The Metaverse: the risks and business opportunities offered by the new virtual universe

The advent of the Metaverse, the new virtual universe capable of transcending the pure three-dimensional and immersive dimension, is revolutionizing the world of the Internet.

It is the new hyper-connected reality that represents the next technological revolution, capable of combining formal and informal dimensions with individual and social because it adds interaction in space in a way that was unthinkable before, also thanks to virtual reality visors that create an ‘augmented reality. 

The origins of the Metaverse

The concept of the metaverse, difficult to define exactly, has always been present in the collective imagination. Its structure is Spatio-temporal and is composed of the data and information that make up cyberspace, the universe created and fed precisely by global communication networks.

The concept of the metaverse, difficult to define exactly, has always been present in the collective imagination. Its structure is Spatio-temporal and is composed of the data and information that make up cyberspace, the universe created and fed precisely by global communication networks. 

In 2003, physicist Philip Rosedale, founder of the US company Linden Lab, launched Second Life, a digital environment that could be accessed by computer, where users, transformed into a simple avatar, interacted within it. A sort of collective platform with a common language that would lead to the birth of the first virtual communities typical of social networks. Between 2006 and 2007, Second Life was so successful that many companies, public bodies, institutions, and politicians rushed to buy virtual spaces in order to create their own garrison. Second Life’s economic exchanges were based on Linden Dollars, which the company allowed people to buy and sell with real dollars.  

In 2021 Mark Zuckerberg implemented a rebranding of the group holding company he called Meta (which controls the Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Oculos platforms). In 2022, Microsoft also announced that it will integrate the Metaverse into the Teams platform with a feature called Mash: users will be able to create an avatar with which to participate in business meetings. 

In order to understand the usefulness of this technology, we discussed the topic with Giosué Prezioso, Professor the Master in Arts and Culture Management at the Rome Business School, who said:

The metaverse was born from the contraction of two terms: the Greek prefix meta indicates something that is “Beyond or beyond” and the word verse – a contraction of uni-verse – indicates “Universe”. We are faced with a wonderfully multifaceted tool: a kind of transposition of the world we live in. In video games, our avatar is basically a translation of ourselves, immersed in the context and challenges of this new digital environment. So the metaverse is to all intents and purposes a world not very different from our own, with goods and services, in which we interact and where actions take place.  A 3D implementation of the Internet in B2D mode, i.e. two-dimensional, to which we are accustomed. A second life, certainly more immersive and engaging.

Economic spin-offs 

To definitively launch a sufficiently large and interconnected system, a great deal of investment will be needed because the conception and construction of the metaverse is not just a technological undertaking, so to speak, but, on the contrary, a major business operation.  

In fact, according to Emergen Research, a market research and strategy consultancy firm, in 2020 the size of the global metaverse market recorded a turnover of 47.69 billion dollars, which would reach 828.95 billion dollars in 2028, recording an annual growth rate of 43.3%.  Many consider the metaverse to be the new era of the digital economy because of the new and diversified business opportunities it offers to companies and consumers.

The response from the business world is very positive. The phenomenon is constantly increasing. According to some studies, by 2026, almost 25% of the world’s population will spend at least 1 hour a day in the metaverse.

Supply and demand are perfectly intertwined: for example, the company Spacial, which is a kind of Zoom, just for the metaverse, grew by 1000% in March alone. For their part, consumers are reading with interest the possibilities expressed by this new virtual reality and are participating with great enthusiasm. In order to understand the real scope and its various applications, I would like to point out that the British army is carrying out part of its military training in the metaverse.”

Business opportunities

The applications can be endless: interoperability and interconnection will revolutionize current business models.   

Certainly, the first to adapt to this new immersive reality will be e-commerce, for example with different customer management in the field of consumer experience, or through new dynamics to retain customers or acquire new ones. The aim is therefore to involve consumers more and more, and the creation of events or purchasing moments has become central to the strategies of brands, especially high-end ones. 

The business opportunities are endless! You don’t need to be in a specific, dare I say lucky place like New York, Paris or Madrid. You can start businesses in less prestigious places, because it is no longer the geographical area that governs business of any kind.  Not everyone can afford to travel, and in the metaverse everyone has the same opportunities, regardless of where they come from: from this point of view the most innovative element is the democratic nature of the medium!”

The art world

The metaverse represents for the world of artists a new way and above all a new opportunity to express their creativity. One example is the Arch of Peace in Milan, the first monument in the world to be transformed into an immersive digital work of art.

There are many areas of experimentation in which digital artists can operate, combining art with history, philosophy, and technology.     

“There are many companies and start-ups that animate this virtual space with events, meetings. Right here at the Rome Business School, several students have been exposed to 100% Italian companies operating in the field, such as 3randUP, which has created VR glasses that allow you to see ubiquitously what is happening in other parts of the world, so potentially a tourist/buyer from Hong Kong can admire Italy remotely or shop in an exclusive boutique in Milan,  all through simultaneous and ubiquitous transmission of these glasses.  

But I’m also thinking of Coderblock, a company founded in Sicily and under 30, which organises events, professional meetings and meetings in the metaverse; of the Hackatao duo, also 100% Italian, in the world’s top ten crypto artists; and of Forgetter, which provides artists with a kind of therapeutic art experience in the metaverse. I firmly believe that art in the metaverse will not depute the decline of traditional art, exits or a hierarchy – where the former will always be less than the latter because you are simply used to it. On the contrary, I believe that the latter is only complementary, another system, as photography was in the late 19th century: demonised at the beginning and today an almost indispensable daily father for the system and the population in general”.

Training

The world of education, which has always been attentive to the development of new technologies and dedicated to research, has for some time been closely following the development of virtual worlds. If during the pandemic e-learning allowed millions of students to continue their learning, it is now showing its criticalities. The metaverse with its somewhat playful and highly immersive dimension may represent a key turning point due to its high potential for attraction.

“When you come from a small town it is not always easy to have access to a large educational context: through the metaverse this can happen and in a more engaging way – think of those students living in the provinces who perhaps cannot afford to study outside the city or even abroad… Going beyond the 2D interactions we are used to today in the classroom – with programmes such as zoom, meet or blackboard, the metaverse not only makes this achievement possible, but also more engaging, productive and diversified, helping students and teachers to work in a more dynamic dimension than the now redundant e-learling.

At the Rome Business School, for example, our training offer includes specific courses related to the metaverse revolution, where we have also included experiences in robotics, artificial art and data to allow you to be updated in the real time on what is happening in the world of e-learning and cultural industries”.

The need for legislation

The idea of constructing a metaverse composed of innumerable parallel universes necessarily implies reflection from a legal point of view. It must be analyzed and examined to understand how it works and detect any criticalities. 

It will be essential to create a law that is ‘universally’ applicable to the various multimedia spaces that will coexist at the same time, and which can cover the various areas involved, such as the processing of personal data, the regulation of contractual relations, and the protection of consumers from any inappropriate actions that might be carried out. 

We need legislation that can ensure an experience in the metaverse free from abuses, illegalities and misbehaviors, which have already happened and been recorded since 2016.

It is therefore urgent to define how to regulate from a legal point of view the actions that are put in place in this new reality, to ensure a safe environment especially for minors, who will be born in this world, compared to us.”


GIOSUE’ PREZIOSO

Giosuè J Prezioso is a Professor and Researcher with international professional experience. After studying in America, he specialized at Christie’s, the world’s leading auction house, and went on to earn a doctorate and specialization at Harvard University’s Graduate School. As a professor, Giosuè has taught courses at prestigious international institutions, including the American University of Florence, the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, the Chamber of Deputies, and the European School of Economics. He is the first lecturer in Italy to have imported crypto art into an academic context, as well as one of the first researchers to have published articles, television, and industry interviews on the subject. He is currently publishing a book with the prestigious Cambridge Scholars Publishing, for which, as author, he brings together some of the protagonists of the global contemporary art-tech scene.

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