By Erik Newton, VP of Marketing at Milestone Inc.
The spatial web is a digital environment that will start to blur the lines between the physical world and the digital world. The spatial web will enable interaction between people, places, and things. It includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), online games, avatars, hybrid events, 360 degree virtual tours, and digital real estate. In a word, it is the metaverse. The metaverse revenue is estimated to reach $783 billion by 2024, according to Bloomberg.com.
Thinking of this as an entirely new concept, metaverse, is better than thinking of it as a linear extension of current websites. The metaverse will be more different from the 2D internet than the internet was from television. If you haven’t tried VR goggles and experiences yet, you should; it is over halfway to the metaverse. Good VR is not just 360 degrees, it is spherical, meaning you can look straight up and straight down too. In a VR movie in a car, you can turn toward the speaker or look out the front or back window while you listen to them speak.
The metaverse is closer than you may have thought. For example, a large portion of the population plays video games for hours on end against other people they never meet in real life and have avatars and characters that accumulate levels and points and evolve. This hybrid digital world has experiences and memories and emotions that are very similar to and for some even better than their real-life experiences.
What does smart mean in 2022? What is a smart experience?
Smart has been a trendy term people stitch onto their industry or space probably because of the explosive popularity of smartphones and their ability to connect to the software of websites and run apps as opposed to just the voice network of the “dumb” phone. A smart device is a connected appliance. A smart digital experience brings together smart physical devices and smart virtual devices to provide smart experiences. That is the digital experience of the spatial web of the near future. The spatial web or a metaverse site could be considered a smart website.
Erik Newton, VP of Marketing at Milestone Inc., uses the term transvert to describe the ability to cross the boundary from the real world to the digital world or digital to real world. Digitization and connected networks enable the transversion. For example, a photo on your phone is a digitization of a thing. If you text it to friends over a mobile network, they can experience it. If they want to print it, then they use the wifi network to their computer, which uses bluetooth to connect to the printer. The printed image is transverted back into a thing. That’s transversion to digital and back to physical.
When you import a video of your actual kitchen into a virtual space, you can remodel the kitchen online and then purchase all the materials and install them. You can also possess a digital item and then print the item on a 3D printer. That’s transverting. He explains that websites are 2D (X,Y), VR is 3D (X,Y,Z), and metaverse is 4D (X,Y,Z,W) where W is time-space-movement-interaction. Meta experiences should be able to affect the perception of time, similar to how meditation, or flow-state concentration does.
So, how will businesses and their customers use the spatial web and the metaverse?
The pandemic has accelerated our acceptance of remote participation and hybrid experiences, so it is becoming easier to see a future in the metaverse. Let’s start with meetings. Right now with Zoom the cameras are in front of each participant, the image is video, and the speaker or presenter controls our ability to see the content. In Zoom, we see our own face from the front, which was so annoying at first and recently someone joked that being in person was awkward and they couldn’t check how their expression looked while listening to a customer at a meeting.
In the metaverse we will be able to move around the meeting room and change our perspective on the content. We could see our avatar from the POV perspective like we see our hands and legs when we are seated, or we could see our avatar in full from behind and move around the meeting room.
Virtual conferences were a necessity when the pandemic and the law prevented large indoor gatherings. Milestone’s 2021 Engage conference was all digital and had some of the perspective controls and movement of the metaverse experience.
Hotels could use VR renderings of the properties and the rooms to increase conversion to booking. People who are not well enough to travel could have metaverse experiences of their property or spa without the difficulty of travel. AR could be used to help people find amenities and experiences while on property. NFTs could be used in conjunction with loyalty programs to provide exclusive access and premium experience in both virtual and physical environments.
Memories of a virtual experience indistinguishable from real experiences was the premise of the movie Total Recall over 30 years ago in 1990 and was based on a short story written in 1966.
Retail, fashion, and goods personalization
Giving people the chance to test makeup, sunglasses, clothes, shoes, and accessories like watches and bags make it easier for shoppers to survey and find items and enable them to literally visualize owning and using the product. It can provide a virtual try before you buy from the convenience and privacy of your own home. Sephora is enabling makeup testing on your own image via its mobile app. Mega-retailer Wal-mart offers an AR experience to try on clothes.
Real estate sales companies could use VR and the metaverse to market high-end properties to overseas buyers. The prospective buying family could tour the house in the metaverse as a group of avatars and see each other in the house. It would bring new meaning to the saying, “imagine this was your house and how your family would enjoy it.”
Digital real estate
Digital property and digital goods become much more valuable when more people are in the metaverse to enjoy them with. Snoop Dogg created Snoopverse and has already sold $14,000,000 of digital property. There will be interest in digital super yachts and digital supercars.
During the pandemic, most of us experienced a video visit to the doctor and many did remote or virtual physical training sessions. Already, the military has the ability to do hybrid battlefield surgery remotely with surgical robots operated from anywhere in the world, which has greatly increased the survival rate of wounded soldiers. In the metaverse, people who are, say, unable to walk can have an avatar that can walk and run or fly, like the movie Avatar.
AR Training, Diagnostics and Repair
High-end repair of factory or military equipment or aircraft often requires the expertise of someone at a different location, which means moving the person to the equipment with significant costs of time and money. Using a heads-up display, a remote expert can virtually guide a local technician to find and solve the problem with a fraction of the time and cost. AR can help highlight the process for the on-site technician. Recordings of the live work can also be collected and archived for virtual training in a more VR context using VR goggles.
What do the blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have to do with the metaverse?
Virtual assets need to be bought and sold in the metaverse, and cryptocurrencies can facilitate that largely independent of national regulation. NFTs can be used to guarantee the authenticity and uniqueness of a digital asset against fraud and unauthorized replication, which helps maintain its value for resale. Opensea.io is one of the top trading platforms for NFTs. .
How do you code and design for the spatial web?
The IEEE is defining Hyperspace Transaction Protocol (HSTP) and Hyper Spatial Markup Language (HSML) to enable 3D and 4D interaction of smart experiences.
So, how would a forward-leaning company get involved in the spatial web and metaverse production?
- Design and storyboard the experience; write the story; create versions of the story for varied experiences
- Create VR video recordings with a spherical camera and enable through a mobile app and VR goggles
- Program the space, which is a combination of animation and programming
- Plan hybrid real and simulated contexts, meaning like having humans staffing a metaverse help desk
Marketing in the metaverse
Will there be marketing and SEO (MO?) in the metaverse? Absolutely, the need for information, directories, guidance, and directions will be even higher there since it will be so new. Search is more likely to be interactive and voice-driven or thought-driven, which surprisingly has been possible since 2018.
The metaverse will be outstanding for advertising and sponsorship. Many new ad types and assets will develop. The brands will build the parks, shopping malls, condos, coffee shops, theaters, and salons that will make up the environment people interact in, so the marketing and advertising mechanisms will be built in and pervasive.
The spatial web is already here around us. As the spaces get closer and overlap they will form the metaverse and there, maybe instead of reading this blog, our avatars could interact with it or discuss it. See you there soon.