November 23, 2021

Musings on the Metaverse

Client Success Manager

Show of hands, who takes buzzwords seriously? Semi-seriously? Do you cringe a little when a term takes off due to forces outside your control and you find yourself having to explain it to curious friends and family members? Mine has become “The Metaverse”.

I had to get over this apprehension, as I embrace the technology fueling it. Being fully aware I may have been conditioned by social media, Kevin Smith films, or South Park to reflexively adopt a cynical view on any new trend or buzzword, I’ve learned to accept it for the time being. The current challenge I have with "it" is accurately describing what "it is. Are there definitive, clear, and concise summaries for what the Metaverse and web3 are, or have they been evolving, fluid concepts inclusive of everything under the sun that various technocrats, crypto-enthusiasts, and influencers wish to see from it?

I’m guessing the latter. Like other software development studios, The Devhouse Agency has been building experiences for the Metaverse without knowing it. AR/XR/VR experiences, cryptocurrencies, and communities populated with customizable avatars aren’t new. We aren’t claiming to have invented them either, however it’s been an interesting year when a word comes along that redefines your skill set. Whether we like it or not, we’re a Metaverse company.

I get the need for it. I get bored by the corporate speak of lengthy descriptions like “immersive, spatial, and shared experiences that inspire true communities where users become creators and… (yada yada yada)”. So Metaverse it is! Having an umbrella term for the comprehensive set of features and tech can be useful at this stage, but will it have a shelf life?

Internal discussions and various podcast guests have revealed mixed feelings about the term, and whether or not it persists remains to be seen. How often do we distinguish sites as web1 versus web2 in casual conversation? Do we still call the web the “information superhighway”? While no one can predict the future, I feel interacting with Metaverse-related content will slowly become just as ubiquitous as the current iteration of the web, and integrating immersive experiences with the real world will become so seamless that the merging point between the digital and physical won’t need a term.

Part of the appeal of the Metaverse at this stage is that hasn't been truly defined. Innovative developers, artists, and communities can guide it through own bespoke visions. What kind of UI inputs are the most successful for VR experiences? How energy-efficient can we make crypto transactions and mining? Will consumers adopt AR wearables? How will these experiences be regulated? It is an exciting time for software developers, 3D modelers, and game designers everywhere to rethink how we work, shop, and play.

There are clear limitations to the 2D text and images we’re accustomed to from the web. Metaverse-related technologies will provide a faster and more complete delivery system of critical information and will broaden the bandwidth between information we seek and our ability to process and understand it. In terms of engagement, content comprehension, and the telling of a more complete story, interactive 3D is the way to go. The ability to view beautifully rendered products in full 3D and how they will look when placed in a physical environment is a clear use case for AR. Becoming certified and trained on safe forklift operation can be scaled and standardized with a well crafted VR simulation. The blockchain is providing users with true digital ownership of their assets. It’s clichéd, but these emerging technologies will revolutionize the industry in ways we can’t imagine.

As with other periods of disruption, there will be hits, misses, and fast talking innovators making bold claims of uniting the world or eliminating poverty. How we steer this ship is essential. Old guard tech companies have invested heavily in the development of their walled gardens that threaten open and decentralized iterations on the metaverse. Virtual communities and addictive gaming experiences run the risk of disconnecting us further physically as users retreat into our online personas. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs can be extremely volatile for those looking to cash in on the short term. Being aware of the pitfalls, there are clear advantages and paths forward to a more invisible and seamless interaction with the web that promotes real world human interaction, encourages outdoor activities, and enhances the accumulation of knowledge. Whatever shape the Metaverse eventually takes, it will be one wild ride.