This Week in the Metaverse (W39.2022)
Brands and IP owners’ adoption of virtual worlds continues; Tim Cook’s point-of-view on the metaverse; Identity and sense of self in the metaverse
Welcome to Letters - commentary, analysis and ideas from Into The Metaverse.
Here are the 3 items that captured my attention This Week in the Metaverse.
Brands and IP owners’ adoption of virtual worlds continues
Tim Cook’s point-of-view on the metaverse
Identity and sense of self in the metaverse
Let’s dig in!
(1) Brands and IP owners’ adoption of virtual worlds continues
As the metaverse in its fullest form will likely be years in the making, we are seeing a consistent adoption of brands and IP owners that are entering the space with a bespoke virtual world in one or several metaverse-type platforms. We remain in the very early stages of this nascent, but fast growing space, and while business leaders like Tim Cook claim that the average person doesn’t know what the metaverse means, well-known brands are establishing their own bespoke virtual worlds in metaverse-type platforms and are injecting more evidence that sheds more light what could a “metaverse experience” look and feel like.
This week we’ve seen Walmart launching their first virtual world on Roblox to connect with younger consumers, as well as Dove who launched a game on Roblox to foster girls’ self esteem. Last but not least, Supersocial (of which I’m founder and CEO) announced a new partnership with entertainment company Toikido to launch Piñata Smashlings toy-world on Roblox in summer 2023. We’ve also seen Armani Beauty launching a game inside Fortnite Creative, its first-ever metaverse activation, with Fortnite Creative growing its brand partnerships activity.
(2) Tim Cook’s point-of-view on the metaverse
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, captured our attention this week with his remarks that Apple is avoiding using the term” metaverse” because the average person that doesn’t know what it means. It reminded me this interview that Dave Letterman did with Bill Gates in 1995 in which they talked about the Microsoft story during which Letterman also asked Gates: “Do you know anything about this Internet? What the hell is that exactly?”. My point is, it is not only expected that at this stage most people can’t describe what the metaverse is, but it is also part of the journey of the adoption of a new technology or set of technologies.
The metaverse, in its fullest vision, is likely years away and while Tim Cook is not wrong in avoiding for now (at least publicly) the use of the term “metaverse”, I believe it is a matter of time until millions of people around the world, of all ages, will start being immersed in an Internet that is 3D, immersive, expressive with hyper-social applications. I would go a step further and argue that while Tim Cook makes public statements as to how nascent the concept is, internally at Apple there could well be teams that are working on figuring out what exactly the metaverse mans for Apple.
Last but not least, I do agree with Cook’s statement that augmented reality will be a transformative technology that reimagines the way we use our personal computing devices and the way we interact with the real world once we can lay at scale digital content over physical spaces. Much anticipation exists with the expected introduction of Apple’s XR device, a new personal computing device since apple introduced the Apple Watch.
You can complement this item with a recent letter by Into The Metaverse - What Is The Metaverse + The Real and the Unreal + the fantastic conversation I had with Tim O’Reilly on episode 12 of our show -
(3) Identity and sense of self in the metaverse
One of the three key pillars that make the metaverse exciting and promising, in my mind, is the ability to manifest our personality and identity through the lens of a highly expressive, hyper social, fully embedded 3D avatar. With that excitement and promise also come risks and challenges. As the father of a 15 months old female toddler, what’s important is that we’re creating a 3D Internet that is meaningful, respectful, prosperous, and one that promotes self-confidence. We are still dealing with aftermath of the proliferation of social media applications such as Instagram and TikTok, and we are already witnessing the first set of challenges (read CNN’s “Why the metaverse won't fix our IRL beauty standards”) we will need to address as the metaverse takes on a clearer form.
Platforms like Roblox expand their technology to enable ever-more growing capabilities to amplify not necessarily who we are and how we look IRL but who we want to be and how we want to look like in virtual worlds. That’s what’s interesting in my mind - ensuring that we are building virtual worlds in which people are free to become whoever they want to be, expressing their personality and creativity in ways that are unique and only possible in this new medium, and doing so in a way that is safe and respectful to ourselves and to others. It is estimated that currently 1 of 5 daily users on Roblox changes their avatar outfit every day. That’s around 12-15 million people, primarily under age 18, who choose how they look and how they express their personality inside Roblox’s vast collection of millions, developer-generated virtual worlds. Let that sit with you for a bit…
Last but not least, the notion of what’s a real identity and what’s not is also gradually becoming a topic of paramount importance to the evolution of a meaningful metaverse where humans can thrive - do we want the next Internet to enable and support user anonymity or do we want to ensure that the people we interact with in these immersive, embedded and hyper social virtual realm are actually “real”? Prof. Scott Galloway wrote an interesting essay about ID which is worth reading.
You can complement this item with (1) the fantastic conversation I had with Tami Bhaumik (VP at Roblox) on episode 21 of our show in which we discuss safety and civility in the metaverse -
(2) The conversation I had with Jonathan Springfield recently in which we discuss avatar technology +
And (3) The conversation I had with Taylor Monahan on episode 19 of the show in which we discuss the role of Blockchain in enabling an owned digital identity.
On a personal note, I’m honored to have recently joined the World Economic Forum as a council member of its global initiative to define and build the metaverse, through two distinct working groups - (1) Governance & (2) Value Creation (economic and societal).
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Into The Metaverse covers companies, technologies and trends that are bringing this promise to life. Yonatan Raz-Fridman “Yon” (founder & CEO of Supersocial) interviews the brilliant minds building for, and investing in, the Metaverse.