Broadly speaking, the metaverse can be defined as a virtual world that you live, work and play inside.
Such a thing doesn’t exist yet so it’s essentially a science-fiction concept, but there are some early versions of the metaverse out there and companies are already experimenting.
One effort is Decentraland, a browser-based metaverse where users can create, explore and trade on a desktop computer.
Decentraland users create an avatar which they can then navigate around the virtual world using a mouse and keyboard — something that isn’t exactly intuitive for non-gamers.
When an avatar is first created on Decentraland, which has been ranked as one of the word’s largest metaverse projects, it lands in a sort of atrium where clouds appear to be gliding across the floor. There’s a round pool in the middle that has a worrying vortex in the center.
Earlier this month, Samsung held an event in the Decentraland metaverse, but it didn’t quite go to plan.
The event specifically took place in Samsung 837X, a virtual building that Samsung has built on Decentraland that’s designed to be a replica of its flagship New York experience center.
But CNBC, and several other attendees, struggled to find the 837X building and when we did, many of us were unable to gain access to it.
In an emailed statement to CNBC, Samsung said that “visitors and the Decentraland community have given us a highly positive response, seeing it as a fresh spin into an all-digital world.”
They added: “Unfortunately, a technical issue in one of Decentraland’s realms prevented some people from accessing the event. As soon as we knew of the issue, we informed the community via Twitter and redirected our visitors to a new entry.”
Also this month, JPMorgan became the first U.S. bank to open a virtual space in the metaverse. Like Samsung, it opted to use Decentraland, setting up a dedicated lounge for clients that allowed them to interact with the metaverse.
The “Onyx” lounge, as the space is known, has a roaming tiger and a floating portrait of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon.
Again, some people struggled to locate the space. “Where is it? I can’t find at Decentraland,” one Twitter user wrote. Another described the lounge as “cringe.”
In addition to the lounge, JPMorgan has published a whitepaper entitled “Opportunities in the metaverse: how businesses can explore the metaverse and navigate the hype vs. reality.”
The whitepaper reads: “When you think about the economics of the metaverse — or metanomics — there are opportunities in almost every market area.”
“Imagine you have an online avatar and you want to change what it/you are wearing, you will be able to buy limited-edition, digitally branded clothing that you pick after browsing a virtual showroom,” it continues. “Or you may start your own small business, such as an art gallery where you display your latest and greatest collections, or a virtual private club.”
In May 2021, Gucci ran a two-week art installation on Roblox, a gaming platform that’s been hailed as another early metaverse.
The installation was a virtual recreation of a real-world installation in Florence, Italy.
Visitors were able to dress their genderless avatars in the digital Gucci products, providing they were willing to pay.
As visitors roamed around the virtual world, their avatars would “absorb” aspects of each area.
And in July 2021, Coca-Cola partnered with 3D creators at Tafi to host an auction for special-edition virtual “loot boxes” of NFTs.
During the event, participants bid on an item known as the “Coca-Cola Friendship Box,” a digital version of Coke’s iconic vending machine.
Each box contained various NFT (non-fungible token) surprises including a “Coca-Cola Bubble Jacket Wearable” that can be worn by avatars on Decentraland.
There was also “The Sound Visualizer,” which aimed to draw users in with the noise of a bottle being opened and a drink being poured over ice.
Elsewhere, PwC became a virtual land owner last month when it acquired imaginary land in The Sandbox metaverse.
The Sandbox is a game where a piece of digital land can change hands for millions of dollars.
It’s unclear what PwC paid or what it plans to do with the land, which was sold as a NFT.
But companies aren’t the only ones snapping up virtual land.
Hip-hop star Snoop Dogg has also purchased virtual land and a fan paid $450,000 in December to buy a plot next door to him on The Sandbox.