UK – Researchers must understand the metaverse if they are to continue being effective guides to their clients or face having “missed the boat” as the technology becomes more popular, an Association for Survey Computing conference has heard.
Speaking at the conference last week, Nick Baker, global chief research officer at Savanta, said that the amount of money being invested in the metaverse by financial services firms and technology giants meant it was increasingly critical to understand what was going on.
The metaverse is, broadly, a network of virtual worlds focused on social connection and supported by technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
“This is very real. You just have to look at the amount of money going into this area,” Baker said.
“It is vital that we understand this because our clients are going to need to engage with it.”
Baker added: “Building our understanding of what is happening in the space is, for me, absolutely vital for our ability to interpret narratives for clients and to guide them on some of the decisions they need to make for their brands.”
Baker told the audience that the metaverse was an inflection point where popularity could rapidly increase, and organisations faced having “missed the boat” if they did not start analysing it now and planning for widespread adoption.
He also said key questions for researchers included: “What is an authentic experience in this area? What is an authentic experience for your particular customer base? Do your clients know what they are looking for? For most of them, the answer will be no.
“What are the opportunities to create new channels to communicate with the audience that are transcending the real world and going into the virtual world? Do you have the in-house talent who can help you do that?”
Also speaking at the conference, Carl Hayden-Smith, principal research fellow at Ravensbourne University, said that the replacement of phones with technology that was able to provide more seamless mixed reality experiences, such as glasses, could raise privacy issues.
“You are scanning everything – you are turning everything into a point cloud,” he said. “Other people are scanned, all of your objects at home are scanned – where does that data end up? That’s the issue. The double-edged sword of this technology is much greater than previous iterations.”
Ali Goode, cognitive scientist at Gorilla in the Room, said that AR would help researchers working on product development as it allowed research participants to see and interact with prototype products without the need for a physical version.
“I personally believe that extended reality is the research tool that behavioural economics has been crying out for,” he said.
“The ability to stop people going into the future and creating a futuristic thing for them now is really important, and is one of the key superpowers of extended reality for the research industry.”
Aseem Badshah, managing director at QuestionPro UK, told the conference that research in the metaverse would not yet produce nationally representative samples but could immediately help research with certain groups within society.
“If your audiences are younger males, you can actually start to do some research in the metaverse today. If it is not, you may need to wait as you can’t find enough people there.”
Daniel Koomson, research manager at QuestionPro, added that barriers are “quite high” to understanding the metaverse and getting involved.
“I don’t think the barrier is around the cost, but the key barrier it is risk appetite – how curious organisations are,” he added.
He also noted that a large minority of people in virtual worlds would not use their identity, which could pose an issue for identity fraud.
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