What is the metaverse good for? A panel at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit debated this topic.
The metaverse is a popular term recently, and for good reason: the market is expected to reach nearly $800 billion by 2024, led by mixed/extended reality technology. In fact, nearly 64% of customers have either purchased a virtual good or used a virtual experience. How can businesses take advantage of this emerging technology? A panel at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit held from Sept. 11 to 13 in Charlotte, North Carolina covered this topic.
Daniel Brown, editor of Digital Signage Today, moderated the panel with David Kepron, founder and owner, NXTLVL Experience Design; Melissa Li, head of community, Dorm Room Fund and Steve Lieber, VP of franchise business development at BurgerFI.
What’s the metaverse?
When asked to define what the metaverse is, Li defined it as “a connected network of different platforms that lets them [users] experience 3D worlds.”
These experiences are persistent, in that the world stays active even when a user leaves.
There are currently two main types of the metaverse, fully VR experiences and AR experiences. With AR, Li said this is where the physical meets the digital such as scanning a QR code to see a 3D model of a product.
Although there have been virtual games before such as Second Life, Li pointed out the assets you would receive in those games would stay in the game. However, with the metaverse, Li said you can buy a virtual asset in one platform and sell it on another such as buying “a NFT collectible version of an outfit which you could sell on secondary market.”
Lieber said he wants to meet customers where they are, such as within the metaverse. He said that BurgerFi wants to be able to integrate a virtual restaurant into a game like Roblox where users could order food within the game and have it delivered.
Is the metaverse worth it?
However, not everyone is so convinced of its value. Kepron likes many of the possibilities of the metaverse but also sees some problems.
“We haven’t even gotten this world right, but we are jumping into another one and there are the same problems,” Kepron said. He pointed out that virtual malls had some of the same issues as physical malls.
He identified two key concerns: first who is running it?
“I don’t know if I want Mark Zuckerberg determining what I see and what I buy,” Kepron said.
Secondly, he said he was concerned about “how the experiences are manipulated so we are racing to bottom of the brain stem.” In addition, he emphasized that “none of this is regulated.”
Lieber personally said he wasn’t as concerned about privacy or regulation since at this point, “my privacy is already gone.”
Metaverse representation and moderation
When looking at these issues, Li said that metaverses need human involvement to deal with key issues such as representation within the metaverse and dealing with bad actors, such as allowing users to choose non-binary as a gender option or choosing their proper skin tone.
She said metaverses need “algorithmic content moderation to tell if users are bad actors.” However, she emphasized that moderation is a “human problem.”
On the issue of too few businesses controlling the metaverse, Li said that we need “ecosystem growth for collaborative players instead of players that are competing for market share.”
While many businesses are investing in the metaverse, some are just trying to recreate the offline experience onto the metaverse rather than creating fun experiences.
“It’s meant to be fun, meant to be experiential,” Li said.
As an example of this, Lieber said they offered training with NFT awards for fry cooks. As he completed training, the fry cook would get a BurgerFI NFT, and after the fifth NFT, he would get a crypto wallet.
“If they are one or two NFTs away from a big payout, they might not quit,” Lieber said.
This can work for employees who have been there for a while, such as giving out anniversary NFTs or special trips, such as to its culinary lab.
Kepron said that he is fascinated with technology, but he does think “We need to be tapped into the language we use. How we qualify how we want to incentivize or attract people to certain behaviors. How do we manage relationships in the metaverse?”
He argued that in-person experiences are key, and that, as Lieber said, the ultimate goal of those NFTs in BurgerFi’s training was to get an in-person experience such as a trip or going to the culinary lab.
Ultimately, Kepron said that a metaverse will ultimately only serve as a “proxy” to real interpersonal interaction.
“I love that idea, but I can’t smell, taste or feel the metaverse. I need to come out of that world to see what’s real,” Kepron said.
Bradley Cooper is the editor of ATM Marketplace and was previously the editor of Digital Signage Today. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.