Enter the Metaverse: what it is, and why your brand should be here

by Jolyon Varley

Summer 2021 was super sucky. The euphoria of lockdowns easing has been marred by the threat of climate change – illustrated by more places than ever either flooding or catching fire. With the physical world in such peril, it’s little wonder that more interest is being placed on the digital one. In fact, a new term has leapt into the lexicon of the technology and investor communities to describe the future of the virtual sphere: the metaverse.

Specifically, the term is used to describe the merging of the real world with augmented reality, virtual reality and conventional 2D screens in a universal, shared digital space. Just like the internet itself, nobody will own the metaverse, instead it will be co-created and managed by everyone. The idea isn’t new. In fact, it was popularised by sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 cyber punk thriller Snow Crash. Right now, the metaverse represents the single largest white space for brands to launch products, create experiences, connect to fans, and – naturally – turn a profit.

The next internet?

Maybe, baby. Just like the dawning age of the world wide web, the potential of the metaverse is yet to be fully understood. In the 2020s, its component parts are converging through games like Fortnite, Roblox and Animal Crossing. The most vital quality of the metaverse will be interoperability – that is, your avatar or online identity making seamless crossings between different games, digital destinations and virtual landscapes. The best articulation of what the metaverse is (and isn’t) can be found on the personal blog of Matthew Ball, a VC and essayist. In a post he writes: “Just as it was hard to envision in 1982 what the Internet of 2020 would be — and harder still to communicate it to those who had never even “logged” onto it at that time — we don’t really know how to describe the Metaverse.”

A clear opportunity

While the metaverse defies definition – for now at least – this hasn’t stopped fast-movers from experimenting with it. Staring down new bills in the US that threaten to break up his big tech empire, Mark Zuckerberg has plans to turn Facebook into a ‘metaverse company’ in the long run. Similarly, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang has been touting the potential of the concept for years. More recently, Virgil Abloh founder of fashion label Off-White has been turning his attention to the creation of metaverse clothing, which would bring to bear the full creative potential of virtual design.

You’ll want your avatar to look sharp as it flits from experiential events happening across the metaverse. But you also might want a small corner of it to call home. In March a mansion called the Mars House sold for around £500k. The NFT (non-fungible token) gives the owner access to a minimalist property perched on a rocky landscape. It’s now available to book for weddings and metaverse family reunions.

Want to move into the metaverse before your competitors? OK COOL unearths opportunities for brands in new constellation of web apps and platforms. Get at me.

Jolyon Varley, Co-Founder, OK COOL

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