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Now is the time to plan for the Metaverse

Now is the time to plan for the Metaverse 3

Now is the time to plan for the Metaverse 4By Kuruvilla Mathew, Chief Innovation Architect and General Manager, UST

The past two years have been beset by uncertainty, making it difficult to predict future trends with any degree of precision. But one thing that I can say with certainty is that the metaverse – a digital ecosystem built on the convergence of blockchain, augmented reality and immersive ecommerce services – is coming. The dawn of this new technology will change everything about the digital experience for users and brands alike. Because the metaverse will revolutionize how we interact with the internet, companies must create comprehensive engagement strategies now to take full advantage of this unprecedented shift and ensure that they aren’t left behind.

Somewhat counterintuitively, the COVID-19 pandemic that has fostered so much disruption actually accelerated the development of metaverse technologies. The transition to a remote work culture that many companies adopted in response to social distancing regulations is an excellent example of how the internet is increasingly being harnessed to supplant or augment interactions that once took place in person. As the technology continues to evolve, other activities ranging from gaming to shopping will increasingly take place inside dynamic virtual worlds.

In the past, people had to make a conscious decision to log on to the internet but now the line between online and offline has started to blur. The metaverse will erase it completely.

The Evolving Internet

For a generation that has grown up with lightning-fast internet connections, smartphone apps and the convenience of seamless smart integration with every aspect of modern life, it may be difficult to believe that the internet was once a far less navigable place. In the 1990s when the public internet was first finding its feet, innovators worked to turn the World Wide Web (or Web 1.0) into the intuitive digital environment it is today. Back then, cyberspace was largely made up of static web pages connected via hyperlinks and rudimentary browsers such as Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Cello were used to scour the various public FTP servers.

A seismic shift was ushered in by Web 2.0 with the emergence of social networks, ecommerce and a constant stream of information (not all of it reliable). The advent of Web 2.0 saw the internet emerge as a platform and was the beginning of a mass information democratization movement as users gained the ability to leverage online platforms and publish content of their own. Web 2.0 really began to hit its stride when smartphones and cloud computing made the internet ever more accessible and user-friendly.

Now, we stand on the verge of another new era, one marked not only by the unprecedented accessibility of information, but an age where information is also intelligently managed, contextualized, curated by AI, decentralized and localized. This immersive internet has been called the “metaverse” and it heralds the dawn of Web 3.0.

Towards a Radical New Internet

The idea of a looming transition to a new internet age dates to 2014 when the potential of decentralized digital infrastructure (also known as blockchain) first became clear. However, the anonymity and processing power of the blockchain will be supplemented by emerging metaverse technology that will power exponential leaps in the capabilities of internet platforms in the years to come as part of the transition to web 3.0

As the internet expands exponentially in both size and complexity, users will need advanced mediums to navigate the newfound wealth of information that is suddenly at their fingertips. We have already seen some aspects of Web 3.0 exemplified in technologies such as AI-driven personalization, remote workspaces, NFTs, immersive gaming, Cyber-Physical assets and crypto-currencies but there is still more potential, and it is likely that innovators have still only scratched the surface.

Innovative Applications

The metaverse will allow for the creation of accurate “Digital Twins”, accurate digital representations of real-world entities or systems that can be rendered to reflect nearly anything. Digital twins grow in effectiveness as they proliferate and are combined with other digital twins to recreate real spaces in the digital sphere.

The most exciting initial application for digital twins in the metaverse is in the sea change that they can bring to online shopping. Since its inception, e-commerce has always had a key drawback when compared to in-person shopping – the inability of users to interact with the product you hope to purchase. Instead, shoppers have had to rely on select images and customer reviews to inform their decisions. The virtual storefronts of the metaverse will create an immersive shopping experience remedying this problem while also maintaining the convenience of at-home shopping.

In the metaverse, it will become common to use highly capable 3D simulations for product and material development purposes. These advanced simulations will leverage real-time data to render the physical world in a constantly updating virtual space. Harnessing the metaverse to produce small batches of customized products (as process known as Additive Manufacturing) is another exciting potential application. This process combines the adaptability of 3D printing for prototyping and unit production with the advanced technology of the metaverse to allow for greater flexibility while reducing inventory management costs.

Finding Success in the Metaverse

The metaverse is set to revolutionize the digital experience and companies must take steps now to create the comprehensive strategic plans and engagement strategies necessary for success. Strategies for growth in the metaverse era must reflect the fact that the customer is more important than ever and acknowledge that they are set to gain more power to shape and drive their online experience according to their own preferences. This is a natural consequence of the fact that the metaverse’s unique appeal is that it is a decentralized ecosystem which empowers users to create.

This decentralized experience creates new opportunities for brands to sell directly without relying on third parties. Just as web 2.0 gave individuals a platform to speak that rivaled established media giants, the metaverse will enable smaller sellers to compete with retail giants on their own terms.

With the dawn of web 3.0 and the metaverse, it’s easy to anticipate a future where the total value of the virtual economy surpasses that of the physical economy. Brands that haven’t considered how best to find success in this radical new landscape will need to develop a comprehensive strategy for digital transformation by emphasizing creativity and the user experience.

Author Bio:

Kuruvilla Mathew is Chief Innovation Architect and General Manager at UST. He has over 25 years of experience in product and services development across a wide range of industries and has worked with Fortune 500 clients worldwide. Mathew has led several enterprise initiatives as Chief Architect and also led techno-domain consulting divisions. Prior to joining UST, he has served as Chief Innovation Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Architect, giving him expertise and insight in guiding digital transformation.

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