• Tsvetelina Hubenova

Web 3.0 & the Metaverse: A new era of digital business

Digital reality, 3D virtual spaces, meeting with colleagues, and hanging out with your friends without even moving from your seat? Sure, just jump into Web 3.0 and the Metaverse.


You have probably already heard these buzz words in places like social media, tech communities, friends, etc. since along with NFTs they are definitely trending at the moment. But for most people, Web 3.0 and the Metaverse are a complete mystery. You probably wondering why exactly we dedicate an entire article to these digital innovations considering that we are not a tech firm. The answer is quite simple – these technologies will inevitably disrupt and reshape business models and will set a new course in entrepreneurship.


So, what exactly are Web 3.0 and the Metaverse? Without further ado, let’s dive right into it!


The new era of the Internet

At the current point in time, we find ourselves in the second generation of the Internet, or in short - Web 2.0. Without turning this article into a history lesson, let me give you a little background information that will definitely help you understand where the world wide web stands now and where it is headed. The so-called second Web generation finds its roots back in 2006. The term Web 2.0 was coined by author and web designer Darcy DiNucci and it refers to the participatory culture, which has developed on the internet over time. This encompasses everything we currently experience on the web – social media, connectivity of communities, widespread accessibility of information, user-generated content (often unverified), and so on. Very characteristic of the current generation of the Internet are also the tens of applications we have on our phones and the widespread collection and use of our personal data by large centralized tech companies.



The new, third generation of the Web, however, is set to turn all of this around. In Web 3.0, the new era of the Internet, we all will be creators and most importantly owners of our content and data. In the center of the predicted enhancements of Web 3.0 stand privacy and high security of personal data. This can be achieved through the application of decentralized and permissionless underlying technologies such as Blockchain. Will this be the end of cookies, activity tracking, and the inundation of targeted and exploitative advertisements at every click?! It may very well be the case.


The way we interact with the Internet is set to change drastically in this new age of decentralized Web. Intelligent search engines will be able to understand our search query far more accurately than they currently do, and produce results that could save many hours of manual labor - results like tailored vacation plans, for example. Websites will become much more immersive and easier to navigate without the hustle of managing multiple profiles and logins. Decentralized identities (DIDs) are supposed to simplify our lives by allowing us to have a single record of personal details which we could apply to log into all of our Web 3.0 websites and decentralized apps. It is very much like a digital ID but for browsing the Web.


In a nutshell, the most important characteristics of Web 3.0 to remember are the following:

  • More privacy and security

  • Decentralization

  • Data ownership – Users will have the option of selling their data and profiting from it or keeping it private.

  • Interoperability

  • Semantic Web

  • Permissionless Blockchains

Stepping into the new reality – The Metaverse

If 10 years ago someone told you that the reality you know will have a digital twin one day, would you have believed them? Most people wouldn’t. But the present reality is headed towards a digital version which would open a new dimension of possibilities for interaction, collaboration, and use of space. The metaverse is one of the most intriguing terms currently circulating on the Web as people all around the world are trying to figure out what is and how it could be translated into business opportunities. In simple words, the metaverse represents an interactive and immersive virtual space that people can populate through an avatar of themselves. Many companies and startups are currently jumping aboard the hype train and rushing to develop metaverse spaces and applications but only entities with the following three properties can be considered a metaverse:

  1. 360° virtual environment combining the physical and virtual worlds

  2. digital environment featuring a developed economy to facilitate financial transactions

  3. interoperability - the ability to seamlessly shift from one metaverse to another


The core idea of the metaverse is actually quite simple - to allow people who are physically further away to feel close. The technology behind it, however, is a bit more complex. The underlying infrastructure of the metaverse includes blockchain technology, augmented reality, 5 and 6G, VR, Internet of Things, etc. And since this virtual space in itself could be quite complex, entrepreneur Jon Radoff has divided it into 7 tiers which provide a better understanding of its characteristics.


(HoloNext, 2022)


There are a number of applications already established for the metaverse and they vary greatly. For example, an alternative economy referred to as a “creator economy” allows users to create and trade new assets for a desired value (e.g. NFTs) and to benefit from full ownership and interoperability. Users can also view and tour real properties or purchase virtual land within the metaverse. Transactions within this purely intangible space are performed via digital currencies (cryptocurrencies) and virtual wallets.


We are only at the beginning of discovering the possibilities and the limitations of the metaverse but one of the most interesting aspects to explore is certainly its potential for application in business development and entrepreneurship.


A Game-changer for Entrepreneurs and Business

The metaverse will provide new and alternative ways, tools, and media for users to experience products and services, which brings a multitude of business opportunities for inventive entrepreneurs. For instance, in the past years, we have observed the transformation of retail from brick and mortar to e-commerce which was accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, and now we are yet to experience the next step in the evolution of retail. Entirely virtual shopping centers and the option to try on fashion items digitally before purchasing them with real-world currencies will open the doors for novel ways of trading goods. Even business owners and entrepreneurs from the hospitality and tourism industry which suffered a great deal due to the global pandemic could find the metaverse to be a feasible solution. They could continue offering their customers unique vacation, travel, and event experiences to enjoy with their friends and families.


Nonetheless, the metaverse is set to not only impact the way we create, design, and experience products and services, it could have especially powerful and practical implications for the ways businesses manage their operations and communicate with their target audiences.

Impact on Communication & Productivity

The so well-known 2D communication platforms like Zoom, Teams, etc. which have become an inseparable part of our day-to-day work (for better or for worse) will become a thing of the past and will be replaced by hologram-based real-time communication within the metaverse. That would entail communicating and interacting directly with a hologram of a person just like you would do in the physical reality. This type of communication facilitation can have a tremendous impact on the collaboration of cross-functional teams where multiple stakeholders need to be coordinated and in addition, it will transform corporate meetings drastically. And keep in mind, you can be anywhere in the world and still be in the office.

Impact on Sales & Marketing

The word that best describes the direction in which sales and marketing activities will be driven by the metaverse is ‘immersive’. Advertisement spaces will undergo significant transformation as they will shift from physical to digital and will take the form of virtual billboards which can be seen by millions of avatars (users) in real-time. Brands will have the opportunity to improve customization of user experience at an unprecedented scale as a result of an increased number of data points and high accuracy of product targeting and positioning. Enhanced and immersive marketing gives customers the opportunity to actively interact with the brands and get a feeling about their products or services before making a purchase.


Impact on Social Media

With the metaverse becoming mainstream, social media will transform into something called the ‘embodied internet’. As most of us know, the functionality of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, etc. is currently limited to viewing 2D content on the user’s screen, liking, sharing, and commenting. An embodied internet aims to allow users to actually be inside of the virtual space rather than simply looking at it and with that in mind, social media will become immersive and will support real-time interactions supported by AR and VR.


In its course to altering the relationship between people and technology, the metaverse is also setting foot in one of the most fundamental pillars of our existence and wellbeing – healthcare. There is a notable increase in startups that are working towards augmenting services on the stage of digital health. The prospects are more than intriguing.


The startups changing the way we experience healthcare

Albeit not yet widespread, there are early signs of groundbreaking healthcare innovation with the help of the metaverse. Last year in the US nearly $200 bln was invested in digital health startups. These startups are using technologies such as AR/VR and gamification to create immersive healthcare services which serve educational, therapeutic, and assistive purposes. In the metaverse, patients could experience amplified treatments in specialized therapeutic environments, and medical professionals such as surgeons could plan operations and even complete minimally invasive such.


Gamification is also attracting a lot of attention as a potential approach to an enhanced healthcare experience. The healthcare gamification market is growing exponentially and it is expected to reach a value of nearly $ 50 mln by 2026. But before we proceed further with some really cool examples, maybe we should say a few words about what exactly gamification is.

In simple terms, gamification refers to the application of gaming tools in non-gaming environments in order to make services and processes more interactive, immersive, and entertaining.

In healthcare, gamification has the central goal of enabling customer-centric services and highly personalized therapeutic experiences. Introducing gamification into treatments aims to motivate patients to follow their treatments by incorporating challenges and rewards. It could be as simple as entering a step-counting competition. Considering the potential for creativity and inventiveness in this novel niche market, there are already some notable startups that are coming up with ways to gamify healthcare processes. For example, Icelandic startup Sidekick which raised $55 mln series B specializes in the creation of gamified digital therapeutic solutions across multiple areas, ranging from diabetes to ulcerative colitis and smoking cessation. Its platform combines an evidence-based clinical approach with behavioral economics and gamification to help global customers expand therapy reach. Another great example is Austrian physiotherapy startup Enlivio which is a teletherapy platform solution that motivates patients to train independently through gamification.



Telemedicine has been around for a very long time but it certainly experienced a surge in demand and popularity during the Covid 19 pandemic. Medical specialists have discovered that they can quickly and efficiently diagnose minor conditions and carry out routine consultations just as (if not even more) effectively via a video call as in-person. This will certainly persist in the metaverse. Now, tele-examinations can be enhanced even further with the help of VR and AR technologies which are already setting the way for new patient-doctor communication. With the application of VR and AR technology patients are no longer limited to being treated by particular specialists due to their physical location and they are also no longer required to meet with the specialist physically in order to receive support. We have a rather in-depth understanding and involvement in this particular area as one of our biggest and most exciting clients, German health-tech startup GuideCare, is confidently walking towards revolutionizing the way it delivers care consulting services to its customers.


GuideCare is dedicated to holistic healthcare consulting – on one hand its experienced consultants provide expert advice to those who face health-related challenges which prevent them from leading an independent and fulfilling life and on the other hand it supports Germany’s largest network for care consultants where education and useful information are being exchanged. GuideCare as an innovator in its field has recognized the huge potential of the VR and AR technologies as well as the metaverse for the healthcare and telemedicine industry. They already mapped out their steps for becoming a prime provider of care consulting services beyond the physical space. Through collaboration with universities, the startup will first adopt AR tools to allow the consultant to experience the individual environment of the client through their own eyes. The customer could both be suggested aids virtually and documents could be created together. As a further step, GuideCare will also enter the metaverse space by enabling robot-assisted consultations which would take place entirely virtually.


The metaverse is certainly quickly gaining traction in the healthcare industry and this points towards increased investment opportunities as well as intensified research and development efforts. Considering the speed at which these novel technological solutions advance, only the most adaptable and innovative companies will be the true winners of the virtual space.


Is your business ready for the metaverse?

In this day and age, customers have an abundance of options and mass production is at an all-time high. This means that customers value greatly bespoke experiences, customization, immersion, and interaction with their favorite brands and communities. According to a recent Harris Poll, 72 % of millennials would rather spend their money on experiences than material items and with Gen Z, this number is only rising. The metaverse embraces the experience economy and provides the ideal environment for experience-centric products and services. Currently, we hear predominantly of large companies making their first big steps in the metaverse, but it is only a matter of time until this technological innovation impacts middle- and small-sized brands as well.


To prepare your business for the time when the metaverse will be mainstream so that you can take the most advantage of it, extensive and consistent research is highly advisable. Better yet, take your time and start exploring this virtual space yourself. That way you can have a good idea of the opportunities your business could best benefit from.


And in case the potential of Web 3.0 and the metaverse has been a trampoline for a promising business idea, we would be very excited to hear all about it and support you. Just drop us a line and check out what we can do for you and your start-up here.



Key takeaways:

🔮 The internet we know today is already on the course of evolving into a more secure, more private and highly interactive, and immersive world wide web called Web 3.0.


🥽 Reality is becoming increasingly virtual with the development of the metaverse where one can play games, go shopping, collaborate with colleagues in a virtual office, and much more.


🎮 Brands are increasingly incorporating gamification into their products and service in order to ensure customer engagement and one of the most notable areas of potential for this approach is in the healthcare industry.


🩺 The metaverse and technologies such as VR and AR can help medical specialists defy physical boundaries, making healthcare consultations more interactive and fun.


🚀 In time brands will be widely affected by the metaverse in one way or another and experiencing the capabilities and limitations of this virtual space on your own could help you to prepare your business.








 

Sources

https://holonext.com/metaverse-101-understanding-the-seven-layers/

https://elastos.info/what-is-web-3-0/

https://rockhealth.com/insights/digital-health-enters-the-metaverse/

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/421000

https://healthtransformer.co/more-than-fun-and-games-five-entrepreneurs-gamifying-healthcare-5a85cd0fa029

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/02/23/the-amazing-possibilities-of-healthcare-in-the-metaverse/?sh=6973409d9e5c


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