Demystifying the metaverse​

Mastercard will be participating at ODA Inspiration Day 2023 in Oslo Concert Hall on May 4, 2023 - the annual conference for everyone interested in tech and diversity. 

The theme of ODA Inspiration Day 2023 is 'Metaverse Mania' and the conference focuses on the hype and realities of the metaverse. But what is the metaverse and how could it potentially have an impact on diversity and inclusion?


Exploring a new frontier

The potential for the metaverse is immense. Think of it: billions of people visiting millions of always–on virtual environments to play, socialize, shop, work, learn. 

The business opportunities are still coming into focus – but the scope is undeniable. More than 90% of business leaders expect the metaverse to significantly impact their industry by 2030. The economic activity has been projected to be in the trillions of dollars.

That's why so many are experimenting and innovating in the metaverse today – creating immersive experiences, organizing events, engaging communities and more. This new era of experience and engagement is more than just games. It's a new frontier and many questions and challenges about the metaverse remain. Will all people – not just the few – benefit from this new platform? And how can we make sure new technologies are being driven in the right direction?


Millions of metaverses

Thirty years after the term “metaverse" was introduced in Neal Stephenson's sci-fi novel "Snow Crash," a clear definition remains elusive. Here are just a few of the ways it has been described:

  • A "cyber Big Bang" that's producing a sprawling network of sites and digital spaces.
  • A new way to experience the internet through immersive 3D experiences.
  • An environment for new types of human interaction.
  • A potential multitrillion-dollar contributor to the global economy.

The metaverse, despite its singular name, will encompass millions of metaverses by 2030. Some will be stand-alone virtual destinations. Others will be open so visitors can move easily among them — leveraging their digital identities, assets and payment options across environments. Even in its current fledgling form, the metaverse has the potential to significantly impact the ways in which we work, learn, shop, socialize and do business.


A digital overlay on our day-to-day physical lives

Today, the metaverse is still early and exploratory. Early on, we're likely to see hybrid applications —digital elements integrated into physical environments —that bring immersive commerce to life across retail, entertainment and sports. 

As technologies advance, our physical worlds will be more interconnected with digital experiences. We'll leverage AI, wearable technology, sensor-driven Internet of Things solutions, edge computing and augmented and mixed reality to create hyper-personalized intelligent experiences. We'll see not quite complete immersion but rather a persistently available digital overlay on our day-to-day physical lives. 

Further out, the metaverse is likely to develop similarly to social networks. Companies will create immersive experiences and incentives to engage consumers. Then they'll foster communities that connect people based on interests and activities. More brands will participate as more people spend more time in these worlds. Success stories could emerge beyond sectors such as gaming, e-sports, entertainment and fashion — possibly transforming work, education, healthcare, hospitality and more.


A virtual divide or virtual inclusion?

The metaverse today is a 21st century digital frontier and in many ways also a double-edged sword when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion on the social front.  

On the one hand, it can provide people with safe, borderless environments where they can be their true selves and connect with communities who share their values and interests. On the other hand, places where people can be anonymous, like the metaverse, invite bullying and harassment. 

Similarly, decentralized governance and less hierarchical operations, could promote cooperation and collaboration, making the metaverse a more equitable place than our established physical institutions. Users have the unique opportunity to get to know one another in new and different ways without divisive labels. But decentralization could also hide harassment and create challenges regarding accountability and oversight. 

Realizing the metaverse's potential will require years of evolution as technologies mature, regulations develop, consumer behaviors change and companies innovate. The future will tell whether we can close the equity gap in the metaverse and make it a safe, inclusive place where concerns related to privacy, safety and access are addressed. 


Curious about the metaverse?

Get insights and inspiration from this report: "Demy​stifying the metaverse"

​The report has been developed by Ken Moore, Mastercard´s Chief Innovation Officer.

Kari E. Bjørkelund, Senior Vice President, Mastercard

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