The Metaverse was dubbed as “the future of the internet”. You couldn’t go a single day without seeing something about the Metaverse. During this time you inevitably heard the term “Web3” as well. The ever-evolving concept of Web3 envisioned incorporating blockchain technology to store information on a decentralized network of computers. Basically, Web3 was positioned as the vehicle to access the Metaverse.
There are three main entry points to the Metaverse:
1) Campfire Communities: Premium social platforms that are hyper-focused on specific interests arising from their subcultures. Example Platforms: Discord, Stereo and Telegram
2) Virtual Items & Commerce: Digital items and properties that exist only in the virtual world. Example Platforms: Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, Digital Properties
3) Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Worlds: Virtual experiences where people use avatars, objects and landscapes to experience new environments and create their own reality. Example Platforms: Decentraland, HyperVerse, The Sandbox, Roblox
In its infancy, experts were predicting the Metaverse to be a $800 billion market by 2024, up from $38.85 billion in 2021. In theory, the Metaverse made perfect sense. Brands were drooling at the thought of virtual realities becoming the newest access point to reach consumers.
In 2021 Facebook was renamed "Meta Platforms" and Mark Zuckerberg declared a company commitment to developing a Metaverse. The Metaverse quite literally became an obsession in the tech world, with projects emerging left and right, and promises of a video-game-like world that would soon be accessible to the masses.
However, after a year of failing to deliver, it all came to a screeching halt. Meta’s VR platform Horizon Worlds required the use of the infamously pricey Oculus headset, and failed to deliver anything of practical usage outside of a general roadmap for what could be possible in the future. By October 2022, Horizon Worlds had less than 200,000 monthly active users — dramatically short of the 500,000 target Meta had set for the end of 2022.
In 2023 Walt Disney Co. abandoned their Metaverse division, shutting down just one year after creating the division to pursue opportunities of telling interactive stories in the Web3 space. The Metaverse hype quickly turned into fatigue as the average consumer honestly just didn’t understand the concept.
So… what’s next?
After thousands of layoffs and billions of dollars lost, in 2023 Meta cut the prices of its flagship Meta Quest Pro products by 33%, and the company announced a shift in focus towards yet another area: artificial intelligence.
While the Metaverse failed to capture any real attention from the public, AI picked up right where the rest left off. AI is expected to see an annual growth rate of 37.3% from 2023 to 2030, as platforms like ChatGPT have started to revolutionize multiple industries. As labor shortages become a pressing concern, 25% of companies are turning to AI adoption to address this issue.
With the rise of AI comes the rebirth of the Metaverse. Companies are now starting to explore the potential of how AI can play a role in creating more immersive and engaging virtual experiences in the Metaverse. In the gaming industry AI is already being used to develop environments and characters that are more lifelike than ever before.
In May of 2023 Adobe unveiled Generative Fill in Photoshop, bringing Adobe Firefly generative AI capabilities directly into design workflows. As companies continue to explore the possibilities of the Metaverse, it has become abundantly clear that AI will play a massive role as the key to unlocking the potential that had fallen flat years ago.
In June of 2023 Apple shocked the world with the unveiling of their entrance into the Metaverse – the Vision Pro AR Headset. Even at the steep price of $3.5k, Apple’s headset has the opportunity to test a market crowded with devices that have yet to gain traction with consumers. AI has utility and practicality, and it’s currently exceeding expectations and breaking new boundaries as we speak. Pair that with the first mainstream device that will allow the masses to enter into the Metaverse, and the world as we know it could very well change forever.
For the first time in years the Metaverse has a future again. With the assistance of AI brands now have the capability to pursue ventures within the Metaverse with actual infrastructure and scalability. The second wave of brands re-funding Metaverse dedicated divisions and projects is no longer a “how” but a “when”. AI is constantly evolving, developing, and ingraining itself into modern society in ways that we have never seen before, changing the ways we work and learn. AI is expanding by the day, and the Metaverse is yet to be fully explored and developed. The possibilities are endless, however this time around, there is a practical approach.
I believe that brands should begin to shift their focus back to creating virtual worlds and customized experiences for their consumers, with the power and utility of artificial intelligence that humans could never provide.