Digitalisation & Disruption

A user-centric view of the metaverse

The “digital parallel world” of the metaverse offers numerous new use cases – but which of them will we still be using in the future? Which pain points can we eliminate? Which user needs can we satisfy? These are the questions we want to tackle in this article.

male person with VR glasses and ball in hand
5 minutes to read
With insights from...

  • As a new technology, the metaverse offers a whole host of business opportunities – but also potential for poor investments

  • It’s not about what the metaverse can do – what’s important are the specific user requirements it can satisfy

  • At the very least companies should understand what the metaverse is – and what it isn’t

Yes, this article is primarily aimed at companies. But at Zühlke, our top priority is focusing on the needs of the user. They often get overlooked, especially in evaluating the possibilities presented by new technologies.

Metaverse – do we have a clear definition?

Answer: not really. But we’ll try to give you the lowdown anyway:

  • The term “metaverse” first appeared in the book Snow Crash in 1992
  • It can be described as a type of “digital parallel world”
  • This world continues to exist even after you log out – it is persistent
  • “The Metaverse” doesn’t exist at present; instead we have various platforms that provide this kind of world
  • You can interact with the metaverse and with other users when logged in
  • You adopt an avatar to represent yourself in the metaverse
  • You can own virtual items as NFTs
  • You can use virtual reality (VR) to dive into the metaverse, but it doesn’t have to be a VR experience

The potential is huge! Or is it?

The technology is still in its infancy. That’s why it’s difficult to properly estimate its potential. Goldman Sachs calls it an “$8 trillion opportunity”. But what evidence is there to suggest that the metaverse will succeed or fail, as the case may be?

Pros:

  • Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Meta are all investing heavily in VR, AR and metaverse technologies
  • Some companies are already using the metaverse to onboard new employees
  • We’re witnessing an upward trajectory, and the term “metaverse” is becoming increasingly mainstream

Cons:

  • Other technologies such as 3D films were also hyped and pushed by major companies in the past, but soon fell by the wayside
  • Privacy and tracking risks are likely to become an even bigger issue than they currently are in the present version of the web
  • If you want a realistic experience, the hardware requirements are very high
Our Hands-on-Introduction to the Metaverse

XR and NFTs

You really need to understand these two buzzwords if you’re going to take a deep dive into the metaverse. XR stands for “extended reality” and covers all the technologies used to digitally enhance our reality. While you can experience the metaverse with these technologies, they are not a prerequisite.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique tokens that can represent a virtual item, and prove ownership of it. This will be an important technology in the metaverse for determining ownership of “original” items which also have a value. One relevant example is a plot of land in a metaverse like The Sandbox.

graphic reality, AR, MR & VR

Use cases and what users really want

The failure of the 3D revolution in the film industry speaks volumes. Large companies putting their faith in a new technology is by no means a guarantee of success. When James Cameron’s cinema hit Avatar thrust 3D onto the world stage in 2010, major TV manufacturers like Samsung, LG and Panasonic invested huge amounts of money into developing 3D-ready devices. Only to backtrack a few years later. There are many reasons why this technology failed:

  • There was an assumption that the target audience was craving this type of technology. However, disappointing sales of 3D televisions and cinema tickets for 3D films told another story.
  • The idea of wearing special glasses just to watch a film proved off-putting, especially in the home entertainment area.
  • Technological weaknesses led to a poor overall experience which users then tended to associate with 3D technology as a whole.

Companies that want to avoid these mistakes when investing in the metaverse will need to carefully clarify user requirements. Yes, the technology opens up a multitude of new possibilities. But what do its users really want? Here are some of these potential use cases:

  • Discover virtual worlds
  • Virtual consultations
  • Meet and get to know other people
  • Virtual meetings that feel more personal than video calls
  • Onboard new employees
  • Video games in virtual worlds
  • Fitness in VR
  • Experience school lessons on a more intimate level
  • Buy/sell/swap NFTs and cryptocurrencies
  • Virtual events e.g. concerts
  • Tourism/travel

The possibilities are “virtually” endless. As the digital world is not bound by the laws of physics, we are only limited by our imagination.

How will the Metaverse change our world?

What can companies do now?

Even at this stage, it makes sense for companies to start familiarising themselves with the metaverse and all the possibilities it holds. Testing out VR or AR headsets might also be a good idea. Reading about this equipment is one thing. Trying it out for yourself, however, gives you a much better insight into what we can expect in the next few years. 

The sky is the limit when it comes to potential use cases.

  • Which areas of the business model might you be able to offer in the metaverse as well?
  • Or transfer there entirely?
  • Which new use cases can you benefit from?
  • And are there processes within your company that might benefit from this new technology, for example meetings or onboarding sessions?

It certainly makes sense to ask these questions – always keeping in mind user requirements of course. At the very least companies should keep the metaverse on their radar when they’re thinking about their long-term strategies. Just how big an impact it will have on the business world is difficult to predict. However, companies should make sure that they are well prepared to avoid being caught on the hop.

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Contact person for Switzerland

Christian Moser

Chief of Digital Experience & Partner

Christian Moser joined Zühlke in 2005 and is Chief of Digital Experience & Partner. He is a technology enthusiast and a passionate designer. Technology trends are fascinating him. They have the power to transform our lives and society. 

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