Τhe metaverse is likely to profoundly change the way that businesses and consumers interact with companies in retail, real estate and entertainment already investing in the emerging technology, says PwC.
In a report titled “Demystifying the metaverse” PwC said that the metaverse promises a stunningly realistic 3D digital world where you can purchase and sell goods and services, sign and enforce contracts, recruit and train talent, and interact with customers and communities.
“As some technology visionaries imagine the metaverse, this world won’t primarily run on platforms whose owners control data, governance and transactions. Instead, customers (and businesses) will be able to take their identities, currencies, experiences and assets anywhere they wish. Also unlike today’s web experiences, much of this digital world will persist even when no one is in it,” it said.
Companies are already turning to the metaverse to enrich the consumer experience, introduce virtual products (only available in the metaverse), to collect new data on customers, market physical and digital products and services, support metaverse payments and finance and offer hardware and applications that support metaverse activities.
Despite the promising technology there are risks involved for businesses, warns PwC., adding that new technologies require new strategies and new methods to build trust.
But we are not quite there yet.
Still largely missing is the metaverse’s promised interoperability: a digital world where businesses and customers can transition seamlessly among multiple experiences offered by various providers.
”This connectivity will require a new architecture for the internet, often called web 3.0. The idea is that first came static web pages (web 1.0). Then came our current internet (web 2.0) with dynamic content, but only within platforms that companies own and govern. Web 3.0, which internet innovators and investors are currently working on, is supposed to be a decentralized structure with countless interoperable platforms,” adds the report.
The six concepts that make up PwC’s metaverse framework:
Cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other blockchain-based digital currencies, assets and exchanges will likely underpin value exchange across the metaverse. Further innovation will be needed as governments, companies and new, digital-only organizations work to build trusted digital monetary systems, offer new data monetization propositions and conduct lending, payments, real estate investment and more in the metaverse. Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) — with voluntarily agreed-upon rules enforced by a computer program that runs on a blockchain — will likely play important roles.
A true metaverse requires seamless interoperability among users and platforms, based on web 3.0 and still-to-be-determined standards. While this interoperability will offer new possibilities to reach and understand customers, it will also raise new challenges for gathering and protecting data, and for cybersecurity and privacy. It may also undermine business strategies built around keeping users and their data in a given platform. Competitive advantage may shift to those companies that offer (through hardware or software) trusted ways for users to enter the metaverse.
The metaverse will need rules of engagement for users, rules for how the metaverse itself can change over time and enforcement mechanisms, including for tax collection, data governance and regulatory compliance. Early movers may be able to help set these rules. Security will be paramount, as a new, decentralized digital world may offer malicious actors a new world of entry points for attack. Authenticity — and trust more broadly — should also be front and center, to reduce the disinformation that has often plagued the internet.
In the internet today, identity is often linked to platforms. It may be true, pseudonymous or anonymous. The metaverse, decentralized and interconnected, will need trusted digital identities — for people, assets and organizations — that port across platforms. Companies active in digital identity now may both help set the metaverse’s standards and be able to offer a necessary service. Digital identities may also be central to permitted data collection and data governance in a decentralized environment.
A shared, persistent and immersive 3D digital world will offer unique experiences, based on its own aesthetics — beliefs, ideals and tastes as expressed in individual choices. Some trends for user experience are already becoming clear, in games and VR/AR environments. Companies that create trusted metaverse experiences and protect privacy rights may win consumer loyalty, while those that stay on top of metaverse trends may be well placed to forecast consumer preferences and behavior.
A true metaverse should reflect in real time the changes made in it by different participants, entering and leaving it in different ways, in different places, at different times. When you take your metaverse headset off, the metaverse and other participants will continue their activities uninterrupted, with (for example) smart contracts enforcing agreements and trading assets. This persistence will likely require a new approach to digital assets and activities, including services and applications that are portable, dynamically configurable and extensible.