of this will undoubtedly become available, there are many obstacles that may prevent it from ever being adopted by the masses.
As a previous article discussed, the first reason for the lack of adoption is price. VR comes with a high cost of entry for both brands and consumers. The more economical VR headsets are typically limited in their functionality or are used along with high-end PCs, and the top-of-the-line stand-alone VR headsets that allow “full immersion” are still prohibitively expensive for most users. A September 2022 study by Publicis Sapient indicated that of those polled, only 8% said they own a VR device or headset.
Secondly, even for those who have the best VR headsets that are available, there are very few “metaverse worlds” that support VR. The Sandbox, a popular virtual world, does not support VR, nor does Decentraland, another metaverse world. Only a few, such as Somnium Space and Meta’s Horizon Worlds, actually support VR — and Horizon Worlds only supports Oculus headsets.
Additionally, many of the “popular” metaverse worlds that are available are struggling to attract users. Decentraland was recently reported to only have 38 active daily users, a number they later corrected to 8,000 active daily users, which for an online game is still abysmal. By comparison, the relatively unknown Sid Meier's Civilization VI online game has 39,082 average concurrent players.
Finally, there is still a lack of compelling metaverse applications available, particularly for those who are not into gaming. For those who are, there are virtual worlds such as Roblox, NVIDIA Omniverse and the previously mentioned Sandbox and Decentraland, but for the generations that grew up with game consoles and high-end graphics, these virtual worlds can appear rather retro, with graphics that are reminiscent of ’90s gaming worlds.
An even larger problem is that as Mark Nottingham, senior principal engineer at Fastly and leader in the Internet Engineering Task Force pointed out in a recent 2022 report from the Pew Research Center, there are no current efforts at interoperability, common standards or open governance for the metaverse. Because of this, Nottingham said that what is being developed is reminiscent of worlds we’ve already seen, such as Second Life. The report does not paint a pretty picture of the future of the metaverse as it’s currently defined, but there is still hope. The concept of the metaverse has begun to expand so that it includes the whole world.
What Is The Whole World Metaverse?
The idea of participating in virtual worlds is something that appeals to many users, as it will provide the opportunity to virtually visit different areas of the world, tour virtual museums and do many things that would otherwise be extremely challenging or impossible in the real world, such as flying without a plane, going into space, diving deep into the ocean or walking up the side of a building. This could be accomplished using a VR headset or even through a mobile device. The thing that all of these experiences have in common is that they are all based on the concept of a virtual world, one that does not actually exist.
The idea of the whole world metaverse differs in that it extends the concept to include the actual world. It includes buildings, stores, streets, houses, businesses, people, animals, trees, grass, stones, and more importantly for brands, products and services. Rather than relying upon fully immersive VR headsets, the whole world metaverse makes use of augmented reality glasses such as Microsoft’s HaloLens2, Magic Leap 2, Apple’s upcoming AR glasses or even Mojo's AR-enabled contact lens. While VR creates an immersive virtual environment that takes users out of their real life (RL) element, AR allows them to remain in their actual environment while adding digital elements that they can see and interact with. This will provide new opportunities for brands to create interactive marketing experiences that actively engage the user as they go about their daily lives.