JN looking to the metaverse for local business opportunities
The metaverse, generally seen as a virtual extension of the internet, can connect customers to services while feeding them with advertising.
Consumers can ‘visit’ a local bank without leaving their homes or virtually tour a luxury condo before closing on the mortgage, representatives of JN Group said at a forum titled ‘Welcome to the Metaverse’ hosted by JN Fund Managers Limited.
The metaverse is described as a virtual world or networks that are focused on user connection with computers or other users, usually through virtual reality or augmented reality technology.
JN Group, the dominant private provider of mortgage loans through JN Bank, initiated the discussion on the latest developments in fintech and blockchain technology, wanting to know how technology, such as the metaverse, can create space for rich user interaction online and drive business.
Jamaica National, which has been around for one and a half centuries, isn’t viewing the metaverse as a threat to the establishment. Rather, it sees practical marketing uses for it to connect remote customers.
Technology firms like Microsoft, Meta Platforms Inc, formerly Facebook Inc, and Nvidia, are pumping big bucks into transitioning the metaverse from its disparate concept towards a seamless reality, said Winston Wilkins, lead research analyst at JN at the discussion.
“Until then, we as business people need to be aware of the technology trend and prepare ourselves to be present in the space,” Wilkins said.
The metaverse in its current form, he explained, involves online applications that have an “immersive experience, persistent community, and native currency”.
“So NFTs relate to currency, multiplayer platforms like Fortnite [relate to the persistent community] and immersive technologies are like the Occulus [headset]. But the magic is when they all combine,” Wilkins added.
NFTs or non-fungitible tokens refer to data stored on a ledger like blockchain and linked to photos, artwork, and other digital files. NFTs are tradeable in digital form.
Fortnite is an online digital game that grew its users from one million to over 300 million users in less than five years.
With the rise in the usage of virtual and augmented reality connections, it is expected that the metaverse advertising space could grow at a faster rate than traditional social media networks.
“We need to be there,” said Wilkins.
The term metaverse is so catchy that it even made it in the title of Marvel’s latest Dr Strange movie, which opened locally on Friday. Jamaicans started searching online for information on the Metaverse in May 2021 with a particular interest in ‘metaverse meaning’. Added to that, Jamaicans were really interested in pairing the metaverse searches with other related search terms such as cryptocurrency and fictitious worlds, according to search results through Google Trends.
Globally, in 2017, a few persons started searching for the term, but the search volume was so low that they were probably coders or nerds. Search for the topic really blew up in April 2021, followed a month later by Jamaica.
Overall, most persons outside of Jamaica were and are still interested in the metaverse for currency, non-fungible tokens, games, investments and Decentraland topics. Decentraland is a 3D virtual world, where users can buy virtual plots of land in the platform as NFTs. It went live in February 2020.
“The metaverse is largely an idea than reality,” said the guest speaker at the JN Fund Managers forum, Dr Alison Manzer, partner at Banking & Specialty Finance Group, Cassels, a Canadian law firm.. “But Star Trek-like holograms will be with us in the next five years,” she said.
The technology will enable the creation of avatars for individuals to transverse the new reality. This when fused with other technologies would enable immersive press conferences, trade shows and conferences, shopping and the fitting or trying on of clothes and shoes prior to purchase. It would allow doctors to practise surgeries, engineers in one location to collaborate with other engineers remotely, and so on.
“The metaverse will take gaming and entertainment to the next level. No question about that. It will become more immediate, more immersive. But it has many other uses,” said Manzer, an author, attorney, and lecturer, who has authored books on fintech, blockchain, and financial regulation.
She added that the metaverse opens up concerns, including privacy, pornography, personal theft, prolonged usage, and poor coding.
The JN forum avoided dystopian conversations on whether the technology could eventually lead to individuals cancelling reality and choosing to remain in the metaverse – like the theme of a Matrix film brought to life.
Meta/Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a video posted on Meta Platform’s YouTube channel, described the main elements of the metaverse as an immersive presence, avatars, home space, teleporting, interoperability, privacy and safety, virtual goods, and natural interfaces.