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The opinions of entrepreneurs' contributors are their own.
Virtual reality. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the Oculus that Facebook invested $ 2 billion in a few years ago – the same Oculus that has been mostly used by game developers to date. For the mainstream consumer, little seems to have changed in terms of virtual reality in recent years, except perhaps an increase in the number of near-identical roller coaster rides in every mall.
It may therefore come as a surprise that many companies are currently deploying entire infrastructures in virtual reality – and already have paying customers. Although VR is not yet a widespread product, this is precisely where the appeal for entrepreneurs lies – an element of the mysterious and inaccessible, full of undreamt-of promises and possibilities. Perhaps now is the time to fill such a lucrative market niche that few competitors are competing for.
Doing virtual business is cheaper
The first ideas to make companies virtual came up over 10 years ago. That was when the boom in virtual worlds for companies began and drove the popularity of Second Life. IBM, Sun, Nortel and many startups have since tried to bring business meetings into virtual classrooms. But the idea failed.
After teleworking became a necessity and a certain amount of fatigue from the constant video conferencing set in, the idea of migrating to virtual environments has reappeared. Many companies are exploring the possibilities of gamifying remote work processes in order to stimulate their employees. And the idea has paid off. Last year HTC launched the online platform Vive Sync, which allows users to create their own realistic 3D selfie avatars and take part in 3D meetings with up to 30 people. The so-called avatar codecs can emulate the faces of real people and enable all participants in a video meeting to communicate normally, albeit in a virtual 3D world, even though everyone is wearing VR glasses.
Similar: How gamification appeals to customers and employees alike
Virtual economy also optimizes a company's budget considerably. According to a report by Forterra Systems, virtual worlds not only emulate real meetings better than currently available conference systems, but are also cheaper – an important factor for large companies.
The latest solutions presented on the market allow the automation of personnel tasks. The thought that a fictional bartender from The Shining by Stanley Kubrick or a virtual companion from Blade Runner: 2049 is no longer a far-fetched fantasy suddenly becomes a bit baffling.
Last week, Hour One announced it was working on ALICE Receptionist – a visitor management technology that uses photorealistic avatars and video technologies to automate receptionist tasks. WeWork is also taking up this idea and equipping a number of its work areas with holographic projectors that enable remote customers to take part in meetings, regardless of their location.
With the advent of virtual assistants, recruiters can now breathe a sigh of relief as they have the ability to fire employees remotely. The American company Talespin created Barry – a virtual employee that inexperienced managers can use to improve their leadership skills. For example, you can fire Barry, who is sitting in an office right in front of you. Barry can recognize speech and have a conversation like Siri. It can also express the full range of human emotions such as cursing, crying, and screaming, just like a real person would.
The concept of the metaverse
Now even more interesting things are afoot that will make virtual conferencing and messing around with avatars a breeze. The new phenomenon is called the metaverse. Some companies deploy entire infrastructures in metaverses in which users can not only communicate with each other, but also move between different locations, study, build careers, attend concerts and even earn money – albeit virtual money, but still of value in the real world . Imagine Minecraft, but instead of playable characters, the avatars have a number of characteristics that mimic those of the player, and instead of a fantastic backdrop, it shows the interiors of a familiar company or city. Confused? Most people are. The futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted that virtual reality will remove the distinction between the virtual and the real world by 2030.
Similar: 3 Ways Brands Are Using Virtual Reality Now
A metaverse is basically the next incarnation of the internet, eliminating static, monotonous web pages and immersing users in an immersive, game-like world. Organizations are likely to embody the content of their websites in real time in Metaverse environments. Customers can shop in the Amazon Mall, drive a Tesla and even take pleasant walks in the eternally sunny and evergreen 3D parks. More importantly, many companies already exist – in the digital universe.
At the beginning of 2021, Bit.Country successfully carried out an experiment with the support of the game giant Animoca Brands. The aim was to find out how easy it is for users of different digital talents with different skills to migrate to a fully digital environment. In the experiment, 152 students from a global tech incubator played the role of volunteers and joined an “MVP tech community”. The bespoke community offered various activities for rewards – bit country-specific tokens – that could be used within the digital "country". The experiment proved that the rewards in virtual currencies had a positive effect on user engagement and activities in the area, which underscored the feasibility of the concept of onboarding current internet users in a decentralized environment.
To further accelerate engagement, Bit.Country also began developing a 3D voxel world so that users in this dimension can do more things and interact with one another. For example, you can go for a walk and chat, attend events in the 3D world, or take part in video conferencing.
A huge difference
The availability of an internal economy based on the possession of values distinguishes a metaverse from simple virtual worlds. In particular, the metaverse economy always retains value in the real world. For example, a handbag sold in a Gucci virtual boutique has the same value as the same item sold in a brick and mortar store. The only difference is the price in a virtual currency, which is linked to its exchange rate.
More importantly, Metaverse are versatile enough to allow customers to view, examine, and even try on such a handbag or attend a fashion show without leaving the comfort of their home. Kenneth Cole, for example, has launched a new collection of items and accessories in Zynga's popular high heels! Game. The avatars in the game can wear virtual outfits, sunglasses, watches and masks from the Pride collection, some with the message “Being different is what we have in common”.
Another brand – Coach – worked with Arlene to create Signature City, which was launched on TMall – an immersive shopping experience in a playful environment. The Metaverse features retro 3D designs and social interaction, and allows users to purchase products and take advantage of other interactive and exciting elements.
Don't miss the trend
Metaverses open up entirely new business opportunities to generate revenue and explore new ways of advertising, branding and customer loyalty. As the examples from Fortnite and Decentraland so vividly show, selling virtual land and in-game items is not a volatility as people are willing to pay for virtual real estate and luxury items. And some of them were worth millions of dollars.
Avid marketers should start by exploring the capabilities of Metaverses as the next frontier of customer interaction in an online environment that surpasses and surpasses even the most advanced capabilities of modern social networking. Much like how the latter once revolutionized advertising channels and marketing, metaverses are likely to open a whole new dimension in corporate marketing in the years to come, and the early investors in those dimensions will be the pioneers who will reap the benefits.