Metaverse: a New Step for Digital Entertainment or an Economic Gamechanger?

In 2021, the metaverse – a shared virtual world meant to enrich our reality with new digital opportunities, – made it to the shortlist of top tech trends. Even though it was first picked up by gaming and entertainment, today its potential use cases extend far beyond these sectors.

Indeed, the metaverse is more than bizarre virtual experiences or rare collectibles. Seen by its evangelists as the next step to digitization, it has the potential to blur geographical boundaries, offer new models of interaction for businesses and individuals, and reform traditional industries.

Last November/December, this potential was recognized at a state level: the Shanghai city department included metaverse in its five-year development plan. Meanwhile, Korea announced plans to make Seoul a metaverse city and it is said that by 2026, Seoul will be the fifth-largest metaverse market in the world. So what gifts does the metaverse bring to our society – and what will it take to turn this concept into reality?

Where Real Meets Digital

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, dubs metaverse “the next frontier in connecting people,” where one can “get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create.” A choir of voices rising from the digital space, including one of Simon Powell, claims it will ‘be the biggest disruption society has faced.’

The disruption is, indeed, welcome. The past two years have exposed many points of vulnerability in the real and digital world. Brought together by globalization, we have been thrown apart by the virus. Most of the world’s economies have taken a hit from the pandemic; for some, it proved to be a fatal blow. The creator economy is booming, but creators are facing issues with the ownership and monetization of their content, as well as struggling to connect with their audiences.

In the conceptual reality of the metaverse, connection, immersion, and engagement are brought to the forefront. First, the creator-consumer relationship is no more a one-way lane, as the creator receives their fair share of revenues, while the consumer gets access to a quality product shaped by their demand.

Second, the possibility of integrating the global economy and moving assets and data between platforms put whole sectors like supply chain management and real estate sales on the winning side, too. By uniting traditional industries under the umbrella of new technologies, the metaverse will also encourage healthy competition between companies and entrepreneurs rushing to grab their niche in the virtual space.

And third, with the help of wearables, VR, and AR tech, metaverse can bring remote work, education, and services (think doctor appointments) to a whole new level. Microsoft, for one, is now developing immersive co-working spaces to boost engagement and productivity for remote workers.

On top of that, metaverse will create more opportunities for emerging or shattered economies: for one, there’ve been cases of citizens of the Philippines pulling themselves out of poverty by playing Axie Infinity.

How Long Till the Metaverse?

In his report, Powell claims that ‘A single metaverse could be more than a decade away,’ suggesting that it will take proper hardware, software, and use cases to lift the internet up into a metaverse. Some of its parts have been here for a while, waiting to be arranged in a new pattern; some are yet to be delivered. Deep tech such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will lie at the heart of the metaverse; blockchain, DeFi, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs – play a vital part in how it functions, as decentralization and Web3 help push forward its adoption.

Decentralization is one of the core components of the future metaverse. Sharing the same values with Web3, the decentralized metaverse will answer the demand for diversity, lucidity, and trustlessness that has formed across the society – to the benefit of the whole ecosystem. NFTs and cryptocurrencies, perfect for transferring assets and making deals across traditional and virtual spaces in a secure and transparent way, will form the basis of its economy, while DeFi helps create a decentralized financial infrastructure.

And lastly, achieving a high level of interoperability will allow seamless transfer of data and assets between separate parts of the metaverse.

All of these components will contribute to the creation of an extensive, sustainable digital universe. As this potential is realized in an accessible, comprehensible, and interactive environment, the metaverse will, indeed, have a profound impact on economies and societies all over the globe.