Staking a Spot in the Metaverse Is for the Risk-Takers
With companies looking to capitalize early on consumers’ growing interest in the metaverse, Forrester Research wants to remind companies that their customers, employees, and other stakeholders will only engage with them in the metaverse if the experiences provided are valuable. And right now, that’s in doubt.
For all the promise the metaverse holds for some companies, “most people will tune it out unless the user experience is good,” warns Forrester vice president and principal analyst David Truog. “Today’s metaverse precursors excite mostly gamers and tech enthusiasts but fall short for mainstream users.”
He adds that right now most metaverse projects are inconsistent from one app to the next, and interacting with 3-D objects is often hit or miss and clunky.
Whether staking a spot in the metaverse today would be a bold, visionary decision or just a fashionable but foolish gamble is anyone’s guess, according to Truog, who suggests that such moves will require “a high tolerance for risk” as well as some unfamiliar new skills, tools, and technologies.
The risk comes because the metaverse doesn’t exist yet, says Truog, who recommends that companies take the prudent path by conducting experiments in virtual 3-D worlds such as Horizon, Spatial, and AltspaceVR—all considered to be modern precursors to the metaverse.
“To avoid being caught flat-footed, you should allocate a portion of your resources to experimenting,” Truog explains. “The return on investing in experimentation won’t be financial for now. It will be in learning what you need to do to innovate, survive, and thrive as the metaverse emerges.”
Getting there will require companies to take a human-centered design approach, according to Truog. “Because so much about [extended reality] experiences is different from familiar ones, investment in HCD work is especially crucial.”
Truog also advocates for conducting discovery research because it enables companies to determine if XR is the right medium for their strategies. If it is, discovery research also can be used to determine the optimal time for deployment and which type of XR—augmented, virtual, or mixed reality—is the best fit.
The analyst recommends that organizations familiarize themselves with their internal design frameworks.
“Design inclusively from the start,” Truog advises. “Pay special attention to the design framework’s inclusion principle and the digital accessibility imperative of ‘nothing for us without us.’”
The primary reason, Truog explains, is that XR technologies are already falling short, even in the simplest ways. For example, glTF (a proposed standard for representing 3-D virtual objects) does not mandate or even allow for alt text.
And when designing for the metaverse, Truog says, there are two main principles that cannot be overlooked: the fusion principle, which holds that, while virtual, mixed, and augmented reality experiences differ in terms of their intended uses, they all rely on a sensory experience; and the empiricism principle, which says that enthusiasm or skepticism about XR should be based not on speculation and assumptions but on direct observation and evidence gathered from experience.
He rounds out his list of 10 essential design principles with these eight: depth, attention, freedom, locomotion, interaction, presence, permission, and magic.
“Internalize the principles and evangelize them throughout your organization so that they become second nature to anyone involved in envisioning and creating XR experiences and help prepare your organization for the emerging metaverse,” he says.
And, though profits from the metaverse are quite some time away for most companies, Truog advises everyone to “invest prudently but immediately.”
New technologies often have a faster uptake experience than older technologies, Truog says, noting that mobile progressed faster than desktop, and many are predicting that XR design will move even faster.