Interoperability is the key to unlocking the metaverse and web3
For The Drum’s deep dive into all things AI and web3, Peter Van Jaarsveld of agency Oliver argues that pushes for interoperability in metaverse products are already pushing forward brand experiences.
Is interoperability the key to real development in the much-vaunted metaverse? / Pierre Bamin via Unsplash
While the hype cycle has firmly tilted away from web3 and towards generative AI, we’re still seeing its promise slowly materialize. Amazon is imminently launching its NFT marketplace; metaverse fashion week 2023 is going ahead (and is expected to be bigger than last year). So, while the price of your Bored Ape may be languishing, the metaverse and web3 are developing unabated.
There’s a wealth of opportunities for brands in these worlds, but the industry is yet to bridge the gap between where brands and consumers are today, and where these technologies can take them in the future – not, at least, in a way that is affordable, achievable, and appealing for the masses.
One of the benefits of the crypto-winter (and the ensuing lack of hype around web3 and metaverse) is that it has taken some of the noise out of the system. That leaves us to focus on making tangible progress, understanding what value looks like, and discovering what real utility the space brings. There’s also been a shift in focus away from protocols, allowing a more open view of how the metaverse and web3 could be realized.
It’s important for brands to take a more open view of what the metaverse represents – ignoring lines drawn in the sand by crypto bros between what is ‘truly’ metaverse. Now, we can look at the concepts and technologies and ask ourselves, ‘how else they could be leveraged?’
Interoperability and the computer-generated paradigm
Defining interoperability means also agreeing on what the metaverse is. If there were only one metaverse, this wouldn’t be an issue – our metaverse selves would exist only in that world. But there isn’t just one; there are a variety of platforms and spaces for brands and users to explore. How can we connect the dots?
There are two ways to look at interoperability. One is the ability to move our avatars and assets between different platforms and worlds (one avatar service, Ready Player Me, already allows for this).
But there’s a more complex point around the underlying mechanics of interoperability. The Metaverse Standards Forum was established in 2022 with the goal of creating an inclusive metaverse. With over 800 principal members including Adobe and Nvidia, it represents an immense push toward agreeing on the building blocks of interoperability.
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For all the debate about exactly what the metaverse is, we do know that it will be computer-generated (CG) and interactive. This gives a clue to the real promise that interoperability delivers, not in the future, but today.
We’ve seen huge recent advances in CG technology, reducing the cost and complexity of creating work, while achieving photorealistic results, often using real-time engines such as Unreal. When working with customers, we no longer ask, “Could we do this in CG?”, but rather, “Why can’t we do this in CG?”. Moving CG to the center of our production pipeline is a game-changer in how work is created.
While there is an up-front time and effort investment required to create high-quality, flexible digital twins (digital representations of physical objects or services), the long tail of benefits far outweighs the costs.
Taking the metaverse for a test drive
This is something that automotive brands have known for a long time. Digital twins are highly complex, but they can be deployed across media, regions and variants for years to come.
But the economics of automotive digital twins are very different to those in CPG. The cost, size and complexity of a car make content production expensive and complicated.
This is where the metaverse, and interoperability, come back into view. The incredible recent energy and investment that went into web3 and metaverse have led to some amazing, widely available tools. Computation has become cheaper, and game engines have developed to the point where they can create photorealistic outputs in real-time, a feat unthinkable even five years ago.
All of this means that advanced, modular CG-led workflows employed in expensive verticals such as luxury and automotive can now be deployed everywhere, from CPG to apparel.
Outside of work for automotive brands, at Oliver, we’re now working with customers in CPG, alcohol and fashion to develop workflows that start with the development of high-quality, modular, and flexible digital twins, which can become the centerpieces of component-led production workflows. This enables us to create high-quality output for any media, from digital out-of-home to TV. And yes, the metaverse. Taking cars into the metaverse and creating interactive and configurable experiences becomes a lot easier when the up-front investment was made in the digital twin.
Interoperability is the key to unlocking further potential in this space. It would advance both brands’ presence and the user experience in virtual worlds. We’re not there yet. But while the full promise of metaverse and web3 may still be coming, the underlying technology is already changing how we create content in today’s world.
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