The concept of a “metaverse” has been around for decades, but in recent years, it has gained increased attention and interest as a new frontier for technology and human interaction. With the continued development of its technologies, the metaverse is becoming increasingly sophisticated and realistic. For businesses, the metaverse presents a new way to connect with customers, collaborate with colleagues, and innovate in ways that were previously impossible.
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE?
The metaverse is a fully immersive digital world where users can interact with each other and the environment in real time, using avatars, 3D graphics, and advanced interfaces. It is not just a single platform or technology, but a network of interconnected virtual worlds that can be accessed and experienced by users worldwide. The metaverse offers a wide range of experiences, from social interactions and gaming to education and commerce. Users can create and customize their avatars, explore virtual environments, interact with other users, and conduct transactions using virtual currencies. In this virtual space, the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds are blurred, providing new opportunities for social interaction, entertainment, and business development.Although the metaverse is still in its early stages, it is rapidly evolving, and companies are investing heavily in its development. As technology continues to improve, the metaverse has the potential to become a central hub for human interaction and commerce, opening up new possibilities for the future of the internet and the way we interact with each other.
THE HISTORY OF THE METAVERSE
The concept of the metaverse originated from science fiction, specifically Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, which depicted a virtual reality space called the Metaverse. In this virtual world, people could conduct business and interact with each other in a fully immersive environment. The novel’s portrayal of the Metaverse had a significant impact on the development of virtual reality and online gaming.Image SourceIn the late 1990s and early 2000s, the metaverse began to take shape in online gaming communities and virtual worlds. Second Life, which launched in 2003, was one of the first virtual worlds to gain widespread attention. Second Life allowed users to create their own avatars, explore virtual environments, and interact with other users in real time. It quickly became a popular platform for social interaction and creative expression.Image SourceIn the years that followed, other virtual worlds and online gaming platforms emerged, each with unique features and capabilities, including World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Minecraft, among others. The development ofVirtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology in recent years has led to the creation of more sophisticated virtual worlds, expanding the possibilities of the metaverse beyond gaming.
HOW DOES THE METAVERSE WORK?
The metaverse is a complex system that enables user interaction with the virtual environment through a combination of software and hardware. It operates on a set of protocols governing data sharing and transaction processing. Key technologies employed in the metaverse include virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cloud computing.While often confused with the metaverse, VR and AR are merely components of it. VR provides a fully immersive experience, while AR overlays digital content onto the real world. In contrast, the metaverse transcends these technologies by establishing a persistent virtual environment accessible from anywhere.At its core, the metaverse operates as a decentralized network utilizing blockchain technology. This ensures secure and transparent transactions, vital for establishing trust and reliability within the virtual economy. AI complements this infrastructure by generating intelligent virtual agents capable of interacting with users, providing information, and assisting with various tasks. The metaverse relies on the computing power of cloud technology to create and sustain its immersive virtual environment. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum hold the potential to facilitate seamless virtual transactions, enhancing the metaverse’s functionality and economic ecosystem.
The metaverse requires a combination of software and hardware to function properly. On the software side, several platforms provide access to the metaverse. These platforms represent a diverse range of metaverse experiences, from user-generated content creation to immersive social interactions. Each platform offers unique features and opportunities for users to engage, create, and explore within their respective virtual worlds.
Image SourceRoblox is a prominent metaverse platform that allows users to create and play games within a virtual world. It boasts an extensive user-generated content ecosystem, enabling developers to create their own experiences using Roblox Studio. With over 200 million monthly active users, Roblox has a thriving economy where players can buy and sell virtual goods.
Fortnite (Epic Games)
Image SourceWhile primarily known as a popular battle royale game, Fortnite has expanded its metaverse-like elements through in-game events, collaborations, and a virtual social space called Party Royale. Fortnite’s immersive experiences, live events, and creative mode allow users to interact, socialize, and engage with various forms of entertainment within the game’s virtual world.
Image SourceThe Sandbox is a blockchain-based gaming platform that empowers users to create, share, and monetize their gaming experiences. It utilizes voxels, a 3D pixel art style, and offers a user-friendly game-maker tool that allows creators to design interactive experiences. The Sandbox also operates on a cryptocurrency model where users can own and trade virtual assets using its native currency, SAND.
Horizon Worlds (Meta)
Image SourceHorizon Worlds, developed by Meta (formerly Facebook), is an immersive social metaverse platform. It aims to provide a seamless and accessible virtual reality experience for users. Horizon Worlds offers tools and resources for creators to build their own worlds and experiences, emphasizing social interaction, creativity, and exploration.
Image SourceDecentraland is a blockchain-based virtual world that allows users to create, buy, and sell virtual land and experiences. Powered by the Ethereum blockchain, Decentraland enables users to develop and monetize their virtual content using its scripting language. It also has its own cryptocurrency called MANA, which is used for buying virtual land and trading virtual assets within the platform.
On the hardware side, the metaverse requires devices that can display and interact with the virtual environment. These devices range from smartphones and computers to VR and MR headsets. VR headsets provide a more immersive experience, while MR headsets overlay digital information in the real world.
Virtual Reality Headsets
VR headsets are a key component for experiencing the metaverse in an immersive manner. Devices like the Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR offer high-quality VR experiences, allowing users to explore virtual environments and interact with them using motion controllers.
Image SourceThe Meta Quest is a standalone virtual reality headset. It offers a wireless and all-in-one VR experience without the need for a PC or external sensors. The Quest features built-in tracking sensors and motion controllers, providing users with freedom of movement within virtual environments. With its high-resolution displays and intuitive user interface, the Quest delivers a compelling and immersive VR experience for gaming, social interaction, and other metaverse activities.
Image SourceThe HTC Vive is a PC-based virtual reality headset known for its room-scale tracking capabilities. It utilizes external base stations that track the user’s movements and position in physical space, allowing for precise and immersive VR experiences. The Vive offers high-resolution displays, comfortable headsets, and motion controllers for intuitive interaction. It also supports a wide range of VR applications, from gaming to architectural visualization, making it a popular choice for metaverse enthusiasts.
Image SourcePlayStation VR (PSVR) is a virtual reality headset designed for use with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 gaming consoles. It provides an accessible entry point to VR for console gamers. The PSVR features a comfortable headset, motion controllers, and an external camera that tracks the user’s movements. While the resolution may be slightly lower compared to PC-based VR, the PSVR offers a range of immersive gaming experiences and integrates seamlessly with the PlayStation ecosystem.
Mixed Reality Headsets
Mixed reality (MR) headsets, such as Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One, blend virtual content with the real world in a more interactive and immersive manner. By combining real-world mapping with virtual elements, Mixed Reality headsets enable users to interact with and manipulate virtual objects within their physical environment.
Image SourceThe Microsoft HoloLens blends virtual content with the real world. It features transparent lenses that allow users to see and interact with holographic objects superimposed on their surroundings. The HoloLens employs advanced sensors, cameras, and spatial mapping technology to provide an interactive and spatially aware experience. It is widely used in enterprise and industrial applications, offering unique opportunities for metaverse experiences that merge virtual and physical elements.
Image SourceMagic Leap is an extended reality company that has developed the Magic Leap One headset. It is designed to provide a seamless and natural experience by superimposing digital content onto the user’s real-world environment. Magic Leap employs a combination of sensors, cameras, and waveguide technology to create realistic and interactive experiences. The headset includes a controller for input and navigation, allowing users to interact with virtual objects and applications in their surroundings.
Smartphones and Tablets:
While not dedicated metaverse devices, smartphones and tablets play a significant role in accessing metaverse applications and experiences. Mobile devices often feature AR capabilities, allowing users to engage with augmented reality elements and applications, making them accessible entry points to the metaverse.
INDUSTRY USES OF THE METAVERSE
One of the most significant benefits of the metaverse for businesses is the ability to create immersive brand experiences. This not only provides a unique and engaging experience but also allows businesses to showcase products in ways that were previously impossible.
The fashion industry is embracing the metaverse as a platform for innovative and immersive experiences and is expected to grow by $6.61 billion from 2021-2026. Fashion brands can create virtual showrooms and fashion shows within the metaverse. Users can customize and try on virtual outfits, explore virtual boutiques, and make virtual purchases. Virtual fashion collaborations and limited-edition virtual items can also be introduced, creating unique opportunities for brand engagement.Image SourceIn 2022 Decentraland hosted the first annual Metaverse Fashion Week. The event was held again this year in 2023 and featured brands such as Adidas, Coach, Tomy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, and more. The brands’ experiences ranged from Adidas hosting a runway show debuting 16 digital pieces, to Coach’s virtual showroom inside a giant floating spaceship of their iconic Tabby bag.Image Source By embracing virtual fashion, designers can push the boundaries of design, experiment with innovative concepts, and offer unique digital fashion experiences to a broader community.
Food And Beverage
The food and beverage industry can leverage the metaverse to create immersive and engaging consumer brand experiences. Through the metaverse, brands can connect with their target audience, increase brand awareness, foster loyalty, and generate new revenue streams. Virtual product launches and tasting events within the metaverse offer brands an opportunity to reach a wider audience and generate buzzImage SourceIn Decentraland Jose Cuervo has created their Cuervo Metadistillary. It is a metaverse experience that brings the essence of the tequila production process to life in a virtual environment. Users can explore the virtual distillery, learn about the history and craftsmanship of Jose Cuervo tequila, make their own custom cocktail, and socialize with others.
In the retail industry, the metaverse offers new opportunities for virtual shopping experiences. Virtual shopping experiences can offer personalized recommendations, interactive product showcases, and social shopping. The metaverse provides a dynamic platform for brands to showcase products in realistic settings, generate excitement, and bridge the gap between online and offline shopping, fostering customer engagement and loyalty. It is expected that e-commerce value in the Metaverse will be $2-$2.6 trillion by 2030. Image SourceOn Roblox, West Elm hosts their West Elm’s Home Design Experience. The experience enables users to virtually explore and design their dream homes using the brand’s products and designs. Customers can customize virtual spaces, experiment with furniture layouts, and visualize how West Elm’s items would fit into their real-world environments. This interactive approach enhances the shopping experience by allowing customers to make informed decisions and reduces guesswork.
THE FUTURE OF THE METAVERSE
The metaverse holds immense potential to reshape how we interact, collaborate, and experience digital spaces. It promises to redefine the boundaries of digital interaction, unleashing a new era of interconnectedness and possibilities for individuals and businesses alike. With the collective efforts of technology companies, content creators, and industry leaders, the metaverse is poised to become an integral part of our digital future.
Augmented Reality (AR) has emerged as a transformative technology in recent years, revolutionizing the way people interact with digital content. From fun Snapchat filters to the ability to visualize furniture in your home before making a purchase, AR has found its way into almost every industry. With the ability to create immersive experiences, businesses now have a unique opportunity to increase engagement, drive sales, and build brand loyalty. It’s no surprise that AR has become a popular topic of discussion among businesses and consumers alike.
WHAT IS AR?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows users to overlay digital content onto the physical world in real-time. AR enhances the existing environment by adding digital elements to it. This technology is typically accessed through a mobile device or a wearable, such as smart glasses.AR works by using the device’s camera and sensors to scan and map the physical environment. The AR software then analyzes this information and superimposes digital elements onto the user’s view of the real world. These digital elements can be anything from 3D models to text to video and can be interactive, allowing users to manipulate or interact with them.
The concept of Augmented Reality dates back to the 1960s when Ivan Sutherland, a computer scientist, developed the first head-mounted display, which he called “The Sword of Damocles.” The device was bulky and expensive, but it laid the groundwork for future AR technology. It wasn’t until the 1990s that AR began to gain mainstream attention, with the development of the first AR application, called Virtual Fixtures, by the US Air Force.
The early 2000s saw the emergence of AR as a commercial technology, with the launch of ARToolKit, an open-source software library that enabled developers to create AR applications easily. Since then, the technology has evolved significantly, with advances in computer vision, graphics, and mobile computing enabling the creation of more sophisticated AR experiences.
TYPES OF AUGMENTED REALITY
There are three main types of Augmented Reality: NativeAR, WebAR, and SocialAR. Each type has its unique features and capabilities, and businesses can choose the type that best suits their needs.
NativeAR refers to AR experiences that are created using native app development tools for specific platforms like iOS or Android. Game development tools like Unity and Unreal provide the ability to build AR experiences for both major platforms at the same time. These native experiences typically provide the most advanced features and capabilities, such as 3D object recognition and tracking as well as offline access. That said, creating a NativeAR app can be time-consuming and costly and requires users to download an app which can take several minutes.
Ikea makes use of NativeAR through their app Ikea Place. Through advanced 3D object recognition and tracking technology, this app enables customers to preview furniture in their homes before making a purchase.
WebAR refers to AR experiences that are accessed through a web browser, without the need for a dedicated app. This type of AR is typically easier and more affordable to create than NativeAR and can be accessed on a wider range of devices. However, WebAR experiences are limited by tracking (they require a horizontal plane so no wall tracking) and require an internet connection.One example of WebAR is the Moët-Hennessy Virtual Concierge activation. This experience allows users to place the concierge in their home/space, and then answer a series of questions that lead to their perfect product recommendation.
SocialAR refers to AR experiences that are integrated into social media platforms, such as Snapchat or Instagram. These experiences are designed to be shared with friends and can be used to promote products, services, or events. SocialAR experiences are typically easy to use and accessible to a wide audience, but they may be limited in terms of functionality.One example of SocialAR is the Steve Maddenverse Big Head Girls AR filters. The Instagram filters enabled users to see what they would look like as 3D avatars of Normani, Nessa Barrett, Jordan Alexander, Sydney Sweeney, and Justine Skye in Steve Maddens iconic “Big Head Girl’ style from the 90’s and early 00’s.
TOP AR SOFTWARE
Augmented Reality Software applications are essential for creating immersive AR experiences. The software offers developers the tools and resources necessary to create AR experiences that meet the demands of modern consumers. Here are some of the top development platforms for AR:
8th Wall is a cloud-based development platform for creating WebAR experiences. It stands out from other platforms by providing developers with a set of tools that can help them create AR experiences that are highly responsive, reliable, and scalable. With 8th Wall, developers can create AR experiences that work seamlessly on both iOS and Android devices, and can be customized to meet the needs of any brand.
Zappar is an AR development platform that provides developers with tools for creating both marker-based and markerless AR experiences. It offers an extensive analytics suite that enables businesses to measure the impact of their AR experiences on their audience.
Blippar is an AR development platform that provides businesses with tools for creating immersive and interactive AR experiences. It provides a wide range of customization options and templates, making it easy for businesses to create AR experiences that are tailored to their brand and audience.
ARToolKit is an open-source software library for creating marker-based AR experiences. It is easy to use and provides developers with a range of features and customization options that enable developers to create AR experiences that are highly customizable and interactive.
INDUSTRY USES OF AR
AR has found a place in almost every industry, and its potential use cases are vast. Some of the top use cases for AR include:
Retail and Fashion
In the Retail and Fashion Industry, AR has the potential to enhance the customer experience by providing an immersive and interactive way to shop for products. Retailers can use AR to create virtual showrooms, allow customers to try on virtual clothes and accessories, and enable customers to visualize products in their own space before making a purchase. The technology allows retailers to create immersive experiences that bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping, and help customers make more informed purchase decisions. Research has found that these informed online purchase decisions that AR has enabled has led to a 25%–66% decrease in returns, 50% increase in product sampling time, and a 40% increase in order conversion rates.An example of this is Bloomingdale’s 150th Anniversary AR Catalog, which brought their collection to life. Customers could scan AR-enabled looks within the catalog to see how they look and move in real life, not to mention click to purchase inside the experience. This experience had a 23.4% conversion rate and a 38% engagement rate
For Black History Month this year, ROSE created our Marching Forward AR exhibition, which commemorated moments of Black resistance in recent history. Users can tap to place the exhibit anywhere and walk along the iconic Black Lives Matter street art text, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the movement, while looking at and interacting with statues corresponding to these moments. This experience highlights how augmented reality can be used as an important tool for immersive and accessible educational experiences. Augmented reality can be used to teach in the classroom and alongside, or instead of, IRL museum exhibits making educational resources available to all.
Food and Beverage
In the Food and Beverage Industry, augmented reality has been leveraged to personalize the purchase experience and offer consumers a unique and memorable experience. Through AR, Consumer Product brands can set themselves apart from competitors and be successful in increasing consumer engagement and driving sales. An example of this is ROSE’s Patrón Tequila Virtual Gift Wrapper activation. This experience allows consumers to personalize their bottles of Patrón tequila with custom messages and virtual ribbons. The user can then share their bottle on social media or purchase it directly from the Patrón website. This activation had an average session duration of 1.5 minutes, and 53% of users clicked through to purchase Patrón before exiting.
Augmented Reality can enhance the tourism industry by providing a more interactive and engaging experience for travelers. AR can also provide travelers with information and context about the places they are visiting in a fun and immersive way. AR can also be used to create virtual tours of destinations, allowing travelers to explore new places without ever leaving their homes. For example, in partnership with the Miami Design District, Mastercard™ has provided cardholders with an AR-powered virtual tour of the area. Using their mobile device, users are transported to the Miami Design District and can experience a 360-view of selected art pieces.
AR AND THE FUTURE
Augmented Reality is a technology that has the potential to transform the way we interact with digital content and the real world. With its ability to enhance learning, create memorable consumer experiences, and provide innovative solutions across a range of industries, AR is a technology that businesses cannot afford to ignore. By understanding the different types of AR, their industry uses, and the software available, businesses can leverage this technology to create engaging and immersive experiences that delight their customers and drive business growth.