Metaverse: from sci-fi to a trillion-dollar industry — Photo by Travel Singularity

Science Fiction / Double Feature

The Metaverse, a concept once limited to the pages of science fiction novels, is now on the cusp of becoming a trillion-dollar industry. But how did this concept, depicted initially as a virtual world owned and controlled by a centralized entity in dystopian novels like Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and Ready Player Me, transform into a trillion-dollar industry almost overnight? The answer lies in the convergence of advanced technologies such as big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, crypto, and VR/AR/MR/XR, which have finally reached a level of maturity sufficient to support an "embodied" internet.

What the Metaverse is (not)

First things first: the Metaverse is more than just a virtual world; it is a new dimension of reality that will change how we interact with each other and the world around us. It will fundamentally shift how we do business, communicate, and even think about ourselves. As the Metaverse evolves, it will create new markets and industries and disrupt existing ones. One key question surrounding the Metaverse is not necessarily WHAT it is, but WHEN it will reach tipping points and become dominant in certain use cases. To unlock the Metaverse's real opportunity, we need decision-makers to spend money on practical use cases that offer significant value beyond the technological friction of new technologies instead of speculation-based projects. This establishes a functional economy through monetization, attracting more users, and completing the flywheel dynamic.

The tipping point?

Training, collaboration, and entertainment will likely be the first pockets to reach tipping points. Training is an ideal use case for immersive technologies, as it allows for hands-on learning in a realistic environment. Collaborative, immersive digital twinning in industrial processes will soon become the standard. In the travel and tourism industry, "try before you buy," and token-gated experiences are strong candidates for mass adoption. Entertainment, particularly gaming, is also an early adopter of the Metaverse and can potentially drive the development of other use cases.

Privacy and Decentralization

We must consider the ethical and societal implications of this new dimension of reality. The Metaverse will require developing new technologies and approaches to privacy, security, and trust, as well as creating new business models and ecosystems. Therefore, we must approach the Metaverse with a sense of responsibility and a focus on creating a positive impact on society. Individuals need more control over their identities and data to truly benefit from the Metaverse, and assets need to be proven in the property to which they belong. Decentralized identity allows an entity (usually a human user) to control its digital identity using technologies such as blockchain or other distributed ledger technologies (DLT), cryptographic algorithms based on Zero-Knowledge Proof, and digital wallets. That is why NFTs seems the perfect tool for representing any asset in the Metaverse.

Immerse, Own, Trade

One of the key drivers of the Metaverse's growth is the increasing demand for immersive experiences. From virtual reality gaming to virtual tourism, the Metaverse allows us to experience new worlds and activities in a previously unimaginable way. Another key factor is the growth of the non-fungible token market, which allows individuals to own and trade unique digital assets, such as virtual real estate or digital art. However, for the Metaverse to reach its full potential and become a truly decentralized and inclusive space, there are several challenges that need to be addressed. These include providing more realistic and professional experiences, creating effective use cases across different industries, and lowering barriers to entry. Additionally, the Metaverse must address issues of interoperability and decentralization to ensure that individuals have control over their digital identities and assets.

The challenges

But the Metaverse is not without its challenges. For example, ensuring privacy and security in virtual environments will be critical, as will the need to address issues of digital literacy and accessibility. In addition, the Metaverse will raise questions about the nature of the ownership and the role of digital currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in virtual economies.

Despite these challenges, the potential for the Metaverse is enormous. As technology advances, we can expect the Metaverse to become an increasingly integral part of our lives, creating new opportunities and experiences that were once only imaginable in science fiction.

Inclusivity: the"identity explosion"

Another advantage of the Metaverse is the ability to bring people together in a shared virtual space, regardless of their location in the physical world. This can break down geographical barriers and create new opportunities for collaboration and connection. It's important to note that the Metaverse is not just about entertainment or escapism; it has the potential to revolutionize industries and create new business opportunities. For example, the Metaverse can be used for remote work, education, telemedicine, and even as a virtual event and conference platform. However, it's crucial that the Metaverse is designed with inclusivity and doesn't perpetuate the same social and economic inequalities in the physical world. This will require the involvement of a diverse group of stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and individuals, in creating and developing the Metaverse.

Not only gaming

The impact of the Metaverse can be felt in various industries, including travel and hospitality, where it is used to provide an enhanced experience for guests and passengers. In the travel industry, the Metaverse can create digital twins of real-life locations, allowing users to explore and experience new places before they even leave their homes. In the hospitality industry, the Metaverse can provide an immersive and engaging experience for guests while enabling intelligent value-added and differentiating digital layers of content and information. The Metaverse is also changing the way we think about marketing and advertising. Brands can now reach out to customers in new and innovative ways, using the Metaverse as a platform to showcase their products and services. This virtual world also offers new ways to promote products and engage with customers, creating a new level of interactivity that was previously unimaginable.

Dystopia or Utopia?

While the Metaverse is still in its early stages, its impact is already being felt across various industries. As technology advances, it is likely that the Metaverse will become an increasingly important part of our daily lives, changing how we work, play, and interact with the world around us. In conclusion, the Metaverse is no longer just a science fiction concept; it is a rapidly growing industry that has the potential to transform our lives and the way we interact with each other and the world around us. Its success will depend on how it is developed and adopted, and it is up to us to shape its future in a way that benefits all members of society. Are we ready?

Simone Puorto
Travel Singularity