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Nov 21, 2022

By Jonathan Kobrin

By this point, most of us have encountered an article, news segment or conversation discussing “the metaverse.” Equal parts weird and seductive, the promise of what the metaverse will eventually offer hits all the marks. Significant in business and leisure contexts, the eventual triumph of the metaverse invites everyone to step through the looking glass to explore new and immersive worlds governed by physics of our own design and infinite possibilities limited only by our own creativity, morality (perhaps) and access to a steady supply of Dramamine.

The Metaverse: The Next Digital Frontier

For any readers still bewildered by what the metaverse is, and what it does, allow me to shed some light. We continue to forge more intimate relationships with our devices. We willingly dive deeper into the hypnotic swirl of high-resolution screens wrapping our every environment and even our bodies. It doesn’t take much of a leap to realize that people would love to experience existence within a digital plane.

Who could resist the chance to upload into “The Matrix?” Not many I’d imagine. This is the eventual promise of the metaverse. Go anywhere. Be anyone or anything for that matter. Experience anything and everything. Those seeking social interaction can mix and mingle, interact and engage in dialog or games. It offers instant gratification and ultimate personalization within an infinite space.

For a professional application, imagine this scenario. You need to meet with a business associate in-person as soon as possible. Your body is in New York and his body is in Tel Aviv. No need for travel if you can both don a headset, hit the power button and instantly transport to a conference room to engage in dialog face-to-face (avatar-face that is). 

You’re probably wondering if this has any foothold in reality. Fair question. Available virtual reality experiences today demand cumbersome, often complicated hardware setups and numerous wearable devices to achieve a very limited version of the experiences I’ve been mentioning. Poor performance and high price tags weigh down this dream at the moment but that will change soon enough. 

This industry is fueled by big money and bigger passion. The pandemic also helped to contextualize the purpose of a product like the metaverse as the next-gen solution of video conferencing that would boldly bridge the delta between remote and in-person collaboration. 

Too Soon to Embrace the Metaverse?

So how do we file the metaverse right now? Should we be researching or testing hardware? What level of urgency and time allocation does it deserve today from businesses committed to maintaining relevance across all legitimate media channels? As of right now, the volume of challenges, compromising nearer-term product ubiquity, is too great. The need for further innovation is clear, meaning all product instances at market right now are essentially viewed as crowd-sourced R&D and not scalable revenue. So what’s the answer to the filing question? It may be headed to the “TBD-junk-drawer” for now. That doesn’t mean, however, that valuable opportunities don’t exist already to leverage the metaverse today.

We all hear plenty of stories of investors competing for choice parcels across various metaverses like Decentraland or Earth2. In some cases, sellers of such land parcels have fetched sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. One famous case is a plot of land sold for $450,000 for a digital land parcel adjacent to Snoop Dogg’s virtual estate. Is this a case of bragging rights over asset-value? That’s probably true but that’s not a dig at the productizing of virtual parcels. I do believe this is a market with legs that will soon be shepherded by agents and brokerage firms just like “real” real estate. 

But if the metaverse is so closely analogous to the real estate market, the big hurdle we are yet to clear concerns the same three data points used to calculate land and property values since the beginning: location, location, location. Why is location a problem? The metaverse term refers to a construct, a concept. It’s not one place with one purpose or one set of rules. There are many metaverse constructs. Will they become enmeshed, or will one rise and render its competitors irrelevant? This, again, is to be determined. Before anyone can divine what’s in store for the metaverse or attempt to prove its best uses and purposes, the priority mathematics challenge must be to solve for vomit; nausea and disorientation aren’t good for business. Although, I suppose, perhaps, the walls to success aren’t that high. Some of this country’s most popular consumer goods share the same sort of warning label. Go figure.  

What do you think?

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