Dispatches from NAPC 2022: The Present & Future of the Metaverse, by Shawn Coleman

“The metaverse is already here.” 

With that opening line, Shawn Coleman teed up an eye-opening presentation at the Nansen Awesome Premium Conference (NAPC) 2022. Concise and focused talks by Nansen team members on the topic of their choice were an integral part of this year’s NAPC. From big-picture concepts like the metaverse to customer case studies to technical guidance, these presentations created opportunities for the type of exploration and knowledge sharing that are core values at Nansen.

Shawn’s talk, titled simply “The Metaverse,” touched multiple times on the theme of exploration. Bringing together his personal interest in gaming, an emerging field of technology, and ideas about how to strategically apply it, Shawn put a human touch on the fairly heady concept of metaverse and helped everyone in the room become a bit more fluent in its vocabulary.

 

What is the metaverse?

In Shawn’s words, the metaverse is “a connected virtual space where humans can work, play, shop, and create.” That’s a fairly simple definition, but Shawn also cautioned that the current metaverse landscape feels like “the Wild, Wild West,” in that there are few rules or standards, even as companies of all types and sizes are jockeying to get involved.

A handful of well-known brands are already delivering to consumers a taste of the metaverse. Shawn mentioned a few games, like Fortnite and Pokemon Go, as well as the chat platform Slack. In creating digital platforms where large groups can gather and interact in real-time, these three companies (and others) are granting access to immersive, communal experiences to anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

One of the main promises of the metaverse is facilitating ever-more sophisticated and realistic 3-dimensional digital experiences.

We can think of it, Shawn said, as “the internet of our phones and our computers coming out to exist around us, so that we can interact and engage with it.” Like 5G, blockchain, cryptocurrency, and other emerging offerings, we should expect the metaverse to thoroughly transform how we think about and use the internet.

 

What’s next for the metaverse, and what does it mean for Nansen clients?

While the metaverse is already here in some ways, the technology that underpins and provides access to it is evolving rapidly. One of the more visible and well-known examples of such technology is the virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headset, through which people can experience immersive games and more. These powerful devices, like the popular Oculus from Meta, are getting sleeker, smarter, and even more powerful. Recently, Meta previewed “Project Cambria,” a mixed-reality headset that is rumored to include many more features than the Oculus line of devices.

For all the buzz around new technologies, however, the future of the metaverse is impossible to pin down—the current understanding can be likened to the early days of the internet, when ideas blossomed, but no one could predict where the technology was headed.

“We don’t know yet what the metaverse will become,” Shawn said in his NAPC presentation.

What we do know, however, is that immersive experiences can be a lot of fun. By elevating the way that digital platforms can look and feel, the metaverse is already offering brands like those Nansen works with new opportunities to engage customers. 

Shawn brought up Nansen client LOSSAN, a California rail agency for which our team built a new, more customer-centric website. One of the selling points for LOSSAN customers is the natural beauty that riders enjoy from their windows. What if LOSSAN dipped a toe into the metaverse, by adding an immersive experience to the booking website that allowed potential riders to “look out the windows” of any given train route? 

The possibilities of the metaverse are essentially limitless. This makes it a perfect fit for the Nansen team, given our passion for exploration.

We expect that in the coming months, many Nansen team members in conversations with our clients will paraphrase a key line from Shawn’s NAPC presentation: “The future of us experiencing 3D environments is coming. The only question is, when?”