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Our Once and Future Worlds: AR/VR/XR and Metaverses

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

For those of you who know me, you know that I am obsessed with helping people and companies create meaningful experiences. My team and I are always looking at unique ways to create those exquisite, fantastical moments for the collision of ideas. We look to technology to help us connect in innovative ways and help make those endeavors compelling and memorable. I have been astonished to see how my children’s online video game worlds of Among Us and Roblox are suddenly colliding with my own technological journeying into the realm of NFTs, AR/VR/XR, and Metaverses.* It has been exciting for my boys and me, and they get a big kick out of watching their Mama “playing” and being absorbed in the creation of her VR environments.

This “collision of worlds” generated some big questions in my mind:

  • Why do we limit ourselves to conventional reality when we want to connect online with others?

  • Why do we consign ourselves to the boring rectangular conference rooms of the Zoom virtual space?

  • Why not move beyond “this world” and create new immersive virtual experiences where some version of ourselves can walk up to another virtual person and say “Hi!”

  • Whatever happened to being playful and engaging our natural inclination to move, dance, sing, chat, play, and laugh — TOGETHER?

  • Why not create product demos that actually inspire learning?

  • Why not offer corporate swags that are amazing original, beautiful, coveted NFTs?

  • Why can’t concept ideas (i.e., flying and cool concept cars) be tested AND live within metaverses? This would be an incredibly sophisticated simulation tool. And why can’t we own the digital products designed and tested there?

  • Why not simply reimagine our worlds?

  • Why not create virtual campuses for corporations where 24/7, employees can move freely along the halls and bump into one another while competing to gain traction on the leaderboard as they equip themselves with some cool product training?

For those who are unfamiliar with the term “metaverse,” Stephen McBride, chief analyst at RiskHedge (a disruption research firm), put it succinctly: “Think of the metaverse like a massive virtual world where you can go to work, learn, create art, shop, watch concerts, hang out with friends, and do dozens of other real-life activities.”(1) McBride projects that the Metaverse will become the new hangout spot for billions of people worldwide who will spend most of their time there.

Some of the world’s most exclusive brands are already in the race to capture this technology and build some amazing brand experiences. Burberry premiered its most recent collection on a game streaming platform. Louis Vuitton partnered with e-sports sensation League of Legends and created a 40-item luxury clothing line. Burberry is also designing outfits for characters for China’s biggest video game, Honor of Kings. Players in mainland China can purchase these exclusive ensembles for their avatars. (2)

Mel Lim's Avatar on Mootup
Mel Lim's Avatar on Mootup

Remember back in the 90s when everyone was still debating whether or not to build websites? Well, soon enough, every company will have a metaverse of its own, a digital version of itself. Amazon will design its own Mall. Disney will have metaverse theme parks. Netflix will have digital movie theatres where your personal avatar will meet up with friends to view a film. The metaverse is going to transform the way we do everything. It is a sustainable new frontier, and emerging new business models will be selling products directly to avatars.

Gen Z is a generation of truth-seeking young people who value individuality, challenge societal norms and spend so much time in their virtual worlds that their avatars are simply extensions of themselves. Commanding 55% of the spending power, these “Digi-sapiens” blur the edges between reality and fantasy and see themselves as pixels rather than atoms. They care about the environment, sustainability, and scarcity and are interested in outfitting their avatars with authentic, futuristic fashion as well as investing in wearable “smart clothes and shoes” for their real-world apparel that defies the wasteful ”wear it once and throw it away” attitudes of the unconscious entitled. In this Direct to Avatar marketing model, consumption is viewed as access rather than possession, a means to express individual identity, and a way to address ethical concerns. Virtual fashion and retail are happening now, and no one wants to be late to the party. (3)

The possibilities of AR, VR, XR, NFT, and Metaverse are infinite. Here at Maspira Groupe, we’ve been exploring various business use cases for utilizing this technology:

  • product demo and training

  • gamifying a knowledge base (imagine Peloton leaderboards that show off your team or individual achievements)

  • customer engagement/loyalty through digital swags

  • community engagement via events; games, concerts, parties

  • hackathons

  • happy/ social hour for vendor, partners, internal teams

  • connecting global offices into a central world, where employees have full autonomy to converse, engage, interact with one another 24/7 via any devices (VR devices are not required to enter a metaverse, and WOW is it beautiful :)

  • And the list goes on...

As a technology storyteller and designer with traditional training in architecture, I find this to be such an exciting time for creatives. The reality is that not only will we be thinking dimensionally, but we will also be living dimensionally, across multiple worlds. This has absolutely pushed my team to look at user and brand experience design on a 3-dimensional level: audio, visual, spatial, and gestural.

Now with the pandemic hopefully winding down, we are on the verge of reopening the world again. It cannot and will not be “business as usual.” If those of us in business have really been using our time wisely and understanding what has been happening in the living world, we know that we must look beyond our existing playbook and throw it out. We have to act more responsibly, more sustainably, and in a more environmentally conscious way. Technology is taking us to new heights. Our children just spent the last year in virtual learning environments. Many of us spent the year working remotely. We must embrace that reality, redesign those business/education models, and amplify them in ways that are creative, exciting, workable, and innovative.

Our new playbook must include autonomy, flexibility, creativity, and imagination. I want companies who are truly about “innovation” to embody these traits, to go where no thought leadership has gone before, and to create brand experiences that are completely “out of this world.”