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    The metaverse doesn’t exist yet, but brands should be preparing for its arrival

    Brandwidth founder Andrew Strange argues that there are actions brands can take right now to ensure they’re ready to succeed in the (virtual) future. 

    The metaverse is being talked about as though it’s already a fully-formed digital wonderland that we can all visit. But the fact is, it’s still a collection of platforms and technologies which aren’t yet integrated. Competing tech giants and innovators are busy bringing immersive 3D content to us right now, but the metaverse – as most of us imagine it – has a ways to go before it becomes the vision that we’re being sold. 

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    Since Niantic first launched Pokemon Go and Ready Player One hit the big screen, many brands have been wondering whether or not they should be getting involved with the metaverse. This is somewhat misguided because it doesn’t exist in the way that they think it does – yet.

    On the other hand, investment from big tech companies has been leading to major innovations in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), both of which are potential pathways into the future metaverse. These are the zones of innovation that brands should be exploring right now. 

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    So in what ways does the metaverse still need to evolve? Many developments will need to take place before the metaverse becomes a reality, including (but not limited to):

    • Faster and more reliable connectivity. Ubiquitous connectivity that is suitably fast and stable is still work in progress, especially in crowded locations. But, 5G is being rolled out alongside faster fiber and more efficient networking solutions so it’s really just a matter of time.  

    • Affordable and comfortable AR and VR headsets. Looking at VR adoption outside of gamers, Accenture hired over 200,000 employees during the pandemic and created a VR world for them to work and play together. It’s a big company, so it was able to purchase large numbers of Meta headsets for its staff. But for most people, those headsets are still too expensive. They’re also not very comfortable after prolonged sessions or easily used in daily life.

    • More content, and more creativity from brands. A large amount of current VR content is low-quality, irrelevant for the average user, or both, which means there’s plenty of room for innovation and improvement. When it comes to AR, brands can already reach anyone with a smartphone or tablet. But it’s not yet a part of everyday engagement; there needs to be better targeted use-cases in order for it to become a daily tool.

    • More collaboration from tech companies and content creators. We need big tech and content creators to work together. The situation with the metaverse right now is reminiscent of the early days of the consumer internet, when companies started to create walled gardens. These often became barriers to progress by creating power struggles between brands and inconvenience among users. The rewards of building the metaverse may be so great that companies like Meta won’t be willing to share; but some partnerships – like the one formed by Lenovo’s Think Reality team with Qualcomm, Motorola and Verizon – show that a collaborative approach to building the metaverse is possible.

     

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    Start planning for the future (and use your imagination)

    The best thing brands can do right now is to have a practical roadmap outlining their goals for VR and AR. The brands that adopt these technologies with customer experience and long-term vision in mind will be the ones that are most prepared to seize the moment when the metaverse becomes a reality. This can’t just be a talking point at meetings – brands need to take action (by reaching out to potential tech partners, for example). Be bold, be imaginative, and be determined. The metaverse doesn’t exist yet, but it’s on its way. 

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    Andrew Strange is the group chairman and founder of Brandwidth. For more, sign up for The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter here

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