Op-ed

The Metaverse: a technological and business reality

Published on 23/02/2022

The Metaverse is a Meta Universe: an immersive and persistent universe that is built on the fringe of our world. It can be defined as a form of imbrication, more or less strong, between the physical world where humans live, with codes and rights; and the digital world where their avatars live, and where everything seems allowed.

In the physical world, as Daniel Cohen says: the world is closed and the desire is infinite.

In the digital universe, if desire remains infinite, the world is open: in terms of resources, since there are no limits to the extraction/use of raw materials; in terms of human exploitation, since there are no laws or ethics. The issue of desire and its limits remains unresolved. It is an initiatory game that the brands can seize.

Behind this word Metavers, there are two forms of realities, both marked by technology.

The first reality, that of Meta, represents 100% digital worlds built in 3 dimensions (3D)

These are parallel worlds, with their future rules (customary), their hierarchies (those who create and those who follow), their property rights (NFT), their currencies (crypto-currencies), their spaces (pervasive i.e. borderless), their temporalities (persistent, they never stop), etc… different from those of the real world.

These virtual worlds are built using software (Unreal or Unity 3D engines) and require the mediation of a mixed reality headset (AR-VR cf. Oculus) or a screen. To make it a reality, they will need 6G (1Tb/s speeds; capable of allowing the arrival of brain-computer interfaces), calculation and storage power embedded in miniaturized computers and included in contact lenses, for example. Before these developments, these universes will remain for the next 10 years, areas reserved for the initiated.

However, the initial short-term benefits of this kind of 100% digital universe are numerous, since they remain virtual spaces: an imagination and a field of unlimited possibilities; a playful character; a narrative universe where one is on stage ; a space of strong community involvement where interactions and transactions occur; a virgin field where grammar is to be written, rules to be suggested, in a word a place of experimentation.

The second reality, that of the 4th industrial revolution (a data-driven economy) represents a hybridization of the physical and digital worlds

Technology is invisibilized, in the sense that the general public is not aware of it, despite its ubiquitous nature.

How it works: technology players (GAFA/BATX) put interfaces on the market (web platforms, smartphones, personal assistants), which allow individuals to carry out transactions (goods, services, content, etc.), whether or not they pay for them. When these individuals perform these transactions, these technology players collect data through their interfaces, which they will value (1st party and external).

This data brings two benefits to these players: improving the user experience of the interfaces, and developing new business. On this last point, external data allows to identify consumer pain points that lead to the creation of new offers. These are then aggregated into coherent WeChat-like ecosystems where more than a million services are offered within the same App (Meta-App).

The strength of this hybrid Metavers (Meta-App) is the ability it offers to its users to simplify their daily life by taking control of the physical world, by controlling it through an interface – eg. Doctolib or its Chinese version Guahao.

The addictive logic is even stronger here compared to 100% digital worlds or Metavers. In the latter, it is possible to disconnect. In the former, the simplification brought by technology prevents any return. This simplification is the result of a perfect understanding of consumer needs derived from data analysis.

« The strength of this hybrid Metavers (Meta-App) is the ability it offers to its users to simplify their daily life by taking control of the physical world. »

Companies: what will be your metaverse strategy?

The benefits of these hybrid worlds are exceptional from all points of view, but they require a revolution in decision support systems within companies. Companies are thus led to listen to their consumers through interfaces (retail order terminals, smartphone app, etc.), or through the analysis of external/qualitative data, notably from social networks.

This leads the company to build and adapt its product and service offering according to this base. This logic implies an acculturation to big data tools (artificial intelligence) and a cross-functional organizational agility. It also requires the company to be able to rethink its business model according to the evolution of consumer needs (lessons learned from data).

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