The new frontiers of Metaverso in the retail and hospitality sectors

The world of the web (and not only) goes crazy over the trend of the moment, the metaverse. How many of you have been intrigued by it or perhaps thought of investing in it with your own business? Is it as much gold as it glitters or a ‘second’ Second Life?
Well, here is a short article in which we share our thoughts on the subject, talking about issues and real opportunities.

Metaverse, what is it?

Let us start by defining it, even though it is not easy to do so in a precise manner, because it is a new world, still to be explored.
However, we can say that the term was coined in the cyberpunk world in 1992 and has now come into the limelight because it has recently been used by Facebook (‘Meta’ is in fact the new company name).

The Metaverse is the evolution and enhancement of the Net, but does not replace it. It prefigures a set of virtual worlds that one can access exclusively, and where one is represented in three dimensions through one’s avatar. Through these virtual ‘representations’ we can move, travel and make purchases, just as in the real world, indeed faster. Statistical data in hand, today virtual reality constitutes a world in great expansion also on the Italian market, together with other technologies that are all closely interconnected, such as Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things.

The potential for application of Metaverso, even in the world of design and architecture, is truly remarkable, but equally impactful could be the latent risks if this technology is conceived and used as an end in itself. Let us now focus, first of all, on the potential we can develop with Metaverso, referring in particular to the areas of interest we have suggested. Next, we will deal with another fundamental aspect: understanding how latent risks can be defused.

Metaverso's application scenarios in the retail and hospitality sectors

Virtual reality can have applications in countless fields, from marketing to entertainment, from vocational training to the production process.
The most natural and potentially prolific expressions of Metaverso, however, are in the creative fields par excellence, such as architecture, art and design. With Metaverso we can integrate and enhance the use of real environments. We can make and sell digital objects and artwork using so-called non-fungible tokens, Nfts, a key component of Web3. Nfts are the newest innovation in the virtual world. They represent certificates attesting to the authenticity, uniqueness, unchangeability and intellectual property of digital works, which are thus recognised and protected for the first time. From then on, they are usable by all and potentially sellable indefinitely. This production will make Metaverso more and more populated and richer, allowing users to broaden their experience of architectural spaces and aesthetic subjects, which
can then be transferred to the real world.

In an accelerated process of osmosis and cross-cultural metabolism, Metaverso will not only allow prototypes to be created, but also allow them to be immediately socially tested on a large scale, much more effectively than any traditional type of survey. We are convinced that sectors that today are in particular need of innovation and revitalisation, such as the retail and hospitality sectors, can be increasingly known,
enriched and enhanced precisely through virtual experiences.

How? The key to success lies in the interconnection between the real and virtual worlds, like a bridge that crosses and unites these two worlds. The metaverse for an entrepreneur can therefore represent a major growth opportunity for his or her business, in particular for:
1. Modify or integrate their business model. Imagine, for example, combining specific Nft of services with classic holiday packages, so as to make them more interesting, attractive and innovative.
2. Making one’s activity known nationally and internationally. So that even a small, remote location can benefit from a wide audience to whom it can show its riches. Also with Metaverso, visits to museums and art galleries, participation in cultural meetings and concerts, and much more could be made feasible, to the boundaries of the imaginable, making unpredictable discoveries and fascinating experiences. 

3. Implementing the services offered through the so-called gamification. To mention just one of the many feasible ideas in this field, tokens could be produced with multi-sensory experiences, funny and educative for both adults and children

Defusing latent risks

We have thus spoken of the potential of Metaverso, but it is also the case of counting latent risks that, like any innovation, it brings with it.
Which ones in particular are we referring to? The number one risk is surely that of exalting a container without content, or with
poor content. In fact, technology is but one way of conveying valuable content, and it should not be understood as an end in itself. Because technology without a soul is arid and dangerous and produces mere automation.

Another concrete risk can be summed up in the word alienation. We defuse it if we use Metaverso to acquire additional information about the reality around us and not replacing it with artificiality. Operating in this perspective, the virtual dimension will not exhaust itself in a
schizophrenic parallel world, but will serve to come into greater contact with the reality around us, with constructions, design, with all that is beautiful and functional that we can create. It will thus be able to give greater voice to human, architectural and artistic sensitivity, enriching life with concreteness and intensity. This is, in our opinion, the antidote against the risk of latent alienation and poor quality of the proposed content.

Combining technology and humanism in architecture

The virtual world and the real world, the map and the territory, overlap to the point of combining, or even becoming one extension of the other.
To give an example: we enter a hotel in the Metaverse and buy a sauna and wellness package that we then experience in a real hotel. Or: we are in a hotel and from there we connect to a virtual art gallery, where we buy works that we then take home to
decorate the spaces we inhabit. Thus, the Noosphere described by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, or that ‘sphere of human thought’ that sustains physical reality and moves around a unifying centre, almost seems to manifest itself in virtual reality, if it’s used in the perspective we
have just mentioned.

An enlightened entrepreneur will be the one who operates ethically, developing his or her work in accordance with the unifying centre of people’s souls. True digital innovation, and not only this, will happen when technology will be in complete accordance with ethics, ecology and sustainability, avoiding alienation and homologation. We dream of a digital transformation that is combined with an empathetic and wise
society, and where inclusive and human-centric paradigms are adopted at every level. Thus we will see the spirit rise and fly lightly in the ether, that boundless space where we breathe, create and let life flow.

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