The Metaverse Experiment: Experience is the next evolution
If you’re like me, you’ve been transfixed by the odd mix excitement and confusion over the term Metaverse. Im going to lay out a mental analogy to frame the conversation of why I believe the metaverse or web 3.0 is about user experience and the engagement with others.
The Metaverse as a container
I once read a great reference that AI really meant ‘Almost Implemented’ because as soon as something that is driven by machine learning is created, we break it off of the general term AI and usually brand it. AI is used to drive cars and becomes Super Cruise, Full Self Drive, Robotaxi etc. The metaverse is the container that seeks to bring together the immersive technology that we’ve had which we struggled to label in recent years with VR, AR, MR, Browser based 3D and we even tried XR coupled with ownership of our own persona.
The Metaverse isn’t a single space
The Internet is a collection of digital content from static sites to dynamic social platforms and while common technology is implemented, they are unique and largely individual flat 2D experiences. The ‘web’ is all about websites then the metaverse is all about metasites or metaworlds, the key however is connecting these worlds so you can travel from world to world and present yourself as you wish to be seen.
Shopping at the mall
Imagine going to the shopping mall. You drive to your local mall, walk in and decide which store to enter. If you’ve shopped there before, maybe they recognize you, but if its your first time they try to understand your needs and maybe sign you up for their future offers. In this case you walked into a shoe store wearing a worn out pair of shoes. The astute sales person is quick to help you find a replacement because they see you’re in need. Now lets say you loved a pair of shoes at that store and bought them on the spot and wore them right away (you look good, but stop staring at yourself, we have a story to finish) so now you move on and go to the next store. In this store they notice your new shoes and because they see those shoes they recommend a great outfit that would compliment the look. You come out of the dressing room and not only does the sales staff say it looks great but a couple of the other shoppers near you comment on it and ask where you got those shoes!
The point is that you’ve developed a persona that you present to others and whether we know it, or care, it helps the people we engage with get a little insight into what makes us unique and interesting. Whether you change from store to store or you stay the same for every one of them, each stores sales staff is presented with a common ‘you’ that you have chosen to project to the world wherever you go.
The Web 2.0 Mall Problem
Imagine the mall again, this time, each time you walk into a store they cannot see you, only hear your voice so they only know what you tell them and they can only see things that you purchased at that store (now or in the past). To them, at this hat store, you’re a floating hat. To another store, you’re a floating pair of pants. You either have to describe your new shoes or decide for yourself what would look good with them. Your persona is limited to only what that store knows about you based on your purchased and habits or what you explicitly tell them.
The Metaverse Mall
In a Web 3.0 world based on user persona experience you move from store to store, and each store sees you as you wish to be presented to the world. With your sense of style, decisions and even watching where you have been or are going within the store that informs others of what you might be look for or are interested in. Each store is a unique shopping experience but the YOU that others see in this store, is still you. Do you ‘fit in’ or do you ‘stand out’? You can run into someone you know, or you can strike up a conversation over some mutual interest and make a new acquaintance or learn something knew (or about a new store you didnt know about). The stores in this case are not just about the products on display, the shopping experience is about the branding, how you feel in that space, your interactions with the sales staff and other consumers.
Think of each store in our mental example as a site or world in this vast Metaverse. Each one is based on an experience that the creator/owner has decided to offer its visitors. Is it meant to inspire a sale or experience a event. Whatever its goal or offering, you can go there alone, or with others, you can meet new people or take it in by yourself. The time and day may completely change your experience in any given world.
Each site is created to evoke an experience (why else does a clothes stores bother with music, décor and lighting?) and so too will these sites. Will it cater to your interests or challenge your perception?
Experience is the next evolution
In my opinion, the next phase is going to be about the experience of engaging digitally with others in the same space, at that time and sharing your experience. Why is going to a sporting event different than watching it on TV with millions of others you dont know? Everyone SAW the same thing but only the people who were AT the event can describe the sounds of the crowd chanting, the different things that happened in their section, the perspective of the game from their seats or the conversations with the people in the next row from some far away place and why they also came to the game. You GO to an event for the experience that goes well beyond the event itself.
Think of the metaverse in the context of what do you want to SEE and DO rather than a transaction that purchases an item or banters back and forth a static conversation. Creators in this new series of worlds will craft an experience based on the real world or something that could never be seen in real life. It will be limited only by their own creativity and will thrive based on how it impacts people.