Even with the ongoing crypto winter, companies continue to invest in blockchain technology. NFT games and metaverses have found life of their own, holding strong despite the market uncertainty.
Just this month, Animoca Brands — a VC with an extensive Web3 investment portfolio — raised US$75 million at a valuation of US$5.9 billion. GameStop launched its NFT marketplace in partnership with Immutable, and Tony Hawk announced plans for the metaverse’s biggest skatepark.
Web3 has grown bigger than its pioneering cryptocurrencies, and it seems there’s plenty more yet to come.
In its insights about the future of metaverse, KPMG offers the promise of a global immigration to the virtual world.
“Experts believe it will not be unusual for people to spend 12 to 15 hours a day in the metaverse to communicate, work, learn, shop, capture data and more,” the report states, speculating on the next five years.
“By 2030, we could be spending more time in the metaverse than in the real world. People will be applying for jobs, earning a living, meeting with friends, shopping, even getting married using the virtual capabilities of the metaverse.”
To put this in financial terms, a DBS report published earlier in July predicts that the metaverse could account for up to 10 percent of the global GDP by 2030.
What will the metaverse look like?
Currently, the metaverse is largely represented by sandbox-like worlds where it’s possible to build virtual environments. People are represented by avatars with customisable appearances.
Avatars will allow people to represent themselves beyond the limitations of status. There’s the opportunity to alleviate people’s identity beyond their wardrobe or how much money they have in their bank account.
– Alexandra Neville, researcher at Australia’s University of Technology Sydney (KPMG)
As technology develops, these worlds are expected to grow and support activities traditionally carried out in the real world. Physical workplaces could be replaced by virtual three-dimensional settings, allowing seamless interaction through extended reality (XR) devices.
DBS expects the metaverse to support industries ranging from gaming to real estate.
As augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) technology evolves, metaverse experiences will become more immersive. “The metaverse is so compelling because it gives humanity a promise of escapism, catharsis, progression, achievement, and more – with little or no risk,” the report states.
Singaporean companies in the metaverse
A wide range of Singapore-based companies have begun exploring the metaverse for growth opportunities.
Millenium Hotel and Resorts’ M Social launched its very first virtual edition in the Decentraland metaverse earlier this year. The hotel features an avatar which welcomes guests and shows them around the property.
“The hospitality landscape is rapidly evolving. We are embracing different technologies to engage customers and enhance guest experiences,” says Saurabh Prakash, Group Senior Vice President, Commercial for Millennium Hotels and Resorts.
“The metaverse is one such avenue that presents a myriad of opportunities for us to create unique social connections with our guests.”
Over in the world of apparel, Charles & Keith participated in the first ever Metaverse Fashion Week alongside brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce & Gabbana.
The brand set up its own in-world store, with complementary digital apparel available for the first thousand users to visit it. Inside the store, users could also browse a selection of other digital wearables, as well as navigate to Charles & Keith’s website to purchase their physical counterparts.
Singapore is also home to companies such as BUD and BuzzAR, which are directly working to build metaverse assets such as avatars and NFT wearables.
In a survey conducted by Accenture, it was revealed that 78 per cent of Singapore-based executives believe that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organisation.
The primary difference between Web3 and its predecessors revolves around the ownership of data.
Currently, online businesses such as Facebook and Twitter rely on profiting off of user data. They’re able to offer targeted advertising to their clients and curate the content which reaches their user base. Users themselves don’t share in the benefits of giving up their personal information.
Web3 intends to change this through decentralised apps — in fields ranging from finance to social media — which don’t require users to share personal data.
Metaverses can exist in both Web2 and Web3. For example, Facebook’s metaverse is a centralised Web2 counterpart to metaverses such as Decentraland and The Sandbox.
The privacy concerns surrounding centralised metaverses extend far beyond those of traditional social media apps.
By the time you take a five-minute walk down a virtual city road, we’re going to know what your sexual preference is, what your favourite colour is, what brands you associate yourself with — and this is simply by utilising eye tracking and biometric data.
This is some of the type of data that’s emerging from immersive technologies, which I know is a scary concept and is something that’s going to need to be regulated. The real issue is regulation is always 10 years behind the tech.
– David Whelan, CEO, Engage (KPMG)
A Web3 metaverse would make this data impossible to collect — unless, if a majority of users agreed to it by voting as part of a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO). Even then, they would know exactly who has access to the data.
However, for private companies running their own metaverses, the access to user data and behaviours would significantly expand.
Addressing such issues can be a lengthy process. As Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao mentioned at this year’s Point Zero Forum, our idea of the metaverse is constantly changing. Until there’s a clear consensus on what ‘metaverse’ stands for, there isn’t much which regulators can do to control the space.