Events and the Metaverse

If you’ve been following technology news recently you can’t have failed to notice the hype around “the metaverse.”

Some are describing it as the next generation of the internet – more immersive and experience-focused than the web pages of Internet 1.0 or the social networks of Internet 2.0.

In general, it refers to digital, persistent environments which users enter and interact with, where the focus is on communication, collaboration and experience. The hype hit fever pitch this year when Mark Zuckerberg says he intends to transform Facebook into a metaverse company, and that he will hire 10,000 new lackeys to help make it happen.

In theory, the concept has huge implications for events – hybrid and virtual – and we can be sure that us in the event industry will hear a lot more about it over the next five years. The massively popular video game Fortnite established itself as a metaverse pioneer this year when it began hosting virtual concerts by the likes of Ariana Grande and Travis Scott. Is it all just hot air or is it really the next step in the ongoing digitisation of society?

Well, there’s no saying how long the term is going to stick around . But after the tech evangelists and futurists have moved onto talking about something else, there’s a good chance the concept will stick around, and have a big impact on the way we work, communicate, play and – yes – attend events.

Persistent identities

The Fortnite happenings serve as a good example of why the metaverse is such a potential game-changer (literally, in the case of Fortnite).

Millions of players already log in every day to build things together and shoot each other in virtual arena battles. When you have the audience in place, inhabiting virtual bodies (avatars) that they are comfortable in, and with a full understanding of the dynamics of their environment, why not sell them tickets to an event? Or hit them with a marketing campaign for your exciting new product? The virtual environment of Fortnite has proven itself as a immersive, interactive and experiential – everything you want from a great event – and the players feel at home there.

Of course video games come and go, and soon there will be even more dynamic and experiential environments. Facebook itself is heavily investing in its VR worlds, and Nvidia has created Omniverse, a platform for creating interwoven 3D environments designed to be inhabited and built by their users.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Virtual and hybrid events are playing an increasingly large role in the overall events industry, and often they involve virtual worlds of their own – of the type made possible by virtual event platforms like Hoppin, Hubilo and On24.

The metaverse – whether it’s Facebook’s take on the concept, Fortnite’s, Nvidia’s, or something entirely new – promises richer immersion and the possibility to take your personality – or avatar – with you as you hop from virtual conference, to virtual office meeting, to virtual concert. Attendees are ensured a consistently-branded experience as they move through the world and build up connections with fellow virtual travellers that persist. It’s more than a step beyond the networking functionality and “speed networking” we’ve seen with existing events platforms.

Hybrid realities

Perhaps even more exciting is the potential for interconnection not just between virtual places and events, but real-world ones too. Imagine being able to put on AR goggles while you’re at a real-world event and see digital avatars of virtual attendees mingling with the crowd. Or put on a virtual reality headset if you’re visiting a virtual event from home, and walk among the real-world attendees as if you were there with them.

Identity will be a big deal in the metaverse. If what the futurists are predicting is true, then we’ll create persistent identities that will travel with us as we cross from platform to platform, event to event, and even between the real and virtual. Speakers on the conference circuit will have digital avatars created through the likes of Ready Player Me, which will effectively act as their “digital twin”, standing in for them for keynotes, one day perhaps even capable of acting autonomously, independently of their real-world counterpart, thanks to AI.

Whether you think the metaverse as a concept is an over-hyped fad or the next big thing, its existence and the fact that so many big players are investing so heavily plays a big part in helping us envisage what events – real or virtual – will be like in the near future.

Buzznation works on the boundaries between virtual and real to create event experiences grounded in interactivity and immersion. Contact us today to talk about your next experience.

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