Popularly dubbed as the ultimate confluence between the physical and digital, Metaverse is a confluence of technologies that generates real-time, virtual, and immersive experience for users with a strong sense of collaborative, concomitant, and self-sovereign experience. Gaining popularity among entertainment industry in India, Sreeram Ananthasayanam, Partner, Deloitte India in an exclusive conversation with Business Today talks about the adoption of Metaverse and the technology.
BT: Can Metaverse be leveraged in the entertainment industry?
SA: From the invention of printing press to cinematography and internet, the entertainment industry has adapted itself to deliver user experience in line with the technology capabilities of the time and age. Entertainment through and within that the Metaverse is poised to be the next phase of entertainment which has the potential to generate hitherto unimagined experience to the benefit of the entire ecosystem.
Across the world, from gaming to music and movies, we are already seeing several instances where Metaverse is being leveraged by the entertainment sector. Among other things, concerts, launch events, content streaming etc. are some of the key areas wherein the entertainment industry is leveraging Metaverse and with time it is expected that the industry would bring in more use-cases to the fore.
There are 2 major reasons for the same: First being the Consumer Demography. Within consumer demography, almost 27 per cent of the global population are born after 1997. Known as the Gen-Z - the post broadband generation, this cohort is largely digital native born with high-speed internet and brought up with smart phones. With an average online time of 8-9 hrs/day, it is estimated that they will constitute 40% of the workforce by 2030 and ~8 per cent of their disposable income would be spent online wherein experience would be key differentiator in customer engagement. Their digital proficiency dictates that entertainment industry must leverage innovative channels to effectively reach out to them and technologies like Metaverse fit the bill.
Second, Metaverse and Web 3.0 have a symbiotic relationship with the de-centralised layer of Metaverse being powered by applications of Web 3.0 viz., NFTs, DAOs etc. With immutable ownership of digital assets guaranteed through the underlying blockchain technology, content creators can monetise their content more efficiently and this has a domino effect in propelling more content creators into Web 3.0 which will invariably have a positive effect in overall adoption of Metaverse within the entertainment sector.
BT: Within entertainment, where all metaverse is being deployed?
SA: Deepening fan engagement, creating innovative immersive experience remotely, advertising and marketing have so far been the major drivers of entertainment industry’s initiatives in Metaverse. Apart from NFT drops by celebrities and production houses for fan engagement, digital concerts and shows, content streaming - launching of multiplexes in metaverse, gamification of movies are some of the use-cases where Metaverse has been used by the entertainment industry.
With OTT players like Netflix announcing their foray into Metaverse, it is not inconceivable in the future, that Metaverse will not only be one of the distribution channels for entertainment but also deliver content to homes in hitherto unimaginable immersive reality.
BT: How easy or difficult is to create these virtual spaces and the user interaction that mimics the real world? What kind of technologies are required – both hardware and software?
SA: Metaverse is just not about technologies – it is a confluence of technologies, art and imagination. Nevertheless, from technology standpoint it is a coming together of multiple multilayer hardware systems in liaison with a set of software systems.
At the hardware level, wearables viz., ocular glasses, haptic suits etc. generate high quality immersive experience which must be backed high speed connectivity and infrastructure through 5G networks, cloud computing, GPU (Graphical Processing Unit), gaming engines for enhanced user experience etc. At the software level, there is an interplay between several technologies viz., 3-D virtualisation for space and avatar creations, AR/VR software for immersive experience, gaming platforms for supporting concurrent sessions and shared experiences, blockchain for enabling the economic infrastructure of Metaverse - NFTs/Cryptocurrencies etc.
As such, most of these technologies have existed in isolation for close to a decade if not more. The crux of Metaverse is to assemble them together to provide seamless, immersive experience for users. In terms of ease of implementation, we are already witnessing several open-source platforms that can provide a version of the immersive experience. As more investments pour into the technologies, we will see further enhancements to the technologies which will drive the user experience and adoption.
BT: Are the next generation digital entertainment, media and entertainment companies thinking about metaverse and how people will socialize around entertainment?
SA: It would be restrictive to imagine that metaverse is in the radar of only next generation companies and content creators. Recent initiatives in the Indian entertainment industry have seen traditional production houses and stars take to Metaverse and allied technologies. Some of the major examples include but not limited to UV Creations and T-Series launched the Radhe Shyam Metaverse before the release of the movie, Hombale Films launching the El-Dorado tokens and KGFVerse before the release of KGF Chapter – II, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Kamal Hassan are among the early celebrities to launch their NFT collections. Also, recently it was revealed that Raj Kamal Films International intends to launch unreleased scenes that uses de-ageing technology to show a young Kamal Hassan from the movie Vikram exclusively in Kamal Hassan’s metaverse
In other words, content and stars will continue to remain the heart of entertainment and we will increasingly witness partnerships with new age technology companies and production houses to create innovative fan experience through Metaverse, NFTs etc.
BT: Does metaverse has the potential to personalise entertainment and how?
SA: One of the pre-requisite to personalise entertainment choices is the ability of the platform to track preferences and tie it up to the content repository to present users with choices. As anonymity to avatars and transactions are inherent to Metaverse in its current form, it may appear that personalization might become challenging. However, even in the conventional personalization, there are inherent challenges around privacy and user data processing.
With decentralised identities to avatars - that can be ported between platforms, the challenges around privacy can be mitigated as well as ensure personalization of content. In other words, user footprint can be captured and securely shared across platforms only with the consent of the users.
For instance, imagine your digital avatar shuffling between Netflix Metaverse and Airtel Multiplex Metaverse platforms. Both platforms receive your personal preference to assist you with content of your preference for enhanced user experience without you having to declare/choose your preferences. And imagine it being operationalised it only with your consent which can be withdrawn at any point of time. These are some of the new possibilities of personalization of entertainment in metaverse.
To summarise it is very well within the realm of possibilities that personalization of content may transition to its next logical step wherein users may have greater control over their data and consent without compromising user experience.
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