William Dakin, Kent State University
Innovation Happens at Intersections
While visiting various companies in New York, the topics of each meeting were always different. However, questions about AI, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality )technology, and the metaverse were raised.
As this is a rising topic, I was surprised by how little the general public was interested or educated in the idea of the metaverse and needed to learn about its real-life applications in private and business environments. These technological developments could be the defining achievement of our lifetimes, changing person-to-person interactions across the globe. Because of this, a general understanding of the metaverse, its applications, and the tools used in development is highly advantageous.
A significant hurdle for discussing applications of the metaverse is that many people don't understand what all that entails, as there is no set vision or definition. The metaverse describes a virtual environment accessible through a computer or combined with AR or VR technologies. Various people and companies have their own ideas for the metaverse, which may include cryptocurrencies and NFTs that act as digital assets. This definition is overly generalized but can be more easily understood through examples that many people have experienced.
Coming out of the global COVID-19 pandemic, where most social interactions ceased, there was an emergence of businesses using Zoom to meet virtually. Zoom is an excellent example of the metaverse, used professionally by companies connecting individuals through a virtual medium.
Another instance of the metaverse, which gained popularity during the pandemic, was a game called Roblox. In Roblox, users can join different worlds to hang out with friends, explore, or compete. Many businesses and brands, such as Vans, have popularized their world within Roblox, where users can participate in challenges and customize their virtual Vans and skateboards (Gibson 2021). The ability to access through a computer, cellphone, or VR headset opens up a new customer base for upcoming virtual products offered by Vans.
A compelling quote that will characterize existing brands in the metaverse is from Nick Pringle, Senior Vice-President and Executive Creative Director at R/GA London, "The successful brands will not simply replicate their current products and services in the metaverse, but instead think more creatively about what value they can offer."
As a result, existing brands are not only engaging with a new customer base but also have the opportunity for brands to expand their virtual product lines that appeal to prospective and existing consumers. While creating items, photos, and objects in the metaverse takes time, new technology is emerging to make this process faster and easier.
While meeting and touring the impressive office space of R/GA in New York, we had a brief overview and demonstration of a new AI technology in research. This technology has been used for artificial design. The technology dubbed "Midjorney" is an Artificial Intelligence Bot on the popular communication platform, Discord. Midjorney, in a nutshell, will interpret a string of words or phrases to deliver four entirely original images based on the user's inputs. These images are all computed, generated, and delivered within 60 seconds. This tool, currently in its beta stages, has the potential to revolutionize computer design completely, in turn lightening the graphic design burden for the advertising and marketing fields.
While still drawing attention from skeptics, the metaverse is beginning to take shape and could define the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs and brands. Being informed and having a general understanding of the concept will be beneficial very soon.
It was emphasized in our meeting with R/GA that "Innovation happens at intersections." We are witnessing a major intersection, the collision between a physical and virtual world. What technologies, innovation, and knowledge will come from this is yet to be seen, but we are eager to find out.