22 March 2022 - Gavin Duff

Advertising, Privacy and Everyday Life in the Metaverse

When it comes to the metaverse there is a lot to unpack, so bear with me here…

Yes the metaverse is intriguing, but it’s not a new concept.

For a long time, people have been playing VR games and immersing themselves in life simulations like Second Life, SIMs, and even fantasy role-playing realms like World of Warcraft.

In October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the firm will undergo a rebranding that included a new name, logo, and ticker symbol. So this was a significant step, obviously.

The metaverse, according to some detractors, is just another failed effort at something that hasn’t succeeded before, largely by IT giants that didn’t provide enough uses for it to be of value to people.

There are many who believe it’s nothing more than an elaborate plot devised by the “powers that be” to control our lives and force us into the black hole of advertising. That’s a bit paranoid, really.

Wearable technology

Virtual reality gamers will know that the world of Ready Player One took some liberties in its depiction of the medium.

The technology just isn’t there to support what the characters were doing in the book or movie, and it might never be. Of course, this is science fiction, so it’s not a big deal.

However many people instantly connected this film to Facebook’s rebranding as Meta.

Well I’m sorry to let you down, but that’s really not going to be the case.

Wearable technology is still not where it should be, but let’s hope that it grows in the right direction and provides us with some fun along the way too, because it won’t all be entertainment – monetisation is inevitable.

As part of their journey to make the metaverse more accessible to a wider audience, Meta is also developing it as a data-driven advertising platform.

Problematic

I’m not only referring to Mark Zuckerberg’s questionable presentation abilities when I say that the metaverse’s debut was problematic from the start.

The timing was also less than ideal. They already had a bad reputation for privacy, and the promise of a more intimate platform has further exacerbated that.

In any case, let’s take a look at some of the most critical considerations.

So what is it?

To put it in simple terms, the metaverse is a virtual world where people can communicate, game and shop online, see virtual concerts, and meet virtually. This may eventually lead to virtual cinemas, competing in sports, and much more.

Instead of relying on its Oculus VR platform to unleash the metaverse, Facebook claims to be working on wearable body sensors that users will use to interact with the digital environment.

But there are a number of problems that must be answered before this “groundbreaking” notion can be considered a success.

Is our privacy at risk as a result of this? In terms of digital marketing, what is its significance?

Metaverse advertising

Since early 2021, when Roblox went public and Nvidia said that the company’s next step was to establish a metaverse, the word “metaverse” has been increasingly searched on Google.

To put things in perspective, in the spring of 1998, the first studies on VR/internet addiction began to appear. So no, this is nothing new.

While some big corporations are only just now starting to really investigate the metaverse’s possibilities, the notion has been around for quite some time. ‘Virtual worlds’ and ‘an all-encompassing digital playground’ have been anticipated for the internet for decades now.

This forecast was based not just on speculative fiction, but also on technology that was already in the works.

Platforms and content like Roblox, Fortnite, and Decentraland are just a few of the numerous participants already in the metaverse ecosystem. They feature designers, avatar technology, social media, and VR technology, to name a few.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) issued by brands like Gucci and Coca-Cola are now being sold on metaverse platforms such as Decentraland.

Small and big players are helping each other to develop a second world that mimics the actual world in the metaverse ecology, which is already taking shape. Again, this is nothing new.

From the perspective of advertising, it’s important to realise that just as the internet can’t be owned by a single business, the metaverse can’t be owned by a single brand or a small group of tech giants.

Of course Meta, on the other hand, would like you to believe differently right now.

Make no mistake about it, a large part of that re-naming was an attempt to become synonymous with – and attempt to own – a metaverse concept that already existed.

Advertising’s place in the metaverse hasn’t been thoroughly examined yet, at least not by a third party.

In the actual world, how will it perform? In the metaverse, can previous advertising research results and approaches be applied?

It’s not simply another new media like the internet; the metaverse has the potential to become a fully realised concept that changes the approach of advertising and marketing in profound ways.

The basic definitions of advertising may need to be revised to include consideration for avatars since the metaverse is interactive and incorporates embodied individuals via their avatars.

Metaverse concert merchandise will become more commonplace (this is already making artists millions!), firms like Meetings Booker may start supporting the platform that facilitates your team’s meetings… and these are just two examples of sponsorship advertising alternatives that will expand in the future.

We need to test, reproduce, and expand existing advertising ideas in this new universe in order to understand how advertising will operate in the metaverse, but this hasn’t happened yet.

In order to test and construct theories that can explain and forecast how advertising in the metaverse works, we’ll need both qualitative observations and empirical data (i.e., data collected by humans and machines).

Our everyday life

As with the internet and smartphones, proponents of the metaverse believe it will have a huge influence on our everyday lives.

Many younger people will find it easy to join a console chat and play a game with pals, but not everyone will be able to.

While certain components of the metaverse currently exist, contemporary online worlds are predicted to swiftly evolve, allowing us to not only mirror the real world but also to be and do whatever we choose.

There is a growing consensus that we will soon be wearing glasses comparable to the virtual reality headsets now on the market, but with fewer drawbacks, to access the internet.

Many more types of virtual reality gadgets and equipment, such as cheaper omnidirectional treadmills, will be available in the future to enable people to experience the virtual environment as if they were truly there.

This is the point at which we begin to enter a virtual world that’s a tiny bit closer to Ready Player One.

Many roadblocks remain in the way of this completely immersive vision being achieved anytime soon, even among those who embrace the metaverse.

Significant technological advancements are required in order for a metaverse to properly imitate the actual world.

Even while cloud computing, 5G, and artificial intelligence (AI) have all been around for some time, they have only lately begun to take off.

Even if the metaverse has all the technology it needs right now, it would still need to become more inexpensive and more widely accessible if it is to reach its full potential.

Privacy

In addition to technological issues, the privacy and security of individuals must also be considered. Many people already worry about what digital platforms know about them, even if they don’t really know what the issue is (my biggest gripe with this!).

Early versions of the metaverse are already in existence, and they are gaining traction. Global AR and VR tech sales are projected to soar now, and not surprisingly, but not without consideration for blocking of personal information.

Technology firms are taking note of how many people, particularly the next generation of users, have already come to terms with a big portion of their future being located outside of the physical world entirely…

Microsoft has also announced intentions to deliver software and hardware tools relevant to the metaverse in the near future.

For their HoloLens mixed-reality device, they’ve created a platform called Mesh on which other companies can build apps.

A platform for shared virtual environments dubbed Omniverse Enterprise, developed by graphics chipmaker Nvidia again, will also be launched, allowing groups of users to merge parts they have generated elsewhere into a virtual entity they can then work on together.

An avatar must have some of the cognitive abilities of a human in order to be useful. In this, AI technologies like NLP, optical character recognition (OCR), reinforcement learning (RL), and conversational AI will play a key role.

Virtual characters that are more advanced (and will even learn over time) will encourage users to return to a virtual environment, making the experience more enjoyable. Because otherwise, it would be too “samey” to stand out.

For the metaverse to succeed, immersion will be as important as website engagement metrics are for user experience and SEO.

In order for the experience to be compelling, it has to be able to do all of these things.

The healthcare sector

Psychologists are increasingly using Zoom to communicate with their patients instead of meeting face-to-face, so the sector is no stranger to digital engagement.

Aside from the obvious financial and entertainment advantages of a metaverse, there are also concerns about the mental health of those who use it.

Usage and enjoyment of this new world will bring both issues and rewards.

For example, according to research from the University of Oxford, virtual reality may be beneficial for people with schizophrenia. The results of the research show that virtual reality immersion might be beneficial in regulated settings.

Furthermore, it can be used to alleviate the symptoms of phobias and other mental health issues.

More accessible

It’s reasonable to worry about things like data leaks and malfunctioning technologies, but remember that the advantages often exceed the negatives – as we’ve learned from earlier technological advancements such as, well, the internet itself!

For example, we often discuss the necessity of home care and making therapy more accessible to more people. Now that the ‘homes’ of patients will be in the metaverse, the possibilities for outreach and better treatment are endless.

Behavioral healthcare professionals and academics will play a critical role in shaping the metaverse as we advance toward a fully collaborative online environment, both by providing guidance in its creation and by performing impartial research on its impacts.

Keep an open mind

As with anything, you’ll need to keep up with the latest developments in this space – it’s coming no matter what we do.

So keep an open mind and engage in healthy dialogue with others whose views differ from your own, even if it is unpleasant at times, because it will bring good things with it too.

In general, we’ve never been known to be early adopters. With the metaverse, we have the chance to change that.

Don’t be scared, let’s have some fun with it.