Making the right choices now will position companies to forge a path into the “multiverse” that delights consumers while avoiding the missteps that have hampered consumer trust in the past.
The next iteration of digital life has arrived: Welcome to the metaverse, a collection of rich, interactive, and immersive online experiences. The term metaverse is actually a bit misleading. Over time, we will see the emergence of many metaverses – a “multiverse” – as companies rush to stake their claim in this new virtual universe with a variety of experiences catering to specific interests.
These metaverse experiences will take many forms. Some will enhance gaming, adding highly realistic augmented reality, interactions with other players, and new forms of e-commerce, including the ability to purchase virtual habitats. Some may be educational, allowing visitors to virtually explore historic sites, stepping back in time to experience them in their heyday. Meatverses will bring people together in new ways; imagine not only video chatting with grandma but playing a game in her living room. Movies and entertainment will be more immersive, placing you within the story and allowing interactions with other fans. The possibilities for transforming professional life are equally exciting, enabling remote colleagues to collaborate as if they were together in the same room.
We will see competing metaverses vying for our attention while others will seek to partner and combine their complementary offerings to create richer—and more profitable—experiences. But as this multiverse takes shape, how will its architects avoid a “wild west” of virtual worlds? They will need to consider the “three Ps”: Parity, Personas, and Privacy.
See also: Here Comes the ‘Industrial Metaverse’
As users traverse within and across metaverses, they will expect a seamless experience. For example, as they explore one world, they may learn of an event elsewhere that attracts their attention. They will want to jump to that event without having to re-authenticate to gain access. Once there, they will expect the same level of immediacy they experience elsewhere in the metaverse.
This expectation creates some significant challenges around performance. Fundamentally, it will require high rates of data at extremely low latency. While most internet interactions today are one-way – viewers streaming video content, for example – the metaverse is all about real-time, two-way communication. Even comparable online experiences today, like gaming, that require low latency and edge delivery are simple compared to the technical demands posed by metaverses. These rich, high-definition experiences will require a step change in performance because users will have no tolerance for delays.
How will this be achieved? The vast majority of companies do not have the resources to build their metaverse from scratch. Indeed, it’s likely that no single company will have the entire technology stack. Instead, companies will draw upon multiple, best-of-breed platforms – including platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technologies – layering the capabilities they need to deliver the experiences users desire.
Metaverse users may want unique identities for different online experiences, or they may prefer to have a single identity that spans multiple metaverses. This will require that attributes attached to these personas are portable. These features might include a photo or avatar, hobbies, and interests, game scores, or other attributes gained across metaverses. For commercial transactions, payment methods and even trust scores from past transactions should also be portable to ensure a seamless e-commerce experience.
To inspire trust, metaverses will need to give their users control over their personas and attributes. Users will demand the ability to carry this information over to some metaverses but not others. At the same time, users will want this access to authorized applications to be seamless and friction-free. Likewise, ad serving must be highly personalized based on persona attributes and metaverse histories – users sharing the same space in the metaverse could see entirely different ads.
Enabling these persona-based experiences will require platforms that can access attributes for individual users in real time and allow applications to share them across the multiverse while providing user control over and transparency regarding access to this data.
Metaverses will introduce unprecedented opportunities for cybercriminals to capture consumer information, data, and behaviors. A privacy-first approach is crucial for responsibly building any metaverse. Access to information must be tightly controlled, with clear ownership and user consent. This includes personal identifying information (PII), bank and credit card information, virtual currency, digital goods, and information generated in metaverses via user interaction.
Protecting privacy requires security to be built into every point of the metaverse, including down the entire supply chain of access devices. Access control to user accounts across metaverses must involve robust authentication protocols that diversify reliance to eliminate single points of failure. Transactions and entities processing them must be secure. And user behavior – their digital trail – must be protected, with tightly controlled, granular authorization by the user on who can track their behavior and access this data.
In essence, privacy protection starts with securing all entities and their interactions – including applications and users – plus the entire ecosystem of platforms, networks, devices, and supply chains. Indeed, the emergence of the metaverse offers online companies a golden opportunity to apply recent security innovations by leaders in the field to improve both protection and transparency for users of their applications.
Implementing solutions that protect privacy without compromising performance or the user experience will be crucial for earning consumers’ trust in this new world.
Two success factors
Will the metaverse be the next big thing…or the next 3D TV? The answer will hinge on two important factors:
First, consumers will need to become comfortable with using wearables and other technologies required for a truly immersive experience. Moreover, these interfaces will need to feel natural. That is not a given – Google Glass provides a cautionary tale. However, the current crop of wearable augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets leaves room for optimism as consumers are grabbing them up. According to IDC, the worldwide market for AR/VR headsets is projected to grow 47% in 2022 over the prior year, with double-digit growth expected through 2026, when global shipments are projected to surpass 50 million units.
The second success factor is the ability to process bi-directional data flow in massive volumes at unprecedented speed. This will require a wide range of compute functions – including security – to be performed at the edge, close to end users. This capability will be essential for achieving the low latency and high degree of personalization required to deliver the rich, real-time experiences that are key to attracting consumers to the metaverse and keeping them engaged.
A chance to do it (the multiverse) right
This is an exciting time for companies planning their business strategies at the threshold of what could prove to be the next revolution in human-technology interactions. Making the right choices now, guided by clear strategies around Parity, Personas, and Privacy, will position companies to forge a path into the “multiverse” that delights consumers while avoiding the missteps that have hampered consumer trust in the past. The metaverse offers a new opportunity to do it right – and do well.