‘I’m interested in what a world designed by me looks like’: experts’ metaverse hopes

No need to apologize for it: the industry is in a doe-eyed early courtship with whatever the metaverse will become. There’s space for caution and skepticism too, but at a recent roundtable with experts from The Drum Network, we thought we’d capture the excitement of the moment by asking what they’re most excited about for the metaverse future.

“I’m deeply skeptical of anyone who calls themselves an expert in the metaverse,” says TMW Unlimited’s Olivia Wedderburn, and our panel agrees. Right now, our relationship with the metaverse is one of ‘future-gazing’ as we make the transition from science fiction to IRL. It would take divination skills to be a true metaverse expert. But the expertise is out there: with metaverse technologies developing apace and communities flourishing, we bent the ears of some of the people watching this corner of the future most closely.

Carrie Mahoney, senior brand strategist, Jack Morton Worldwide

I’m looking forward to having my own universe. It’s been a promise for so long but, let’s be honest, other than targeted ads and curated Netflix and Spotify suggestions, nothing on the internet belongs to me. I’m only a visitor.

I don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I imagine it being this beautiful curation of not just the things I need to know like news, but the things I love, especially as new art comes out. I’m interested in what a world designed by me looks like.

Olivia Wedderburn, social and influence director, TMW Unlimited

I also love the idea of a personally-curated universe. For me, it’s all about communities. How will community shape itself on the metaverse? Community is finally being given its time to shine again after a few years of being slightly disregarded, and I feel there are so many opportunities in terms of how we use creativity and how we can leverage communities to make amazing content. How will community managers evolve? How will people respond to brands? Will the negativity drop? It’s going to be an exciting new chapter in how we communicate.

Miguel Alvarez, global chief technology officer, AnalogFolk & chief executive officer, With Robots

What I’m most excited about are the new, unexpected platforms that are going to appear. Take the example of TikTok – it felt like it appeared out of the blue and became massive. It feels like there is going to be, in the short- to mid-term, a platform that will appear and get it right. I still don’t feel that any particular platform has got it right, but there will be one. That excites me.

Ting Zheng, client strategy lead, PMG

For me, it’s how the metaverse will evolve the gaming space. My husband plays a lot of World of Warcraft. That’s great, but I’m not a World of Warcraft fan, so right now I can’t experience an open world and collect things and go on quests. But I want to have that experience. I can’t wait for a gaming company to create something that does finally bring me in and attaches me to an immersive world where you can continue to evolve. There will be a gaming platform that will rise for me that I can attach myself to.

Nick Rosier, content and digital director, 2Heads

In the short-term, we’re seeing a bit of a revolution in real-time gaming – Unreal Engine is constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with 3D spaces; 3D sound will be everywhere. What’s that going to look like? And how quickly are we going to see massive brand experiences happen?

Also, the workplace of the future. Is the metaverse the vehicle for that and, hopefully, is it going to improve our lives? It has the chance to be not just about selling, selling, selling, but making our lives more fun and more interesting.

Eb Adeyeri, vice-president of growth and partnerships, Jellyfish

What I’m most hopeful for is a rise in empathy. There’s an app in Oculus called Traveling While Black where you get to see what it’s like as an African American walking in certain streets of certain countries – the ability to put yourself (if not literally then figuratively) in someone else’s shoes and see the world through someone else’s eyes. I’m hoping that more of us will be more empathetic with people we disagree with; people we’re polar opposites with, even. I’m cautiously hopeful.

Stefano Marrone, creative partner and founder, Nucco

I have to say I don’t necessarily share the hopeful optimism, even if it’s cautious. There’s a very good book from a couple of years ago by the visionary Jaron Lanier called Who Owns the Future? It makes a very interesting point about what will happen if we don’t make a conscious effort to own these spaces, to own our own images and what’s happening on those platforms.

I’m curious to see what happens there. People have a very loose relationship with the value that they’re giving away. My hope is that we gain back microtransactions – so that they might be more than just a way to give to (and get very little back from) the tech giants.