A funny thing happens at the beginning of a dramatic technological change. Scepticism, doubt and even confusion! Facebook changed its name to WHAT now? Meta? And you’re telling me that’s short for metaverse, the possible future of all digital experiences?

We’ve all been there. Remember the incredulous news stories introducing us to the internet back in the nineties? Back then, the internet felt newfangled—a fad that would surely pass. Of course, the opposite was true.

The same might be true of the digital world’s latest starchild: the metaverse. While still nascent compared to some other tech trends, the metaverse has the attention of more than just the company formerly known as Facebook. Here’s what you ought to know about the metaverse, and where we believe conversational AI will fit in.

The Definition of Metaverse and Its Major Players

Back in 2021, Facebook announced its new name, “Meta.” That’s not all that changed. As part of its announcement, Facebook rebranded itself as a social technology company, as opposed to the social media giant most people know it as. Here’s how Mark Zuckerberg defined the metaverse at its Connect 2021 Conference:

“The successor to the mobile internet — a set of interconnected digital spaces that lets you do things you can’t do in the physical world. Importantly, it’ll be characterised by social presence, the feeling that you’re right there with another person, no matter where in the world you happen to be.”

In the metaverse, you can conduct business meetings, play games, and even buy products—most of it while wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset. The opportunities for metaverse are quite literally endless, which is why Facebook is hardly the only company investing in this technology.

Tim Cook has alluded to Apple’s investments in the metaverse, for one. Microsoft spent a cool US$68.7 billion to acquire Blizzard, a move that will “provide the building blocks for the metaverse.” Closer to home, Qantas has a virtual reality app that includes a rather unique look into Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

What People and Businesses Are Doing in the Metaverse Right Now

Despite all of this significant investment, the metaverse still sits squarely in the emerging phase, at least according to the experts from Gartner. Early as it is, you’ll find a lot of people already meeting, trying products, and transacting on the metaverse in some interesting ways:

Gaming

We mentioned Microsoft’s acquisition of Blizzard. It only follows that new digital experiences and gaming go hand in hand. Many of the world’s most popular games, such as World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and Fortnite are already their own metaverses. They’re interactive social experiences, beyond the gameplay itself.

It will be very interesting to see how gaming will evolve alongside (and as part of) the metaverse. We’ve already seen some innovation on that front. In 2020, Roblox held a virtual concert in the metaverse. Then there is Vulcan Verse, where you can “create your own quests and adventures, forage for NFTs, and battle against other Vulcanites.” The Vulcan Verse uses its own native token for $PYR) for transactions on the platform. 

Meeting for Work

As ubiquitous as Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams have become, some companies are virtualising the entire experience. With Horizon Workrooms, for example, the entire meeting experience is in virtual reality, from in-meeting collaboration, to presenting and whiteboarding. No need to dress up for the meeting, or do your hair, because you’ll be strapping on a VR headset and attending as your avatar. 

Buying Property

That’s right, property. Well, digital property. We stumbled across a game called Somnium Space, where people can explore, build, and even buy/sell virtual land. The ownership of in-game assets is built on blockchain technology, as is the case with many similar platforms. There’s even a virtual club on one of the islands.

Fashion

Don’t forget what you’re wearing and carrying in the metaverse. Many companies are now looking at monetizing clothing and accessories within the metaverse. Fashion brand Balenciaga has launched a business unit dedicated to the metaverse. In 2021,  Balenciaga released a collection of digital skins for players to buy on the Fortnite platform.

As the analysts at pwc point out, blockchain-based digital currencies will make transactions (i.e. “value exchange”) possible throughout the metaverse. Those transactions are myriad, meaning brands can commercialise the metaverse in many different ways. 

This goes beyond buying new Balenciaga skins for your Fortnite avatar, or purchasing a new digital property in Somnium Space. Imagine an Melbourne-based business person interested in buying a piece of commercial real estate in Brazil. Instead of flying all the way to South America, they can use VR to tour a digital version of the space.

Or, imagine you need to make a reservation, buy tickets, or order some food without taking off your headset. Here’s where conversational AI comes into play.

The Role of Conversational AI in the Metaverse

In any physical or digital space where people spend time and money, customer service will play a central role. What happens when people playing, building, and transacting in the metaverse need assistance? Help? A question answered?

In theory, a brand could embed avatars powered by conversational AI within metaverse experiences to meet these needs. A realistic, AI-powered digital assistance, or concierge, there to answer questions, assist, and facilitate.

What’s more, these interactions would go far beyond the traditional interactions people have with conversational AI, which are typically text or voice-based. In the metaverse, a brand’s AI-powered service avatar, for example, could be trained to read facial expressions and body language to provide a more personalised and accurate experience.

Given that the metaverse is comparatively young, there’s still plenty to be determined with respect to conversational AI in the metaverse. Still, this is an exciting use case that we’re keeping a close eye on – on behalf of our chatbot and livechat clients around Australia. In fact, our team recently attended a chatbot conference that took place entirely in Decentraland.

There’s plenty of promise here! And smart brands and organisations need to watch this space too. 

Interested in chatbot and live chat technology? Click here to read how we helped smart organisations like the Australian Bureau of Statistics, MATE, the Department of Education and the Department of Health in South Australia scale their customer and client support with conversational AI – allowing their teams to work on more complex work.

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