Parallel, virtual universe: will the metaverse fulfill its promises?

The term “metaverse” (contraction in English “meta universe”, in French “metavers”) re-emerged in a few months thanks to the change of the name of the Facebook company, named Meta, in Oct. 18, 2021.

Explanation: the company founded by Mark Zuckerberg, which is listed on the stock exchange, like Google replacing its own Alphabet, wants to make an impression at a time when it is going through the hardships of structure involved in the successive acquisition of social networks WhatsApp, Instagram and Occulus virtual headset VR – difficulties revealed by a former employee. It was a good excuse to reassure the markets about the diversity of its growth areas, beyond the sole domain of social networks.

The pandemic era was as well chosen by the trivialization of videoconferencing and virtual events, but also the online collaboration games that brought back times of incarceration. Mark Zuckerberg spoke at length in a diversification strategies » by providing his vision of the “metaverse”, and promising to create 10,000 jobs in the European Union …

Original video game

The concept of the virtual parallel universe has existed for decades in science fiction, (see novel Simulacron 3 in American Daniel Galouye (1964), brought to the screen by Fassbinder in 1973). The term “meta-universe”, became “metaverse dedicated to American Neil Stephenson, published in 1992 Snowfall (translated by virtual samurai ), featuring a millionaire creating a parallel universe where you challenge yourself to sword duels to defeat your opponents.

His attempt to make it a video game in 2010, with the support of billionaire Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and a $ 500,000 fundraiser, failed. Let’s talk about another flop: Second Life, which, in 2003, enabled a start-up, LindenLab, to collect millions of dollars in six months, by selling fictional meeting spaces to 3.5 million individuals or morals (including IBM, Cisco, etc.). Everything is gone.

A parallel world, virtual or cyberspace

The meta-universe is a parallel, virtual world, sometimes accessed with a 3D vision helmet or augmented reality glasses or a bio-integrated man/machine interface. In such a “cyber space”, avatars or holograms come together interacting in a virtual environment with various imaginary objects.

Since 2017, it’s once again the game that smiles at the start of The Sandbox, founded by Sébastien Borget, engineer at Telecom SudParis, publisher of games on smartphones. Recently based in Hong Kong, it has become a unicorn, raising 93 million dollars in November 2021, and is therefore worth 2 billion.

Its success is due to the use of blockchain, the multi-platform game CryptoKitties, which allows the purchase of products using non-interchangeable tokens called NFT (non-fungible tokens).

The creators of virtual 3D games “blockchain gaming” thus be paid. They keep their own “map” or virtual land (virtual land) and their money. This is the realm of “play to get”.

This “open source” platform is open, unlike so -called “proprietary” ones from Facebook (Horizon Worlds), Microsoft or Roblox – and it goes beyond GooglePlay and AppStore loading platforms.

The meta universe, “cyber space” where avatars or holograms interact together in a virtual environment with a variety of imaginary objects … (c) AdobeStock

A new economy

A new digital economy is thus created with buyers of “assets” (assets) that make it possible to improve gaming experiences and monetize them in the markets.

For this, you need to create, draw meta -universes – towns – buildings, museums, art galleries, and so on. – rules of the game, so captivating content, with fictional characters, scenarios … Various talents are thus demanded: architects, designers, illustrators, developers, planners, screenwriters … Their success measured by the audience they create.

Two targets: marketing and training

In terms of marketing, big brands see it as a way to reach out to customers and follow their “experience” with consumers, build loyalty by rewarding them and supporting communities. Let’s talk about Galeries Lafayette which, by the end of 2021, with 50 brands, is inviting customers to play street art artists, by immersing themselves in a pop-up store. Or the luxury brand Gucci, which showcased and then sold the Dionysus bag to a collector for over $ 4,000.

Another instructional case: Nike acquired RTFKT, a creator of virtual clothing and 3D avatars. Or even Samsung which, at the launch of its Galaxy S22 smartphone, asked a star on the TikTok social network to release its character -centered universe Zero.

In the world of training and education, it is also reasonable to imagine concrete benefits, with or without augmented reality. Learning through play has proven to be effective in the long run!


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