By Will Hodgson and Owen Jackson
What is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a complex term that falls victim to a lot of noise and misinformation. To define the term in as simple terms as possible, the metaverse is an online “space” that alters the way in which we interact with technology and the world around us. It is mainly utilised as a place where people may use virtual reality to immerse themself in another world from within their home and socialise with others. These worlds do not require the use of virtual reality and often people may opt to use other means of access.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have become extremely popular within modern culture as a result of mass adoption from young demographics and within pop culture. The growth of popularity in NFTs have allowed blockchain technology to garner mass attraction over global media sites through many demographics. The demand for NFTs have allowed companies to create metaverse platforms as a way of increasing both the utility of NFTs and incentivising investors to purchase more.
An Example: Decentraland
Decentraland is one of the first and largest metaverse platforms. Running on the Ethereum network, it allows users to interact in a virtual world with very similar characteristics to our own, such as purchasing land and exchanging virtual goods and services. There are two different types of tokens: land, an NFT which represents the holding of virtual real estate, and Mana, which is the core currency through which users can purchase real estate and other goods and services in Decentraland. It is the owners of land who get to have input into decisions about ongoing updates, and also have complete freedom to choose what to build on their virtual land.
Thus far, the use of Decentraland has been largely recreational, appealing mainly to gamers. However, there is certainly an opportunity for brands to further their reach by taking advantage of these platforms. This is exactly what Samsung did, with its 837x virtual world that offered NFTs and previews to its newest products. As more companies become aware of the metaverse, it is likely that the virtual world will feature just as much advertising as the real one, and likely with less regulation.
Pros and Cons of the Metaverse
Following Facebook’s adoption of the concept to the extent that they rebranded to “Meta,” it is clear that metaverses are here to stay.
During the pandemic, people around the globe were restricted to their homes, which had many negative implications on individual mental health from the lack of communication and interaction available. While metaverses may not be a substitute for real-life connections, they provide rich 3D environments that substantially increase the level of collaboration available when compared to traditional video calls, making them extreme
ly applicable in workplaces and educational environments. Additionally, metaverses’ cohesion with the blockchain and NFTs also allow for a large virtual economy that will vastly change the way in which businesses operate and brand themselves.
With that said, metaverses operate on the assumption that technological advancement will continue at a rapid pace. Until VR becomes extremely cheap and accessible, it is very difficult to convince the mass public to adopt the technology and convince them that it is not a fad. Worldwide lack of internet connection and the lack of immersion are problems that also require leaps in technological advancement to solve and allow the metaverse to be accessible worldwide. There are also major security and privacy implications present from operating within an online environment that may lead to data fraud and exploitation by hackers.
The metaverse is an interesting concept that will surely begin to become more widespread in the coming years. Yet despite its great potential, it may simply become another advertising platform for big corporate businesses to exploit, much like the current social media platforms. We should be mindful of the agenda for those who are the biggest proponents of these platforms, and ensure that we get a voice in how the metaverse is shaped going forward.
If you enjoyed this article, register now for a free membership using this link to receive regular updates about our publications and events.
To sign up: 1. Log into UMSU using the link above. 2. If you are a current University of Melbourne student, add the ‘Finance Students’ Association Student Member’ option to your basket; otherwise, select the ‘Associate Member’ option. 3. Congratulations! You are now a member of FSA!
The views expressed within this article are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Finance Student's Association. All images and references in this article are for fair and educational purposes only. The content in this article is not intended as legal, financial or investment advice and should not be construed or relied on as such.
References and Further Reading