How Businesses Get Into the Metaverse: Discovering True Opportunities
News of the metaverse can either be exciting or nauseating. On one hand, visionaries look forward to a more connected and immersive future. On the other hand, critics warn of useless technologies and dangerous investments. Although there is a great deal of controversy in the metaverse for business, there is a wealth of opportunity in the technologies that surround it.
If business owners invest their time and resources wisely, they may find themselves prepared and ready for that future. If they plan poorly or fall behind, they risk losing their edge in the market. What follows will be a discussion of what questions businesses should ask themselves in order to remain competitive in that future world.
Metaverse Business Opportunities: Explained
The metaverse is an independent, physically resilient, virtual platform that delivers enhanced immersive experiences by merging virtual augmented physical and digital reality. There are a few technologies that are often associated with this definition:
- Extended reality
- Augmented reality
- Virtual reality
- Mixed reality
- Artificial intelligence
- Internet of Things
- Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
Companies see the metaverse as a new way to engage their customers and create new opportunities for growth. It is one of the tools for building a brand that has a strong emotional connection with customers, which leads to success, demand, and long-term customer loyalty. Sure, that sounds fantastic on paper, but what about in practice?
An Immersed World by the Numbers
Let’s start with an example that will illustrate the audience’s interest in metaverse platforms. Roblox is one of the most successful metaverses. This is a creative platform where users can build their own worlds and play them with others. According to Macro Trends, Roblox’s 12 month revenue reported on September 30th, 2022, was $2.215 billion. This is a 33.39% increase from the previous year.
However, not all metaverse projects are successful by default. For example, Meta’s Reality Labs reported a loss of over $10 billion in 2021. Meta’s stock plunged by 24% in October 2022 when the news hit, as it was revealed that the company’s value had dropped by $700 billion. The details behind this are deeply complex and harrowing to anyone interested in business opportunities in the metaverse. Is your company destined to meet the same fate or repeat the success of Roblox?
Meta’s market position may be hurting, but it’s not the only player. Another major competitor to Meta is Apple, who distinctly avoids the term ‘metaverse’ while working on its augmented reality projects. Apple has positioned itself for success with ARKit immersive technologies that accomplish very similar goals to Meta’s metaverse, but in more popular and appealing ways. This proves that the use of metaverse technologies can bring significant business benefits, provide a well-thought-out strategy and quality implementation.
Real-World Metaverse Applications and Market Leaders
It’s important for business leaders to understand how industries are using metaverse technologies in the real world to get ideas and to understand the niche more deeply. Let’s go over a few real examples.
When you hear the words ‘metaverse’ and ‘entertainment’, you likely are thinking of gaming. However, it’s important not to get confused. There’s VR gaming, and then there’s social VR. These can overlap. Remember that the metaverse is defined by its immersive connectivity. A primarily offline game like Beat Saber doesn’t count as metaverse gaming.
In 2018, a virtual concert by Marshmello attracted millions of people in the video game Fortnite. This served as a wake-up call for many that large scale, immersive virtual events are very much real, even if they aren’t held in VR spaces. Lil Nas X’s concerts on Roblox brought in over 33 million views over the course of four shows held in a two-day period. Platforms like VRChat also lend themselves well to virtual events such as raves, dance clubs, and concerts.
Virtual event venues have enormous potential for monetization with event ticketing and can be major parts of marketing campaigns for real-world concerts.
Real Estate and Virtual Real Estate
There are two sides to real estate use cases of metaverse technologies: real estate in the real world and then virtual real estate.
Real World Real Estate
Apple was poised for success in the wake of Meta’s massive investments. One of their most powerful tools is the 3D scanning and AR technologies they’ve developed for mobile devices, particularly the LiDAR sensor found on recent generations of the iPhone and iPad.
An iPhone-generated 3D room scan
RoomPlan is a Swift API developed by Apple that allows apps to use the powerful LiDAR sensor on an iPhone to capture entire rooms in 3D to create floor plans. This includes furniture and room dimensions. Real estate agencies can use it to create virtual tours that can be viewed in VR. In the not-too-distant future, it’s likely that some savvy real estate businesses may meet with potential clients in VR, touring the 3D version of an apartment together. For example, RoomScan by Locometric is an app that utilizes this API, allowing real estate businesses to easily create floor plans of their properties for clients.
Virtual Real Estate
When compared to digital assets, virtual real estate is more similar to a domain name or digital art. Some investors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a digital art, and the same is seen with virtual real estate.
Virtual real estate is one of the more controversial topics of metaverse business applications because in its current form, many people criticize its lack of utility. In the real world, real estate can be used for more than just asset trading. Real estate can be developed and used for business purposes.
The rising value of digital assets on Decentraland’s platform makes it an appealing option for investors. This change made it even more effective for investors thanks to the platform’s decentralized model, allowing virtual deeds to land to be stored in the blockchain instead of in a centralized database.
It’s possible that in the future, decentralized immersive VR platforms will allow users to pay for ‘virtual real estate’ that allows them to create worlds in that space which can attract users and generate income. This would give virtual real estate a similar utilitarian value to its real-world counterpart.
Marketing and Sales
Another application that is seeing success getting into the metaverse is marketing. One of the main advantages of immersive and connective spaces is that they allow people to engage with products and services from home with higher quality than they might from their smartphone or computer. For example, retail businesses have already begun to allow users to demo products like clothes and makeup using virtual try on augmented reality technologies. The earlier example of real estate demonstrated how realtors can use 3D models of their properties for marketing.
There have also been a number of collaborations between metaverse platforms and businesses that help raise awareness and stir up buzz about branding and promotions. For example, Target partnered with creators in Meta’s Horizon Worlds to create a goth Target for Halloween, inspired by the real-world Target in Chicago famous for its unusual iron exterior. The project was paired with a line of related products in a campaign called ‘the goth side of Target.’
In addition to marketing, there are more direct ways that immersive technologies can be used to increase sales. For example, Selfridges partnered with Charli Cohen and Pokémon to create a crossover sales event where users could buy both virtual and real world fashion
There are two important uses for immersive metaverse technologies in the healthcare industry right now: telehealth and education.
For most healthcare providers, VR isn’t typically necessary for telehealth to take place. For consultations and discussions with clients, typically video chat or over the phone communication will suffice. However, there are some instances where more immersive technologies can be useful in ways you may not expect. The same hardware that is used to track the movements of a person’s body and even movement of the eyes can be used for diagnosis. Eye movements can be used to detect issues like glaucoma. The same eye-tracking hardware and software can be used for ‘neurological markers’ for diagnosis of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
iMining Technologies in March of 2022 purchased virtual land on Decentraland to launch the world’s first metaverse pharmacy. The virtual location’s aim was to help patients with medication reminders and help get prescription-based medications shipped to their homes. They also offered online consultations with a licensed pharmacist at the virtual location.
Immersive training with VR and AR technologies allows doctors and students to simulate surgeries. This is possible not only for educating new medical professionals but can also prepare experienced doctors for difficult surgeries by using digital twins of organs. This allows doctors to better understand how an operation may put a patient at risk before surgery.
Honeywell is utilizing metaverse technologies to train workers with its Immersive Field Simulator (IFS). Workers can train in virtual or mixed reality with a simulated version of a real, physical manufacturing site. This is accomplished using digital twins technology, which can accurately replicate the plant in the real world.
With the ability to simulate manufacturing centers, Honeywell’s system can prepare workers and supervisors for machine failures and other issues that need to be corrected.
Immersive VR and AR have a number of benefits for remote education for businesses and consumers alike. Instruction in 3D has many freedoms that traditional education does not. For example, teaching concepts in 3D such as the makeup of chemical compounds, studying architectural structures, and more.
Experiences like these also help break down barriers to entry for education, allowing people from around the world to study and learn together. Axon Park is a platform that allows clients to create virtual courses and even entire campuses. In one example, Axon Park created a VR PPE training simulator to help teach healthcare providers how to properly prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Metaverse is built on a digital economy that requires updated financial systems. This is a growth point both for traditional financial companies that want to scale online and for fintech startups that want to choose promising development paths.For example, opening a virtual location is a public relations and accessibility option for financial institutions like banks. That’s exactly what JP Morgan did on Decentraland, opening their Onyx virtual lounge. It suggests that in the near future, it will be possible to use basic banking services online in immersive worlds. For Decentraland in particular and other platforms focused on blockchain based real estate, banks may eventually offer financing options like loans and mortgages.
The Onyx Lounge has links to business PDF documents, JP Morgan’s website, and there are a few TVs where you can watch inspiring videos by the company.
How to Get Involved in the Metaverse: Go-to-Market Strategy
We’ve now seen a number of examples of how businesses have taken advantage of immersive technologies in the modern world. However, a mistake many business owners make is that their fear of missing out on the future overrides their ability to make rational decisions. They jump at every opportunity that they can to incorporate VR, blockchain, and other metaverse technologies into their business simply for the sake of seeming modern.
The better way to go about it is to think more critically. Instead of getting into the metaverse simply for the sake of it, think about how it stands to benefit your business, and whether or not it’s necessary for your success. With that in mind, let’s talk about some strategies that you can use to take that next step into the future.
Determine Your Business Goals and Enhance Your Online Presence
At its core, the metaverse is really not much different than the Internet. The main difference is that it focuses on the future of the Internet as we know it right now. Because of this, a great place to start is to review or establish your business’s online presence strategy.
Define your target audience and find ways to reach them. Many businesses choose social media as a way to connect with their audience. In the same vein, you can take your brand to an existing virtual world platform like Roblox, VRChat, or Horizon Worlds.
It’s best to choose a platform that fits best for your brand and business model. For example, if you plan on selling digital cosmetic items, you may find Roblox to be a great place to go. If you want to sell high quality avatars that run on more advanced hardware, VRChat may be a better place to start.
Join Existing Metaverse Platforms
Do your research. Pay close attention to how other businesses, especially your competitors, are using those platforms. This will give you clues on how to provide a unique experience for your audience.
If you’re having a hard time choosing a metaverse platform, you can use the following criteria to rank them:
- Personalization: a metaverse platform should allow the business to develop or design a neat, immersive, and alluring and branded environment.
- Decentralization: this will depend on your needs but know that many audiences are beginning to prefer decentralized economy platforms like Decentraland where virtual property can be traded on the blockchain.
- User experience: consider features that can boost UX such as avatars, digital twins, 3D environments, immersive social features, real-time communication, and more.
- Accessibility: take a look at how a platform can be accessed, such as through apps, desktop, tablet, mobile, and also VR and AR headsets. The more accessible the platform, the larger the audience you can reach.
- Integrations: third-party integrations can increase your flexibility to bring features to users such as chatbots, virtual assistants, data and content management, e-commerce tools, CRM, payment gateways, and more.
- Crypto wallet and cryptocurrency: Just as decentralization is a popular trend with many platforms, some users are shifting to cryptocurrencies for digital payments. Being able to accept these payments may be critical to your success depending on your target audience.
What Do You Need to Join the Metaverse?
Using an immersive platform like VRChat, Roblox, Horizon Worlds, or Decentraland is really no different than starting up a video game. Some market themselves more like games than others, like Roblox. Some of these platforms require you to download additional software, but some can be run directly in the browser like Decentraland.
Most platforms require you to create or choose an avatar to represent yourself. This doesn’t need to look exactly like you, it can look however you want!
You don’t necessarily need to use a VR headset, as many platforms let you connect on desktop or even mobile. It’s important to note that some platforms and some experiences on those platforms may require more powerful hardware to use.
VR headsets provide the most immersive experiences. Standalone headsets like the Meta Quest 2 are the most affordable but aren’t very powerful. More expensive headsets like the HTC Vive and Valve Index are far more expensive and less portable but offer state of the art VR experiences. Remember that most users don’t have access to these high-end headsets, and those owners are a niche audience in the market.
Many platforms have their own currency. For example, Fortnite and Roblox use digital currencies that can be purchased with real money. Meanwhile, platforms like Decentraland allow you to use cryptocurrency instead of a centralized currency.
Many experiences on digital platforms are offered for free. However, to get more experiences, cosmetic items, and other goods, you’ll need a digital wallet.
Build a Metaverse App
If you want to get into the market with your own metaverse application, there are several technologies you should consider for development:
- Internet of Things (IoT): creating digital twins relies on a network of IoT sensors that can help simulate real world environments.
- Artificial Intelligence: chatbots, facial and body recognition algorithms, and other machine learning tasks depend on AI.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): allows for humanlike interactions between humans and chatbots. This enables more advanced virtual assistant technologies.
- Computer Vision: this technology allows machines to detect and identify objects, and even emotions of users with facial recognition.
- Human Pose Estimation: critical in full body tracking for VR applications.
- 3D Modeling: metaverse applications require objects and avatars to be rendered and modeled in 3D space. Also, it’s important that the design takes into account the restrictions on the number of people in certain areas.
Deciding what technologies are necessary depends on the scope of the project. For some cases, standard technologies are sufficient to accomplish business goals. For example, realtime gaming, where the delay in displaying the actions of participants is no more than a few tens of milliseconds, requires more advanced technologies. But if the project is not very demanding on the visual part in real-time and is intended for training and broadcasting, then standard technologies may be enough.
For example, at MobiDev we created a React-based metaverse project demo which has features such as avatars, virtual rooms and environments, chat, and even video streaming.
It was built on top of React-three-fiber, which allows you to create a scene with reusable, self-contained components that react to state. The backend is developed using Node.js and WebSocket. This demo was created to work out the concept of a virtual learning space in which lectures, speeches, or meetings can be held.
Aim for a Quality User Experience
One of the most important goals that a business looking to create a metaverse application should strive for, is to achieve a quality user experience. Some of the things this may require are:
- Smooth and fast app start.
- Accessibility features
- Object display quality
For AR applications, it’s important to remember that the context of the user experience is the real-world environment. This means that many cues that developers can use to communicate with the user can be embedded in that environment. For example, soft particle effects that show on a surface that can be used to spawn a virtual object might be used to improve UX of the app.
Another important thing to consider is that the metaverse, as fundamentally a social technology, should be focused on humanity. Immersive social technologies are focused on human-to-human interactions, and although they take place in a virtual space, they are real interactions. Mimicking as much of the face-to-face human communication experience as possible is one of the main objectives of virtual reality developers. Some researchers are working on tracking facial movements while a user wears a VR headset and incorporating those facial expressions into their avatars.
The Future of Metaverse for Brands
The metaverse, powered by incredible technologies, can make our world a better place. Immersive applications are already being used in a number of industries like retail, manufacturing, and marketing.
However, the question is still up in the air about whether users will trust the metaverse. To counter this, brands will need to work hard to offer compelling and useful applications for users. Another option businesses have is to offer decentralization options to users. This places less of the control with the business and gives more power to the user to own and trade what they would like. That’s where incorporating blockchain technology can be a solution.
The Internet is about to get far more immersive, accessible, and decentralized than it ever has been before. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll approach that future. When you’re ready to take that next step, our software development experts at MobiDev will be here to help talk you through it.
Reach out today to discuss how to reach your goals to immerse your audience in your world.