Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create soft men, soft men create hard timesJoe Rogan
Before you thank me for the out-of-context quote right here, let me quickly build some perspective. We’re in the coldest of crypto winters. Likes of SBF have screwed the industry. But not without the help of two types of men; (a) The ones that were hungry for yield, (b) the ones who put their money aimlessly without figuring out the self-custody route. But that’s not the topic of the day. So why are we talking about FTX? Well, turns out that the winter triggered by SBF has flattened the hype/growth curve of all the auxiliary niches like NFTs and Metaverse.
Okay. Even if we keep this fiasco aside, Facebook has lost about 70% of its worth this year. Why? Mainly because they lost customers for the first time in a decade. But didn’t he bet on Metaverse just because of that? Why has it failed to convince people? So today, I would talk about my hunch on the future of the virtual worlds. We would discuss the following:
- How it started?
- How is it going?
- My opinion on its future.
How did we end up here?
Sign up, create an avatar, hang out in the environment, attend events, add friends and collect digital currency. Nope. That’s not the playbook of a web3 glam sham dApp. Instead, it’s exactly what you would do in the ‘Second Life’. A game released in 2003.
So if the concept dates back a couple of decades, why is suddenly the world’s biggest social media company betting on it now? Well, mainly for three reasons:
A. The Tech Evolution:
This is where most people get it wrong. The core reason of drawing a thin line between a Metaverse and a typical game is the fact that both of them started with, and are likely to continue with a desktop/mobile application where you use keys to interact with the environment.
This is where it all began and masses would still hop on to Meta bandwagon like this.
But then, the past 5 years saw the rise of 5G technology. Whatever was supposed to stay on your device could now be streamed live (or at least some version of it).
Next is VR and AR which would make it way more immersive than a game. You can still feel the character’s vibe in a game but how about being that character? Meta’s version of the virtual world would evolve into this. The Oculus acquisition, Rayban collaboration, all hint at it.
Please note that the evolution in VR and AR can be subdivided into the following factors: Aesthetics, Comfort, Contextual Awareness (purpose-specific devices), customization (coming out of collabs etc) and user-friendliness.
B. The Great Reset:
As much as you wish, this isn’t a Thanos moment. I am talking about a puny version of it. The Pandemic. The pandemic has accelerated the usage of virtual tools to interact with each other.
Currently, whenever you set up a meeting with someone, the default mode is virtual. You have to call out specifically in case of an in-person connect. This was not the case back in 2019.
To top that, MS has built tremendously on Teams, it took Zoom about 15 months (April 2019 to August 2020) to jump 10x in its price during the pandemic.
C. The Ownership:
And then there’s this asset class which had no logic, only magic. Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe in the NFT space. But let’s agree that Amitabh Bachchan’s NFT collection didn’t deserve 7 crores by any stretch of the imagination.
Nevertheless, with Blockchains adding the element of ownership of in-game assets, the entire Metaverse theme just blew up. Decentraland, Sandbox saw enormous growth after taking this route.
How we doin’ though?
Honestly, not very well. There are about 200 companies globally that are building environments offering more or less the same features and lacking the key feature of interoperability.
Cracks appeared when someone pointed out that the DAU of Decentraland is dwindling to 38 users per day. Now this report was publicly flouted by Decentraland by tweeting the following:
But then, they ended up revealing their monthly active user count stands at 56,000. Imagine being valued at $1 Billion just to find out that you are getting roughly 50K eyeballs each month.
On the other hand, things look pretty bleak in the walled gardens of Meta as well.
The stock has crashed nearly 70% since the beginning of the year.
We would have written it off as a scam if this were some cryptocurrency.
As many would argue, this isn’t a war between the ownership of in-environment assets. It is still at a stage where the virtual worlds are yet to establish their utility and foothold in the market. It is still an amorphous, utopian idea being pushed by a bunch of socially awkward nerds.
Now, we get why Mark is hell-bent on the idea of Metaverse. The overall time spent digitally is continuously surging across the globe. As per Statista, the amount of hours spent online has grown with a CAGR of 17% over the past decade and the SEA nations are catching up faster than their western counterparts.
And if we are spending more time online (even more so during pandemic-induced lockdowns), does it make sense to possess physical luxuries? You could very well do away with them and move online. No, I am not talking about the staples. But think of a Rolex watch. You aren’t going to flaunt it unless you get out of the house. So having a digital version of it makes complete sense if your TG and friends are hanging out there.
But then, Mark isn’t enabling ownership the way Blockchains intend to. So we are just assigning a higher weightage to the experience instead. What do you think will drive the craze towards the virtual world realm? The ownership or the experience?
Truth be told. Both. Yes. You can’t do away with either. Harsher truth. That it will start with the experience first. People don’t want to own a piece of a virtual asset in a crappy-looking environment. That is like buying a house in a shitty locality just for the sake of it. So, we might see Meta bringing in the bulk of users, who later wake up on privacy and ownership concerns and may switch to a web3 variant (if Meta has not taken steps in that direction already).
And since we have started talking about the future already, let us try to find out what is in store for the future?
Crystal Balling Metaverse:
In a nutshell, we are kind of unsure where we started, we know that we are not in a good place. So should we leave it there?
Well, here are a few lessons from neuroscience that make sense when applied to virtual worlds.
A. Eye Contact:
Eyes are a gateway to the soul.– Some stoned dude
Okay. Maybe eyes are overrated. But eye contact isn’t. It is an important element of a conversation and enough research has been done to justify the importance of body language (especially eyes) during a conversation. And so far, we have failed terribly in achieving that virtually.
Zoom calls? Well, either you are not maintaining eye contact while you speak (you are looking at the screen for the listener), in which case the listener doesn’t feel the eye contact. Or, if you are looking into the camera, you are, well, not looking into the listener’s eyes.
B. Spatial Context:
Turns out that the human brain processes information in a spatial context. For example, when you get into an in-person conversation, your brain is constantly processing the direction from which the sound is coming. It is also keeping a track of the surroundings of the speaker.
Ever felt like all Zoom meetings of the day are exactly the same? That’s because instead of a space, you have now confined the other person in a symmetrical box.
Also, this was highlighted by Mark Zuckerberg in one of his conversations with Lex Friedman, a few months ago. If you really want to get into what’s happening at Meta, I would totally recommend that conversation (Source).
My First REAL Encounter:
Yeah. I’d like to call it the first real encounter because I have been exposed to games in the past. Maybe not as much to call me a gamer but I do understand how this world works. Also, I have been fiddling with different metaverse-based platforms just to check how it feels.
But off late, due to some work-related conference, I was a part of a Metaverse with an agenda, sincerity and a duration of 180 minutes.
Just like most of us, our first instinct is to justify the usage of Metaverse over a regular Zoom call. Because let’s face it. We’re not installing an application in our devices, taking care of login credentials just to see a screen-share with a speaker.
So, the event started with a role-play. An elaborate tango of the actors modulating voice and playing a specific character to bring home a point.
Soon enough, I could see elements like a presentation and a talk show. All of this gave me a feeling of taking a zoom call up a notch. Especially, from an operational standpoint.
But, the real game changer was the break. Yes. After 90 odd minutes, we had a break and I felt so hungry. But I just had my lunch before the event started. The fact that immersion actually mimicked the real-world feeling so well that my digestive system was tricked into feeling hungry, got me thinking.
I also enquired about this from a few of my co-participants. Turns out, smokers felt like smoking, some people had to take a bio break, a coffee break. The exact things they would do if they were attending an IRL event.
Placebo or More?
I am not ruling out the possibility of a placebo for me because I am heavily invested (time and money) in Metaverse-based themes. But then, what about others?
Regardless, my conviction for Metaverse being the obvious next incarnation of workplaces has increased after this event. But there is a whole host of other use cases in the pipeline. Let’s see what the world has in store for us.
What is your PoV on Metaverse anyway?
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Until next time..
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