Is the Metaverse the future of business in Thailand?
An immersive virtual space, the Metaverse is inhabited by customizable 3D avatars representing its users. In it, friends or colleagues around the world can talk to each other in real-time and feel like they are in the same room together.
The effect is noticeably different than in Zoom or Skype, for example – as these popular apps divide the screen into discontinuous squares with no common space between them. The Metaverse, by creating a digitally animated representation of each participant, can then seamlessly place entire groups within a shared virtual room, allowing for more natural interactions.
Webcams remain an important part of the Metaverse, but not in the way that frequent Zoom or Skype users will be accustomed to. Rather than simply sharing plain or filtered 2D webcam images between participants, the Metaverse uses specialized software to track facial users’ expressions in real-time and impose them on the 3D avatars that other participants can view from any angle. When you raise an eyebrow or throw your head back in laughter at a friend’s clever joke, your avatar will do the same.
The concept of the Metaverse has been discussed by software engineers for decades, and it is very possible that something resembling this virtual world would come about sooner or later anyway, simply as a natural extension of continuously evolving social media platforms.
Yet instead of preparing passively for such an outcome, Facebook (now Meta) has begun investing heavily to bring its particular, and proprietary, vision of the Metaverse to light. Since this same company essentially invented modern social media not long ago, its commitment toward building a next-generation platform should be taken seriously by the business community.
Assuming Meta achieves its objectives, then, the question remains: How should companies, including those in Thailand, adapt to this new type of digital space?
New land brings new opportunities
Credit: Metaverse Thailand
Companies will need to decide for themselves whether they want to get directly involved in the Metaverse, or simply enjoy its incidental benefits. Direct involvement could come in the form of virtual real estate purchases, so as to occupy desirable real estate in the digital realm. It could also involve advertising, software development, participation in digital event spaces like Thailand’s upcoming Metaverse concert, the production or trade of NFTs, the vast potential for e-commerce opportunities, and plenty of other types of Metaverse-centered business models.
For digital retail in particular, it is worth noticing that many companies are already beginning to establish their own niches in the Metaverse space. For example, leading shoe retailer Nanyang offers digital shoes available for purchase on their Metaverse land. This type of trend is certain to become more pronounced as the Metaverse gains traction as a popular consumer platform.
As with current social media, however, companies will need to adapt their behavior to the standards of the Metaverse – even if their business models aren’t directly related to this new digital space. Virtually every business today has a social media presence, and an analogous Metaverse presence could soon become standard for the same reasons; e.g. audience reach, brand building, customer service, sales campaigns, and similar types of marketing communications
In the years ahead, potential customers may routinely visit companies’ Metaverse spaces in order to understand them better, just as they visit company webpages or Facebook pages today. Businesses should realize the value of these interactions, and consider investing in their Metaverse presence. The day may not be far off when an absent or halfhearted Metaverse presence leaves the same dispiriting impression on potential customers as a dormant or poorly designed homepage does today.
Moreover, remote employees may soon expect workplace interactions to occur within a Metaverse-like environment, rather than Zoom calls, company bulletin boards, or internal messaging apps. Businesses would be wise to consider this technology with an open mind and use it for internal purposes if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Is Thailand ready?
Credit: The Nation Thailand
Facebook/Meta may be ready for the Metaverse, but is Thailand? Success in this space will require real digital know-how, including a focus on cybersecurity. A failure to develop these skills could be disastrous as the private sector comes to rely ever more greatly on digital activity. While advanced security technology, including the Blockchain and cloud software, is available for any company to use, a similar investment in building a security-conscious workplace culture will also be necessary to protect company data and resources.
It is no accident that the Metaverse holds much the same promise, as well as the same challenges, as Thailand’s own vision for embracing a 4.0 economy. Increasingly advanced digital communications technologies are at the heart of both of these visions, and while these advancements enable extraordinary benefits, they also require capable operators who apply the right combination of skill and strategy.
Companies should also remain alert to the development of the Metaverse over time, as new technology products have a habit of changing on short notice. Will Meta exert heavy-handed control over its software platform? Will other business goliaths find ways to monopolize the virtual space, edging out smaller rivals? Or will Meta’s developers strike a balance that lets companies of all sizes compete on equal terms?
Many Thai companies are already taking advantage of new business opportunities within the Metaverse. If these and other projects are developed with skill, Thailand could become a leading destination in this new virtual space – just as the country already embraces other parts of digital living.
But as with all business endeavors, especially those based on still-developing technology, great caution should be taken at every step. Thai businesses should ensure that their technical, cultural, and strategic abilities will let them take full advantage of the coming Metaverse, for sustained growth in tomorrow’s digital world.