We haven’t yet Undersood the Potential of the Metaverse
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Technology Magazine Show. I had the opportunity, as some of you will have seen in my previous article, to discuss my experience in helping develop the world’s first smart phones in the mid-90s.
I made the point that given the state of the technology available, no cameras and the fact that social networking had not been conceived, those of us tasked with creating the value propositions for smart phones were not sure if people would pay a premium for these larger handsets with their graphical user interfaces.
With this formative education in product design and business development, I can see how we now face the same scenario in respect to the emergence of the concept of the ‘metaverse’. If we break down this concept into its constituent parts, a metaverse is basically a multi-user platform providing game-like virtual reality experiences in which people can enter using their personal social or work profiles.
This is fine up to a point. But there are still physical, social and ethical dimensions of metaverses yet to be introduced in order for this technology to really reach its true potential.
In relation to the physical, it is still quite funny to me seeing people on YouTube in their virtual reality headsets get shocks from games, causing them to fall or crash into tables, televisions and shelving units. This is quite a major drawback to becomming fully immersed in an otherworldly experience.
When I was working in Human Factors at BT Laboratories in the early 90s, one device we used to play with and experiment with was Spacetec’s 6D spaceball. This was invented by John Hilton and launched by in 1991.
This device it is more a joystick than a mouse. The reason why it was so good for navigating virtual realities is that when you hold it, as going left, right, front and back as you can on a 2D mouse on a desk, you can also gently pull up and push down. You also have pitch, yaw and roll giving three more degrees of motion.
In the early 90s virtual reality was all the range in innovation departments around the world but it was not yet commercially viable. I myself as part of BT’s Research department used to visit schools and show all this latest gadgetry in order to interest teenagers about careers in technology and IT.
The 3D spaceball was incredible in terms of being able to navigare 3D spaces, which were still crude in terms of the low-fi graphical capabilities of the time. I can see how bringing this level of freedom into the metaverse would be the first step in igniting our imaginations in our relation to the purpose of a virtual space and how it could be explored.
If we now look at the social and ethical dimensions of metaverses, organisations now have the opportunity to correct the systemic inequalities built into traditional economic models based on scarcity and centralised control. This means looking beyond the scarcity economic models that only see opportunities for recreating limited edition items that only the wealthy can afford.
As Joseph Campbell once wrote, what people are seeking is not so much the meaning of life but “a sense of being alive”. What does this mean inside the metaverse and how can we really deliver truly visionary experiences that do not forget the beaty and exhilarance of our beautiful planet?
So if we now look at how brands approach the metaverse, they first need to understand metaverses primarily as a platform. In our book Deep Tech and the Amplified Organisation we explain our Value Proposition Elevation process that goes beyond needs analysis of single demographics to explore value from the perspective of whole ecosystems. Brands can reach even higher levels of potential by being guided strategically by the New 4Ps of platforms, purpose, people and planet to amplify their impact and inclusion in the digital economy.
By understanding metaverses as platforms there is now a significant opportunity for brands to explore new modes of customer engagement while allowing people to take more control over the ownership of their digital content.
This can be achieved by experience designers asking how we can creating virtual and physical experiences which truly honour what it means to be human in this world and which resonate with our innermost being and reality. Once we have the answer to this question, our whole conception of the metaverse will transform, opening up new avenues of value and amplified growth for future-fit and regenerative organisations.