Lokesh Rao, Co-founder & CEO, Trace Network Labs

Lokesh has a wide experience of over 12 years in the enterprise tech space helping global fashion companies acquire and implement technologies in more than 20 countries. Since 2017, Lokesh has been actively involved in building solutions for enterprises using DLT and Blockchain. With Trace network Labs, he is building a technology platform that will enable lifestyle brands to launch multichain & multiverse products, using NFTs, for the ‘digital twin’ a.k.a. Avatars of users in the metaverse.


The metaverse rush hour has begun!

There is a gradually-building bee-line for a pie of the virtual world – be it big tech companies to global fashion & luxury labels. Facebook’s pivot from being just being a web 2.0 Social media company to a real-life experience provider as Meta, or Microsoft’s giant billion dollar acquisition of Activision, makes this space even more noteworthy.

The question then is – is it just a hype? Or does it present a worthwhile opportunity that should be explored and delved into? Let’s take it a step at a time.

Metaverse – Plainly speaking

In plain terms, a “metaverse” is a digital space that is populated by representations of anything and everything in the physical world i.e. people, places, things, events, activities & more. This digital space can be accessed by anyone and will behave like an extension of the real world in real time. It really means, in actual terms, that humans can experience all that they do in their physical world, in the metaverse as well.

In some cases, as suggested by many futurists, the metaverse needs a combination of technologies such as AR or VR and in many ways AI, to have a more immersive experience. This is where we might enter sci-fi territory like the “Matrix”.

So a metaverse is primarily a digital twin of everything around us – a simulation of sorts that mimics all we do currently and may want to do and never get a chance due to various limitations in the real world! Imagine a virtual stroll under the Manhattan skyline with your friends !

Stepping into the Metaverse Possibilities

Let’s step back from fantasy and explore the real-possibilities of the metaverse. An aspect that one needs to keep in mind here is that with the metaverse being a digital twin of everything around us, it will mean that it covers everything – from our homes, to the office, factories, conference rooms and more. Here are a few examples of how CXOs of different industries can choose to use a virtual environment / metaverse setting to build efficiencies in their processes and overall execution.

Let’s consider a manufacturing setup. There are multiple scenarios that can be tested out in the virtual world before committing to an expensive change. A whole manufacturing unit can be retrofitted in a virtual simulation complete with new digital machinery, inventory, labour inputs, cost simulations and several production scenarios. A digital simulation gives the liberty to the CXOs to address pain points such as supply chain, production optimization, forecasts, new machine layouts and so much more. Enterprises can get these feedbacks from these virtual simulations and improve on their inputs and deliveries. This is an “enterprise metaverse system” that mimics the physical world and enables better control on design, implementation and execution. This could also reduce the travel needs for smaller and menial tasks that can be conducted over a virtual simulated facility.

Imagine being able to provide a complete immersive training to a person for say operating a machinery, or inspecting an oil-rig, or a complete simulation of medical procedures. These Skill Simulations on virtual 3D environments will be one of the areas which will surely benefit every industry and individuals.
The Entertainment and experience industry will be the one presumed to benefit the most. Starting with small family get-togethers in a virtual theme park to full fledged metaverse weddings complete with the bride and groom in their avatar forms – there is a digital version for all of them. There have also been celebrity concerts that have been organized in the metaverse which changes the whole ballgame for the next-gen population. Not everyone gets the chance of being in a concert organized by, say, Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber. The metaverse allows them to be in the zone.
Technology infrastructure companies can, in a similar manner, design an entire network architecture for not only a simple virtual room or building built in the metaverse, but also for an entire city to accurately layout the equipment and simulate how a particular layout or system works before actually deploying it in the real world saving humongous costs for mistakes made otherwise.

Government authorities such as the National Highways Authority can use the metaverse to their fullest extent. Imagine being able to create a full network of roads, highways, flyovers, bridges, underpasses and the lot before actually getting on the ground to build them. One can create a full scenario of costs, models, layout, traffic simulations, signals etc to improve on the designs before the actual implementation.
Marketing in the Metaverse

In recent news, many fashion houses opened virtual stores in metaverse settings. Prominent luxury labels such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci , Balenciaga and Burberry have all ventured into the virtual space to create new markets and improve customer outreach. Even Nike is quietly preparing for the metaverse by acquiring a virtual shoe company. This is an indicator of the huge marketing potential that metaverse offers to all enterprises that want to target the new generation of metaverse users.

Marketing teams have to work towards creating marketing experiences that parallel what the brand already does in real life. Immersive metaverse platforms are now enabling virtual billboards that are far easier to create and consequently less expensive. One can also put branded installations and organize events that metaverse users can interact directly with the brand and you can get immediate feedback.
Digital Collectibles in the form of non-fungible tokens allow businesses to offer limited edition products to those interested. This in fact has recently become a huge multi-billion dollar market.

We at Trace Network Labs have been working in this direction for quite some time now to enable similar experiences and opportunities for businesses in the metaverse. To start with, it is helping fashion brands to adopt this space, creating new lines of limited edition products and reaching out to a bevy of users who are existing as residents of the metaverse as their digital twins or Avatars.

CXO and evolving Social Network

With half the world moving indoors in the pandemic, the work-from-home culture is mostly here to stay. Apart from the normal online gaming platforms, the Social Metaverses will open the human’s mindset and shed their inhibitions of the real world. The metaverse and avatar driven experiences will open the deepest desires and we may get to see wider consumer insights. This will only help in creation of better products & services.

A social metaverse also presents opportunities to create zones in which global teams can meet online for training programs, regular meetings, and simulate actual working environments for the work-from-home crowd. We are all already introduced to Zoom calls – the metaverse will simply raise the bar to a more experiential zoom.

Notable Challenges

While the metaverse does present a great opportunity, the technological requirements of metaverses still appear wanting. The potential market for brands gets limited and this hinders immediate growth. There is a huge room for improvement to make the experience more seamless.

With new technology comes the problems of security. There has been a huge concern related to data privacy and security in the metaverses. The open nature of the metaverse makes it imperative to have better methods of data privacy and protection.

The Metaverses also has the risk of brand defaults, customer management issues, user disrespect, the occasional malicious user – these are the regular problems that can happen in the real world as well, but the overall effect in the virtual world gets bigger as proliferation of these platforms happen.

Growing at the speed of thought

While there are plenty of challenges & room for improvement in this sector, opportunities are even bigger. With the involvement of the technology giants in this space, we expect to see bigger and better innovations settling in. By far, the opportunities currently our experimental, but in the long run, we ought to see this space becoming more relevant, need-of-the-hour with better technology, best practice developments and big room for one to enjoy being in his or her own virtual world that is not delimited in any way and only expands with the speed of thought.

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