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The metaverse is alive and kicking

Just as online shopping drove internet penetration, the metaverse’s immersive interaction between physical and digital worlds will power its adoption 

Metaverse Reuters/Albert Gea
The metaverse creates opportunities for new digital business models through an extended reality (XR) powered layer of engagement

Web3 and the metaverse may have disappointed investors in recent weeks, but it remains an industry with enormous potential and should be viewed as a long-term investment play. 

Facebook’s decision to rebrand as Meta last October catapulted the metaverse into mainstream conversation. The tech giant was able to flex its financial muscle and bet big (as in billions) on the metaverse being the future. 

Fast forward one year and the 25 percent tumble in Meta’s share price and subsequent global restructuring, coupled by turmoil in the crypto markets, has resulted in some observers questioning whether a metaverse-enabled world is more hype than digital reality of the future.

However one company’s wobble should not be considered a reflection of the entire space or industry. It’s also important to distinguish between the metaverse and blockchain, since the metaverse in itself does not require blockchain technology to exist or to operate.

The metaverse uses blockchain technology as a powering layer for ownership through NFTs, digital assets and tokens. Both can co-exist but can also be independent of one another. 

In the UAE the recent launch of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy has contributed to a flurry of activity in the sector.

We’ve seen companies rush to establish a metaverse presence, but often with little understanding of how the new model applies to their business strategy. There is definitely a need for more education. 

As the web3 technologies that enable this new spatial web ecosystem continue to advance, so do the opportunities and innovation in the metaverse. AI, 3D tech, AR, VR, NFTs and blockchain will take the user experience far beyond the gamified virtual worlds currently seen in the market. 

While there are many different versions of what brands and projects consider the ‘metaverse experience’ to be, at Metapolis we see it is a new model for the future internet.

We define the metaverse as a technological infrastructure that bridges the physical and digital worlds through new layers of engagement that are always on, open and accessible.

Because of this the metaverse should be seen as an extension of existing business models and social operations. 

Just like improved access to information and online shopping drove internet penetration, and our human desire to connect drove social media usage, it will be the metaverse’s next-level immersive interaction between physical and digital worlds that will power its mass adoption in the UAE and beyond. 

And this is precisely what a metaverse as a service (MaaS) model enables – the next frontier of human engagement and ease of onboarding users into the metaverse. You wouldn’t expect to change browsers to view a website, nor should you have to switch between metaverse platforms to experience it. 

The metaverse creates opportunities for new digital business models and enriches lives through a new extended reality (XR)-powered layer of engagement. This brings innumerable benefits for brands, businesses and individual users. 

According to a report by PwC’s Strategy&, the metaverse will contribute $15 billion annually to GCC economies by 2030, led by Saudi Arabia with an estimated value of $7.6 billion and followed by UAE at $4 billion.

By building out a thriving metaverse ecosystem, the Gulf countries are helping accelerate innovation for this new digital era. 

Yes, we are still in the early stages of metaverse adoption, but its future is bright with borderless access and NFTs opening up a whole new world of ownership, immersive experiences and engagement possibilities. 

Beyond improving access to essential services like healthcare, education and government departments, HR and banking, the metaverse will transform lives through new ways of interacting with each other that deepen human relationships, improve learning outcomes and knowledge retention. 

A study involving 160 students from Stanford University and Technical University in Denmark showed that immersive learning through VR resulted in a 76 percent increase in learning effectiveness over traditional instructional methods.

Neoma Business School in France has been quick to create a virtual campus where students’ avatars get to experience simulations and role plays that put theory into practice.  

As more organisations, companies and individuals enter the metaverse, we will see even more democratisation of data, monetisation of digital assets and new ways of communicating. 

So while companies like Meta are going through setbacks, acquiring their way to metaverse success is a very different strategy to building the standards and protocols that will enable the metaverse to become the next internet. 

As the dotcom and social media revolutions have demonstrated, getting from good to great has always been driven by clear visions, robust product development, strong teams and differentiated projects. 

Sandra Helou is co-founder and chief commercial officer of Metapolis 

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