A young project manager’s phone lights up. It’s a message from his property agent that the Singapore apartment he has been tracking is up for sale.
He dons his Oculus, powered by virtual reality (VR) technology, and despite being physically overseas, finds himself instantly teleported to a virtual landscape (refer to diagram below).
Using augmented reality (AR), the property agent meets him and gives him a guided tour of the digital twin of the apartment, retrieving information on the history of the property, the facilities available, and the investment value of different housing units nearby.
The young man likes what he sees and decides to buy it. He makes a down payment in digital currency, and then turns and walks to the bank, located in the same virtual landscape, to apply for a loan.
The bank’s virtual avatar welcomes him with a friendly wave before undertaking the relevant credit and risk assessments. A few minutes later, the loan is approved and he signs the digital contract with the bank, which will use the property’s title deed via an Non-Fungible Token (NFT) as collateral. The funds are instantly moved to the real estate agency’s account.
This vision of a mixed reality future is not far away. While the metaverse, as it is currently conceived, is disparate, created by thousands of different players on their own individual platforms, we believe that it will eventually evolve and converge in the same way the Internet did more than 30 years back.
The “Metaverse Continuum”: a unified experience
We see the metaverse as an evolving and expanding continuum that spans the spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models.
It will revolutionise nearly all aspects of life and business in the next decade, creating new experiences in virtual spaces, augmented physical places or a blend of both. This not only means new lines of business but it also impacts consumers, workers, and the systems and processes that operate the entire enterprise.
It calls for us to explore these new possibilities – from future ways of learning and working to the impact it will have on businesses – while addressing issues from ownership of data, to inclusion and diversity, to sustainability, security and personal safety.
Earlier this year, we launched our Accenture Metaverse Continuum business group to bring together different services, leveraging technology and design, to reimagine emerging consumer experiences and the business applications and models across our clients’ enterprise.
We are already seeing the beginnings of the new digital universe, starting with the expansion of Web 3.0. It serves as the foundation to better connect different digital spaces to provide users with a more intelligent web experience.
Leading the Web 3.0 charge is blockchain technology. It enables applications to be built on a decentralised state machine that’s maintained by anonymous nodes on the internet, giving control back to the user. Users will only be required to share information on a case-by-case and permission basis.
As navigating the metaverse becomes more intuitive, with technology becoming easier to adopt, and virtual experiences blending more seamlessly with physical ones, more individuals will be able to populate this shared and digital landscape, which will connect millions of businesses and consumers.
The result is a wave of benefits that will boost productivity and efficiency, while enhancing customer experience. There may also be:
- Greatly reduced time-to-market – what could take up days, can be done in one sitting.
- Eliminating physical barriers – this allows for customer interactions even during periods of travel restrictions and lockdowns and allows service extension up to 24/7.
- Traceability and security – engineered using blockchain, the whole retail process is secured and traceable, further enhancing security, transparency, and trust between consumers and dealers.
Unlocking opportunities in Southeast Asia
The developments toward a metaverse are on the rise globally and across Southeast Asia (SEA). This may significantly increase business opportunities for an array of brands, allowing them to diversify their products and create new revenue streams.
Nike, for example, is among many fashion and sporting labels that are making their moves in the metaverse. It has built its micro metaverse – Nikeland – to allow users to try on virtual products. Launched in November last year, so far, the virtual store has garnered 6.7 million visitors from 224 countries.
Similarly, French cosmetic brand Loreal commissioned artists to create NFT art inspired by the shades of red in the brand’s Reds of Worth lipstick collection. It has also made trademark filings in the NFT and metaverse categories that cover “providing a metaverse for people to browse, buy, sell and trade virtual cosmetics” as well as hair products and perfumes.
Others are reimagining user experiences and augmenting daily lives. Closer to home, property developer MQDC is working with Accenture to go beyond real estate and build a virtual world with new experiences and opportunities for customers and people interested in the metaverse.
At Accenture, we operate our own metaverse, the Nth floor, where staff participate in new hire orientation and immersive learning or meet and collaborate as teams. Some 150,000 or more new hires are expected to work in the metaverse on their first day this fiscal year – as testament to how the digital experience can be harnessed enterprise-wide to engage employees and build an environment where they can participate, contribute and feel like they belong, regardless of their physical location.
The metaverse is in a nascent stage and use cases continue to be tested. But as these first- movers have shown, it is possible to set the rules of the game to one’s advantage at this initial stage, paving the way to payoffs in the long run – which could be huge. Think Facebook before social media, and Netflix before on-demand media.
Some companies are already doing it, while others are mulling it. The question is: Are you ready to join the metaverse revolution?
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