When Facebook announced its company name change to Meta at the Connect 2021 Conference on 28th October 2021, in the statement released the conglomerate said:
‘Meta’s focus will be to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.
The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world.’
It sparked a wave of online interest but also confusion. Just what is the Metaverse? And what has it got to do with us?
What is VR
We can’t talk about what the Metaverse is and avoid confusion, not first mentioning Virtual Reality (VR), which is currently at the core of the concept and most of what people are experiencing as what could become the Metaverse today.
VR is the use of computer technology, namely a head-mounted display set and handset, to create a simulated environment with which a person can interact.
As explained in this blog post from 3D cloud platform Marxent:
‘Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, the computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to this artificial world. The only limits to near-real VR experiences are the availability of content and cheap computing power.’
What is AR
Augmented Reality or AR, is the flipside of VR – the simulation of artificial objects in real world environments using computer generated perceptual information, like from a camera. Sometimes these objects are enhancements of existing physical objects and sometimes they are enhanced across multiple sensory formats like touch, smell and sound.
Examples of AR can be found on most social media platforms today e.g. in the form of filters on Instagram stories and TikTok videos. And in mobile games like Pokémon Go where players use their phone camera to capture and collect virtual characters in real world spaces.
What is the Metaverse
The Metaverse was originally the name of a fictional world coined by Neal Stephenson in his dystopian novel Snow Crash in 1992. It’s described in the novel as a 3D virtual reality space accessed with virtual reality goggles that, according to ATD, have a lot in common with the VR headsets of today like the Oculus Quest.
But for the Metaverse to come into fruition it must evolve into something distinct from simple VR experiences. Experts predict it as a technological evolution akin to the launch of the mobile internet, and suggest this will manifest itself through the incorporation of various technologies including VR, AR, and the Internet of Things (IoT), among others.
Venture capitalist Matthew Ball wrote in a blog post titled ‘Framework for the Metaverse’ in an educated attempt to define what the Metaverse could be:
‘The Metaverse is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.’
Breaking this down – the Metaverse will be the transition from the internet as a place we physically visit by using smartphones and computers, to the internet as a place that we are constantly within, coexisting simultaneously with reality, without the need for a physical interface.
But we are decades away from the technological advancements required to make this happen.
The imagination of human beings is limited, we can’t imagine anything we haven’t perceived before which is why the beginnings of the evolution of technology often mimicked nature – think of the relation between aerodynamics and birds/how aeroplanes kind of look like giant hunk-of-metal birds in flight.
So while it’s hard to write about Metaverse careers for this reason, for the same reason it’s likely they’ll echo jobs existing in the working world today. Most of these jobs will be reliant on the blended reality between being online and offline that the Metaverse will create. Here are some ideas:
It’s likely the Metaverse will usher in a new dawn for the creator economy we’re seeing on social media today, where create-to-earn and play-to-earn models are emerging on social and gaming platforms alike.
The parasocial relationship we have with influencers may reach new heights if technological developments evolve things like live-streaming and allow fans to feel closer to influencers than ever.
A quick Google search of ‘Metaverse careers’ already brings up job listings. With one of the UK’s most popular TV channels, ITV looking to hire a ‘Metaverse Creative’, asking applicants to have a knowledge of gaming and Metaverse-relevant technologies such as AR, VR and NFTs for creating strategy.
Marketers with relevant knowledge will have the advantage, as we could possibly see advancements in ad tailoring i.e. sensory brand logos and more interactive advertising. With ‘try before you buy’ taking on new meaning in a blended reality.
The Drum writes in its Metaverse Deep Dive ‘marketers have a great role to play in ensuring the Metaverse is viable for brands’.
The advent of the Metaverse will likely change the way events are held, with an option of attending in the Metaverse or events being held in blended reality (which may be one in the same really). The question is hologram pop star or hologram audience?
Specialist event/party planners will be necessary for events held in blended reality. And we’re already seeing a shadow of this in VR spaces where Snoop Dog parties are all the rage and wedding receptions are even being held. The Metaverse might create a crossover between the community management of blended reality spaces and event planning.
Competitive gaming and esports arenas may take on a new level of experience for gamers and viewers alike, where instead of watching pro gamers compete from a distance, fans can really feel like they’re in the game with them.
Gaming is thought to be at the heart of developing Metaverse platforms and, as written in the Guardian [*], titles like Roblox and Minecraft already offer an immersive experience to their users which the Metaverse is looking to expand on. The gaming industry’s future boom is just getting started.
Designers are already cashing in on sales of virtual clothing, with Nike selling trainers on Roblox for similar prices to retail [*]. In recent years the fashion industry has been shaken by the introduction of virtual high-end clothing you can rent to wear for Instagram posts.
It’s easy to assume that wearable tech will become more advanced in order to bring the Metaverse into fruition, virtual designers and stylists may see new demand and who knows, maybe hologram outfits will become the norm and solve fashion’s sustainability problem.
Exclusive blended reality art galleries with NFTs hanging on the walls, anyone?
The landscape of how we experience art as viewers, consumers, and creators is already changing with the emergence of new technologies for making art and NFTs. And although the world of NFTs seems like a bit of a minefield for artists and curators alike at the moment, they are definitely changing the art industry as we know it.
The COVID 19 pandemic revolutionised work from home and flexible working as the new norm. It’s likely the Metaverse will do the same again and possibly impact approaches to education as well, where technological developments can benefit the industry.
iPads in schools are becoming more commonplace in our current age so it will be interesting to see, in the age of the Metaverse, how a blended reality impacts teaching and education for the better.
At the moment the only Metaverse careers we can speak of with certainty are those necessary to bring the Metaverse into fruition. Now being hired: specialist programmers, tech developers and UEX designers who work on the systems and designs for the next few decades that will become this future reality.
The emergence of a new legal field is guaranteed for the dawn of the Metaverse. Arguably, law’s still catching up with the current era of social media and if this is a trend for future technological developments, there’s definitely an avenue for ambitious practitioners to become entrepreneurs in the field.
Shopping in a blended reality will likely overhaul retail as we know it. Making real world purchases with cryptocurrency doesn’t seem far off, even from the present. And the option of being able to realistically try out products from your home may further the decline of high streets and brick stores, but open new possibilities for blended reality retail spaces.
Want to learn more about the Metaverse? Join the Digital Women Member’s Club this month for more information, and get access to all our sessions for free.