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5 Things We Learned About Metaverse on Facebook Connect 2021

Published Nov 8, 2021

Social media is changing, and digital marketers that aren’t prepared are at risk of being left behind.

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that he was changing the name of his company from Facebook to Meta, and shifting the company’s focus from social media to the creation of a digital space called the metaverse, was a surprise to many. But for those of us who work in the digital media space, this move was a long time coming.

The ambition behind Meta is clear from the name itself. Meta comes from the Greek word “beyond.” In his keynote at Facebook Connect 2021, Mark said the name symbolizes “that there is always more to build.” With the launch of Meta, and the development of the metaverse more broadly, Mark and his team are hoping to take what they have learned from Facebook and apply that knowledge in building the next chapter of the digital universe.

Facebook executives have often said that their mission is to bring people together. The launch of Meta is a nod in that direction, using technology to create virtual communities online. Meta is being called a “new North Star,” with a stronger focus on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) gaming than what we have seen up to this point on Facebook’s social media platform. In the metaverse, a virtual ecosystem of people will be freed from the limitations of traditional screens. They will play, work, shop, and learn within a vast, interconnected space. Meta will play a central role in the development of the metaverse in the coming years.

Although Facebook is seen as a social media company first and foremost, Meta will reportedly be about much more. Meta’s role within the technology space will be to build products and tools that connect people through experiences and time.

Where does all of this leave content creators, and the millions of businesses around the world that rely on Facebook for advertising and marketing? What will happen to the social media profiles that people have spent years developing when Meta’s vision of an “embodied internet” is realized?

For starters, it’s clear that rebranding as Meta will not diminish Facebook’s role in the commerce space. Developing the metaverse is an ambitious project that will take years to fully realize. Meta’s core product will still be Facebook, and with more than 2.5 billion users, it’s unlikely the social media platform is going away anytime soon. Advertising will continue to play a central role in the so-called metaverse. Executives at Meta believe that the personal connections users develop online will provide new opportunities for businesses to get involved.

While we are still in the early days of this, it’s worthwhile to consider how brands will soon be using things like AR, through Facebook’s Spark VR, and filters on Instagram to market their products to consumers.
The metaverse won’t be created exclusively by Meta. In his keynote, Mark said he expects the metaverse to be built by creators and developers. As the metaverse grows larger, content creators will gradually begin to shift how they brand themselves online, and many brands will change their social media strategies on Facebook and other platforms.

With so many questions about Meta and the future of Facebook for advertisers swirling, we thought now would be a good time to dive into what Mark Zuckerberg’s new metaverse might mean for businesses.

Top 5 Things We Learned About Metaverse on Facebook Connect 2021

1. Augmented Headsets Will Bring the Metaverse to Life

During his Connect 2021 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg talked at length about a high-end virtual and augmented reality headset with the codename “Project Cambria.” The headset is being designed especially for the metaverse, with sensors that enable a user’s avatar to make natural eye contact and real facial expressions. These headsets will allow for something Mark describes as a “mixed reality” — a melding together of the real and virtual worlds using high-resolution video that’s passed onto the headset’s screens.

Project Cambria headsets will reportedly come with a large price tag, however, executives at Meta seem to believe that consumers will gladly pay to enter virtual worlds where anybody can be or do anything from the comfort of home. The new headsets will reportedly be available to purchase sometime later this year or 2022.

2. Remote Workplaces Will Come Under One (Virtual) Roof

Even before Facebook rebranded as Meta, a push was already underway to make better use of the company’s toolsets to facilitate remote work environments. For example, in August, Facebook launched the open beta of Horizon Workrooms, which was made available for free to download on Oculus Quest 2. Workrooms use VR to create mixed reality experiences. Workers can bring physical desks and tracked keyboards into virtual rooms. Combined with the Oculus Remote Desktop companion app, teams have one-click access to their files from VR. Users can collaborate by sharing screens with colleagues in VR.

The goal of Horizon Workrooms, like so many other aspects of the metaverse, is to allow teams to feel more connected. Using avatars and spatial audio formats, teams are able to have natural conversations that feel expressive, without being physically in the same space. This has applications during a pandemic, of course, but also more broadly, as more people choose to work from home and other remote environments.

In rebranding as Meta, Facebook has made the decision to push forward in its quest to facilitate remote work environments. In his keynote, Mark spoke about bringing together the feel of working in the same place, virtually. Meta’s goal is to base its remote workplaces all on one platform, rather than having companies use multiple tools and cloud-based video calling solutions, like Slack and Zoom.

What about education? Remote spaces would revolutionize the traditional classroom setting for millions of children and young adults around the world. In a virtual world, teachers can develop entirely new ways for students to learn. Children will have the ability to see places, like the solar system, and immerse themselves in different time periods over the course of history.

3. Gaming Is the Future

Mark Zuckerberg sees Meta’s future revolving around AR and VR gaming. In his keynote at the Facebook Connect developer conference, Mark mentioned adding more games that give updates, as well as new downloadable content. Games will be used as tools for building out active communities in the metaverse.

Gamification is present throughout Meta, extending beyond social, into advertising, marketing, education, and business. Relying on tools that Meta has developed, businesses will soon be able to use AR to create three-dimensional characters (or avatars) to enable virtual product try-ons and advertising simulations. Imagine trying on a dress without leaving your kitchen, or test driving a car from the comfort of your living room.

Established gaming companies like Microsoft and XBOX will reportedly have a role within the metaverse, as well, with Teams updates and upgrades meant to bring computing into the real world and embed the real world into computing. Meta is committed to bringing a real-world presence into digital spaces. The company has even coined the name “Mesh” to describe that process.

4. Personalized Advertising Won’t Rely on User Data

Privacy regulations are top of mind in 2021, not just at Meta, but at all social media firms. In the metaverse, people will have more control over their own data and how it is used to make advertising more relevant. Advertising will potentially play an even larger role in Meta’s ecosystem than it does on the Facebook social media platform. However, Meta’s personalized advertising system will reportedly rely less on user data, which will in turn level the playing field for smaller and larger businesses.

We know that quickly-emerging technologies can leave policymakers playing catch-up. That is likely to become an issue with advertising in the metaverse, even with more stringent privacy limitations in place. Some companies will be accused of moving too quickly, while others will feel that progress isn’t happening quickly enough. With years until the full metaverse vision is realized, there will be plenty of time to iron out the details.

Meta is investing heavily in privacy-enhancing technologies to minimize the data that’s collected, processed, and shared about users. This will be an ongoing process, and all the kinks haven’t been ironed out quite yet. However, business advertisers can expect to hear more thoughtful conversations around the topic in the coming months and years.

5. Powerful Commerce Tools Will Make a Stronger Economy

Commerce is one thread that runs throughout the metaverse. Consumers will have real ownership over the items they purchase, even when those items are virtual goods.

As users create avatars and virtual worlds, they will be encouraged to “style” their virtual lives with products from real world businesses. These products can be worn by avatars across spaces or worlds. So whereas a gamer today might purchase a custom skin for a specific app or website, in the metaverse, that custom skin would be worn across spaces. This essentially functions like buying a pair of shoes and wearing them to work, school, and dinner, compared to buying a separate pair of shoes for each activity. Users will own the items they purchase in the metaverse, not the platform.

In addition to virtual skins, businesses that operate in the metaverse will be able to sell limited edition digital objects, such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to display in their digital spaces, and even resell on a secondary market. The metaverse will someday support jobs for millions of creators and developers, as well as serving as a diversified advertising platform for commerce.

Developing a high level of interoperability across platforms will present a major challenge for Meta. With Mark Zuckerberg expecting the metaverse to reach as many as a billion people within the next decade, there are hundreds of billions of dollars in digital commerce at stake.

Will the Metaverse Become Our Reality?

How closely will the metaverse, as outlined by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook Connect 2021, align with reality? It could take years to sort out. The first step will be developing, producing, and selling Project Cambria, Meta’s mixed-reality headset. Many of Meta’s most ambitious plans involve the use of VR headsets, and whether Meta’s version will be available on its expected timeline is still an open question.

Cross-platforming is one option that Meta could take advantage of if Project Cambria doesn’t come through as expected. Third-party firms that create AR headsets and glasses stand poised to reap big rewards, regardless of whether Meta can get its physical products off the ground.

Assuming Meta can produce and sell its VR headsets within the next year, the next big hurdle for the metaverse will be widespread adoption. Meta has ambitious plans in the travel, education, and fitness spaces. In particular, the company’s fitness programs could become very popular if consumers are willing to get on board with activities like biking and running in virtual environments.

Another big hurdle for Meta will be the successful development of the Horizon Marketplace, a suite of VR creation tools that have been described by Mark as, “the social platform that we’re building for people to create and interact in the metaverse.” Under the Horizon umbrella, Meta is launching Horizon Worlds for gaming, Horizon Work for professional collaboration, Horizon Marketplace for buying and selling goods, and Horizon Home for personal spaces.

The travel industry could see a big impact when the metaverse takes off, as well. How will rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft be impacted by the launch of Meta or the metaverse more broadly? Will people need to drive to physical locations once they’re living in virtual environments? What about flying?

Influencer culture stands to shift, as well. In the metaverse, creators include both individuals and businesses. Meta plans to build digital spaces (like stores) where creators can sell physical and virtual products and experiences.

Creators and social media influencers who become early adopters of Meta’s technology may get access to special rooms and one-offs that are exclusively available in the metaverse. However, questions still remain over how influencers will use these virtual rooms to make money, and how Meta will leverage those influencer/consumer interactions to benefit its brand advertisers. What separates influencers from average people in a world where everything is virtual and everyone is an avatar?

Many questions remain. How will the metaverse work? Will this collaborative model be sustainable? The development of the metaverse will be a decades-long effort, and gathering feedback from businesses and users will be a big part of the process.

Now it’s time to tell us what you think! What aspects of the metaverse are you looking forward to most, and how closely do you believe the final product will align with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision? Reach out to our team at CMDS and let us know.

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