While many of us may be slowly accepting the mere existence of the metaverse, forward-thinking companies are rushing to harness its potential. They just need to figure out how. That’s Andrew Lane’s job. At Toronto-based firm Digby, Lane and his fellow co-founder Tessa Bain help clients uncover opportunities for authentic metaverse experiences to accelerate retail innovation — utilizing web 3.0 technology, NFTs and the blockchain, as well as delivering sales and business development and other means of support. It’s the next significant evolution of the web and, if applied in a meaningful way, Lane tells Azure, it could influence the future of work.
How do we create something in the metaverse that’s truly useful? It’s going to be a little bit different for everyone. Sometimes the utility is more about the ability for a company to tell an innovation story, or an opportunity to virtually collaborate in a common place, as an avatar, with people who are in completely different locations. These spaces could be for a sales meeting or for a presentation. There’s opportunity for utility to meet many diverse needs, but there are still many businesses that don’t believe incredibly common technology like email or social media work for them.
Even if they’re a bit fantastical, many current metaverses are still rooted in recognizable concepts, like gravity. The Zaha Hadid Architects metaverse city [Liberland] is futuristic-looking and stakes an exciting claim in a new space — and feels authentic to its brand. Their renderings leverage the familiar in a similar fashion to science fiction, making it more easily recognized and received by the average user. This familiarity helps people respond to these environments and understand how to use them. The early metaverse designs that create mental comfort will make it easier to bridge the adoption gap for users, which in a lot of ways means that they’re going to look and feel like the real world — a metaverse boardroom might include chairs, for example, not because the avatars have a physical need to sit, but because the chairs create familiarity and make it easier for people to position themselves in the space.
If people are resisting the metaverse, it could be because early images they’ve seen feel like video games, and the reality is that video games are the most populous metaverses right now. There’s an opportunity for architects and designers to evolve this, to take the thinking they’ve brought to the physical world and apply it to this new space, to show people how a metaverse space can be functional and beautiful. There’s great opportunity for architects and designers to come in and stake initial claims.
Ergonomics do not have the same functional relevance in the metaverse as they do in the physical world, but they are critical — these familiar ergonomic forms hold a lot of power in the minds of users of a space, so they will likely continue to have increased relevance, at least in the early days, despite their lack of functionality. A virtual version of your favourite desk chair might be there because it’s mentally comforting when you walk into the room, but not to ensure that your lumbar support is adequate. These are the sorts of things that designers in this space will start to consider. What kind of furnishings do we need when we don’t have the same sorts of constraints caused by our human bodies?
The metaverse offers a unique opportunity for both work and design — for those open to embracing it.