At the commencement of my professional career in 1997, the blue-eyed boy of scalable technology was the iridium network of satellites, designed to catapult global telephony and the internet. It failed miserably due to a fundamental lack of customer centricity, cost and logistical efficiencies, and I sincerely wish that the ambitious metaverse can correct its course quickly and effectively.
You will know by now that the metaverse is indeed the term for the embodied internet, a place where the physical and digital worlds merge intuitively and seamlessly. It is being backed vigorously by Mark Zuckerberg (the corporate renaming of Facebook as Meta is prime proof), Microsoft, Google and pretty much everybody in the future technology space.
It exists most simply as an Instagram communication, extending to Roblox, a digital music concert, hybrid meetings, cryptocurrency and indeed, the credible establishment of human 'presence' even when none does exist. In some ways, it is a deliciously new age but fundamentally still reinforces some of the very basics of human engagement, true from the days of Mesopotamia and Harappa.
As a keen student of this space, I have been observing its evolution from inception, attempting to find meaning for commercial and social brands, already busy investing in avatar and a virtual portfolio. This process also involved listening to the Metaverse Gurus and understanding the preferred roadmap, which did lead to a fairly blatant analysis.
The development of the metaverse is doomed for deepest grief unless it does an earnest re-calibration, driven by insights about the very constituents it intends to delight, folks like you and me and their particular but important necessities.
The first major defect of the metaverse is an insanely first world approach in an internet universe that is increasingly an 'emerging market', in terms of potential, necessity and appetite. Every video I see is still skewed towards gaming, mixed meetings of the corporate kind, premium one on one encounters and indeed the multi-sensorial expressions of luxury. Certainly delightful from a creator's perspective and lovely to watch but surely ungainly from mainstream reality, as this will be a development lapped up by the deprived way before the arrived.
The masters need to build this space from this perspective involving matters like telemedicine, distance education, gig employment, skill development and co-created entertainment.
While the others are self-explanatory the last is a learning from Tik Tok and a few peers who created a culture of self-expression linked to entertainment, thus exposing a socio-cultural opportunity. The current approach towards the metaverse is oh so Silicon Valley and that cannot succeed, perhaps a Mukesh Ambani and a Jack Ma can become valuable co-creators, creating spaces that are meaningful and not just accurate. Imagine the possibility of a medical appointment with sublime human intervention without a physical location, and you can gauge the reassurance and credibility it will bring.
The second major deficiency for what is a people centric innovation, seemingly, is the appalling lack of customer centricity from a psychographic perspective. We know by now that Zuckerberg's vision for virtual holidays flopped miserably, as nobody wishes to travel through looking glasses. So we must develop a worldview on what will work as well as the how and the when, timing most important.
Sufficient behavioural evidence confirms that especially post covid, we are clamoring for experiences and virtualness is a necessity and not a choice, in many cases. For example dining, where dressing up for dinner is still a preferred virtue while packing bags for a vacation a solicited desire, unlike say hybrid meetings like the Microsoft Mesh where we are happy to work in a metaphysical zone.
So as clever business folk, we must personalise experiences for customer journeys, at times use the metaverse as a trailer or a post party, and I will give you a simple example. Where state of art virtual experiences prefer a seduction prelude to vacations so that folks can travel and when they return, there can be virtual reunion parties remembering the past and preparing for the next, a la Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. This is the essence of customer centricity, timing above all else, the ability to not impose but the skill to influence.
In finality, I must say that metaverse is bring built by techies, rather naturally, but its success will depend on human connectivity, equally spontaneously. I am not an expert in Science but rather a passionate student of human behaviour, which is why I insist on getting real. And how a bias towards an emerging market audience and customer centricity at large will be the fuel for the successor of the present day universe.
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