What is the metaverse exactly and how should brands think about adapting to it?
We asked Wan Wei, head of Ecosystem at Multiverse Labs, a decentralized artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem based in Singapore that supports early-stage technology companies. She will appear at Crypto State by CoinDesk, our virtual community event tour, when it stops in Southeast Asia on Feb. 24. The discussion will explore the metaverse and its implications. The tour is in partnership with Luno, like CoinDesk owned by Digital Currency Group. Register for "Metaverse: Gimmick or Distributed Innovation?" here.
CoinDesk: I’m a Martian who has just landed on Planet Earth. Tell me what the metaverse is in three sentences.
Wan Wei: Hi, Martian. The metaverse can be conceptualized as the next iteration of today’s mobile internet. It revolutionizes how we interact with one another, promotes entrepreneurship among communities and allows us to build truly inclusive societies and industries. The open metaverse, powered by Web 3, is immersive (identifiable as a new, real or imagined world), interactive (you can interact with the metaverse and communicate with avatars) and social (your friends are there).
What’s the most important thing you do at Multiverse Labs?
I am in charge of nurturing the Multiverse ecosystem to ensure that loyal supporters and stakeholders are engaged and excited about what we are co-creating. My role is cross-functional and independent of whether our stakeholders identify themselves as “tech-savvy” or not.
We work with large real estate companies, fashion houses, record labels, gaming studios and NGOs to serve global communities. I’m personally excited about some of the future DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) we will be building that serve our growing communities.
How will metaverse environments redefine how we use the internet?
Let me use what Multiverse is building as one example to illustrate how metaverse environments can help us build a better internet.
- Ownership: In a decentralized ecosystem and environment like the Multiverse, you own your own data. This is disruptive because it is completely different from centralized platforms where corporations own and monetize user data. With control over how public or personal data is stored, we will be able to collectively move towards a fairer internet. The public can choose whether to be compensated or not when someone else asks for permission to use their data.
- AI In The Metaverse: Experimentation in the metaverse is advanced and upgraded through partnerships with virtual humans powered by AI in the Multiverse metaverse.
- Inclusivity: With a tokenization monetary model, any person can be a shareholder, investor, or create their own personal economy. We can expect to see more “digital-native” organizations that exist solely on the internet in the near future.
What will be the most important applications within the metaverse? Gaming? Art? Finance? Porn?
I think the most important applications within the metaverse are found in gaming and fashion.
You see, the immersive, interactive and social aspects of the metaverse are already present in many mobile games today. If we conceptualize the metaverse as the next iteration of today’s mobile internet (in-game format), then inevitably P2E [play to earn] and GameFi are huge applications within said metaverse.
The key difference between a game and a metaverse is then the extent of real-world economic value that games can bring. For example, can I put food on the table and pay for medical expenses by playing a game?
The fact of the matter is that with games like Axie Infinity, people can support themselves financially. As of Aug. 9, 2021, Axie Infinity recorded 800,000 average daily users, with its daily trading volume surpassing $33 million. GameFi is fascinating because it's an elegant intersection between gaming and [decentralized finance] and should be commended for the role it plays in the future of all of our working habits.
According to Morgan Stanley, demand for digital fashion and luxury goods is expected to reach $50 billion by 2030. Furthermore, the immersive, interactive and social aspects of the metaverse are already present in many trending fashion circles today, with or without any particular metaverse. In the luxury fashion spaces, [non-fungible tokens] solve authentication issues that are apparent in tangible luxury products. This helps to protect brand identity and future revenue streams for the fashion industry as a whole.
The fashion sector is incredibly social, and over the past decade a movement has shifted the paradigm towards a hybrid retail model that fully incorporates digital fashion. The metaverse unveils a new possibility in the fashion industry because runway collections can now defy physical reality. Want to buy virtual wings that allow your pet BabyKong to fly in Decentraland? Want to have a fashion show underwater, and an extravagant digital couture gown that flows gracefully under the sea? The possibilities are endless.
Should we worry about single companies dominating the metaverse just like certain corporations dominate the internet today?
That is a very good question!
When it comes to open and closed metaverse, the power of open source far outweighs the risk of corporate domination.
One of my favorite Web 3 thought leaders, Naval, says that open source can be defined by a problem that only has to be solved once. Big tech companies can and will definitely try to dominate the metaverse, and in my opinion they will fail. I am of the view that open and closed metaverses will peacefully coexist, with a likely 20-80 [percent] market dominance ratio in the next 10 years. This is because digital assets can be made interoperable across blockchains and provide a wealth of benefits to open the metaverse.
Companies that involve themselves in the open metaverse from early on are also likely to attempt domination. I do think there is a risk that one or two public blockchain protocols might hold a larger than proportionate market share in the open metaverse world.
However, if their code is open source, I don’t see this temporary dominance as a problem either. This is because users who suffer major issues with any protocol have access to competent coders who can quickly create inventive solutions. The protocols or projects “on the top” have to actively work alongside users and failing to do so will result in a quick loss of market share.
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