What If the Metaverse Explodes?

By Brandon F. Johnson Brandon F. Johnson has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on November 4, 2022

Your perspective shaped how that headline read. Either way, I invite you to dream bigger.

I watched a human being, from planet Earth, suit up in a haptic feedback suit, pick up a laser gun, put on a VR headset, and immediately leap into a wall. I witnessed this through my phone screen, and I was so shocked, I felt like I was there, fully immersed in that human’s virtual world, and their very, very real pain.

That was when I knew the Metaverse was going to change the world.

We’re past the tipping point as a human species. We throw around terms like “Techno Sapiens”, Transhumanism and Life Extension that will radically evolve during our tenure on this emerald and azure rock hurtling through space. If I want off this pale blue dot, I can pay a billionaire to fly me to the moon.

As for all the chaos back on the ground, the rest of us are escaping into photorealistic fantasy worlds behind eye-tracking headsets, right?

You know the answer to that one. That’s why no one should be afraid of the Metaverse—and everyone should realize the Metaverse is already here and has been for a long time. It’s just that, for many, like a rush a euphoria, the Metaverse has suddenly come into focus.

The Metaverse isn’t any one thing or entity

But, wait. Shares of Meta just tanked over 24%. Does that matter? Is the Metaverse over?

No. Everything is business as usual. In fact, while such value shedding is never positive, and I’m not making my opinion on Meta here—I think one thing is clear: our market is simply hearing a loud signal that people want the future of the Internet to be different. For better or worse, this is the first time tech-savvy humanity has universally agreed on something in a long while. It’s a beautiful thing.

The Metaverse has taken a total beating from clickbait. Let’s demystify. What is it? What does “Metaverse” mean? Let’s throw down some basic terms for measure: The Metaverse is the future of the Internet. That’s the high level. It’s not a company, a single piece of hardware, or a game.

Instead, the Metaverse is a whole landscape of immersive technologies coming together to create wildly hyper-stylistic digital experiences for everyone. Just like the Internet of the last two decades, or any market, thousands of companies working on thousands of technologies will converge their efforts and dreams to scale a beautiful, new, ever-expanding virtual world—and all the colossal economic opportunities that come along with it.

The Metaverse is how companies will finally take the power of their marketing overhead back into their own hands, and define how they engage with their audiences. It’s the future of how artists can enjoy unbridled self-expression and stay connected to fans. It’s the future of how anyone can travel anywhere, virtually, to have new experiences, connect with loved ones, meet new people, and collaborate on anything they love to do.

I say this because I’ve seen it. Over the course of the last year, at TerraZero Technologies, our Metaverse studio has enjoyed the common fortune in this industry of having more and more companies come forth with greater ambitions and interest to explore and activate. What starts as advisory quickly grows into what the next 2-3 years of their presence in the Metaverse will look and feel like. We see this happening with global companies across every sector, as well as artists and entertainment companies.

While everyone we meet may be coming from all industries and areas of the world, the core of what matters to them is often the same: Where do I activate? What’s the best Metaverse world? Where are people? How is the Metaverse different than any other activation?

That last question is particularly important because it makes all the difference. While a Metaverse activation has served as invaluable PR and achieved a halo-effect for so many, a quality user experience is imperative. Luckily, this is easier than most think. The Metaverse opens a gateway to communicate the heart and soul of any business in a very tangible way. You know those commercials where a woman raises a puppy into adulthood—and then that dog saves the woman from a fire so she can meet an attractive firefighter, and they live happily ever after, only to fade to a credit card logo? I just made that up. I hope that’s not a literal commercial script—but the point is, you were supposed to notice in the beginning of the commercial that the woman swiped her credit card to buy her puppy dog food. The message? She could only do that because she paid off her credit card every month, and she enjoys a fantastic APR on top! Because of that, she gets to live.

Feel the disconnect? Now, squish that between sixty other ads as users doom-scroll, and ask yourself if you really believe your audience will remember that message without seeing it hundreds of times.

Maybe that’s why healthy financial habits and basic accounting are rarely taught in high school — because the experience isn’t there. You can’t feel the emotional feedback of raising a cute puppy that you care for. But if you could play through a story where you had a better life because you made smart choices. That’s going to stick in your mind. I guarantee you remember field trips you took as a kid. Do you remember every lecture as you scrolled through your day?

We also see a lot of this: The Metaverse doesn’t work. No one is in there. No one likes it.

I agree. Sort of. Experiences could bring more value to the user. Many do. Platforms could make it easier for users (and companies) to jump in and explore. Many do. Some activations are amazing, and lots of groups have been making incredible events and quality experiences, which will grow the space. You don’t even need an expensive headset. Most of what we work on is browser-based—experiences you can jump into with one click. There are companies discovering long-term relationships with customers because they’re promoting their virtual events and channeling their brand identity like they would any other event in the real world. If your audience knows about it, they will come.

Think of it this way… If you went to a concert venue on a night when no one was playing, and the music hall was empty, the takeaway wouldn’t be, “No one likes music.” But we know unreal concerts are uniting audiences every night in every city. In the same way, saying no one likes the Metaverse is like saying no one likes gaming or ecommerce doesn’t work. Ask any parent: in tandem, ecommerce and gaming rival the power of a supermassive black hole.

Some brands understand we’re in a new era where a digital layer of reality exists everywhere, and in all forms; tracing from your computer screen to your second screen, through your phone’s lens when you capture a QR code while out and about, and into your favorite app when you get home. The Metaverse, right now, is a brand’s chance to define their story and engage like never before across all those spaces. The brands that see the experience between all those spaces as one connected thread, from one meaningful moment to the next—and not just flair and flash—are the ones making waves. We’ve seen retention time averages of 20-30 minutes in some experiences, and upwards of 80 minutes in others. This is helping companies lock onto their core audience, and not simply dump overhead to cast the widest net and hope for the best impressions they can get.

That’s the misalignment many see in the market when it comes to the Metaverse. There’s a touch of antiquated Social Media rhetoric being applied to a new frontier meant to be explored more than hyper-consumed until you look up from your phone and try to remember what you were doing. In the Metaverse, user attendance in a dynamic experience does not need to equal an unending surge of users. We’re not reinventing doom-scrolling in a headset. That sounds like late 90s neo-noir-sci-fi-dystopia. The conflation that “daily-active-users” in a Metaverse experience must equal 1,000,000,000 to signal mass adoption does not reflect anything in life. Modern skyscrapers are only used half the day, and remote work is pulling commuters away. But cities are still the epicenters of humanity.

The crux of it all is, perhaps, a simple one: we need a clean break. Our personal data has been sold back to us for two decades, marketed as new, discoverable experiences based on our previous spending habits, photos we’ve taken, and words we’ve typed into the ether. I say all this loving YouTube and creator culture. I’ll happily let that algorithm deliver the new Mr. Beast or MKBHD video to me the nanosecond it’s uploaded. But for a moment, can we muse about a world where users own their data, and opt-in to new experiences—where they can decide, just like the iPhone prompts everyone today, if they want to have the fabric of their likes and fandoms tie together a unique experience totally their own in the Metaverse? Think of how much more valuable that data would be—and you would own your own. In that world, those thousands of aforementioned companies intertwining their innovative might will all have a chance to win—and continue to evolve the grandeur of what the Metaverse beholds:

A new ecosystem where all your favorite art forms collide with fury and gorgeous consequence.

Imagine a double threat vocalist-programmer who creates coded samples of their voice, which mix into cascading colors and imagery as they’re played in different arrangements; their tonal qualities unveiling surrealist landscapes the likes of Salvador Dali, Basquiat or Claude Monet—as fans remix the artist’s samples to make their own visuals and sonic compositions. Then, hundreds of remixes in, the artist can re-enter the experience to add a new vocal layer to their fans’ creations, and on and on the connection between artist and audience will grow.

These new experiential art forms are where a new generation of creators will emerge victorious. Not only that, but a creator’s resonance and relevance will sustain. Why? That remix you made of the vocalist-programmer’s experience? It’s a digital asset you own. That expression can serve as a token or key to future exclusives both in the virtual world or in the real world.

But that’s just one side of the equation. How can virtual worlds without real-world limitations illuminate answers to long-standing problems? How can democratization of information and social equity come to all people? How can governments spread clear messaging to millions, and open true public forums where verified sources and experts can speak openly without derision? How can we bring much needed resources through virtual environments to the doorsteps of those with disabilities? How can our future history hold truth to time, and not just reflect the worldview of those who were first to cross the line? The truth is, we’re nowhere near fading into fantasies through fantastical photoreal VR. Instead, we’re staring down the opportunity to build global community. Personal identity is broadening. People can be everything they want, and more. We have a glimmer of the sci-fi utopia we were always promised.

That last part goes for it, but I think we’re getting there. At Money 20/20 this year in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure and opportunity to speak about how the Metaverse can be monetized. Throughout the rest of the conference, I kept hearing the same word over and over again when it came to the Metaverse: Nascent (adj.) Showing future potential; just coming into existence.

Really? Patents are flooding in. Billions are coursing into the coffers of Metaverse companies. Global entities, governments and institutions are jumping in. Microsoft bought Activision. That’s not an accident. That’s $70,000,000,000 well spent. What nascence?

Speaking of seventy-billion-dollars—Meta is going to continue investing, and that’s great! The task before Meta is to come up with one hardware and software ecosystem that instantly satisfies two billion users, just like how others are doing on a smaller scale. That’s a tall and expensive order. But, you know, they’re building future technologies, and I’ll never fault them for that. Who would? They rebranded, and the world paid attention. Suddenly there was a single word to signify the coming together of thousands of technologies and developers ushering in a new experiential art form that will be the future of interactive, and the Internet.

If the Apple II and iPhone had dropped out of the sky, they would have shattered. Instead, they were built one part at a time with intent and passion. People had the vision to create a new art form and source of self-expression out of technology. If you look at the artists and companies entering the Metaverse today, it’s clear the vision is there, and they’re dreaming big.

Ask yourself: You have a universe of data in your pocket. What if that universe could revolve around you?

As for that haptic feedback suit? One day soon, that human being from planet Earth will suit up and leap into infinity across galaxies of possibilities through virtual and augmented realities long thought to be impossible.

From watching what’s around the curve in the Metaverse, this doesn’t end with, “I hope I live to see it.” The Metaverse is already here and has been for a long time. It’s just converging to where we can see it.  Sometimes what comes into focus wasn’t far away, it was right up close. That’s the difference. We’re right up against it and living in it now—and the Metaverse might just explode.

By Brandon F. Johnson Brandon F. Johnson has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Brandon Johnson is a contributor to Grit Daily News and the Chief Experience Officer at Terrazero Technologies, which develops, acquires and finances innovative Metaverse projects, companies, entrepreneurs and developers to create engagement, community and usability solutions which bridge the real world and the Metaverse, scale new economies and enhance immersive experiences to shape the future of Web 3.0, decentralization, and beyond.

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