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Community Blog Hype or Opportunity: Should I Prepare My Business for the Metaverse Today?

Hype or Opportunity: Should I Prepare My Business for the Metaverse Today?

The next generation of the internet, the metaverse is poised to integrate digital and physical lives, economies, assets and identities.

Construct your very own metaverse with Alibaba Cloud technology >>

Facebook’s decision to change its company name to Meta to reflect its focus on the metaverse has pushed the next-generation iteration of the internet squarely into the spotlight. While some people may view the metaverse - or metaverses - exclusively through a virtual reality lens, this new world extends much further, spanning augmented reality, virtual reality, new mobile platforms, manifestations of existing internet applications and a host of other products, applications and use cases.

While metaverse concepts have existed since the early 2000s through games such as The Sims and Second Life, the transition to this new state gained momentum through the coronavirus pandemic as largely physical activities such as education, concerts and exhibitions moved online.

In addition, already rapidly maturing innovations such as the digital delivery of remote healthcare and smart manufacturing accelerated as organizations and individuals sought to minimize physical contact to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The transformative potential of the metaverse can only be realized if a robust foundation is in place.

The four technology pillars on which this new environment rests are:

  • Holographic construction, used to construct a geometric model of the virtual world that can be viewed on devices to create an immersive environment for users. Holographic construction enables users to, for example, view virtual reality versions of apartments and buildings.
  • Holographic simulation, used to align the virtual world with the real world so, for example, a digital twin - or virtual counterpart of a person or object - reacts in similar fashion to the person or object in the physical world.
  • Virtuality-reality integration, which enables the development of 3D maps of the physical world to achieve accurate positioning, and:
  • Virtuality-reality linkage, which entails transforming the physical world through changes in the virtual world.

A Profound Transformation

While the metaverse raises many questions for businesses - including how to adapt sales and marketing strategies to an immersive world ripe for the delivery of innovative experiences and deeper customer relationships, and where to direct investments as the metaverse evolves, potentially from multiple platforms to large-scale environments - the opportunities presented by innovations such as 3D display interfaces, digital avatars, virtual product shelves and more are nothing short of compelling.

Put another way, the metaverse will be as transformative as the shift from the PC to the mobile phone - and failing to get on board quickly may leave opportunities on the table and your business exposed by more proactive competitors, new entrants and aggressive rivals from adjacent industries.

Opportunities in Virtual Property, Online-to-offline and Marketing

Some of the early commercial opportunities the metaverse presents include:

  • Virtual property. Property is big business in the metaverse with digital land parcels and estates available for development for a wide range of uses, including conference or commercial spaces, art galleries or homes. A virtual real estate company, Metaverse Property, enables businesses or individuals to buy or rent land in Decentraland, a decentralized virtual reality environment powered by the Ethereum blockchain, or the Sandbox, a community-driven platform that enables creators to monetize assets and gaming experiences on the blockchain. Metaverse Property also provides a virtual real estate investment trust (REIT) that enables users to access a virtual real estate portfolio represented by a non-fungible REIT token. The availability and maturity of the metaverse property market enables businesses such as retailers to buy or rent property to provide a complementary digital experience to shoppers and to properly execute online to offline commerce strategies. As more users join and existing users spend more time in the metaverse, the number of individuals tempted to browse and purchase will increase.
  • Online to offline retail. Retailers are delivering increasingly rich online to offline experiences to consumers and as the metaverse matures, the transition from virtual to real-world shopping will only become more seamless. Users can already walk around 3D or holographic representations of stores, select products from shelves or showrooms, try them on or view them in a range of colors and finishes, and place orders for physical delivery.
  • Marketing opportunities also increase considerably in the metaverse - with the removal of the limitations of the physical world in immersive augmented reality and virtual reality environments presenting new opportunities for businesses to engage with customers and prospects. For example, brands can create new worlds and environments to deliver experiences such as concerts - and collaborate with complementary partners to do so.
  • Selling unique digital art with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs, effectively digital ownership certificates, are fast gaining a reputation for enabling individuals to acquire original digital art and assets, including musical performances and visual creations. As the metaverse matures and becomes embedded into individuals’ daily lives, opportunities increase for businesses and individuals to create unique or rare assets that can be monetized through online auctions. However, while some videos are already being purchased for the cryptocurrency equivalent of millions of dollars, some market observers caution that this market is likely to remain unpredictable and subject to changing trends. More generally, however, consumers are increasingly willing to pay for unique or compelling items, so businesses have the opportunity to create and market products that meet this need.

Turbo Charge Your Metaverse Development with Alibaba Cloud

Alibaba Cloud provides a metaverse solution that enables businesses to realize the full potential of the next generation of the internet, integrating digital and physical lives, economies, assets and identities.

Its products and services enable metaverse construction and give businesses the ability to realize the full potential of opportunities this new world presents. These products, services and solutions include remote rendering based on high-performance computing that enables developers to build metaverse materials and digital scenario content and data analytics and AI that provide an integrated view across virtual and physical worlds, combining metaverse application scenarios through computer vision, machine learning, natural language processing and intelligent speech capabilities.

On the object storage front, the cloud provider offers a data lake solution that supports several data types and access channels.

Furthermore, the Alibaba Cloud IoT solution provides wireless connectivity and signal transmission services that support virtual reality-centric online to offline retail and other experiences, while the Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes enables the rapid development of applications that can help monetize and grow a compelling metaverse presence, such as branded installations.

The Blockchain as a Service solution ensures the underlying data of the metaverse can be traced and is free from tampering, delivering the trust and collaboration needed for NFT-based and other transactions.

In addition, the Alibaba Cloud global network and SD-WAN technology provides the low latency that ensures a fast, lag-free experience that enables metaverse users to interact seamlessly with each other, brands and other participants, while the provider also offers big data solutions that enable businesses to understand and continue to improve user experiences in the metaverse.

The metaverse is a compelling opportunity for businesses to provide users with rich, integrated experiences across the online and physical worlds, forging closer relationships with them and establishing themselves as leaders in digital innovation.

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Iain Ferguson

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Iain Ferguson

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