4 things you need to know about the metaverse this week

Woman wearing a VR headset - metaverse

More companies are creating the position of chief metaverse officer. Image: rawpixel.com

Cathy Li
Head, AI, Data and Metaverse; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva
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  • This regular roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the development of the metaverse.
  • Below you'll find insights and opinions on how this emerging technology could transform the way we work, make purchases and spend our leisure time.

1. More companies are getting chief metaverse officers

More companies are hiring chief metaverse officers, according to Bloomberg, including firms as diverse as consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, Spanish telecoms company Telefonica and luxury goods maker LVMH.

“Chief metaverse officers first appeared at video-game makers, where immersion in a digital universe is central to the products,” Bloomberg says. However, the position is now spreading as more firms begin experimenting with Web3, it notes.

There’s also a sense that companies don’t want to risk being left behind in embracing potentially transformative new technologies.

Chief metaverse officers should be able to speak as fluently about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) as about sales and marketing, according to Cathy Hackl, who has been labelled the “world’s first chief metaverse officer”. She works for Journey, which helps companies looking to expand into virtual worlds.

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Feeling sceptical about chief metaverse officers? Consider how many now common C-suite roles have emerged alongside changes in technology in recent decades. Chief information officers popped up in the 1980s to mastermind IT set-ups, chief technology officers then appeared to evaluate developing technologies. And, more recently, chief digital officers aim to modernize business practices.

2. Metaverse-focused investment funds are emerging

Three metaverse-focused investment funds arrived almost at once this month over 6-7 September, according to The Financial Times.

One of the exchange traded funds (ETFs) was started up by the UK’s largest asset manager, Legal & General Investment Management. The others are being offered by US investment management company Franklin Templeton and London-based Fidelity International.

An ETF groups together a range of shares, bonds or commodities into one basket, and is often focused around a specific market segment. They can be bought and sold on stock exchanges, just like shares in companies.

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The Legal & General fund “aims to offer targeted and liquid exposure to companies actively involved in developing the technologies needed to deliver the metaverse, the next frontier of the internet”.

The firm’s Head of ETFs for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Aanand Venkatramanan, told The Financial Times that: “Thematic investment strategies have seen strong investor interest over recent years, thanks to their ability to capitalize on structural and foundational changes in the way we live and work.”

3. Will fitness apps open up the metaverse?

The metaverse will spread in the same way computers and mobile phones did, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The people most interested in technology get involved first, then eventually everyone else follows.

This is known as the technology adoption curve – it covers five broad stages in the take-up of new tech, and is shown below.

The technology adoption curve
The technology adoption curve. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Zuckerbeg thinks fitness apps will boost the number of people venturing into the metaverse, and recently told The Joe Rogan Experience podcast that it will make remote exercise experiences such as those provided by Peloton more immersive.

He’s said similar things before, as CNBC points out: “Last year at VivaTech, a French tech conference, Zuckerberg said VR and AR exercise could be at the forefront of the ‘next big computing platform’.”

Forbes says that fitness is “increasingly able to compete with video gaming, travel, and sports entertainment” in the metaverse. It reports that Fortune Business Insights expects much of the growth in VR gaming to come from “exertainment” – activities that merge exercise with entertainment, such as visuals, wearables and virtual instructors.

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4. The sci-fi writer who coined the term ‘metaverse’ is now helping build the metaverse

The term “metaverse” has its origins in a 1992 science-fiction novel called Snow Crash, by American author Neal Stephenson.

He saw the metaverse as a digital realm where humans went to escape a dystopian real world. Now, in a twist that could be taken straight from the pages of a novel, Stephenson is getting involved in building the metaverse himself.

The writer has co-founded a company called Lamina1 with Bitcoin Foundation Executive Director Peter Vessenes. “I think of it as the base layer for the open metaverse,” he says. “Helping get artists and other value creators paid properly for their work, helping the environment (Lamina1 will be provably carbon negative), and seeing a truly open metaverse get built instead of seeing the metaverse vision co-opted by monopolies.”

Lamina1 has just released a whitepaper in which it further outlines its vision for a decentralized metaverse that “changes the way we make and monetize the next generation of content”.

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