Thoughts on the metaverse:

Over the past few weeks a number of people have asked me about my thoughts on the metaverse/ Web 3.0, especially around CES. Here is my take. I have not posted much because it feels like a very noisy space where brands are hopping on board to be part of the ‘buzz’ and seem relevant. In the end the NFTs and ‘virtual’ experiences do not feel well thought through or of real value.

Beauty/CPG NFT craze feels like a play to feel relevant.

Here, I am referring to the NFT branded launches by E.l.f. CosmeticsClinique, and a host of others listed in ThingTesting. Some examples provided in ThingTesting’s post are branded NFTs in exchange for more access to a brand. In the end, the NFT is the ticket, and the experience is likely why someone purchased it (let’s not forget the NFT has no real value). In the case of Clinique, the NFT is a giveaway for a super fan…no one asked for Clinique’s NFT.

In terms of CES and CPG, Samsung showcased a virtual world called ‘My House’ (a showcase of at-home appliances), P&G featured ‘Beauty Sphere’ (essentially a 3-D like rendering of a building…linked to static brand pages. This was no Epic Games experience.), & Perfect Corp the AI/AR company showcased their virtual try-on and V-commerce store capabilities. That said, my reaction to P&G and others showcasing ‘the metaverse’ at CES is this is not what it will eventually be…this is a lot of showboating of ‘stuff’ or as TechCrunch put it ‘an emerging metaverse of shit’ to seem hip & relevant.

What excites me:

The metaverse I envision, is a mixed reality (MR), mostly with an augmented reality (AR) overlay (think Google Glass…but better, maybe a hologram 😊 ), where I am still interacting as a human (smelling & feeling), but life is enhanced.

A few areas where I see a direct application:

Example 1: Remote physical therapy - right now telehealth is great, but you are speaking to someone over a screen, angling your body to fit in a shot, and it is not always so easy. My dream, a virtual image of your therapist, where through connected sensors can monitor your body position, and use haptic feedback to help you better align your body…or apply pressure as needed.

Example 2: Connected bandages - let’s say I just had an operation, and now I have an incision that needs to heal (it starts to feel hot…but I may not pay much attention). Let’s consider if my doctor is alerted to the rise in temperature (or presence of bacteria/pathogen) and alerts me about the infection, virtually projects themself in front of me, inspects the incision, and then shows me how to reapply the dressing, and sends me a prescription (how cool).

Example 3: AR/VR for mental health. This is already in practice, but with the metaverse could become much more accessible, using AR/VR to treat PTSD patients.

Example 4: AR/VR pain management / amputee victims suffering from phantom limb. Phantom limb, experienced by amputees, results in severe pain at the point where the limb is amputated, and a feeling the limb is still there. This is already an area where VR technologies are being employed as a treatment, the traditional treatment used to be a mirror box, where patients would look at their reflection. Again, the metaverse could make this more accessible.

Example 5: Enhanced robotic remote surgery, this is perhaps where I get the most excited (and have zero qualifications…my father and brother, both surgeons, are probably cringing right now). Remote surgery robots are currently used with assistance. I envision a world where it would be possible for a doctor on one side of the world to conduct surgery on a patient and not be there, using a robot, enhanced with haptic feedback and more to virtually perform a procedure. Once again, making seeing a specialist possible for any patient around the world, without having to travel.

Thinking this way, there are obvious applications to dermatology, and more. Here is a great article talking about the possibilities for the metaverse in medicine.

In the end, I see a world where the idea of Web 3.0 excites me, but in its current state I really struggle with the hype machine and media blitz that is behind it.