A man walks through a hall filled with dozens of people. When approaching the two of them, he overhears the conversation about the last details, doesn’t understand and walks away. On the ladder, approach a swimming pool. Play electronic music in the background, the kind usually played on the radio. He was distraught, but soon they called him back to the center of the hall. Time to start the activity.
The scene can be in any physical space that includes a swimming pool, sound system, and dozens of people, but it happens in a virtual environment. In graphics and scenes reminiscent of the classic games The Sims 2 (2004) and Habbo (2000), the man and the rest of the room are characters customized by different people in the real world, connected simultaneously via the Internet and from different physical place. It’s a virtual universe – or “metaverse,” a name that’s becoming more popular.
The existence of these universes is not entirely new. Since the early 2000s, the aforementioned Habbo has been entertaining, connecting different people in the world through characters. Since then, thousands of online games have emerged and formed communities of people with the same goals in a virtual environment.
However, over the past two years, technological advancements and market concerns have changed views that previously existed. Since Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, announced a $10 billion investment to create its own virtual universe (known as the metaverse and popularized the term), thousands of companies have decided to follow the same path and exist in virtual universes. “It’s more of a question of reinventing the wheel than a real revolution,” said Mariana Amaro, a social networking and technology researcher at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).
If before they had an almost basic goal of entertainment, now the metaverse seeks something else: to be a space where they can work, study, receive medical care, etc. In short, become an environment that fully simulates real life. “It’s the new internet that adds to the interactions that already exist in today’s social networks and apps. It’s more immersive,” said Miguel Angelo Gaspar, CEO of Live Planet, a Brazilian company that develops its own virtual worlds.
Virtual coexistence is primarily driven by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. If the online gaming environment is already common, the idea of working, studying and seeing a doctor remotely is still limited to a niche market. The pandemic has accelerated this process, and technology has dealt with it, but the important asset announced for virtual worlds is the possibility of increasing this experience in the near future. For Angelo Gaspar, these universes will become popular in the next 3 to 5 years.
However, there are still many questions surrounding this virtual future. First is how it works: Is it really worth having a work meeting in the metaverse instead of a quick Zoom call?
In 2003, developer Linden Lab created the game Second Life, which literally aims to simulate life in a virtual space. Characters can buy land, work in an office, go to clubs, go on dates. The game gained attention from companies, saw the emergence of a stock exchange parallel to the real world, and reached 1 million people, but lost popularity.
There are several reasons for Second Life’s failure, but one of them, analysing Mariana Amaro, is the lack of a ridiculous purpose. And, to the researchers, some metaverse developers, like Meta, seem to be making the same mistake. “In my opinion, Meta wants to take us to work and produce in this virtual universe, but metaverse places are fun places where you go to have another life and fantasy instead of recreating the first life,” he said. Say.
However, according to Miguel Angelo Gaspar, technological innovations such as the advent of 5G, augmented reality glasses (which place you in a 3D space, just like the world we live in) and current smartphones, as well as the A new generation with a virtual environment can make the future, the present, different. “Our future experience with the internet will be completely different from the present, just like the dramatic changes we’ve experienced when using social networks on our phones,” he declared.
Natal Store launches future-focused virtual environment
As virtual universes emerged from the video game bubble and caught the attention of large corporations, small and medium-sized companies began to venture into this new world or world, because there was not just one single universe. In Natal, sisters Anna Carolina and Anna Catarina Nogueira, owners of clothing store Grifes.com, decided to recreate it virtually to boost real-world sales.
The official opening took place on 27 May and is the event described at the beginning of this report. Walking among virtual guests with her avatar, Anna Carolina Nogueira, 32, explains what the metaverse is and how it works — and why the store decided to create its own environment. “This is the area we’re into because we know this is going to be the future,” the businesswoman said.
According to the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae/RN), the store is the first in the Natal region to make this move. The step was taken just two years after first experiencing online sales, when deals had to be closed due to the pandemic. They started selling through social networks out of necessity, eventually expanding sales across Brazil.
But the decision to enter Metaverse came after she observed big brands making the move. For example, Renner took action against the Brazilian servers of Fortnite, a shooter battle royale game whose goal is to be the sole survivor of the match, with over 350 million users worldwide.
Today, the sisters’ virtual store takes place directly on the website, and so far has not been linked to a virtual community – which is the case with Renner and Fornite. But for Anna Carolina, the move is critical to understanding and improving the universe.
In a virtual store, customers can buy clothes as they would on a website, but at the same time need the help of a waiter. The expectation is that this will give customers a better experience closer to a brick-and-mortar store. “Purchasing through a website can sometimes leave a lot of questions. In a virtual world, a waiter can be with you when buying,” says Anna Carolina.
According to experts, this connection between the real and the virtual is one of the biggest possibilities of the metaverse. Working in a virtual universe has the potential to make money that can be reversed in real life; and buying a real item can generate a custom piece in the metaverse. While many uncertainties remain, the future will undoubtedly be more virtual.