The Future Internet: How the Metaverse, Web 3.0, and Blockchain Will Transform Business and Society [1 ed.] 1119882877, 9781119882879

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The Future Internet: How the Metaverse, Web 3.0, and Blockchain Will Transform Business and Society [1 ed.]
 1119882877, 9781119882879

Table of contents :
Title page
Copyright Page
Introduction: A Whole New Internet
Welcome to Web 3.0
But Where Is That Road Heading?
What to Expect from This Book
Part I The Future Internet and The Next Digital Revolution
Chapter 1 The Metaverse and A More Immersive Online Experience
How the Metaverse Will Change Our World
The Technology That Makes All This Possible
Who’s Working on the Metaverse Already?
What Will the Metaverse Mean for Businesses?
Key Takeaways
Chapter 2 WEB3 and The Rise of Decentralization
What Is Web3?
Web3 Technology for Beginners: Blockchain, dAPPs, NFTs, and DAOs
How Will Web3 Impact Businesses?
Key Takeaways
Chapter 3 When and How Will This Future Internet Play Out? Exploring Timelines, Future Trends, and Challenges
When Will the Future Internet Arrive?
Future Trends That Will Shape the Internet
Roadblocks, Risks, and Challenges
Key Takeaways
Part II How the Future Internet Will Change Our World
Chapter 4 How Creative and Entertainment Industries are Finding New Ways to Engage With Their Audiences
The Future Internet and the “Creator Economy”
New Ways of Engaging with Art
Gaming and the Impact of the Metaverse and Web3
Transforming Music and Entertainment
Meanwhile, in the World of Sports . . .
Key Takeaways
Chapter 5 How Fashion and Retail Brands are Preparing For A More Immersive World
Enjoying a Better Customer Experience in the Current Internet
Creating Digital-Only Products
Take Note: Brands Are Already Creating a Metaverse Presence
Web3 (Especially Blockchain) and the Impact on Retailers
NFTs in Retail
Now, Web3 Platforms Are Showing Up as Physical Retailers
Key Takeaways
Chapter 6 Overhauling How We Learn (At All Stages of Life)
Making Learning More Immersive
Web3’s Impact on Education
Key Takeaways
Chapter 7 Disrupting Finance, It, and Other Service Industries
The Financial Sector And Web3
Exploring IT and Data Services
The Impact on Other Services
Key Takeaways
Chapter 8 Metaverse Hospitals and More: Healthcare in The Future Internet
How the Metaverse Could Transform Healthcare Delivery
What About Web3?
Key Takeaways
Chapter 9 Innovating Industry, Streamlining Supply Chains: What the Future Looks Like for Manufacturing, Energy, and Other Industrial Organizations
Manufacturing and the Metaverse
Digital twins of factories, machines, and more
How Web3 Technologies Will Change Industry
Key Takeaways
Chapter 10 How Governments and Public Services Will Harness The Future Internet
The Metaverse Is More Applicable to Government Than You Might Think
Web3 Could Enhance Many Government Systems
Key Takeaways
Chapter 11 Everyday Life and Leisure in the Future Internet
Catching Our ZZZs
Spending Time Online
Working Out in the Metaverse
Enriching the Travel Experience
Dining Out in the Metaverse Era
Dating and Sex in the Future Internet
Key Takeaways
Part III Leveraging the Future Internet in Your Business
Chapter 12 Rethinking Products and Services
Augmenting Existing Products and Services
Creating Completely New Products and Services for the Future Internet
Don’t Forget About Metaverse and Web3 Support Services and Products
Action Steps
Chapter 13 Rethinking Business Operations
Rethinking Your Business Model
Meetings and Collaborative Working in the Metaverse
Selling and Marketing in the Metaverse
Enhancing Human Resource Processes with Immersive Technologies
Providing Customer Support in the Metaverse
DAOs, and Changing How Businesses Are Governed and Run
Action Steps
Chapter 14 Attracting, Developing, and Retaining The Right Skills for The Future Internet
The Future Internet Skills Shortage
Attracting New Talent
Developing Your Talent
A Word on Retaining Talent
Action Steps
Chapter 15 Creating The Right Culture for Success
Being Purpose-Driven
Encouraging Continuous Learning
Embracing a Flatter Hierarchy
Becoming a More Porous, Gig-Ready Organization
Learning From Open-Source Technology
Supporting Individualism (Without Losing Collectivism)
Providing an Awesome Employee Experience
Becoming a Technology-Enabled (Yet Human-Centred) Business
Being Transparent
Leading with Authenticity
Prioritizing Ethics
Embracing Diversity
Action Steps
Chapter 16 Developing A Future Internet Strategy
Start by Defining Your Purpose and Ambition
Check Your Existing Business Strategy
Look at Products/Services and Business Processes
Identify Your Priority Future Internet Projects
Build Your Skills Plan
Look at Potential Partners and Acquisition Opportunities
Define What Success Looks Like
Don’t Forget about Ethics and Governance
Finally, Identify the Technology You Need
Chapter 17 Final Words
Share Your Thoughts
About The Author

Citation preview



This edition first published 2023 Copyright © 2023 by Bernard Marr All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by law. Advice on how to obtain permission to reuse material from this title is available at go/permissions. The right of Bernard Marr to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with law. Registered Offices John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, USA John Wiley & Sons Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK Editorial Office The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK For details of our global editorial offices, customer services, and more information about Wiley products visit us at Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats and by print-­on-­demand. Some content that appears in standard print versions of this book may not be available in other formats. Designations used by companies to distinguish their products are often claimed as trademarks. All brand names and product names used in this book are trade names, service marks, trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners. The publisher is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned in this book. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty While the publisher and authors have used their best efforts in preparing this work, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, including without limitation any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives, written sales materials or promotional statements for this work. The fact that an organization, website, or product is referred to in this work as a citation and/or potential source of further information does not mean that the publisher and authors endorse the information or services the organization, website, or product may provide or recommendations it may make. This work is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a specialist where appropriate. Further, readers should be aware that websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. Neither the publisher nor authors shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Marr, Bernard, author. | John Wiley & Sons, publisher. Title: The future internet : how the metaverse, web 3.0, and blockchain will transform business and society / Bernard Marr. Description: Hoboken, NJ : Wiley, 2023. | Includes index. Identifiers: LCCN 2023005554 (print) | LCCN 2023005555 (ebook) | ISBN 9781119882879 (cloth) | ISBN 9781119882909 (adobe pdf) | ISBN 9781119882893 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: Internet—Social aspects. | Business enterprises—Technological innovations. | Metaverse—Social aspects. | Blockchains (Databases)—Social aspects. Classification: LCC HM851 .M3725 2023 (print) | LCC HM851 (ebook) | DDC 302.23/1—dc23/eng/20230413 LC record available at LC ebook record available at Cover Design: Wiley Cover Image: © rikkyall/Shutterstock

  To my beautiful wife Claire and our three wonderful children Sophia, James, and Oliver, thank you for filling my life with love, joy, and endless inspiration.


Introduction: A Whole New Internet


Part I

The Future Internet and the  Next Digital Revolution


Chapter 1 The Metaverse and a More Immersive Online Experience Chapter 2 Web3 and the Rise of Decentralization Chapter 3 When and How Will this Future Internet Play Out? Exploring Timelines, Future Trends, and Challenges Part II

How the Future Internet Will Change Our World 

Chapter 4 How Creative and Entertainment Industries Are Finding New Ways to Engage with Their Audiences Chapter 5 How Fashion and Retail Brands Are Preparing for a More Immersive World Chapter 6 Overhauling How We Learn (At All Stages of Life) Chapter 7 Disrupting Finance, IT, and Other Service Industries Chapter 8 Metaverse Hospitals and More: Healthcare in the Future Internet Chapter 9 Innovating Industry, Streamlining Supply Chains: What the Future Looks Like for Manufacturing, Energy, and Other Industrial Organizations


7 25 39 57

59 85 99 111 127 141


Chapter 10 How Governments and Public Services Will Harness the Future Internet Chapter 11 Everyday Life and Leisure in the Future Internet

155 167

Part III


Leveraging the Future Internet in Your Business

Chapter 12 Rethinking Products and Services Chapter 13 Rethinking Business Operations Chapter 14 Attracting, Developing, and Retaining the  Right Skills for the Future Internet Chapter 15 Creating the Right Culture for Success Chapter 16 Developing a Future Internet Strategy Chapter 17 Final Words

185 197 209 219 235 245

About the Author






Web1, the first evolution of the internet, gave us the static websites of old and a world that (seemingly) revolved around Google. The second phase, web2, gave us a much more participative internet, characterized by user-­ generated content (bloggers, YouTubers, etc.) and driven by social media giants like Facebook and Tencent.

Welcome to Web 3.0 Now we’re entering the third evolution of the internet, in which life online will become more immersive and decentralized. Immersive thanks to metaverse technologies such as virtual reality and metaverse platforms that provide immersive gaming and social experiences. Decentralized largely thanks to blockchain and crypto-­driven platforms that give more power back to users—­and challenge established powerhouses such as Google, Meta, and even financial institutions. This is interchangeably referred to as web3 (or web 3.0) and the metaverse. I like to call it the future internet. Because that’s exactly what it is, the future of the internet. This new evolution of the internet will give us a much more immersive, engaging digital experience, where the lines between the real world and the virtual world become even more blurred than they are today.



This is a huge transformation for us as individuals, for businesses and for the world at large. And, as you’ll see in this book, it’s already underway. A  lot of investment is being poured into the metaverse and web3, and tons of exciting use cases are emerging. Use cases that show how organizations of all kinds are embracing web3 and the metaverse to build deeper connections with their customers, develop new products and services, improve the employee experience, streamline business process, and more. The road to this promised future internet is already being paved.

But Where Is That Road Heading? My job is to look ahead. Not into a far-­off dystopian future. I’m not going to tell you that robots are coming for your job and we’re all going to end up trapped in the Matrix, as human batteries for our machine overlords. I’m here to provide an enticing glimpse of the near future, with a realistic business hat on. Together, we’ll look at the developments that are already underway, and how these are likely to impact businesses and our world. That said, it’s rather hard to predict the future when new technologies are emerging and changing so fast. To some extent, it’s easier to predict where the metaverse is going because we’ve been building towards a more immersive internet for quite some time (consider the evolution of gaming platforms like Fortnite, which have transformed themselves into immersive worlds where people come to hang out and attend events, not just play the game itself). Web3 is a slightly different kettle of fish, as we say here in the UK. Blockchain, and especially NFTs (don’t worry, we’ll get into the technical definitions later), are relatively new. What’s more, this notion of decentralization represents such a huge shift away from traditional power structures—­not just in terms of technology companies, but financial structures, organizational structures, and more. And not everyone will be on board with such a dramatic shift. Some very powerful organizations and systems are under threat and will, no doubt, challenge aspects of the future internet. Which is partly why it’s difficult to predict exactly where all this is headed. There are many



moving parts. Plus, new innovations will come along that haven’t yet been invented. It’s a time of flux and anticipation. Challenges and excitement. We can see, however, that brands are already doing amazing things for the future internet, such as creating digital-­only products, enhancing existing products with cool digital add-­ons, recreating physical events and spaces in virtual worlds, and delivering highly engaging virtual experiences. This book showcases many examples of the future internet in action. Yet I also know that, for the most part, future internet use cases will be defined and built by the people reading this book. You, your organization, and your competitors will create the future internet. And you must. Believe me when I say you can’t afford to ignore the impact of the future internet. Because more and more people want to spend their time—­and their money—­in virtual worlds. My teenagers and their friends are only too happy to spend their pocket money on digital accessories for their gaming characters. Products that don’t exist in the real world. This is the next generation of consumers, and they’re hungry for digital products and immersive virtual experiences. For younger generations, there’s no meaningful distinction between the physical world and the digital world. Reality and simulation merge together. I mean, what is reality anyway? Is an enjoyable virtual experience any less valuable, any less “real”, than a physical one? It’s all experience. And, increasingly, our experiences will take place in virtual settings—­from hanging out with friends, to shopping in virtual stores (much better than the traditional, boring online shopping experience if you ask me), to going to gigs.

What to Expect from This Book This book outlines an enticing vision of a whole new internet, built on the principles of immersiveness and decentralization. In the first part of the book, we’ll look in more detail at how this future internet will take shape and explore the technologies that are driving this transformation. In the second part, we’ll see how the future internet will transform various



parts of our economy and society—­looking at some of the industries that are seeing the biggest changes at the moment. This is where we’ll look at sectors like finance, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and so on. But I recommend you read all these chapters, not just those that relate more closely to your own work, because many of the examples will translate to your own sector. And finally, in the third part, we’ll look at how you can leverage the future internet in your own organization—­for example, by rethinking your products and services and enhancing your business processes with the metaverse and web3 in mind. I hope this book inspires and motivates you to get ready for the future internet. Incredible innovations are coming our way and I can’t wait to see how the future internet evolves.


PA RT I THE FUTURE INTERNET AND THE NEXT DIGITAL REVOLUTION The future internet will give us a much more immersive, engaging digital experience, while at the same time giving more power back to users, largely thanks to decentralized platforms and blockchain technology. In this part, I explore these two core facets—­immersive and decentralized—­in more depth to uncover what the future internet might look like. Starting with a new era of immersiveness.



THE METAVERSE AND A MORE IMMERSIVE ONLINE EXPERIENCE Welcome to a day in the life of you. Future you, that is. You begin your working day with a virtual team meeting—­with realistic avatars of you and your colleagues gathering in a virtual meeting space to discuss your newest project. There’s a gorgeous mountain scene outside the meeting room window, even though you’re in Birmingham or Boston, or wherever you are in the real world. At lunchtime you go for a walk in your local park and see a dog walker wearing a jacket you like. Your augmented reality sunglasses tell you the brand, product name, and price. So, you hop on your phone and have your shopping avatar—­which matches your measurements perfectly—­“try on” the jacket in the store’s virtual changing room. (It looks great on you, by the way. You should definitely buy it.) Back in your home office, you spend the afternoon collaborating with a remote colleague on a new product design, exploring different options in 3D format, “walking around” the design to explore it from every angle and manipulating it to your specifications in front of your eyes. After work, you and your partner have your weekly virtual reality (VR) tennis lesson. Then, because you’re renovating your home, it’s time to decide on a new bathroom suite. So, you head to the DIY store’s app, which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to digitally place different



bathroom suites in your room. You spend a happy half-­hour “placing” lots of different bathtubs, sinks, and showers in your bathroom, seeing which fit and generally weighing up which look best. It’s so much easier than heading to the store with a measuring tape, as you did with your first home. Later, you don your VR headset to catch up with a friend who recently moved to the other side of the country, meeting in an online platform and watching your favourite band play a virtual gig together. Okay, maybe a day in the life of future you won’t be exactly like this. But it’s a taste of what I mean by a more immersive internet—­that is, an online experience that is more realistic (seeing things in 3D rather than 2D, for example) and generally more engaging. And at the heart of this immersive, realistic, engaging internet lies a key concept: the metaverse.

How the Metaverse Will Change Our World I have a confession to make. I don’t love the term “metaverse”. It just makes most people think of Meta (formerly Facebook Company). And for others, they think it’s all just about virtual reality and living in a fantasy virtual world, like in Ready Player One. But the metaverse is so much more than that. Or rather, it will be. For me, the metaverse represents the future merging of digital (i.e. online) activities with virtual (i.e. simulated) worlds, and, yes, the physical world around us. The metaverse will make the digital world and virtual experiences more realistic, more immersive, and, dare I say, more human. Social media companies, brands, employers, schools, and individuals will operate their own virtual worlds where people can come and work, learn, game, exercise, or just hang out. For this reason, I’d argue that the metaverse will end up bigger than the real world. But the metaverse will also make the physical, real world around us more accessible, exciting, and interactive. That’s a crucial point to



understand—­the metaverse isn’t just going to revolutionize our experience of life online; it’ll change how we view and interact with the real world around us. Experiences in the real world will be more exciting because of the metaverse. Whether it’s choosing a new bathtub, going on a walk, buying clothes, or whatever. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What actually is the metaverse?

A beginner’s guide to the metaverse The metaverse concept is all about persistent, shared virtual worlds. Mark Zuckerberg, who says he’s been contemplating the metaverse since before he came up with Facebook, describes it as an “internet that you’re inside of, rather than just looking at”, which is a brilliantly concise description. (Although it does neglect how the metaverse will influence the real world around us.) In these shared virtual worlds, we’ll theoretically be able to do and be anything we want. We can take on whatever personality or form we want, or just be ourselves. We’ll be able to work and socialize with people on the other side of the globe in a way that’s more realistic and engaging than Zoom calls or social media chats. We’ll enjoy a better online shopping experience. Gaming will be more immersive and realistic than ever. More gigs will take place in virtual spaces. Students learning remotely will feel like they’re in the lecture hall with their teacher. And so on, and so on. Basically, thanks to the metaverse, more and more of everyday life will take place in shared virtual worlds—­and these worlds will feel much more engaging and immersive than our current experiences of, for example, going online, using social media, or VR gaming. The concept of the metaverse has existed for a while. In the Matrix movies, where humans are locked into a shared virtual world created by machines, that’s essentially a (disturbing) depiction of a metaverse. The same with Ready Player One (a book and film in which people take refuge from our dystopian future world in a massive online role-­playing game and virtual



society, complete with its own currency), and the countless other stories, movies, and shows where people spend their lives in virtual worlds. So, it’s not a new concept invented by Mark Zuckerberg, despite Facebook’s clever rebrand to Meta. (In fact, the term “metaverse” first appeared in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk novel Snow Crash.) This is a concept that society has been building towards for a while—­ever since the emergence of the internet, social media, virtual reality, and early attempts at creating shared digital environments, like Second Life (the online 3D environment where users engage in an alternative life and assume an alter ego). Many experts—­myself included—­believe the metaverse will be integral to the next evolution of the internet. It will be the next generation of the internet. If this all sounds a bit exaggerated, consider how many people have found themselves living more of their lives online since the COVID-­19 pandemic. We’re becoming increasingly used to working, learning, shopping, and socializing online. In recent years, the Fortnite gaming universe has expanded so much it now hosts social events and huge concerts, featuring stars like Ariana Grande. So, the idea of bringing all these strands together as “the metaverse” is not such a wild leap after all. Sure, it’s not going to happen overnight (more on this in Chapter 3), but it is going to happen.

Is this the same as the multiverse? No, the metaverse isn’t the same as the multiverse, although you’ll hear both terms bandied around a lot these days. In tech language, the multiverse is an ecosystem of many virtual worlds. The Fortnite game is a good example of such a virtual world—­one that’s expanded beyond pure gaming to a virtual hub where people come to hang out with others or be entertained. Platforms like Fortnite are part of a new multiverse era that’s emerging in the tech world, largely driven by gaming (which makes sense when you think about it, because the gaming



industry has loads of experience of creating immersive virtual worlds). According to TechCrunch’s Eric Peckham, “Multiverse virtual worlds will come to function almost like new countries in our society, countries that exist in cyberspace rather than physical locations, but have complex economic and political systems that interact with the physical world”. But, crucially, these virtual worlds in the multiverse aren’t (yet) interconnected. They’re separate “countries” that you can visit, if you will. The metaverse concept is different because it will be a persistent, shared digital environment. You’ll—­in theory—­be able to move from activity to activity and environment to environment and take your avatar, preferences, and digital assets with you. So, while the multiverse is fairly disconnected, the metaverse will—­in the future—­offer a connected virtual world with a unified user experience, whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re going. So, if the multiverse is like a collection of separate virtual countries, the metaverse will be more like a virtual European Union, where you can seamlessly travel from country to country, taking your one currency with you. In the future, some or all of these disparate virtual worlds—­such as Fortnite—­may well become interconnected parts of the metaverse. That’s the ultimate promise of the metaverse.

Interoperability is key Importantly, then, your future metaverse life won’t be limited to one platform, like Facebook or Fortnite. Rather, it’s all about enjoying a shared, continuous experience. So, you may move from an immersive VR game, to a work meeting in a 3D meeting space rendered on your laptop screen, to 2D applications on your mobile phone (shopping, for example). But all the while, you’ll be able to enjoy continuity between the different activities and environments, in terms of your preferences, the avatar (or avatars) you control, and the general user experience. In other words, your data would carry over from area to area and activity to activity. The same with



any digital assets you own (e.g. if you buy clothes for your digital avatar). This “interoperability”, as it’s known in the tech world, is crucial to the creation of persistent and shared worlds.

What about the physical world (and the human experience, for that matter)? Earlier in the chapter, I said that the metaverse will change the real world. What do I mean by that? For the most part, I’m talking about the physical world around us being “augmented” digitally, with AR technology. If you’ve ever played Pokémon Go, where you see Pokémon characters around you in the real world, you get the basic idea of how AR can enhance the real world around us. Another fun example is Google Search with AR—­if your phone has AR technology, try Googling “dinosaurs” and you’ll be able to see AR dinosaurs appear in your room. The AR technology that underpins Pokémon Go and Google’s augmented search function will be a cornerstone of the metaverse. (I talk more about key metaverse technologies later in the chapter.) So, in the real world in future, you might wear AR glasses that display digital information on the lenses as you walk around, or the apps on your phone will overlay digital images on top of the real world. Or, say you work on an assembly line in a factory, you might wear an AR headset that gives detailed guidance on how to assemble components, overlaying images and instructions over the top of what you see in front of you. When you walk into a physical high-­street store, AR mirrors will let you try on clothing and see—­in a realistic way—­how they’ll look on you, without you having to get undressed. (As an aside, in virtual online changing rooms, you’ll be able to combine different items of clothing to try out multiple outfit combos before you buy, just as you would in a physical store. Hugo Boss is already working on this.) In salons and beauty stores, you’ll be able to virtually try on different shades of lipstick or hair colours or hair styles before you take the plunge.



So, when Mark Zuckerberg said the metaverse will be like being inside the internet, he was absolutely right. But it will also be like bringing the internet and virtual elements out into the real world, if that makes sense. What will all this mean for us as humans? Will we end up living more of our lives in virtual worlds and environments? Probably. But that doesn’t mean virtual experiences will be any less meaningful than real-­world experiences. (According to a 2020 Ericsson survey, 70 percent of respondents believe we will be able to create VR worlds that our brains can’t distinguish from real worlds by 2030.)1 Many relationships start online these days. Most of us are used to working or learning online to some degree or other. Clearly, humans are not averse to experiencing life events online. As the metaverse comes to fruition and this new vision of a “future internet” evolves, our online and virtual experiences will become more immersive, more engaging, more realistic, and—­ultimately—­more enriching. (There are potential downsides to this, of course, such as trolling or online bullying feeling more realistic, or someone experiencing harm in a VR environment.) I do believe we’ll be able to find meaning and connection in virtual worlds, just as we do in the real world. Meanwhile, thanks to technologies like AR, we’ll be able to move through the physical world around us in an easier, more engaging way.

The Technology That Makes All This Possible I’ve touched on augmented reality, but let’s spend a little more time exploring the technology that will make the metaverse possible.

Extended reality technologies There are a few different technologies that sit under the extended reality (XR) umbrella—­in fact, I like to think of XR as a spectrum, where the technologies become more immersive the further along the spectrum you go.



Virtual reality The XR technology you’ve probably heard the most about is virtual reality. It’s also the most immersive of the XR technologies. Strap on a VR headset and you’re completely transported into a 3D, 360-­degree, computer-­ simulated world, whether it’s walking on the Moon, visiting Ancient Greece, or whatever. Meanwhile, the real world around you is totally blocked out. The gaming industry was an early adopter of VR technology, and is perhaps still the first thing people think of when it comes to VR experiences. But nowadays, many other industries are beginning to harness the possibilities of creating fully immersive experiences for customers and colleagues, for example, through virtual meetings, VR training sessions, or VR experiences that tell a story about a brand, product, or ingredient. Meta (Facebook) has invested heavily in VR since acquiring headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, and has made no secret of the fact that it sees VR exploding way beyond gaming. One of Meta’s goals is to use virtual environments, combined with the power of social media, to create shared online spaces where people hang out and chat (or, really, do anything they like—­because pretty much anything is possible when you can create your own virtual world). But to enjoy such a VR experience, you need some specialist kit—­at the very least, a VR headset. (At the super-­affordable end of the scale, you can get a basic Google Cardboard VR viewer that, along with an accompanying app, transforms your smartphone into a VR device, although this will result in a less slick experience.) VR headsets generally include stereo sound or come with earbuds to provide sound effects. Plus, there’s head-­and eye-­tracking technology to track your movements (typically, using laser points and infrared LED lights within the headset itself). The good news is that VR headsets are getting lighter and easier to wear. For example, you no longer need a heavy headset with lots of cables that connect to a computer; instead, you can have a lightweight, standalone headset or head-­mounted display that doesn’t need to be plugged into



a main computer. What’s more, new VR tech is being developed all the time—­think haptic suits that allow you to experience physical sensations that accompany the VR experience; smaller, less obtrusive VR goggles; and treadmills or boots that give you the feeling of really walking around. Bottom line, VR technology will become more accessible and affordable, and VR experiences will become slicker and more immersive. And all this means VR will play a mainstream role in the future of the metaverse. Augmented reality At the other end of the XR spectrum we have augmented reality, which I’ve already touched on briefly. For me, AR has the biggest potential in the short term, because it doesn’t have to involve special kit like goggles or headsets. In many cases, all you need is a simple smartphone, laptop, or tablet. (Saying that, there are specially designed AR glasses, like Google Glass, which will become more commonplace in future.) In a nutshell, AR involves the projection of digital elements—­such as information, graphics, animation, or images—­onto the real world, so that the digital content being superimposed looks like it is part of the physical world. I’ve already mentioned Pokémon Go as one example of this technology in action; those Snapchat filters that overlay cute animal ears over your own are another basic example. Because the digital element is superimposed onto reality, you’re still very much in touch with the real world in front of you (unlike, say, a VR experience, where the world created around you is entirely digital). Yet, thanks to the AR projection, the real world has become enhanced—­more informative, more entertaining, or more interactive, for instance. Hybrid reality Somewhere in the middle of the XR spectrum, we have what’s called mixed reality or hybrid reality. Even experts argue over the definition of hybrid reality, so I won’t dwell on it too much, but suffice to say it typically involves combining elements of VR and AR to enhance the real world around us



without blocking it out. So, it’s not quite as immersive as a full-­on VR experience, where you enter a simulated world and leave the real world behind. But it’s a bit more involved than your basic AR experience or app. XR will blur the lines between the real and not real What I want you to take away from this section is that all of these XR technologies will increasingly blur the boundaries between the real world and the digital world. And this will be key to the growth and success of the metaverse. As the boundaries become more blurred, we’ll find ourselves switching from a real-­world experience (or an augmented real-­ world experience) to something more immersive and back again, without friction. Say, for example, you’re taking a (real-­world) holiday on a Greek island. Using AR, you could point your phone at some impressive marble columns and the information onscreen will tell you those columns once formed the entrance to a site where mysterious ancient rituals were performed. Flip on some VR goggles and you could then immediately step into this world and move among the people of Ancient Greece! And because the metaverse is all about shared virtual worlds, you hop on a chat and tell your mum to get her VR goggles and meet you in Ancient Greece World (or whatever it’s called), so she can share a little taste of your holiday.

Avatars Another tech feature that will play a big role in the metaverse—­or, at least, parts of the metaverse—­is the avatar. No, not James Cameron’s epic saga, but a digital representation of you that will live in the metaverse and interact with others. Thinking about it, you could potentially have different avatars for different settings, if you were so inclined. For example, you could have a smartly dressed, recognizable avatar for your virtual work meetings. You could have a completely different avatar (human, elf, kitten, whatever) for gaming and hanging out with friends online. And you could also have a very



realistic avatar that accurately reflects your real-­world size and shape, which you could use to virtually try on clothes. Whatever form they take, and however realistic they become, everyone seems to agree that avatars will be a core part of the metaverse experience. They will also play a key role in the interoperability that I mentioned earlier—­meaning you’ll be able to take your avatar with you from experience to experience. So, you’ll be recognizable as “you” wherever you are in the metaverse. Head to my TikTok channel and you’ll see my digital avatar, or Bernard Marr 2.0 as I call him. He looks and sounds almost exactly like me, but he is in fact my digital twin—­an avatar powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. He was created by a company called Synthesia, using images and recordings of me stitched together with machine learning. Watch my TikTok videos and you’ll see Bernard Marr 2.0 presenting them. I could present these videos myself, but having a digital avatar is a really fun way for me to explain and demonstrate technical topics like avatars, the metaverse, digital twins, machine learning, and more. And as the technology evolves, he may even take on more and more of my workload—­giving lectures, for example. Your own digital avatar may, one day, do tasks on your behalf. Personally, I find the possibilities of hyper-­realistic digital avatars very exciting, especially when it comes to making the internet more immersive, realistic, and engaging. The technology could, for instance, be used to resurrect beloved past entertainers so new generations could enjoy their performances as a virtual experience. The team from tech startup Metaphysic—­those AI whizzes famous for creating amazingly realistic videos of fake Tom Cruise—­even competed on America’s Got Talent, bringing Elvis back to life on stage and making a synthetic (but super-­ realistic) Simon Cowell sing. Imagine a future in which you could do karaoke with Elvis or relive Jimmy Hendrix at Woodstock in a way that feels totally absorbing and realistic!



If you fancy creating your own digital avatar, there are plenty of tools you can try right now. For example, there’s Ready Player Me, which creates full-­body, 3D avatars that can be exported into various different environments. Or you could use something like Bitmoji to create a cartoon avatar.

Digital twins My avatar, Bernard Marr 2.0, is essentially a digital twin—­a digital copy that recreates the real me. But the concept of digital twins goes way beyond my TikTok channel and is, in fact, one of the biggest tech trends around. A digital twin is a digital model of something in the real world. It’s already possible to create a digital twin of pretty much anything in the real world—­a building, a car, a component, a whole factory line, a city, a process, a system . . . anything. Currently, digital twins are mostly used to tweak and adjust variables to study what happens, before making expensive changes to the real-­world object or system. A good example comes from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which created a digital twin of the city’s transport infrastructure to model the movement of micro-­mobility solutions like e-­scooters and shared-­use bicycles. The Shanghai Urban Operations and Management Center has done something even more ambitious, building a digital twin of the entire city, which is used to model 100,000 elements, from refuse disposal and collection to road traffic. It also helped authorities plan and react during the COVID-­19 pandemic. Elsewhere, Tesla creates a digital twin of each one of its cars, using sensor data from the real-­world vehicle and AI algorithms to predict where faults and breakdowns are most likely to occur. This reduces Tesla’s costs in repairing and servicing cars that are under warranty and improves the Tesla customer experience. Digital twins are therefore an extremely useful (and low-­risk) way of experimenting with factors and predicting what is likely to happen with the digital twin’s real-­world counterpart.



As the metaverse evolves, I believe we’ll see digital replicas popping up all over our shared virtual spaces. And the more digital twins we have of real-­world stuff (buildings, cities, products, etc.), the more components the metaverse will have. We could meet with colleagues in a perfect digital replica of our office building, or have our avatar test drive a digital twin of a new car. In short, digital twins will make the metaverse feel more real.

Recognizing the current limitations of technology We can already do exciting things with XR, avatars, and digital twins, but it’s really important to recognize that all this technology has come a long way in the last few years—­and will continue to evolve rapidly. What I mean by this is, don’t judge the future potential of the metaverse—­how immersive it will be, how engaging it will be, and so on—­based on what we can see and do with today’s technology. This is just the start of all things metaverse. Existing technologies will advance and new technologies will emerge to bring this vision of a future internet to life. Think back to the very first websites. They were Basic with a capital B. If I’d judged the entire potential of the internet on those early examples, I’d have been embarrassingly wrong. The metaverse is at the same stage as those very first websites, so we must all cut it some slack and maintain an open mind about the amazing things to come.

Who’s Working on the Metaverse Already? If we’re truly going to have this shared, connected metaverse, it’s going to take a lot of work from some of the world’s biggest organizations. Already, many companies are positioning themselves as big metaverse players and developing platforms that will (ultimately) form part of the metaverse. Meta is the obvious one. Changing the name from Facebook to Meta was a clear sign of how important Mark Zuckerberg feels the metaverse will



be in future. One of Meta’s metaverse-­related projects is Horizon Worlds, a collaborative virtual worlds platform where users can come and play, explore, and create. Tech company Nvidia has taken an approach aimed firmly at professionals with its Omniverse platform, a creative metaverse platform for design professionals that allows creatives to design collaboratively in 3D in real time. I’ve also mentioned Fortnite, the wildly popular online game by Epic Games. The game’s creators were quick to realize its full potential, and by holding live music concerts and other events (e.g. movie trailers and music debuts), Fortnite has rapidly become a virtual world in its own right. Also in gaming there’s the Roblox platform, which has more than 50 million daily users. Here, anyone can create and monetize their own game worlds, which all exist within an interconnected universe. Brands like Nike, Ralph Lauren, and Vans have all used the platform to set up virtual worlds where users can interact with their brands. Vans, for instance, set up a virtual skatepark! Then there’s The Sandbox, which started as a mobile game but was later ported to the Ethereum blockchain—­making it one of the first decentralized metaverse platforms. The Sandbox allows users to build 3D items (e.g. characters or vehicles) that are then turned into NFTs (blockchain-­ based, non-­fungible tokens) that can be traded and sold via the platform’s built-­in marketplace, in the platform’s own currency, SAND. Here is where the immersiveness of virtual worlds and decentralized tools like blockchain and NFTs collide, allowing users to own virtual assets in their virtual world. You can even buy parcels of land. Snoop Dogg has made his online home in The Sandbox, and a plot of land with a prestigious neighbour like him could set you back millions of dollars (the most expensive piece of land in The Sandbox went for $4.5 million). The creator of The Sandbox believes that, in the future, people will even have jobs and earn money in the metaverse, doing jobs that don’t exist in the real world.



All things considered, The Sandbox is probably one of the most advanced metaverse platforms out there, giving us a real glimpse of a truly persistent virtual world. Decentraland is another decentralized metaverse platform—­kind of like a cross between a game and an experiment in creating a digital, decentralized democracy. It comes with its own currency (MANA), and, just as in The Sandbox, you can buy your own plot of land, although it’ll cost you at least $10,000. This notion of decentralized virtual worlds will be an important facet of the metaverse (or parts of the metaverse, at least)—­meaning not all of the metaverse will be controlled by giants like Facebook. Worlds like Decentraland and The Sandbox will ultimately be built and managed by the users, with rules being set down in smart contracts and enshrined in blockchains. In other words, stakeholders (users, landowners, owners of the platform’s cryptocurrency) will decide how their metaverse environment is run. Read more about the decentralized nature of the future internet in Chapter 2. What remains to be seen is how these separate metaverse companies will collaborate to build a truly connected, shared metaverse, where people can seamlessly move from one experience or platform to another, taking their avatar and digital currency with them. It’s a problem Mark Zuckerberg and the other leaders in this space will have to work out if they want us to spend more and more of our time in these virtual worlds.

What Will the Metaverse Mean for Businesses? With companies like Vans building a virtual skatepark and real-­world artists performing in virtual worlds, it should be clear by now that the metaverse holds a lot of potential for brands to connect with their audience, sell products, and find new advertising opportunities.



Some of the obvious opportunities include things like sponsorship of virtual events, providing virtual experiences for customers (like that Vans skatepark), or creating digital-­only products that exist purely in the metaverse (digital cars, homes, clothes, designer furniture, etc.). McDonald’s is, according to patents filed, preparing to create virtual restaurants where people can hang out and order food to be delivered to their (real-­world) home. Nike has its own metaverse space called Nikeland (based on the Roblox platform) where fans can socialize, buy digital products, and enjoy brand experiences such as appearances by sports stars. These examples give us a taste of how brands will show up in the metaverse and use it to drive their business forward. (You’ll find many more examples from various industries in Part II.) It may even be possible, in the future, to create virtual experiences on the fly that are personalized to each individual customer, according to their preferences. Companies may also want to prepare for a future in which employees work and train in the metaverse, in virtual co-­working spaces, for example. And of course, there will be new ways to collaborate on projects virtually in real time, especially for creatives. I remember in the early 2000s even some big brands saying they didn’t need a social media presence, and now every business—­big and small—­is on social media. The same is going to happen with the metaverse. Which means any business that wants to stay competitive should start making plans for the future internet now. Read more about how to prepare your business in Part III.

Key Takeaways Let’s finish up this chapter with some final key takeaways. • The metaverse—­persistent shared virtual worlds—­will change how we experience the internet, making it much more immersive, realistic, and engaging. But it will also change how we move through



the real world. The metaverse will be like being inside the internet, but it will also bring the internet and digital elements out into the real world. • The metaverse will be driven by extended reality technologies (largely VR and AR), as well as avatars and digital twins. And all this technology will increasingly blur the boundaries between the real world and the digital world. • We mustn’t judge the future potential of the metaverse based on what we can see and do with today’s technology. This is just the start. Metaverse technologies will advance dramatically over the coming years and new technologies will arise. • There’s no doubt in my mind that the metaverse is the next iteration of the internet. • For businesses, the metaverse is where brands will connect with their audience, sell products, grow their reach, and more. It’s vital organizations prepare for this new immersive future internet now. • Importantly, not all of the metaverse will be controlled by tech giants like Facebook. Parts of the metaverse will be made up of decentralized platforms and virtual worlds that are run and shaped by users. We can’t talk about the metaverse without talking about web3, the third generation of the internet, which incorporates concepts like decentralization, blockchain, and NFTs—­concepts I’ve briefly touched on in this chapter. So, let’s explore these notions in more detail and see how the internet is evolving in its third phase, web3.

Note 1. What if the tech singularity is a reality explosion?; Ericsson; https://www­singularity-­merged-­reality



WEB3 AND THE RISE OF DECENTRALIZATION First we had web1 (or “web 1.0”), the development of the world wide web and the birth of the internet we all know and love. Then came web2 (aka “web 2.0”), a more interactive, user-­generated web, driven by the explosion of social media. And now people are talking about web3 (sometimes called “web 3.0”), the supposed next big evolutionary leap forward of the internet.

What Is Web3? Let me start by saying this is an area where things are evolving fast, and the potential future impact of web3 technologies is arguably less clear than it is for the metaverse. With the metaverse, the path towards a more immersive internet is relatively clear, and we’re already well along that path. But web3 is in many ways a newer concept—­and is arguably as much about an ideological shift as it is about a technological shift. And this makes it hard to predict how widely the impact of web3 technologies will be felt. That said, the disruptive potential of web3—­by which I mean the potential to shake up life online and who controls it—­is huge. So, let’s get into it.

Web3 for beginners Because web3 is something of a work-­in-­progress, pinning it down to a concrete definition is tricky. But it’s safe to say that web3 describes a vision 25


of the next iteration of the internet—­in particular, a decentralized internet, as opposed to an internet that’s controlled by corporations and governments (as is the case with today’s internet). It’s a vision of what the internet could be, thanks to new technologies that make decentralization possible—­ particularly blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFTs (non-­fungible tokens). Therefore, web3 symbolizes a more equitable, user-­controlled internet, powered largely by token-­based economics and blockchain-­based interactions and transactions. I’ll talk more about the underlying technologies later in the chapter, but for now, let’s dwell on this notion of decentralization. In today’s internet, most of the sites we use are owned by corporations (Meta, Google, Amazon, etc.) and—­to some extent—­controlled by government regulations. Power is centralized among these huge organizations and governments. Web1 and web2 evolved this way because the infrastructure required to build and run the internet (servers, software, etc.) is expensive and someone has to pay for it! These powerful corporations earn back their investment (and more) either by charging us to use their services, or by harvesting and using (not to mention selling) our extremely valuable personal data. Web3 and the decentralized internet promise to change all this, or at least ensure that centralization isn’t the only way forward. Three concepts that are key to decentralization are open-­source, trustless, and permissionless. Open-­source refers to software that is built on code that’s freely available for anyone to use, for any purpose (in contrast to the proprietary approach taken by many of today’s tech giants). Trustless means that interactions can take place between two parties without the need for a trusted third party to oversee the interaction. (A good example is sending Bitcoin to another person—­a transaction that takes place without the oversight of a bank or other intermediary.) Similarly, permissionless means that neither party in a transaction or interaction has to seek permission from a third party (e.g. service provider or government) before the interaction can take place.



Web3 in action There are some big-­name web3 players already in existence, and new decentralized platforms and apps are appearing all the time. Bitcoin and Ethereum are examples that you’re probably familiar with. (Indeed, Bitcoin was the first decentralized digital currency and the first application to popularize the use of blockchain.) There are also virtual decentralized worlds like Decentraland and The Sandbox, which I mentioned in Chapter 1. Another good example is Secretum, a decentralized messaging app with the aim of becoming the web3 version of WhatsApp or WeChat. Secretum users can connect without an email address or phone number, which promotes user privacy, and there’s a built-­in trading function, allowing users to trade crypto and NFTs securely. Talking about things like Bitcoin, Ethereum, blockchain, crypto, and NFTs, it’s clear that the fundamental building blocks of web3 already exist and are in use today. From a tech point of view, we have the tools to make web3 happen. But from an ideological, political, and sociological point of view, shifting to this new era of the internet—­one that’s characterized by decentralization rather than centralization—­is an enormous change.

Web3 as an ideology It’s almost a rebellious call-­to-­action, isn’t it? A vision of a new, decentralized internet, where control is taken away from intermediaries and authorities (governments, central banks, and corporations like Meta), and placed in the hands of users. With web3, we’ll be able to freely access the internet without forking over our personal information, have full ownership of our data, and not be dependent on centralized authorities who—­ let’s be honest—­don’t always have our best interests at heart. It’s a rejection of how things are currently done. But will web3 ultimately end up wresting power from centralized authorities and corporations, reduce the huge amount of control they have, and



generally make the internet more democratic? Right now, no one can say for sure. Some people do believe the internet will become completely decentralized. Others, including Twitter founder Jack Dorsey—­who has described web3 as “a centralized entity with a different label”—­think nothing much will change. Certainly, big tech giants, central banks, and governments have a vested interest in retaining some oversight and control, and this will probably shape how web3 develops. (Quite rightly, there are concerns around safety and legality in an online world without oversight.) In fact, we’re already seeing governments attempt to create legislation for the web3 era—­such as the UK government working to regulate citizens’ ability to send end-­ to-­end encrypted messages by forcing providers to weaken, bypass, or remove encryption.1 Me, I’m not sure how things will shake out. In reality, I suspect new organizations will arise to facilitate web3 interactions—­for example, having a digital wallet that’s managed and protected by a third-­party platform. That’s obviously still some form of centralization, but I do believe web3 will offer us the chance to create a more equitable internet, where we as users have a stronger say in how things are run.

So what’s web3 got to do with the metaverse? When I talk about the “future internet” in this book, I’m talking about an internet that combines these two notions of immersiveness (the metaverse) and decentralization (web3). So, the two concepts are closely related. But while the metaverse will form the next iteration of the internet’s “front end”, if you will (i.e. it’s how we will interact with the online world), think of web3 as more like backend functionality. For example, as I mentioned in Chapter 1, NFTs and blockchain—­both web3 technologies—­will allow us to own and trade digital assets in the metaverse. Cryptocurrency will (most likely) form the foundations of economic and monetary systems in the metaverse. And many of the virtual worlds that will ultimately form



part of the metaverse in the future (places like Decentraland) will be built on blockchain. Of course, you’ll probably still be able to interact with web3 applications without having anything to do with the metaverse—­trading Bitcoin, for example. And some parts of the metaverse will undoubtedly be centralized and controlled by organizations like Meta—­not the decentralized paradise promised by web3. So, to be clear, the metaverse and web3 are two separate concepts that can happily exist without each other, but there will certainly be a lot of overlap between the two. Together, they form a compelling vision of how our digital life might evolve.

Web3 Technology for Beginners: Blockchain, dAPPs, NFTs, and DAOs There are a lot of tech concepts (and acronyms!) floating around when we talk about web3, so let’s break down some of the key tech concepts behind web3 in a little more detail.

How blockchain works Blockchain first came about as the technical backbone of Bitcoin, but has since evolved into many other uses, with the potential to revolutionize all sorts of industries. Blockchains are essentially a (relatively new) way of storing data online, built around two core features: encryption and distributed computing. Encryption means that the data stored on a blockchain can only be accessed by people who have permission to do so, with the use of a special “key”. And distributed computing means that the data is stored across many, many computers or servers, not on one centralized server. This means no one (other than the person who owns the data) can access or alter the data without permission, even if that data happens to be stored



on a server owned by a corporation or government. And even if the corporation or government decided to shut down their server, for example, the data would still be accessible on one of the hundreds (or thousands) of other computers that it’s stored on. It’s pretty clever, and it’s fundamental to web3 and this idea of a decentralized internet. At its most basic, a blockchain is a computer file used for storing information. A bit like a database, then. But what makes blockchain special are these concepts of distributed (where the file is duplicated across many computers) and cryptography (the special encryption that means you need a specific, private “key” in order to change the data in the file). Decentralization is another concept closely associated with blockchain, particularly in the case of a public blockchain like Bitcoin, where anyone can access the blockchain and it functions independently of any central regulating authority. (It’s worth noting, however, that not all blockchains are public—­you can have a private blockchain deployed within an organization purely for internal use.) Whether public or private, another thing that makes blockchain unique is the way in which blockchains are structured—­basically, as blocks of data chained together, hence the name. Each “block” is linked to the previous block, thus forming a chain of information. Each block also contains a time­ stamp to record when the information in that block was created or edited. Each block is encrypted, as I’ve mentioned. And, of course, each block contains the information itself—­which could be anything: a record of a transaction, a record of ownership rights, or any other record of information. Because users can only access and edit the block they “own” through a private key, blockchain is very secure. Which is why blockchain is commonly used to help secure and streamline transactions, especially cryptocurrency trading—­with transactions taking place without the need for intermedia­ ries (like banks) to manage the process. Such transactions may also involve smart contracts—­contracts that execute automatically when agreed-­on conditions are met. In the future, smart contracts and blockchain could eliminate the need for payment intermediaries and revolutionize industries that are heavily reliant on contracts (real estate, insurance, etc.).



But blockchain is also finding other interesting uses beyond transactions. Some governments, including South Korea, are exploring the use of blockchain to store government records, including marriage records. Elsewhere, companies like De Beers are using blockchain to track goods as they pass through the supply chain. Blockchain can also be used to run all sorts of decentralized platforms and worlds; for example, Decentraland and The Sandbox, those virtual worlds I’ve mentioned a few times already, are built on the Ethereum blockchain. And that brings us neatly to the next blockchain-­based, web3 feature . . .

Introducing blockchain-­based decentralized applications (dApps) Closely linked to blockchain are decentralized applications (dApps)—­ digital applications that run on a blockchain and are outside the control of a single authority. This is in contrast to an app like Instagram, for example, which runs on a system owned and operated by Meta. No matter how many users Instagram acquires, it is Meta who controls the app and has full authority over it. Meaning Instagram can choose to delete one of my posts if it feels I’ve violated its rules. But a dApp is free from control by any one authority. In theory, a developer could create a social media dApp rivalling Instagram, put it on a public blockchain like Ethereum where anyone could access it, and then no one individual—­not even the app’s creator—­would be able to alter or delete messages published on it. There would be no single authority in charge. I’ve mentioned the Ethereum blockchain platform, and this (for now, at least) is where many dApps are created and hosted. These dApps can serve a number of purposes, including gaming and decentralized finance. Where transactions are involved, dApps use smart contracts to complete the transaction without third-­party oversight. One of the main advantages of dApps is user privacy. In theory, I could use a dApp to transact anonymously and safely with anyone else, without



giving up my personal data. But because dApps are still in the early stages, there are a lot of problems and wrinkles to iron out if dApps are to become mainstream.

The NFT hype We can’t talk about blockchain and web3  without talking about NFTs, unique digital tokens that can be securely traded or used to prove ownership of assets. They’re “unique” in the sense that the token lives on an encrypted blockchain and cannot be copied, replicated, or replaced with something identical. This is where the ‘non-­fungible’ name comes from. (NFTs are different to fungible assets, which can be exchanged for an identical asset. Exchange one Bitcoin for another, for example, and you have exactly the same thing. Same with a £10 note, another example of a fungible asset.) In reality, though, an NFT might not be 100 percent “unique”. Let’s say you buy an NFT sold by the National Basketball Association (NBA) (like a digital trading card)—­you own that NFT, but the NBA owns the underlying content, and may even sell a limited number of the exact same trading-­ card NFT, as they would with physical trading cards. Similarly, if you buy a piece of art as an NFT (some artists have sold NFTs of their art for millions of dollars), the artist will often still own their underlying work. So, ownership of the NFT isn’t necessarily the same as ownership of the underlying content or asset (although it can be, depending on what the digital token represents). In the web3 era, NFTs make it possible for digital items to hold a certain value, be assigned to an owner, and be traded. And these digital items could be anything—­such as a virtual plot of land in a simulated world (next to Snoop Dogg’s virtual mansion, perhaps?), or even digital clothing (after all, gamers already spend money on outfits for their Fortnite characters). Most NFTs exist as part of the Ethereum blockchain, where the blockchain both facilitates NFT transactions and keeps track of ownership.



But why are people buying NFTs? For now, buying an NFT is like buying any speculative investment or collectible item—­it may go up in value. But then again, it may not; one 2022 index showed that the most popular NFT artworks had dropped in value by around 70 percent.2 (It’s a useful reminder that an NFT is only a liquid asset if someone else wants to buy it. This makes it very different from, say, buying Bitcoin.) Crazy price swings aside, in the web3/metaverse future, NFTs may provide a way for people to express themselves in their virtual world—­buying a virtual home for friends to come over, decorating that virtual home with designer furniture, and so on. It’s not so much that the digital furniture or home itself would be an NFT; remember, an NFT is a digital token that can be used to prove ownership of an asset. So, you might have the deeds to your virtual house as an NFT, for instance. Many also believe that “utility” NFTs will be used to represent real-­world items and assets, such as tickets to events. Imagine the Burning Man festival decided to sell lifetime tickets and you bought one of those tickets. Having it as an NFT is much easier and more secure than keeping a paper copy, or a digital copy stored in an email account that you no longer use in 20 years’ time. NFTs can also provide additional value to real-­world items, as is the case with crypto stamps—­physical postage stamps accompanied by an NFT. NFTs can even be used to facilitate fractional ownership of assets. For example, members-­only wine platform Crurated offers people the chance to buy fractions of wine barrels, certified by NFT and blockchain technology. (Taking this a step further, NFTs can be used to certify part-­ownership of an organization, as we’ll see in the next section.) Another way NFTs and web3 will intersect is the use of airdrops—­where cryptocurrency or NFTs are sent to a digital wallet for free, perhaps as a promotion, as a gift, or in return for completing a task (like signing up for a newsletter). In the future, then, we could see brands doing NFT airdrops as part of their marketing strategy.



So, to sum up, while there’s certainly been a lot of hype around NFTs, they will no doubt prove useful in the web3 and metaverse era—­both for businesses and individuals.

Introducing DAOs—­a new organizational structure for the web3 era? Before we move on, there’s one more important web3 concept that’s tied in with blockchain and NFTs: that is, the decentralized autonomous organ­ ization (DAO). A DAO is a group, company, or collective bound by rules and regulations coded into a blockchain. With a DAO, there’s no central governing body (so, no board or CEO, like in a traditional organization), all members of the DAO have a say in decisions, and everyone agrees to act in the best interests of the organization. It’s an emerging form of legal structure that could potentially eliminate the need for traditional leadership, and many of the middlemen needed to run an organization (bankers, lawyers, accountants, etc.). As an example, the Decentraland virtual world is a DAO, where members of the Decentraland community define the rules of the community and vote on binding actions that are set out in smart contracts. Anyone who owns the platform’s token, MANA (the cryptocurrency that powers Decentraland transactions), can take part in this voting process. This is where the blockchain bit comes into play, since the rules of a DAO are enshrined in blockchain-­based smart contracts that cannot be amended without the approval of the community (token holders). And to promote transparency, all votes and DAO actions are recorded on the blockchain, which again helps to ensure that everyone involved in the decision-­making process acts in the best interests of the collective, and ensures no single individual can override the collective’s decisions. So how do NFTs fit into all this? As digital tokens, NFTs can be used to represent ownership of the DAO (so your NFT acts as a private “key” that



allows you to vote on DAO matters). NFTs can also be used to fundraise for a DAO (so, people invest in the DAO in return for an NFT, which then gives them ownership and voting rights). One of my favourite examples of a DAO comes from Evinco Winery. Here, owners of the winery’s NFTs hold voting rights and have a direct say in the future of the winery. Blockchain provides a transparent record of all decisions made, and voting and transactional activity is carried out via smart contracts, which also live on the blockchain. (NFT holders are free to sell their membership token if they no longer wish to be a member.) It’s fascinating to see the DAO concept applied to a real-­world, tangible business like this (as opposed to a platform that purely exists in the digital world), because the decisions made by the DAO will ultimately drive how the winery evolves in the future, without being overruled by a CEO or other central authority. Imagine this applied to a whole range of businesses and it’s clear that the DAO model could be very disruptive indeed.

How Will Web3 Impact Businesses? Throughout the chapter, I’ve alluded to how web3 will impact businesses in future—­airdropping NFTs as customer incentives, for example; selling digital-­only goods via NFTs; using NFTs as a way to add value to physical goods; or potentially even pivoting to a new ownership model with a DAO. But probably the web3 technology that will have the biggest impact on businesses is blockchain. Indeed, I’m already seeing this in a wide range of industries. For one thing, blockchain is ideally suited to the supply chain, where it can be used to facilitate the transfer of goods from one party to another, allow organizations to track the status of goods, and get immediate status updates. In this way, blockchain increases the security and transparency of the supply chain. Which is why Walmart and its Food Safety Collaboration



Center in Beijing uses blockchain to track farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperature, and shipping details for pork. Any industry that needs to track supplies, materials, and products can benefit from blockchain. In the world of insurance, Accenture is building blockchain solutions for its insurance clients, translating key insurance industry processes into blockchain procedures. Smart contracts, in particular, could prove useful here, allowing claims to be automatically paid as soon as certain conditions are met, which would speed up the resolution of claims. Elsewhere, Nationwide insurance company is exploring using blockchain as a proof-­ of-­insurance tool—­allowing law enforcement, insurance customers, and insurers to verify insurance coverage in real time. In healthcare, blockchain can be used to improve healthcare management. Startup company Gem, for instance, is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to build a blockchain for storing disease outbreak data, with the goal of improving the effectiveness of disaster relief. In the future, we may also see patient records stored in blockchains as opposed to centralized IT systems. Such centralized IT systems are vulnerable to attack and make it difficult to share data between healthcare teams. Blockchain could solve these problems and more, allowing the real-­ time sharing of information, while boosting data security (thanks to the encryption, and because blockchain data is distributed and not stored in one place, meaning there’s no one central point of attack for hackers). In banking, Barclays has launched a number of blockchain initiatives, and I expect many banks and financial institutions to follow suit. Indeed, banking is arguably one of the industries most threatened by web3, as consumers increasingly turn to decentralized finance applications and cryptocurrencies for their financial needs. And looking at the bigger picture, blockchain could bring an end to the era of the “platform business”—­those huge, powerful centralized platforms like Uber and Airbnb (really, any company that connects providers



of a service with customers who need that service). Due to the decentralized nature of blockchain, providers and customers can transact directly, in a super-­secure way, without the need for an intermediary to oversee the transaction. The world’s largest tourism company, TUI Group, is already looking at public blockchains as a way to eventually replace travel aggregators like Expedia—­allowing customers to book directly with TUI hotels. (The company already uses a private blockchain to house its contracts.) In Part II we’ll cover many more examples of companies embracing web3, across a wide range of industries. But for now, what I want you to take away from this section is that blockchain has the potential to transform business processes—­from transacting and interacting with stakeholders to the way in which data is stored and accessed.

Key Takeaways We’ve covered a lot of ground in this chapter, with a lot of technical jargon, so let’s quickly recap the biggest takeaways. • Web3 represents the next iteration of the internet, following on from web1 (the birth of the internet) and web2 (the user-­generated web, driven by social media). • Web3 describes a decentralized internet, as opposed to an internet that’s controlled by corporations and governments (as is the case with today’s internet). This notion of decentralization—­and putting power back in the hands of internet users—­is key. • Other concepts that play a central role in web3 are: blockchain (a way of storing information built around encryption, distributed computing, and transparency); cryptocurrencies (digital currencies that run on blockchain networks); decentralized applications (dApps, digital applications that run on a blockchain and are outside the control of a single authority); NFTs (non-­fungible tokens, digital tokens that can be traded via blockchain and used to prove ownership of assets);



and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs, organizations or collectives without a central governing body, with rules and regulations coded into a blockchain). • Blockchain in particular is likely to revolutionize business processes across a wide range of industries. • There’s undeniably an ideological element to web3, and the author­ ities and corporations currently in control have a vested interest in ensuring power stays—­to some extent—­centralized. So, it’s impos­ sible to say for sure whether the web3 vision will be fully realized. The internet may end up fully decentralized, populated by decentralized platforms and DAOs that are community run. Or we may find new (more traditional, centralized) organizations pop up to facilitate life in the web3 era. • It’s worth noting that web3 and the metaverse are two separate concepts that can happily exist without each other. But there’s a lot of overlap between the two—­for example, NFTs and blockchains will allow us to own and trade digital assets in the metaverse. So far, we’ve talked a lot about the future of the internet and the underlying technology. But when is all this change going to happen, and what challenges will have to be overcome for us to realize this vision of a more immersive, decentralized internet? Read on to find out . . .

Notes 1. The dangers of the UK’s illogical war on encryption; Computer Weekly;­d angers-­of-­t he-­U Ks-­ illogical-­war-­on-­encryption 2. NFTs Have ‘Fallen Off the Cliff ’ as Sales Sink to Lowest Levels in a Year; Bloomberg;­06-­29/nfts-­have­fallen-­off-­the-­cliff-­as-­sales-­sink-­to-­lowest-­in-­year



WHEN AND HOW WILL THIS FUTURE INTERNET PLAY OUT? EXPLORING TIMELINES, FUTURE TRENDS, AND CHALLENGES This is the chapter where I wish I had a crystal ball. Because, no doubt about it, making predictions on the future of the internet is hard—­not least because there are lots of different interpretations of what the future internet will, you know, be. We know that these two concepts of immersiveness (the metaverse) and decentralization (web3) will play huge roles in the future of the internet, but both terms mean different things to different people. For some, the metaverse will be a completely virtual, fully immersive world, as in Ready Player One; while others see it as a simple transition to more immersive digital experiences that incorporate a bit of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). With web3, some believe we’re ushering



in a whole new era of decentralization that will signify the end of powerful platforms like Facebook; while others see decentralization transforming some areas of online life but leaving other parts of the internet unchanged. You get it, it’s impossible to say with absolute certainty what the future internet will look like and, in turn, when it will come to be. But, by looking at where we stand now, trends that may influence the future internet, and the many challenges around web3 and the metaverse, we can gain a clearer picture of where things might be headed.

When Will the Future Internet Arrive? It won’t “arrive” as such. We’re talking about an evolution, not a specific point in time. (Although, wouldn’t it be fun if we knew the metaverse was coming at lunchtime on 25 January 2027?) Over time, building blocks will emerge to bring this future internet to life—­indeed, these building blocks are already emerging, with things like new VR hardware, blockchain, and NFTs. Granted, some of these are still very new and relatively unknown (NFTs and blockchain especially), but they do exist. Which tells us that we’re already heading down the path towards a more immersive, and to some extent decentralized, internet. It is happening. We also know that this evolution—­really, it’s a revolution—­is happening extremely rapidly compared to the industrial and technological revolutions that have come before. (Steam and water power being the first industrial revolution, then came electricity and assembly lines, then computerization.) The speed of this fourth wave of industrial revolution—­driven by artificial intelligence (AI), interconnected systems, and automation—­is taking even experts like myself by surprise. “We get it, Bernard” I hear you say, “but when will we get to experience the metaverse?” The truth is, you already can, if you define the metaverse as a more immersive internet. Thanks to AR, you can already Google a dinosaur and look at it in your living room. You can already attend a massive



concert in the Fortnite world and enjoy an immersive experience with thousands (if not millions) of fellow Fortnite community members. You can already connect socially with people in Meta’s virtual Horizon Worlds. True, experiences like these are available on separate platforms and apps, rather than as one connected, seamless virtual universe. But these are still examples of the metaverse in action. So, if you want to know when you can access parts of the metaverse, the answer is you already can! Web3 is harder to pin down, since blockchain and NFTs are still relatively new. There are also concerns that there may be too much hype and not enough value around web3 as it stands currently—­some believe we’re heading for another bubble-­bursting crash, just like the dotcom crash seen in the web 1.0 era. Indeed, we’re already seeing some examples of this with the huge swings in Bitcoin prices and NFT values. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing for the future of the internet. The dotcom crash may have caused a lot of investors to lose money, but it led to the emergence of the internet as we know it today. The likes of Google and Amazon—­companies that had already established themselves as viable businesses offering real value—­prospered after the crash. So, if there is a web3 crash, and many of the emerging decentralized platforms cease to exist, it makes sense that the ones to survive will be those that offer real value for individuals and businesses. The question is, are we yet at the stage where these web3 innovators are creating real-­world value? As Tim O’Reilly—­founder of O’Reilly Media and someone who helped to coin the term “web 2.0” in the wake of the dotcom crash—­ explained it to me, “there’s a little bit of a timing mismatch between the [web3] frenzy and the reality . . . the internet first came out in the late 60s, but it wasn’t until the world wide web came along . . . in 91 or 92 . . . that we actually had the ‘killer app’ for the internet. Email was great, but it wasn’t the game-­changer”. The question is, then, do we have the “killer app” or game-­changer for web3? Is blockchain the game-­changer? NFTs? Or maybe even DAOs? Or does the killer innovation not yet exist? O’Reilly believes that it’s simply



too early to tell. He likens it to being back in 1994 with the advent of the first search engine, Web Crawler—­that’s roughly the stage we’re at with web3. Bottom line, it’s very early days for web3. And there are a lot of wrinkles to iron out before there’s any real decentralization revolution, but we’ll talk more about roadblocks later in the chapter . . .

Future Trends That Will Shape the Internet Setting aside timelines, let’s delve into this idea of how the metaverse and web3  might evolve, in particular the tech innovations and trends coming our way.

New hardware may supersede smartphones altogether Innovations in hardware—­such as new headsets and goggles—­will help to speed up the evolution of the metaverse and allow us to experience online life in new ways (i.e. not through a phone screen). As an example, Apple is reportedly working on AR/VR headsets that would operate independently of iPhones. New headsets are great when we’re at home or work and want to fully immerse ourselves in a virtual experience (or meeting, or whatever). But if we’re to spend more time in the metaverse, we’ll also need something we can comfortably wear while walking around—­something that allows us to enjoy some level of immersiveness while also staying in touch with the real world around us. Smart glasses will meet this need, and as such, I believe they’ll become a really important part of the metaverse. Just before writing this chapter, I tried a prototype by a company called Viture—­smart glasses that look just like regular sunglasses but display a 120-­inch virtual screen in front of your eyes. This means you can block out the real world to watch videos or play a game, or you can



see through them like normal glasses and wear them while walking around. In the future, smart glasses like this will also bring AR features to life, displaying digital images and information in front of our eyes as we walk around. Remember in Chapter  1  when I said the boundaries will become increasingly blurred between the real world and the virtual world? I believe smart glasses will be integral to this blurring and—­for now, at least—­represent the easiest way of bringing the metaverse to life. In the future, smart glasses may carry out many of the functions we rely on mobile phones for today. So, will we even need smartphones in the future? Possibly not. Ask yourself this, would you rather interact with this future immersive internet via a tiny screen that you have to carry around in your pocket, or would you prefer a wearable screen that can instantly expand to any size you need, filling your field of vision when you want to play a game, or shrinking to the size of a postage stamp when you have a video chat with your friend as you go about your business? I know what sounds more convenient to me.

Augmenting the human body for the metaverse In the future, smart glasses and headsets may themselves become obsolete as smart contact lenses take over. That’s the idea behind California-­ based startup Mojo Vision, which revealed in 2020 that it was developing AR contact lenses with micro-­LED displays that place information inside the wearer’s eyes. At the time of writing, Mojo’s lenses are at the prototype stage, and clinical trials will take years to complete, but the US Food and Drug Administration has already granted them breakthrough device status. Imagine the uses for such lenses in the metaverse era. AR lenses could display information like chat messages and the weather report as we walk around, or even allow us to individually augment our own view of the world around us. Don’t fancy the idea of your vision being constantly disturbed? Thanks to image recognition technology, Mojo says the lenses will



be able to understand what activities the user is engaged in, and therefore not disturb them at inopportune times. If the thought of metaverse contact lenses freaks you out, you might want to brace yourself. Because the next frontier after that is hooking our brains directly up to the metaverse. This is the aim of “neural VR”, where users can manipulate objects and control movements in the virtual world through thoughts alone. In other words, the metaverse systems of the future could harness brain waves to create a whole new level of immersion for users. Boston-­based startup Neurable is already working in this field, creating sensors that can decipher brain activity, understand the user’s intention, and then translate that into virtual reality. Elsewhere, Elon Musk’s Neura­ link project is developing implants that will allow two-­way communication between the human brain and an app. And Meta is also developing its own brain–computer interfaces that can decode speech directly from the brain. What’s more, brain–computer interfaces could be used to project images, sounds, and maybe even the feeling of touch directly into the brain—­so we can trick our brains into seeing and feeling virtual elements that aren’t there. Which would ultimately make the metaverse very immersive indeed.

Transforming real-­world attractions We may even be able to enjoy more immersive digital elements in the real world, without having to wear glasses or headsets. That’s the idea behind a Disney patent, filed in 2021, to create a virtual-­world simulator in a real-­ world venue, using projected images. Ideas like this could revolutionize real-­world attractions and theme parks by using multiple projectors to create virtual and animated simulations around visitors. The Disney patent also includes a handheld device that users can shine onto surfaces to bring virtual objects to life. What’s special about this idea is that multiple users could enjoy the same virtual experience, at the same time, in the same physical space, without having to hook up to the same software.



Bringing the feeling of touch to the metaverse When it comes to the sensation of touch, we already have things like haptic gloves that allow you to “feel” digital objects. Ordinarily these work through vibrations, but Meta is developing a new haptic glove that uses bursts of air to mimic the sense of touch. And if the idea of wearing a glove doesn’t appeal, tech startup Emerge has developed a tabletop panel that projects ultrasonic waves to bring physical touch and tactile experiences to the metaverse. So, if you were to put on a VR headset and hold your hand above the panel, ultrasonic waves would map the virtual objects you see in your headset and allow you to “feel” them. We also already have haptic suits available that can deliver a full-­body experience—­the Teslasuit being one example—­but they aren’t exactly attainable for most everyday VR users. (They’re more likely to be used by organizations like NASA and SpaceX, which use full-­body haptic suits for simulating extreme environments.) I’ve been lucky enough to try the new Teslasuit and it was incredible. Wearing the suit and accompanying gloves, I sat at a computer screen with a steering wheel in front of me and enjoyed a virtual driving experience around the Silverstone racetrack. The suit and gloves gave me the sense of G-­force, as if I were really driving a racing car. Admittedly, the current applications of full-­body haptic suits are fairly niche, but it shows what may be possible in the metaverse, particularly if haptic suits and gloves become more affordable for everyday users. Imagine you’re playing a zombie VR game, for instance, and you could actually feel zombie hands grabbing at your arms as you run away. Talk about an immersive experience! Looking further ahead, beyond haptic suits, developers are already working to create the next generation of wearable haptic solutions that will bring an even more realistic sense of touch to the metaverse. In one example, scientists at Northwestern University have been working on an experimental haptic patch that provides the sense of human touch across long distances. The lightweight, wearable, wireless patch can deliver a feeling



like physical touch, corresponding to another user’s movements. Let’s just say flirting online could get a lot more interesting in the metaverse era . . .

Sound will also play an important role Sound is a crucial component in making virtual experiences feel real. What we’re really talking about here is spatial audio, or the ability to enjoy 3D, 360-­degree sound in virtual communications and experiences—­just like we experience sound in real life. This will play a really important role in making us feel more comfortable and natural in virtual environments. For example, spatial audio meeting platforms are emerging as a more immersive, realistic alternative to traditional video-­conferencing tools like Zoom, allowing users to engage in virtual conversations for longer periods of time. This will help to solve problems like “Zoom fatigue” (where users get confused on who’s speaking at any one time) and will make virtual co-­ working and collaboration much easier. Another sound-­based trend for the metaverse will be sonic branding—­ basically, the sounds used by brands in their metaverse presence. (What will a virtual Nike shop in the metaverse sound like, for example?) So, in the future, brands will not only have to consider their visual strategy for the metaverse, but also their sonic strategy.

The metaverse as a new marketing channel As with web1 and web2, marketing and advertising will provide fuel that will boost the metaverse and web3 into the mainstream. In other words, companies are rushing to figure out how they’ll monetize the metaverse. Indeed, all kinds of organizations and brands—­from international finance giants like HSBC and JP Morgan, to fashion powerhouses like Nike and Gucci—­have already begun to build their metaverse presence. Eventually, the metaverse will provide another channel of communication for brands—­one that’s focused on customer experience, immersion,



one-­ to-­ one connections, and personalization. In the coming months and years, we can expect businesses to go all-­out to position themselves at prime virtual locations—­whether that’s through building their own platforms or occupying existing virtual worlds such as Meta Horizons, Fortnite, or Decentraland.

Corporate life in the metaverse The metaverse also promises to provide platforms, tools, and entire virtual worlds where business can be done remotely, efficiently, and intelligently. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, the merging of the metaverse with digital twins will allow companies to create virtual simulations of real-­world products, processes, or operations which can be used to test and prototype new ideas digitally. From wind farms to Formula One, designers will recreate physical objects inside virtual worlds where their efficiency can be stress-­tested under any conceivable conditions, without the high costs involved in testing them in the physical world. Another use of metaverse technology in the corporate world will be conducting training, onboarding, and other tasks. IT services giant Accenture created a metaverse environment called The Nth Floor, which features replicas of real-­world offices and lets employees and new hires conduct a number of human resource-­related functions within the virtual world. Elsewhere, metaverse collaborative working environments such as BMW’s augmented reality labs, used to design and prototype new products, will also become more popular as teams seek out new ways of working remotely.

What’s in store for NFTs and blockchain? As I’ve said, this is an area that’s fast evolving, but we can certainly expect many developments in blockchains and NFTs. Consider how Bitcoin was the original blockchain cryptocurrency, but now there’s Ethereum and a whole variety of cryptocurrencies that harness blockchain. In the future,



many of the existing blockchain platforms might disappear or merge with others. But whatever happens, it’s safe to say that the metaverse will bring huge new opportunities for blockchain and NFTs (and vice versa). One of the specific trends we can expect to see across blockchain and NFTs is more green initiatives, because the energy required to run blockchain, crypto, and NFTs is enormous. I expect to see platforms transition to less energy-­intensive blockchain models—­typically those that rely on “proof-­of-­stake” algorithms rather than “proof-­of-­work” algorithms. The difference between the two is pretty technical, but what you need to know is that minting and trading NFTs, trading crypto, and other blockchain-­ based tasks use less energy with a proof-­of-­stake model, which is why Ethereum (the blockchain that houses most NFTs) has recently made the switch from proof-­of-­work to proof-­of-­stake. Hopefully this changeover marks the start of a new era of environmentally conscious blockchain and NFTs. As I see it, energy usage is one of the major hurdles to overcome if blockchain and NFTs are to go fully mainstream (but more on roadblocks coming up). Looking further ahead, we may see the merging of AI and NFTs to create NFTs that are capable of learning and evolving. After all, NFTs are stored on blockchains, like the Ethereum blockchain, which are capable of storing and running computer code, as well as storing static images and data—­so there’s no reason they can’t run AI code. So far, the “intelligent NFTs” that already exist seem to be novelties—­think intelligent artworks that can hold conversations with their owners. But the fusing of NFTs and AI could prove genuinely useful in the metaverse era, for example, creating unique, self-­learning characters in video games, or any type of virtual world for that matter—­and these characters would be able to challenge or assist us in the metaverse. Importantly, these “living” characters would exist as unique entities, informed by their own experiences, that can’t simply be copied and replicated (thanks to the secure nature of blockchains).



Roadblocks, Risks, and Challenges So far, we’ve talked a lot about the exciting innovations that may be coming our way. But there are many hurdles to overcome on this road towards a more immersive, decentralized future internet. Let’s explore some of the biggest challenges and risks that lie ahead. Some of these apply more to web3 than the metaverse (or vice versa), but many apply to both.

The many legal, ethical, and regulatory challenges As I mentioned in Chapter 2, perhaps one of the biggest hurdles for web3 to overcome is resistance from those corporations and governments who are currently in power. The for-­profit corporations will be especially concerned about web3’s ability to sidestep their power and dent their profits. But governments, too, will have a vested interest in maintaining oversight in the web3 era. We see this with today’s internet all the time, with countries like China preventing citizens from accessing certain websites. Indeed, China is the best-­known example of a country with its own isolated internet, and this is something we may see more of in the future. So, as many parts of the internet become decentralized, we may see some governments increase their control and create their own “walled off ” internet. Russia has already confirmed that it has the capability to completely decouple from the rest of the world’s internet and operate its own independent internet.1 This splintering of the internet even has a name: the “splinternet”. So, as much as web3 has the potential to put users in control of the internet, that might not be welcome everywhere. Authoritarian threats aside, there’s no denying that we’ll need some form of policy, governance, and rules for the web3 and metaverse era. That’s not to say that those rules have to be decided by centralized governments or regulators—­Decentraland shows that users can decide for themselves how a platform should be run and what constitutes good conduct in that



environment—­but either way, some form of governance will be necessary if we’re to enjoy a safe online experience. The fact is, all this technology is advancing faster than our legal systems can cope with, which leaves a lot of grey areas that can be exploited. At the moment, we don’t have clear laws on what’s acceptable and unacceptable in virtual environments, or even which jurisdictions they come under. For example, if I’m physically at home in England, but I’m exploring a virtual metaverse environment hosted by a Chinese provider, will I be subject to English laws or Chinese? What happens if someone commits what we would normally consider a crime in a virtual environment? What if two people are immersed together in a metaverse environment and one of them assaults the other in that virtual space—­will that be considered a crime? If we base our consideration on video games then the answer is of course not. Many of us indulge in video games where we beat up or shoot our fellow gamers. But we have to remember that virtual worlds in the metaverse will feel more immersive than today’s average video-­game experience. What if, in our hypothetical virtual situation, the participant who is assaulted suffers trauma because the event felt so real. (Entirely plausible when you consider that haptic suits allow people to feel sensations generated in the simulated world.) Would it still not be considered a crime? Issues like this are already occurring and we need our legal systems to catch up, fast. In 2022, a researcher reported that her avatar was sexually assaulted within an hour of entering Meta’s Horizon Worlds.2 And this is just one of a growing number of complaints of assault and harassment in virtual worlds. (To be clear, Horizon Worlds maintains a virtual four-­ foot “personal boundary” around avatars that prevents non-­friends from venturing too close, but in this case other members had convinced the researcher to disable the setting.) As a parent, I definitely have concerns about my children’s safety in the metaverse. It’s already difficult to monitor what our kids are doing online and that will only get trickier with the metaverse because we won’t be able to see the world they’re looking at through their headset or glasses.



We also can’t overlook the fact that the metaverse and web3 have the potential to reinforce inequality. The cost of purchasing hardware (latest phones, headsets, smart glasses) will naturally exclude some people, potentially increasing the divide between the haves and the have-­nots. Plus, a certain level of digital literacy will be required to successfully use metaverse and web3 tools, which will also exclude some segments of society. Another concern for me is that users who spend a lot of time in virtual environments, where they can live it up in their virtual mansions and do whatever they want, may increasingly end up disengaged from real-­world problems and inequalities. There’s also a lack of transparency around web3 technologies—­particularly when it comes to fees. There are fees to create NFTs and facilitate transactions on blockchain networks (known as “gas fees”). That said, I do understand that some form of fee structure is necessary. Fees put hackers off, basically—­and if it was totally free to mint NFTs and carry out transactions, there would be endless attacks on these networks. So, the fees themselves aren’t necessarily a problem, but the lack of transparency will put many users off. With the metaverse also comes privacy challenges, because all this immersive technology will be even better at tracking our actions and intentions. For example, VR headsets will include eye-­tracking technology, so marketers and advertisers could potentially see from our headset data exactly where we’re looking in our immersive experience, and in the process, understand an awful lot about us and our preferences. Basically, huge amounts of data could be collected by companies and used for marketing and other purposes—­and not everyone will be happy about this. Then there’s the potential issue of identity hacking. In the metaverse, we’ll be using avatars, and it will be possible for criminals to hack our avatars and steal our online identities, potentially wreaking havoc on our real-­ world and virtual lives. Finding ways to verify identities in the metaverse will therefore be extremely important.



Technology has a way to go, too From a tech point of view, energy is the big elephant in the room. I’ve briefly mentioned this already but all of this technology—­blockchain, crypto, creating simulated worlds, and so on—­requires huge computing power. Bitcoin alone consumes more electricity in a year than several countries, including Norway and Hungary. Transitioning to proof-­of-­stake blockchain systems will dramatically reduce this energy consumption—­ for example, Ethereum’s switch to proof-­of-­stake is estimated to reduce the energy consumption of Ethereum tokens and blockchains by 99.95 percent.3 But, if we’re really honest, maybe we also need to become more selective about what we’re using this amazing technology for. On the one hand, the current energy demands already seem too high; yet, on the other hand, we also know that all this tech needs to scale up significantly in future. Scalability is particularly an issue with blockchain. The number of transactions that can currently be done on a platform like Ethereum is much smaller than the number of transactions that can be processed by providers like Visa or Mastercard (because blockchain transactions take longer to process). So, if web3 is to bring about a decentral­ ization revolution, and for web3 technologies like blockchain and NFTs to power our metaverse interactions, blockchain is going to have to scale up drastically. It’s vital this scaling up is matched by investing in green energy and ensuring that the data centres running all these systems are powered by solar and wind (and, in the future, maybe even nuclear fusion). Another major tech hurdle will be interoperability—­or the ability for all these disparate systems and worlds to connect together and provide a seamless user experience. For now, emerging metaverse and web3 platforms are all pretty much walled gardens—­if you buy something in Fortnite, for instance, you can’t trade it outside that platform. If you buy a $4,000 Gucci-­branded bag for your Roblox avatar—­as someone did in 2021—­you can’t take it with you to another platform. For now, it has to stay in Roblox! Most popular games don’t even support NFTs yet, and this will have to change as the metaverse grows.



There may also be problems with “forking” in future, which is what happens when a community makes a change to a blockchain’s protocol or set of rules, causing the blockchain to split at that point. So, you end up with the original blockchain and a new blockchain, with a new set of rules, that heads off in a new direction (while still sharing the same history as the ori­ ginal blockchain). This could be an issue in an increasingly decentralized internet as communities wish to change rules or create new currencies—­ potentially making an unwieldy, confusing mess of web3 platforms.

What about the infrastructure to support all this? Let’s just say there could be big challenges in store for cloud storage providers and telecoms companies—­because all this technology is going to require huge network upgrades. We’ll need amazing 5G or 6G connectivity everywhere we go if our smart glasses are to be constantly hooked up to the metaverse. And it’s not yet clear who’s going to pay for all these upgrades. We’ll also need devices (phones, headsets, glasses) to become much more powerful so they can handle more of the computing load themselves, rather than relying on other networks (what’s known as edge computing). No doubt about it, the hardware and network demands will be huge compared to today and this presents both challenges and opportunities for telecoms companies, cloud providers, and hardware manufacturers like Apple and Samsung.

People problems I feel like I say this about every technology I write about, but there’s a massive skills shortage around metaverse and web3 technologies. Most universities and schools aren’t even thinking about teaching this stuff yet, which leaves organizations struggling to recruit the talent they need. It will get better over time—­it’s already getting easier to learn new skills at any time of life, thanks to the explosion in online learning



tools—­but it’s certainly a big challenge for organizations to overcome in the short and medium term. (Read more about addressing the skills gap in Part III.) There’s also a lot of work to be done around public perception of a more immersive, decentralized internet. In my experience, most people don’t understand where things are heading and are extremely wary. (In particular, there’s a lot of scepticism around NFTs and crypto.) But when I get out my phone and Google dinosaurs, and they see virtual dinosaurs appear in the room in front of us, they’re amazed and excited about the future of the internet. If people are to get on board with the metaverse and web3 revolution, more awareness is needed of how these technologies can positively transform our lives.

Key Takeaways Let’s finish up with a quick recap. • The metaverse won’t “arrive” as such, it’s an evolution towards a more immersive internet. So, if you want to know when you can access the metaverse, the answer is you already can, through experiences like immersive Fortnite concerts, social platforms like Meta Horizon Worlds, and more. • With web3, it’s much harder to predict when (even if) decentralization will go mainstream. We’re at such an early stage, like the internet was in the early 1990s. Much depends on innovators establishing real-­world value through web3 platforms, as companies like Google did in earlier phases of the internet. • There are many new developments to look forward to, especially when it comes to new hardware and tools that will allow us to interact with the metaverse—­things like smart glasses, haptic gloves and suits, innovations in 3D sound, and even brain– computer interfaces.



• That said, there are also many challenges to overcome on the road to a more immersive, decentralized internet. Some of the biggest challenges are around safety, privacy, regulations, infrastructure, scalability, energy usage, interoperability, lack of skills, and public perception. Yes, there are challenges and risks surrounding the future internet. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the metaverse and web3 have the potential to reimagine the internet and make it a better, more engaging, more empowering place. And as we’ll see in the next part, organizations are already enthusiastically dipping their toes into this future internet. Let’s look at some exciting examples . . .

Notes 1. Russia ‘successfully tests’ its unplugged internet; BBC News; https://www­50902496 2. A researcher’s avatar was sexually assaulted on a metaverse platform owned by Meta; Business Insider;­claims-­ her-­avatar-­was-­raped-­on-­metas-­metaverse-­platform-­2022-­5 3. Why Does Bitcoin Use So Much Energy?; Forbes; advisor/investing/cryptocurrency/bitcoins-­energy-­usage-­explained/


PA RT I I HOW THE FUTURE INTERNET WILL CHANGE OUR WORLD In this part we’ll build a picture of how the future internet will transform different parts of our economy and society—­by exploring some of the industries that are seeing the biggest transformation at the moment. You’ll find plenty of real-­world examples in these chapters, many of them transferable to other industries, and my hope is this will give you a tangible sense of how the metaverse and web3 may apply to your business.



HOW CREATIVE AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRIES ARE FINDING NEW WAYS TO ENGAGE WITH THEIR AUDIENCES Not in a creative profession? Don’t skip this chapter. Because art and gaming are where web3 and metaverse concepts first took root, and it’s where a lot of disruption is taking place. These creative and entertainment industries are a great test bed, in other words. So, for me, this chapter perfectly illustrates some of the huge changes that are happening, and therefore shows the enormous potential for other industries. Any business that wants to explore new ways of engaging with their audience can learn from these industries.

The Future Internet and the “Creator Economy” As someone who writes and creates a lot of content, I can speak first hand to the incredible things happening in the creator economy. Thanks to new tools, it’s never been easier for me to create engaging content, across a



variety of mediums. Take video content as an example. I don’t need a team of videographers and video editors to help me make videos; I can simply sit at my desk, type a short script, and then use Synthesia to turn those words into a video starring my AI digital twin (see digital avatars and Bernard Marr 2.0, Chapter 1). I don’t need to leave my desk to do it. I don’t need to get out a camera and film myself. The software does it all for me, creating a realistic video of “me” presenting the content I’ve written. And if I want to create images to accompany my videos or social media posts, I can use a tool like DALL E 2, which uses generative art technology to create new images based on natural language descriptions. In other words, I can say something like, “please give me a picture of a cyborg riding a rainbow-­coloured unicorn in the metaverse” and the software will create an image of exactly that. It’s incredible. Similarly, there are generative artificial intelligence (AI) music platforms that will easily create background music for my content. And if I want to produce more written content than my fingers and brain can feasibly manage, I can use a tool like ParagraphAI to assist me. Writing tools like this will create completely unique, plagiarism-­free text on whatever subject I need. This is all happening already, and the technology will only get better (creating 3D visual content rather than 2D, for instance). This means, in the future internet, anyone can potentially become a creator. If you have a great idea, there are tools that will help you turn that idea into content. And this will further fuel the (already booming) creator economy. In an age when 29 percent of American students cite “creator” as their future career choice,1 building a creative career seems more achievable than ever. That said, creator platforms like YouTube and TikTok still hold an enormous amount of power, and creators are at the mercy of these sites’ algorithms. In theory, that will change in the metaverse and web3 era, as the internet becomes more democratic and equal. New community-­led platforms will arise that allow creators to find and connect with audiences,



without an intermediary like YouTube to facilitate the process. Creators will be in the driving seat, and that’s an exciting prospect.

New Ways of Engaging with Art If you think about it, the metaverse and web3 are natural fits with art, art galleries, and artists. We can have virtual metaverse art galleries. We can have digital-­only art traded as non-­fungible tokens (NFTs), with artists selling their work directly on blockchain platforms. What’s more, artists can create digital works of art completely free from real-­world constraints, such as the cost of materials or the typical barriers to getting work shown in galleries.

What this means for artists For artists who have been used to corporations and intermediaries profiting from their work, web3 technologies—­specifically NFTs—­allow them to take back control of how and where their art is used, and set their own payment terms. That’s certainly been the case for one of the leaders of the NFT revolution, digital artist pplpleasr (AKA Emily Yang). She has appeared on the cover of Vogue, been listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and sold one of her works (an animation created for cryptocurrency exchange Uniswap) for a whopping $525,000—­money she used to found the Stand With Asians community group, which aims to promote artists of Asian descent. When I spoke to pplpleasr she told me there are three reasons that NFTs are so important for artists. The first is their ability to include smart contracts, which has the potential to revolutionize how artists earn a living. Traditionally, once an artist sells a piece of art, that may be the only payment they ever receive for it, even if the work goes on to become hugely valuable. But thanks to NFTs and automatically executing smart contracts, the artist can receive a cut of the sale every time their work



is sold and re-­sold among collectors. Secondly, because NFTs live on a blockchain, there’s a record of where an artwork came from, and who has owned it since it was first sold. When you consider that certain collectors and celebrities can have their own impact on the value of art, it’s easy to see how this blockchain record could add value to a piece of art. And thirdly, digital art creates a new class of asset that may better suit current generations who live in the digital world just as much as they do in the physical world. (As Yang put it, “Ten years ago, we would take a break by spending some time on the internet. Today it’s the other way round—­we take a break from the internet by going outside.”) She’s certain that the digitization of assets is only a matter of time, and we’ll have less and less need for physical assets and belongings. It’s an interesting view of where the art world is headed, and one that would surely excite both established and budding artists.

The “generative art” trend I briefly mentioned generative art earlier in the chapter—­art that has been created either entirely by or with the help of an autonomous system. It’s AI art, basically. The DALL E 2 tool is an example of this, using a version of GPT-­3 technology (a machine learning model developed by OpenAI that’s capable of writing text that’s practically indistinguishable from a human writer) to create images from descriptions and photos. Combine this generative art trend with NFTs, blockchain, and smart contracts and you have the ability to create new, unique art on demand for collectors to invest in. Basically, a unique piece of art can now be created for you via a smart contract and NFTs, and be stored on the blockchain. One of the first generative art NFT projects was Autoglyphs, which created a limited supply of 512 NFTs reaching a total sales volume of more than $40 million (at the time of writing). Because the supply was limited and all 512 NFTs have already been created, they’re now only available as secondary sales.



Today, one of the best-­known platforms for generative art is probably Art Blocks, an Ethereum-­based platform that allows collectors to invest in unique, programmable generative art NFTs (one of which sold for $5.8 million). To date, the platform has recorded more than $1 billion in primary and secondary sales. Will this trend stay the course and shape the future of art in the web3 era? Maybe, maybe not. But it does show that art consumers have a definite appetite for new forms of digital art—­which means we’ll no doubt see more forms of digital art, and more crossover between art and AI, in future.

Rethinking the gallery experience We already have metaverse art galleries—­virtual galleries that people can visit in virtual worlds—­good examples being Art Korner in Second Life and SciArt in Decentraland. In the case of SciArt, the gallery (housed in an impressive futuristic building) displays artworks that explore themes around human identity, AI, and the metaverse. But my favourite metaverse gallery is the Stolen Art Gallery, a virtual reality (VR) gallery experience where you can enjoy masterpieces that have been stolen or gone missing in the physical world. This is a really cool use case because it shows how the metaverse can enable us to enjoy experiences that wouldn’t be possible in the physical world. I have little hope of ever getting up close with Rembrandt’s 1633 masterpiece The Storm on the Sea of Galilee because it was stolen in 1990 and hasn’t been seen since. But with the Stolen Art Gallery app and a VR headset, I can see this beautiful painting in digital form and learn the story behind the painting. If you have a VR headset (or even an iPhone), I recommend you give the Stolen Art Gallery a look. What’s the natural next step beyond virtual galleries showing digital versions of real-­world artworks? Physical galleries displaying NFTs, of course!



Yes, you can go to a brick-­and-­mortar gallery in the real world and look at digital art in frames on a wall. SuperRare is just one of the NFT marketplaces to have opened a physical gallery, setting up shop in New York in May 2022. (Hundreds of visitors attended an exhibition of digital arts owned by collector Cozomo de’ Medici.2) Physical NFT exhibitions like this are still very much experimental—­largely designed to expand awareness of digital art and educate NFT sceptics—­but it shows how physical, real-­world experiences can intersect with the metaverse and web3.

Curated NFT auctions The potential of NFTs to transform the art world hasn’t gone unnoticed by big players like Sotheby’s. In fact, the famous auction house has fully embraced NFTs and started offering its own curated NFT auctions—­ making a healthy profit in the process. It has even gone so far as to create a digital version of its famous auction house. Sotheby’s Metaverse, as it’s known, is a digital replica of Sotheby’s in London transplanted into Decentraland. This is the home of Sotheby’s in the metaverse, in other words—­a place where users can curate and sell digital artwork via NFTs and blockchain. Sotheby’s took its first steps into NFT art in 2021 with a three-­day sale of works by digital artist Pak—­which netted a total of $17 million. Setting up a permanent space in the metaverse seems like a logical evolution for the auction house, one which it says will draw in both traditional collectors and digital art enthusiasts alike by delivering the Sotheby’s “stamp of approval”.3 It’s a fair point; Sotheby’s has a ready-­made audience of trad­ itional art collectors, which arguably means the auction house is bringing its own value to the NFT space. True, it’s somewhat at odds with the web3 ethos of cutting out intermediaries, but it certainly shows how corporations can adapt their business models for web3, and how even very trad­itional businesses are embracing web3 and the metaverse. That’s a key takeaway from the world of art. And so is this: yes, there’s a lot of hype



around NFTs and digital art, but people are spending real money—­and making real money—­in this area.

Gaming and the Impact of the Metaverse and Web3 Since gaming is all about creating immersive worlds for players to enjoy, you can probably imagine it’s an easy transition from gaming as we know it today to gaming in the metaverse. But interestingly, web3 is also becoming more important, in particular when it comes to selling in-­game assets as NFTs. Let’s explore gaming in the future internet.

For now, gaming is the metaverse According to 97 percent of gaming industry execs, gaming is the centre of the metaverse as it stands today.4 So, it’s fair to assume that gaming will play a vital role in the metaverse as it develops. In theory, any VR game could potentially become part of the metaverse in the future. The hard bit will be linking all the games together to allow users to move from one game to the next in a seamless way, and keep the same avatar and accessories if they want to (this is the interoperability challenge I mentioned in Chapter 1). Speaking in 2020, Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games (creators of the Fortnite gaming universe), explained his vision of gaming in the meta­ verse as, “A move away from a whole bunch of walled gardens into something that’s increasingly open and comes to resemble, by the end of this decade, an open metaverse, in which players get together with their friends and they go from game experience to game experience, staying together as a group as friends, going across all platforms and not having to worry about what company made the device they’re on, or what



company’s operating the servers they’re playing on as they go through these experiences”. Put that way, gamers clearly have a lot to look forward to in the metaverse. Microsoft’s 2022 acquisition of game company Activision Blizzard (bought for $69 billion) shows just how important gaming will be to the metaverse. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put it, the deal would “provide building blocks for the metaverse”. In other words, Microsoft is turning to the world of gaming to help it compete against the likes of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta in the future. But how will gaming help Microsoft create its own metaverse presence? According to Nadella, the metaverse “is essentially about creating games . . . it’s about being able to put people, places, things [in] a physics engine and then having all the people, places, things in the physics engine relate to each other”. That’s for the future. But how does gaming already tie in with the metaverse? The Fortnite game is definitely a leader in this field, creating an immersive world where gamers can enjoy entertainment experiences as well as playing the game itself. It’s an early prototype of the metaverse, if you like. But let’s not overlook the importance of less immersive games like Pokémon Go, which uses augmented reality (AR) technology. For me, this is another example of how games might evolve in the metaverse era, making the real world around us more engaging and immersive by overlaying digital gaming elements. (Imagine playing an AR-­enhanced game of paintball in the woods, for example, complete with digital bad guys popping out from behind the trees. Also, do check out the HADO example coming later in the chapter.) Basically, in the metaverse era, we can expect that most games will incorporate some element of VR, AR, or hybrid reality. And since NFTs will be key to the metaverse economy, it makes sense that NFTs will also become a core element of games . . .



NFTs and blockchain-­based games As we saw in Chapter 2, web3 allows for digital assets to be owned and traded as NFTs. Purchasing assets is already possible in many games—­ Fortnite Skins (character outfits and accessories) being a prime example. But for the most part, at present, in-­game assets are tied strictly to the game itself, not individual players. This means you may buy an accessory, but not really own it, in the sense that you can’t take it out of the game or have the option of selling it on to a different player. The game owns the assets. Web3—­and particularly the tokenization aspect of NFTs—­promises to change all this by tying digital assets to individuals. As games begin to accommodate NFTs, players will in theory be able to create their own digital assets, mint them as NFTs, and sell them to other gamers—­ either within the game itself or potentially outside the game on NFT marketplaces. Combine NFTs with smart contracts and this could even allow creators to receive a cut of future sales of their digital gaming creations—­in the same way as NFTs and blockchain allow artists to potentially get paid every time a piece of their work is sold from one collector to another. At the moment, this is all a bit of a pipe dream, because transferring NFT assets from one major game ecosystem to another is a logistical nightmare. (There’s that interoperability problem again.) To better facilitate transferable NFT assets within games, we can expect to see more games being created and housed on blockchains. The beauty of this is that it allows for decentralized gaming—­meaning indie game developers will be able to connect with gamers without having to go through leading game studios. (Another example of how web3 could cut out intermediaries.) This is where the concept of initial game offerings (IGOs) comes in. A bit like an IPO (initial public offering) but for games, an IGO is a way of raising capital for blockchain games (typically via launchpad



hubs like GameFi)—­developers raise funds for their project and gamers who invest get early access to games and in-­game assets that aren’t available to other gamers. It’s just another example of how gaming will become more decentralized and democratized in future. In other words, web3  has the potential to take control away from centralized gaming brands and place it in the hands of indie developers and gamers themselves. As an example, because blockchain games are open source, gamers can potentially make their own changes to games to suit their needs, and build new games into blockchain-­based gaming ecosystems. Combine this with the DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) model from Chapter 2 and gamers could also have a say in how game ecosystems evolve. And as more games are built using blockchain technology, this means more interoperability for gamers—­meaning you’ll be able to take your gaming avatar and assets you own with you across multiple different games.

The play to earn model NFTs also facilitate the “play to earn” (P2E) model, one of the current big trends in gaming. As you’ll see later in the chapter, gaming is already becoming a profession, with players competing in front of audiences and earning mega-­bucks in the process (see esports, coming up later). Web3, and in particular NFTs, will push P2E further into the mainstream, giving amateur gamers the chance to earn money as they play. In essence, P2E gives people a financial incentive to play games by compensating them for their time and effort. This is in stark contrast to trad­ itional gaming, where gamers pay to buy or download the game. And even when a game is free to play, gamers receive no financial reward for their time—­you may unlock the odd cool prize along the way, but this can’t be traded with other gamers, thereby offering you no real value.



With P2E games, players earn rewards for completing tasks, progressing through game levels, and battling other players. And these rewards come in the form of NFTs, representing assets such as crypto tokens, virtual land, weapons, or outfits. Crucially, players can buy and sell these assets to other gamers on NFT marketplaces (so, outside of the game) in exchange for actual money. P2E games, then, are almost like virtual economies in their own right. One of the best-­known P2E games right now is Axie Infinity, a blockchain-­ based game where players collect NFTs of cute digital pets (called “axies”). Players can earn the game’s crypto tokens (called Smooth Love Potion, SLP) by breeding axies with other axies and selling them to collectors, or by pitting their axies against other axies in a Pokémon-­style battle. Players can also earn SLP by lending their axies to other players in return for a percentage of their winnings. (This is known as the manager/scholar scheme. Managers are usually wealthy players who have amassed many axies, which they rent to scholars, who play with the borrowed axies. The manager gets a cut of whatever the scholar earns.) Axie Infinity has provided full-­time jobs for some gamers—­especially in developing nations like the Philippines during the pandemic—­with some gamers earning hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. If you’re not a gamer, some of this may sound pretty kooky. But think of it this way—­if you’re a loyal gamer who spends a lot of time playing a game, creating value for that game in the process, why shouldn’t you have the chance to be compensated for that?

Transforming Music and Entertainment While some industries lend themselves more to the metaverse than web3 (and vice versa), music is one area that brings both the immersive and decentralized features together very nicely. As such, there’s already a lot of disruption happening in this area.



The metaverse will change live music as we know it In 2019, DJ Marshmello gave one of the first virtual music concerts in the Fortnite game, performing as an avatar for nearly 11  million fans. The next year, rapper Travis Scott attracted more than 12 million fans to his virtual Fortnite concert. Then in 2021, singer Ariana Grande did a series of five Fortnite shows over the course of several days—­and attracted an audience of 78 million in the process. Seventy-­eight million! Entertaining a live audience of millions is impossible in the real world, but it’s no problem at all in the metaverse. But metaverse technology—­and, in particular, digital avatars—­will also transform the nature of concerts in the physical world. The digital ABBA show, ABBA Voyage, is a perfect example of what I mean. The show—­ which takes place in a custom-­built arena in London—­features digital avatars (“ABBAtars”) of the foursome in their 1970s heyday, performing on stage backed by a real-­life band and backing singers. (To achieve this, the quartet spent five weeks with the wizards from Industrial Light and Magic, who used motion capture techniques to create virtual copies of the band that behave accurately in every way, from their dancing to their eye movements. Then AI was used to “de-­age” the stars.) I’ve been lucky enough to go to the ABBA show and I was honestly blown away. The lip-­syncing of the avatars is perfectly on-­point. It really feels like you’re watching ABBA perform on stage. I genuinely couldn’t tell I wasn’t watching the real ABBA. And at the end, when digital versions of ABBA as they are today—­so, not the 1970s young’uns—­walked out on stage, my son thought it was the real foursome coming out. That’s how realistic this technology is. Okay, I’m a tech geek who is obviously into this sort of stuff. But what about the reaction from regular fans? My wife—­who is not into technology at all—­leaned over half-­way through the show and told me this was going to “blow most other concerts out of the water”. Take it from her, then: the ABBA concert is a milestone moment in entertainment. Imagine



the potential possibilities in future, such as gigs from long-­deceased entertainers (either in physical locations or metaverse arenas) or collaborations between artists who are on stage in a physical arena alongside hyper-­ realistic avatars of other artists. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Beatles concert, that’s for sure! If you’re still sceptical about the importance of the metaverse to the music industry, consider that metaverse concerts are now established enough to warrant an MTV Video Music Award. The category, “Best Metaverse Performance”, launched at the 2022 VMAs and was won by K-­pop band Blackpink. Taking the idea of metaverse concerts a step further, in the future audience members may even be able to personalize virtual concerts to suit their own tastes. Maybe you’d like to see Elvis in his youthful prime on stage, while your partner wants the full sequined-­ jumpsuit-­ Vegas-­ era Elvis experience. You could both be hearing the same incredible Elvis voice, but seeing different visuals. Anything is possible with a virtual concert in the metaverse . . .

Virtual pop stars If we can immerse ourselves in a virtual show by a real-­life star, why shouldn’t we enjoy performances by stars who don’t exist outside of the metaverse? Polar is a fantastic example of a metaverse pop star, and I’ve been lucky enough to “meet” her—­or rather, my digital avatar Bernard Marr 2.0 did. While writing this chapter, my digital twin interviewed Polar, while the real, analogue me spoke to one of Polar’s creators, Patrik Wilkens, VP of Operations at media company TheSoul Publishing. Polar has enjoyed millions of views on YouTube and headlined the Solar Sounds metaverse music festival (she told Bernard Marr 2.0 how much she’d enjoyed meeting and dancing with fans at the festival). She also has exciting plans for



the future, including collabs with other artists, appearing as a character in a video game, and, taking a leaf out of ABBA’s book, performing a real-­ world concert. What’s new about metaverse pop stars is that, beyond simply watching their videos or following them on social media, fans can meet and interact with them in the myriad of 3D, immersive worlds that make up the metaverse. So, the appeal for fans is pretty clear. And for the people behind the star—­record labels, for example—­there are clear business advantages. Digital pop stars never get tired of promoting or touring. They’ll never say the wrong thing and generate a publicity nightmare. And they can be in lots of different virtual locations without ever getting jetlag. And they’ll never demand an expensive rider! They can also be designed algorithmic­ ally to provide everything that fans want—­by collecting and analysing behavioural data in order to create the “perfect pop star”. Indeed, one of the features that Wilkens told me he likes about Polar is that she was recently able to perform a concert in Latvia while simultaneously recording music tracks for her debut album in London. The digital pop star isn’t a particularly new phenomenon. Gorillaz—­a music and art collaboration between Blur singer Damon Albarn and Tank Girl illustrator Jamie Hewlett—­were promoted as the world’s first virtual band and their primary innovation was that they played real-­life shows, with the characters projected as holograms in front of a live audience. Elsewhere, Japanese pop megastar Hatsune Miku has enjoyed a wildly successful 15-­year career without letting a little thing like, you know, not actually existing in the real world stand in her way. She has attracted millions of social media followers and views, released 100,000 songs, hosted sold-­out concerts, and even opened for Lady Gaga. And because she’s a digital creation, she has stayed a cute, pigtailed 16-­year-­old the entire time. Closely related to this is the growing concept of digital-­only influencers—­ computer-­generated people who have realistic personalities and, often, a highly realistic appearance. Many of these virtual influencers are



amassing huge followings on social media—­as an example, virtual influencer Lil Miquela has almost 3  million followers on Instagram—­giving brands access to a ready-­made audience. There are other advantages for brands, too—­like virtual pop stars, virtual influencers will never say the wrong thing and land a brand in hot water. Renault, Dior, Hugo Boss, and Balenciaga are just a few of the brands who have collaborated with virtual influencers. Personally, my feeling is that virtual celebrities, entertainers, and musicians will never completely replace “real” ones as far as wider culture goes. They will co-­exist alongside real-­world artists and influencers, creating a digital extension of real-­world people as well as completely synthetic digital alternatives. That’s my prediction. We can be sure, however, that the boundaries between the real and digital worlds will continue to blur. Meaning virtual pop stars and influen­ cers will be a powerful marketing tool for brands looking to build new bridges with customers, particularly the young, digital-­native generations that will make up the citizens of the virtual world.

Merch in the metaverse After Swedish singer Zara Larsson held a virtual dance party on the Roblox platform, she reportedly made more than $1  million in sales of virtual merchandise (in-­game accessories like hats, sunglasses, hairstyles, dance moves, and even a virtual likeness of the star).5 As Larsson herself said, virtual gigs and merch could provide a financial lifeline for performers as income from music sales dips. “Streaming services don’t pay the most”, she said, adding that making a seven-­figure amount from platforms like Spotify or YouTube “would take a long, long time and hundreds and millions of streams”. This presents big opportunities for brands and artists alike. For brands, sponsorship of events, design collaborations with artists on virtual clothing, and virtual product launches could be exciting ways into the metaverse.



(I’m sure Nike, a brand partner of Travis Scott, made certain the rapper’s digital avatar was wearing Nike trainers during his Fortnite concert.)

Web3 and music We’ve just touched on this notion of streaming platforms making it hard for artists to earn a fair living, unless you’re a huge megastar like Taylor Swift. So how might web3 and its promise of decentralization change this? Selling in-­game merch (via NFTs, crypto, and blockchain) is a great example of web3’s potential. But what else? Blockchain platforms could certainly provide news ways for artists to connect with fans (indeed, this is already happening—­Roblox and Decentraland are blockchain-­based platforms). As more immersive blockchain worlds develop—­and as these worlds become more connected, creating a true metaverse experience—­there’s hope that more artists, not just the Taylor Swifts of this world, will be able to earn a living doing what they love. One example of this comes from community-­based music listening app Mixtape Social. The app allows users to tag their favourite tunes with memories and stories of why that song means so much to them, thus restoring the sense of personal connection with songs that we don’t always get from streaming. Mixtape leverages web3 blockchain technology via a crypto token called Mixtape Token, which allows fans to compensate artists they follow. Tokens can also be used to unlock exclusive content (co-­founder Rob Duffin told me the tokens will have more functionality in future). According to Duffin, web3 has the potential to bring about “a totally different landscape where artists own their content, and they are fairly compensated, and fans have that direct interaction with artists they love . . . we’re seeing the beginnings of that today, but blockchain is really going to blow the floodgates open”. If I were a middleman organization in the music industry (streaming service, record company, etc.) I’d be concerned about the impact web3 could have on my business. Duffin, however, is magnanimous about this, saying,



“That’s not to say there’s no place for any middlemen . . . there’s lots of labels that provide tremendous value to help artists through the recording process and through live shows”. But he believes those middlemen who serve no purpose other than to facilitate transactions will be largely redundant thanks to blockchain, smart contracts, crypto, and NFTs. For example, smart contracts can be configured to automatically pay royalties to artists, and transactions can automatically be carried out whenever a fan hits the play button. Bottom line, web3 could give artists more control over how their music is consumed and enjoyed.

Music and NFTs Of course, if we’re going to talk about web3 and music, we have to talk about NFTs. Just as in art, NFTs are quickly making their way into the music industry in the form of music NFTs—­NFTs that may have a musical component as well as a visual component. Kings of Leon sold their album When You See Yourself in the form of an NFT. But, again, since the NFT is purely a token that represents ownership, buyers actually received the album as a good old-­fashioned MP3 or vinyl. So, you’d be forgiven for asking, what’s the point? Think of NFTs as digital tokens or collectibles and it’s easy to see how they could be leveraged in the music industry. Collectible album covers, NFTs of individual songs, membership to an exclusive fan club, exclusive perks (like early access to a new album), digital versions of tickets to events . . . there are many ways NFTs could form part of a musician’s revenue stream. And as we’ve seen, the combination of blockchain, smart contracts, and NFTs allows fans to directly support the artists they love. And the beauty of NFTs is, if an NFT owner decides to resell their NFT, the original artist could get a cut of the resale. And there is real money to be made from NFTs. Berlin-­based singer-­ songwriter Violetta Zironi is earning thousands from music NFTs, despite



not being a household name. Her NFT for ballad “A Little Rain Must Fall” sold for the Ethereum equivalent of roughly $10,000,6 and she’s gone on to have even more success with other NFT projects. NFTs could also be used as a way of crowdfunding the money to make a “proper” recording, which would then be sent to purchasers of the NFT. Music producer Crown Shyness has found success with this model. All this has given rise to new decentralized platforms like Opulous, where artists can create and sell music NFTs, and access peer-­to-­peer loans, without having to go through traditional middlemen. Bottom line, thanks to NFTs and web3, artists can find new ways to monetize their work and engage with fans. Indie artists aside, even established music labels—­those middlemen that web3 threatens to disrupt—­are getting on the NFT train. Warner Music, for example, is partnering with NFT marketplace OpenSea to provide a platform for Warner artists to launch their own NFT collections and limited-­edition projects. NFTs also provide a way for music events and festivals to sell tickets as digital tokens. To mark its 2022 comeback (after the pandemic), the Coachella festival created a range of NFTs, offering high-­roller benefits such as lifetime passes and exclusive access to certain areas at the festival. This is a really interesting example, because it shows that NFTs can be used to represent ownership of tangible real-­world assets and experiences, not just digital assets. It’s a taste of how other real-­world experiences could incorporate NFTs in future. Other Coachella NFTs include digital images and sounds from the festival.

Meanwhile, in the World of Sports . . . I’ve mentioned a few times that the future internet (the metaverse, in particular) will blur the boundaries between the physical “real” world around



us and virtual worlds. Sports is an area that I find particularly interesting because we’re beginning to see this blurring of boundaries already play out.

The esport explosion One of the most exciting developments in recent years, and one that encapsulates this merging of the physical and digital worlds, is esports, or electronic sports. Esports evolved out of video games to incorporate aspects typically associated with professional sports, such as playing for live audiences, competing in leagues and tournaments, attracting sponsorship deals, and earning an actual salary as a professional player. It’s fair to say that esports really took off during the pandemic, generating over $1 billion in revenue for the first time during 2021. Fortnite is an example of an esport in the sense that it has professional players (indeed, it has generated some of the world’s youngest millionaire professional gamers), and it has an annual Fortnite World Cup. (The 2022 event offered a $1 million prize to the winner.) Then there’s long-­running favourite League of Legends, one of the most-­played esports out there with over 100 million monthly players. The team-­based battle arena video game also has its own annual tournament—­the League of Legends World Championship—­and the 2021 final was watched by a staggering 73 million viewers. Read that last sentence again: 73  million viewers. These tournaments already attract millions of players and spectators, which proves beyond a doubt that gaming has truly evolved into a spectator sport. Naturally, this brings many interesting sponsorship and advertising opportunities for organizations that might normally consider sponsoring a physical sports team or event. And much like we now have physical galleries displaying digital artworks, we also have physical stadiums hosting esport events. Perhaps the biggest indication so far that esports have truly “arrived” is their inclusion in the Asian



Games—­ the second-­ largest multi-­ sport tournament after the Olympics. Esports are set to debut as an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games (postponed until 2023 due to COVID-­19), and I’ve no doubt that we’ll see esports debut at other international (physical) sporting events in future. Another fascinating example of esports in the physical world comes from HADO, the world’s first physical esport. HADO is essentially dodgeball, but with AR energy balls and shields. In other words, you go to a physical HADO arena (there are HADO locations in dozens of countries) and have the best game of dodgeball in your life! You can play one-­on-­one, two-­ on-­two, or three-­on-­three and the goal is always the same: to hit the other team or player with as many energy balls as you can to drain them of their “lives” and earn points during each timed event. You can defend yourself with shields, which weaken if they get hit by the opposing team’s energy balls. There are even HADO competitions and tournaments, including the HADO World Cup, and a Pro HADO League. What’s really clever about this is that players have all the freedom of movement they would in a regular game of dodgeball, meaning they don’t have to be tethered to a gaming system, controllers, or cables; all they need is a headset and a small motion sensor worn on the wrist or forearm. The merging of physical athletics with AR (or even VR) technology to create immersive new sports could be a big growth area in future.

Where traditional sports meet the metaverse Whether you’re a player or a spectator, sports are communal experiences—­ events that bring people together, to connect and share in the highs and lows of their favourite team or athlete. Which, when you think about it, ties in very nicely with the metaverse and its promise of persistent, shared virtual worlds and experiences. As such, I think we’ll definitely see more blending of the physical and digital worlds in traditional sports, such as digital recreations of physical sporting



arenas in the metaverse (which fans can visit with the help of a VR headset). Manchester City soccer club is already working on this. They’re partnering with Hawk-­Eye—­sports technology specialists and creators of the ball-­tracking and officiating system used at Wimbledon and other sporting events—­to digitally recreate the club’s Etihad Stadium for fans (or rather, fans’ digital avatars) to explore. In the future, instead of watching matches on TV, more and more of us may head online to the virtual stadium instead. I mean, why not? In theory, you’d be able to sit anywhere in the stadium, and enjoy a seat you could only dream of in real life. Baseball team the Atlanta Braves have already created a VR-­based digital twin of its stadium, Truist Park, with this in mind. Distant fans can gather together in the Digital Truist Park and watch their team from the comfort of their individual homes. As well as virtual stadiums, teams are looking for more ways to immerse fans in engaging experiences. The National Basketball Association (NBA) did something cool during the 2022 NBA Playoffs, inviting fans into an immersive digital arena via the NBA app. Designed as half-­time entertainment, the virtual “Pixel Arena” allowed fans to customize their own avatar, and enjoy features such as scoring recaps and trivia. The possibilities for teams in the metaverse are endless, offering exciting new ways to connect with fans—­and, in the process, gathering valuable data on what fans enjoy. Think about it, at the moment, a football team may know that 50 million people tuned into the broadcast of their match. But they won’t know who those fans are. With the metaverse, the connection between teams, sportspeople, and their fans could get a lot deeper.

Changing the nature of sports broadcasting As you can probably tell, the metaverse may completely change sports broadcasting as we know it. The opportunity to create immersive, interactive, 3D viewing experiences is huge. I’m currently working with a major British broadcasting channel to help them understand the coming changes and plan for the future, and I’d urge any broadcasting organization



and streaming service—­at least, those that want to survive for the long term—­to start planning for the metaverse. Yes, for now, watching sports on TV is the best option when you can’t be in the stadium itself. But it won’t be the best option for much longer. Not in an age when people are becoming increasingly used to immersive video games, personalized experiences, and interactive content. Even now, people increasingly head online during a match to chat with fellow fans, get stats, and so on (consider that 58 percent of millennials use social media during a game for updates and armchair analysis7). Traditional broadcasters will have to innovate, or they’ll be overtaken by new, tech-­savvy providers or more agile streaming services that can give fans what they want—­a more social, interactive viewing experience. Perhaps with this very goal in mind, Apple has acquired VR company Next­VR, specialists in broadcasting live and recorded sporting events in VR (prior to the acquisition, NextVR had worked with the NBA). This is surely a sign of things to come among traditional broadcasters and streaming platforms. We’ve talked about VR and sport, but another simple way of making broadcasts more interactive is through the use of AR—­think graphics and digital content overlayed on top of video content. We already have this to some extent in many sports, with the digital yellow line in football games being a prime example. But in the future, we’ll see these graphics become more complex and personalized—­for example, offering each fan the choice of what information they see during the match. You want to see player stats onscreen while you’re watching the match? AR would make that possible. Meanwhile, your friend next to you, using their own AR glasses or phone screen, might prefer to see social media feeds alongside the TV screen.

NFTs in sports We can’t talk about sports and the future internet without talking about NFTs. It’s still early days for sports NFTs, but I expect NFTs will play a



fairly important role in sports in future—­from minting exclusive collect­ ibles as NFTs, to issuing tickets as tokens, NFTs have huge potential for sports teams, athletes, and brands. As we’ve seen in music and art, NFTs give fans another way to support their favourite teams—­and this is already taking shape in the form of exclusive NFT collectibles. The obvious example is traditional player trading cards turned into digital collectibles, but there are many other things that sports fans may want to collect as NFTs—­video highlights and favourite moments being a great example. On the NBA Top Shot blockchain platform, for instance, fans can trade video clips of legendary moments from their favourite players. Or there’s UFC Strike, which lets UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fans trade digital collectibles of iconic UFC moments. NFTs may also serve as digital tickets or even a type of fan membership that offers exclusive perks—­for example, you could buy an NFT that gives you early-­bird access to ticket sales, exclusive discounts, or even the ability to unlock VIP digital content. Since NFTs live on blockchain networks, we can certainly expect to see more partnerships between blockchain platforms and sports teams. Swiss-­ based blockchain platform Tezos (which features smart contracts and its own native cryptocurrency Tez) is leading the way in this area, partnering with racing team McLaren. As the team’s “official blockchain partner”, Tezos is creating NFT experiences for fans of Formula 1, IndyCar, and eracing. (If you aren’t familiar with eracing, the F1 Esports Series is a good example. An evolution of the official F1 video game, F1 Esports lets fans compete against real-­life drivers and attempt to become an official F1 Esports driver.) Initially, this McLaren NFT fan experience has taken the form of a seven-­ page comic book series of NFTs available on the Tezos platform—­with each page being dropped daily ahead of the 2022 Singapore and Japanese Grands Prix, and 400 editions of each page being minted. The comic tells the story of two McLaren interns who are tasked with keeping an eye on



the team’s mascot, who ends up escaping and adventuring throughout Asia. Fans who purchased the NFTs were rewarded with exclusive perks—­ for example, purchasing a single page gave fans access to a virtual call with McLaren, and each page purchased counted as an entry into a raffle for McLaren prizes. Tezos has also signed a multi-­year partnership with Manchester United—­a partnership that will see the Tezos logo being featured on the club’s training kits and the creation of new fan experiences built on the Tezos blockchain. Both Tezos and Manchester United have said the partnership will revolutionize interactions between the club and its fans. Bottom line, NFTs may transform sports memorabilia and ticketing, provide new ways for clubs and players to engage with their fans, and, in the process, create a new revenue stream for sports teams and individual players.

Key Takeaways Let’s finish up this chapter with some final key takeaways—­and remember that these lessons could be applied to other industries, as well. • In art, web3 technology provides opportunities for art lovers to directly support artists through NFTs, and to transform how artists get paid. And the metaverse will give us new ways to view and interact with art in immersive virtual spaces. • Gaming is a natural fit with the metaverse, and in the future we can look forward to enjoying even more immersive game experiences, and the ability to move between different experiences and gaming ecosystems, taking our avatars and friends with us. In-­game assets as NFTs allow gamers to create real-­world value from digital creations, and potentially earn as they play. • Music is already seeing huge transformations as a result of the metaverse and web3—­ including virtual live performances in



metaverse arenas, digital avatars performing in real-­life arenas, and the creation of virtual popstars. Meanwhile, web3 is providing new ways for musicians to connect with audiences and earn a living—­for example, through music NFTs and in-­game merchandise. • In sports, the metaverse and immersive technologies (AR and VR) are enabling new fan experiences, and a more social and interactive viewing experience. Plus, NFTs are providing new ways for teams to engage with fans—­ through digital collectibles and membership perks. • In all areas of arts and entertainment, we’re seeing the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds becoming increasingly blurred. I expect this to absolutely translate to other areas in future. Another industry that’s seeing the physical and digital worlds merge is retail. Let’s explore this industry and see how shopping will evolve in the future internet . . .

Notes 1. The Creator Economy boom; Antler;­creator-­ economy-­boom-­what-­it-­is-­whats-­driving 2. Why are NFT platforms opening up physical gallery spaces?; The Art Newspaper;­are-­nft-­platforms-­ opening-­up-­physical-­gallery-­spaces 3. Next Stop: The Metaverse; Sotheby’s; next-­stop-­the-­metaverse 4. What’s possible for the gaming industry in the next dimension?; EY; https://­s-­possible-­for-­the-­gaming-­industry-­in-­the-­ next-­dimension 5. How pop star Zara Larsson made a seven-­figure sum on Roblox; BBC News;­arts-­59163449



6. How NFTs Are Shaping the Way Music Sounds; Pitchfork; https://pitchfork .com/features/article/how-­nfts-­are-­shaping-­the-­way-­music-­sounds/ 7. The Future of Sports Broadcasting;; blog/future-­sports-­broadcast-­innovation-­ar/



HOW FASHION AND RETAIL BRANDS ARE PREPARING FOR A MORE IMMERSIVE WORLD In the same way that web1 introduced consumers to online shopping, and web2 created the world of influencer marketing, web3 and the metaverse will transform fashion and retail. The metaverse, in particular, offers retailers enormous possibilities for raising brand awareness, deepening engagement, and improving the customer experience. Indeed, brands are already cottoning on to the fact that customers want to be immersed in the shopping or brand experience, and, as such, are moving beyond static retail websites to create digital shopping destinations. Let’s see how the future internet will change how we shop and engage with retail brands.

Enjoying a Better Customer Experience in the Current Internet We’ll get to the metaverse in a bit, but even in our current internet we’re already seeing retailers using immersive technology to create a better shopping experience.



Augmented reality (AR) is proving especially useful here because it can help customers project products into their homes (or onto their bodies). IKEA does this with its IKEA Place app, which lets customers digitally render IKEA furniture in their home to see whether it’s right before they buy. Users scan the room in question to create an accurate representation, then they can place IKEA furniture and objects in the digital image of that room. IKEA promises that the more than 3,000 items available in the app are true to scale, with up to 98 percent accuracy, so you can be pretty sure that couch really will fit in that space. The company also claims that the AR technology is precise enough to be able to see the texture of fabrics and the interplay of light and shadows on furniture. Such AR tools can, in theory, be applied to any type of product—­clothes, cosmetics, jewellery, you name it. Even paint. Both Home Depot and Dulux have apps to help shoppers “try out” shades of paint in their home. You simply point your camera at a wall or room in your home, select a shade of paint, and the space is transformed before your eyes with a true rendering of what you would see on your walls. If you’ve ever bought paint only to discover it’s not right for your room’s proportions and light, you can see how tools like this are beneficial. Customers can even try out glasses with AR. Bollé’s clever eyewear for adventurers improves clarity and contrast in low-­visibility conditions (think skiing and cycling). But how can customers try out these lenses before they buy? Even if they try on a pair in store, it won’t replicate the outdoor conditions where these glasses excel. So, Bollé turned to AR to solve this problem, engineering an AR experience where users hold up their phone to see the world as if looking through Bollé’s clarifying lenses. Neat, eh? In clothing, Hugo Boss is using AR to make shopping online easier. Customers who visit the Hugo Boss website can create personalized virtual mannequins that match their body measurements, then choose from thousands of products and place different combinations of clothing on their mannequin. This is really clever because not only can you accurately



see how the clothes would look on you, but you can also decide whether items go together. No more ordering multiple sizes or buying different items only to find out that they don’t look right together. According to Hugo Boss, the virtual try-­on feature will even allow you to style outfits as you would in real life—­tucking a shirt in or out, for example, or layering one item over another. Even physical shops are becoming more immersive, experiential, and tech-­driven. Makeup retailer Charlotte Tilbury, for example, installed a “magic mirror” at its London store, which allows customers to virtually try out different makeup looks using AR. Bottom line, AR has tons of potential to ease the customer journey, remove common pain points, and improve conversions. Indeed, research shows that the majority of customers are not only open to AR tools like this—­ they may be more likely to purchase an item when they’ve experienced it through AR. One 2019 study found that 57 percent of customers in the UK said they would definitely or probably use VR/AR applications that provided more information on products (62 percent for customers in the US).1 What’s more, conversion rates increase by 90 percent among customers who engage with AR versus those who don’t.2

Creating Digital-­Only Products As we saw in Chapter 4, we already have digital pop stars and influencers who only exist online. So, why not have digital-­only products as well? A trend that started with NFT (non-­fungible token) collectibles and purchasing in-­game accessories is now spreading to the retail sector. For fashion brands in particular, the metaverse and web3 will offer a whole new way of engaging with customers and meeting the needs of customers who increasingly spend their time in virtual worlds. Think about it—­most of us use clothing as a way to show our individuality and personality. It’s why the fashion industry exists. So, why wouldn’t



you want your digital avatar to look good and represent how you’d dress in real life? Several brands have already created digital-­only products. Balenciaga created a clothing line in Fortnite, for example. Gucci created a luxury dest­ ination called Gucci Garden on the Roblox platform, where it sold a single virtual bag for over $4,000. Burberry created a line of NFT creations for the Blankos Block Party universe that included armbands, jetpacks, and pool shoes—­the collection sold out quickly and made almost $400,000. And Dolce & Gabbana sold a nine-­piece collection on digital luxury marketplace UNXD for a staggering $5.7 million. For the most part, then, high-­end brands have been leading the way with this trend. In fact, analysts at Morgan Stanley predict that the market for virtual luxury goods could be as large as $50 billion by 2030.3 Digital designer clothing even featured at Paris Fashion Week 2022. Designer Victor Weinsanto, a protégé of Jean Paul Gaultier, unveiled his first digital collection (designed in collaboration with K-­pop band Lightsum), showcasing the pieces as 3D holograms in glass cases. What’s really interesting about this is that factors like the quality of the materials, stitching, and so on—­those things that might normally distinguish luxury goods from more affordable goods—­aren’t relevant in the metaverse at all. I mean, you’re not going to feel the suppleness of that leather or the silkiness of a material on your body. It’s all about the brand name itself rather than the quality of the item. Which means branding will be more important than ever in the metaverse era. As with most things in fashion, trends that start with designer clothes tend to filter down to high-­street brands. Therefore, we can certainly expect more and more brands, all along the pricing spectrum, to start releasing digital products—­whether those products are for sale or purely to create marketing buzz. When you consider that Coca-­Cola launched a virtual drink (Coca-­Cola Zero Sugar Byte) within the Fortnite game, this is clearly already happening.



Even sceptics have to admit there are very real advantages to digital products, both for brands and customers. Designers can create free from the limitations of physical products. Production costs are minimal, profit margins are huge, and brands don’t have to worry about carrying too much stock (unlike physical products). And thanks to smart contracts, it’s even possible for brands to receive a cut of future resales on goods—­ which could be very attractive for luxury brands in particular. For us as customers, the main advantage—­apart from being able to personalize our avatars—­is that we get to enjoy products without giving a second thought to practical considerations like comfort and durability. So go on, treat yourself to those digital 10-­inch platform shoes. There’s no chance of getting a blister or spraining your ankle! It’s not all about fashion, though. In the metaverse, you’ll be able to buy digital versions of practically anything—­clothes, yes, but also virtual furniture for your virtual house, a virtual car to cruise around in, virtual pets . . . and virtual jewellery for when you need a bit of bling. Jevels is one example of a digital jewellery marketplace. (In case you were wondering, the “v” in Jevels stands for “virtual”.) So far, the digital jewellery is designed to be compatible with Snapchat (upon purchase, you receive a link to a Snapchat filter that allows you to “wear” the jewellery), but it also works with platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. This means real people can wear digital jewellery during digital meetings, livestreams, and for our social media photos and video-­shoots. In the future, our metaverse avatars will also be able to wear beautiful digital jewellery to complement our digital outfits, and take our bling with us wherever we go in the metaverse.

Take Note: Brands Are Already Creating a Metaverse Presence Remember earlier in the chapter I mentioned those personalized measurement mannequins on the Hugo Boss website? This sort of thing will translate extremely well into the metaverse. Taking our avatar into a “virtual dressing room” and trying on as many items as we like, in various



combinations, will be par for the course in the future. We’ll be able to view how the clothing looks from any angle—­and maybe even see how outfits look in different environments, like at nightclubs or on the beach. To facilitate this immersive shopping experience, we’re beginning to see brands create their own metaverse spaces—­be they virtual shops or fun brand experiences for customers to engage with. Nike is a real leader when it comes to creating a virtual presence in the metaverse. The brand set up its own virtual, immersive world called Nikeland in the Roblox blockchain platform. Inspired by Nike’s real-­life Oregon headquarters, Nikeland features Nike buildings, fields, and arenas where Nike lovers can take part in mini-­games, such as tag and dodgeball. But there’s also a virtual showroom of Nike products, spanning the latest digital products and digital versions of Nike classics, like the Air Force 1. For now, users can dress up their virtual avatars in these Nike items in Nikeland. But as the metaverse evolves and we begin to seamlessly move between different platforms and experiences, it makes sense that Nike customers will be able to take their Nike goodies with them outside of Nikeland and into other games’ virtual worlds. In other words, Nikeland is part game, part brand experience, and part showroom. It’s a cool glimpse of what virtual stores may look like in the future—­moving beyond just straight-­up digital replicas of physical stores to incorporate immersive, fun activities as well as the opportunity to shop. Compared to this, the one-­note retail websites of the current internet look pretty boring. But Nike isn’t the only brand to take steps into the metaverse. Forever 21 has created Forever 21 Shop City (also in Roblox)—­a game where users can try their hand at owning and running their very own virtual Forever 21 store. As users progress through the game—­customizing the store, selling merchandise, and so on—­they earn points that can be used to improve their store. And as the brand launches new fashion collections, products will be simultaneously released in the virtual world, meaning players can wear and sell the latest Forever 21 pieces.



Elsewhere, beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury has created a virtual store, Beauty Wonderland, where customers are guided by a “Magic Charlotte” avatar through themed beauty zones (such as “Hollywood”). Visitors to the virtual store can shop personalized makeup kits, view makeup tutor­ ials, and attend live events. What we’re seeing in these early days of the metaverse, then, is brands creating virtual experiences that are personalized, immersive, and interactive—­ all with the goal of deepening the connection with customers. But as the metaverse evolves, I expect we’ll see more of a blend of experiential retail and e-­commerce. In other words, head to a virtual store and, as well as enjoying a fun brand experience, you’ll be able to shop and try on the full range of digital and physical products, with the latter being dispatched to you in the real world after purchasing. Selfridges did something along these lines when it launched Electric/ City, a virtual city inspired by the fashion capitals of the world where visitors can shop digital and physical products. The project is a collaboration between Selfridges, designer Charli Cohen, and the Pokémon brand (to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon). Electric/City features an exclusive collection of physical Charli Cohen × Pokémon garments available to purchase for real-­world use (they also come with a QR code-­ activated Pikachu AR experience). Plus, there’s an exclusive collection of digital-­only products that shoppers can buy and “wear” as a Snapchat filter or on a customizable AR avatar (compatible with 300 other virtual platforms, according to Selfridges). Virtual destinations like this may be separate places to visit in their own right, or part of another virtual world (just as Nike and Forever 21 chose Roblox as their virtual home). With this in mind, the blockchain-­based virtual world Decentraland even has a dedicated fashion shopping district, known as Fashion Street. But brands wanting to set up shop in this district should be prepared to shell out big bucks, because Fashion Street is premium real estate indeed—­in 2021, a desirable plot of land there sold for an estimated $2.4 million (it was bought by crypto investor platform



In the future, these virtual stores may even be staffed by real people. Decentraland’s Tominoya Casino made headlines when it advertised for real people to staff its virtual casino,5 so why wouldn’t we see this with virtual stores, too? For those who work in retail, the metaverse may provide some interesting employment opportunities in the future. Finally, if you think the metaverse will only be home to fashion and beauty brands, think again. Among the retailers setting up a metaverse presence is Walmart. The retail giant has created two experiences aimed at younger users in Roblox. There’s Walmart Land, which features an obstacle course of oversized items from Walmart lines as well as a virtual dressing room featuring exclusive clothing lines. Walmart Land also hosted a virtual concert called Electric Fence featuring Madison Beer and other artists. The second Walmart experience, called Universe of Play, features games with items from Walmart’s top toy products (such as characters from Jurassic World and Paw Patrol). For now, Walmart’s Roblox presence is aimed more at drawing in young people rather than explicitly making money. (Although, clearly part of the goal is getting young players who interact with toys and characters to ask their parents to buy the associated real-­world products!) And in the future, Walmart could potentially monetize both experiences by charging brands to be featured in the games. Talking about blockchain-­based platforms like Roblox and Decentraland, it’s clear that web3 technologies will play a vital role alongside the metaverse. So, let’s briefly explore what web3 means for retailers.

Web3 (Especially Blockchain) and the Impact on Retailers We’ll get to NFTs in a bit, but for now I want to focus on blockchain. Because, when it comes to improving business processes, I believe blockchain has enormous potential to disrupt the retail industry.



For one thing, blockchain can revolutionize the supply chain, bringing transparency to the movement and exchange of goods, and ensuring a secure, complete record of where products and materials have come from. I’ll talk more about blockchain and the supply chain in Chapter 9, but for retailers in particular this will help to promote consumer confidence as more and more consumers think carefully about the products they buy and the environmental and ethical impact of their purchasing decisions. Because blockchain provides a complete, traceable record of a product’s lifecycle, right back to its origin, this gives customers clear information on the sustainability and provenance of the goods they buy. It also provides reassurance that what you’re buying is the genuine article, and not a counterfeit knock-­off. In Chapter 2, I mentioned that Walmart uses blockchain to trace goods through the supply chain. French retailer Carrefour does a similar thing, using blockchain to track meat, dairy, and fruit from farm to store. Customers can simply scan a QR code in store, using their phone, and get information on where the product was harvested (and when), and whether pesticides were used in its production. Blockchain also gives consumers more control over their privacy and data (turn to Chapter 7 for more on this). And because blockchain is super-­ secure, it helps to build consumer trust, in an age when companies are frequently plagued by data security breaches. Plus, for retail brands, the decentralized nature of blockchain and web3 means brands will be better able to connect directly with customers without having to go through intermediaries (trying to get your products stocked in a Walmart or Target, for instance). After all, blockchain excels at facilitating secure financial transactions between two independent parties, without needing a third party to manage the transaction. Combine this with automatically executing smart contracts, and there’s even the possibility for brands to take a slice of the pie when their products are resold in future. This won’t be applicable to all retail brands,



of course, but I’d imagine it would appeal to luxury brands and fashion designers.

NFTs in Retail Digital-­only products, virtual stores, blockchain-­based transactions  .  .  . you see where this is all going, don’t you? Yes, we’re dipping our toes into retail NFTs. Particularly when it comes to the digital-­only exclusive products that we’ve explored so far, these are typically sold as NFTs, meaning they’re released in limited quantities and customers receive an NFT as a certification of ownership. But I expect NFTs to play a much wider role in retail in future, helping brands fully realize their potential in the token-­based economies of the metaverse and web3 platforms. Think of an NFT as a barcode, essentially—­a digital tool that links a product to information—­and it’s easy to see how they could prove useful for retailers. Remember that NFTs don’t just act as a record of ownership for digital products—­as we saw in Chapter 2, they can be used to record ownership of a physical asset or product. Which could, in turn, be very helpful when it comes to proving the authenticity of physical products and combatting counterfeit goods. As an example, Nike has patented a system called CryptoKicks, which will be used to record and track ownership of physical Nike trainers, while at the same time giving owners of physical products a digital copy to wear in virtual environments. In another example of blending physical goods and NFTs, the makers of Glenfiddich whisky sold 15 limited-­edition bottles, each one accompanied by its own NFT, for an impressive $18,000 apiece. Distillers William Grant & Sons partnered with BlockBar, specialists in luxury wine and spirits NFTs, on the project. Buyers of the super-­rare, 46-­year-­old whisky received an NFT artistic impression of the bottle as a certificate of ownership—­and despite the steep price tag, all 15 bottles sold within seconds.



In theory, asset-­backed NFTs like this could apply to almost any kind of physical product, especially in the luxury goods sector. As the Glenfiddich example shows, NFTs can help brands build and engage with a passionate community of collectors. Products aside, NFTs may also be used as a sort of “VIP membership” token, potentially giving customers access to exclusive discounts, early-­ bird access to new collections, access to members-­only events, special brand content, and more. In other words, just as we saw in the worlds of sport and entertainment, NFTs can allow retail brands to engage with loyal customers in new ways, while offering very real perks. This strategy of adding value to NFT tokens by giving people exclusive “access” to cool stuff (content, products, a community, or whatever) is known as token gating in the tech world. It basically means you’re adding utility to an NFT. The possibilities for token gating in the retail world are endless. People wanting to dine at New  York’s exclusive private dining club the Flyfish Club can only do so if they have the Flyfish NFT. The Flyfish NFT functions as a sort of membership fee, except, instead of paying an annual fee, the NFT is a one-­time purchase. And if access to the private restaurant wasn’t enough, there’s a second tier of NFT membership that gives owners access to an even more exclusive room within the club. NFT holders also get access to special events, including a members-­only yacht party and members-­only merch. Elsewhere, Urban Outfitters created an NFT collection to mark 50 years of the Smiley brand, and owners of the NFTs were able to enter exclusive weekly contests for prizes. To put it another way, NFTs and token gating can be used as another marketing tool for brands, helping to build buzz and brand loyalty in a world where the physical and digital becomes increasingly blurred. And finally, for retailers who want to buy real estate in virtual worlds, to build their virtual stores, the record of ownership will be—­you guessed it—­an NFT. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine how any retailer who wants to build a metaverse presence can afford to ignore the NFT trend.



Now, Web3 Platforms Are Showing Up as Physical Retailers There’s another interesting way in which the digital and physical worlds are merging: web3 players setting up physical retail stores in the real world. Blockchain network Solana did just this when it opened Solana Spaces—­a permanent retail store in Hudson Yards, New York—­in 2022. The store is partly an educational exercise designed to help people pick up web3 skills (e.g. setting up their crypto wallet), but it also features crypto-­themed merchandise including shirts, hats, and sweatshirts. There’s even a physical display of NFT artworks. Hundreds of people attended the store’s opening day, and CEO Vibhu Norby said he expects it to introduce 100,000 people a month to the Solana blockchain network.6 Similarly, entertainment and product brand Superplastic made a name for itself selling “ridiculously dope” NFTs. But in 2022, the brand launched a physical location—­part store, part event space, and part gallery—­in New York. Here, visitors can see art from Superplastic collaborators and buy physical Superplastic collectibles. And if you happen to own certain Superplastic NFTs, you even get access to a secret room at the venue. As Superplastic founder and CEO Paul Budnitz described it, “It’s all about the intersection of reality and virtual reality . . . The way we’re setting it up is when you walk out the back door, you can continue in the virtual world and it keeps going . . . ”.7 For me, this idea that you can be enjoying a physical experience one minute and then seamlessly flip over to a related virtual experience encapsulates the future internet. In both of these examples, it’s safe to say that selling merch isn’t the main point—­the main goal here is to bring people into the blockchain and web3 fold. To legitimize web3, if you like, in the eyes of those who are perhaps a bit sceptical. And physical experiences can be a great way to do that. I mean, consider the brand exposure that comes with opening a physical retail store in a prime location like Hudson Yards. Physical stores are also a good way to win over cynics and demystify a lot of the noise around web3



technologies. With this in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more web3 brands introduce themselves via brick-­and-­mortar retail spaces.

Key Takeaways Let’s finish up this chapter with some final key takeaways—­many of which could be applied to sectors beyond retail. • For all kinds of retailers, the metaverse and web3 offer enormous possibilities for raising brand awareness, deepening customer engagement, and improving the customer experience. • Even today, we’re already seeing standard web2 sites and apps incorporate immersive technologies—­largely using AR to help customers visualize a product in more detail. AR is a brilliant tool for easing the customer journey, removing common pain points, and improving conversion rates. • Looking ahead, we’ll see more retailers create digital-­only products for the metaverse. Luxury brands are leading the way here. And what’s interesting about this is that the physical quality of the product doesn’t matter in the metaverse. It’s all about the brand. Therefore, branding will be super-­important in the metaverse. • We’re also seeing brands moving into the early stages of the metaverse by creating virtual stores, lands, and brand experiences that are personalized, immersive, and interactive. • Web3—­ particularly blockchain—­ has the potential to transform retail by tracking products across the supply chain, improving transparency, giving customers more control over their data, and more. • NFTs are highly applicable to the retail sector since they can be used to record ownership of digital and physical products. They can also act as a membership token, giving holders of the NFT exclusive access (to content, communities, products, contests, or whatever). This strategy is known as token gating.



• Just as physical retailers are setting up home in the metaverse, web3 brands are beginning to set up physical stores to sell merch and provide web3-­related educational experiences. The merging of the physical and digital worlds continues! Now let’s move from retail to education and training and explore how learning will evolve in the future internet . . .

Notes 1. The Future of Shopping: Connected, virtual and augmented; Periscope by McKinsey; https://www.periscope-­ 2. Why retailers should embrace augmented reality in the wake of COVID-­19; Retail Customer Experience; articles/why-­retailers-­should-­embrace-­augmented-­reality-­in-­t he-­wake-­ of-­covid-­19/ 3. Metaverse: a $50 bln revenue opportunity for luxury; Reuters; https://www­50-­bln-­revenue-­opportunity-­luxury-­ ms-­2021-­11-­16/ 4. Fashion Street Estate in Decentraland purchased for 618,000 MANA in record breaking sale; Cryptoslate;­street-­estate-­in-­ decentraland-­purchased-­for-­618000-­mana-­in-­record-­breaking-­sale/ 5. This Casino In Decentraland Is Hiring (For Real); Coin Desk; https://www­c asino-­in-­decentraland-­is-­hiring-­ for-­real/ 6. Solana Spaces store to bring 100K people to Solana per month says CEO; Coin Telegraph;­spaces-­store-­to-­bring-­ 100k-­people-­to-­solana-­per-­month-­ceo-­vibhu-­norby 7. Why web3 brands are moving offline to explore physical spaces; Digiday;­web3-­brands-­are-­moving-­offline-­to-­ explore-­physical-­spaces/



OVERHAULING HOW WE LEARN (AT ALL STAGES OF LIFE) I have three children of school age, and a teacher for a wife, so it’s fair to say I have skin in the game when it comes to education. So, when I say that our current education system needs an overhaul, know that I’m not disparaging teachers. But I do believe education urgently needs to change. Too much of teaching is based on presenting students with facts, which means the successful students tend to be those who can retain and recall facts easily in test situations. Meanwhile, students who struggle to process large amounts of information at once—­or are perhaps visual learners who need to “see” a process in action to understand it—­get left behind, grow bored, and disengage from the learning process. Technology can change this. Especially immersive metaverse technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The metaverse will allow students to visualize concepts, visit new places, and even immerse themselves in a completely different time—­all without having to leave the classroom (or, in the case of remote learning, their home). In other words, the metaverse presents us with an exciting opportunity to deliver a more inclusive, engaging learning experience. In this chapter, we’ll explore how education will become more immersive thanks to the metaverse—­and, to a lesser extent, how web3 technologies like blockchain may impact education.



Even if you don’t work in the education sector, there are still takeaways to learn from this chapter. For one thing, these technologies provide very real opportunities for organizations to make their training more immersive and engaging. This chapter could therefore shape your internal training and development processes—­and perhaps even inform how you learn new skills outside of the workplace.

Making Learning More Immersive Anything that makes learning more engaging and interesting is a plus in my book—­because when learning is more interesting, it’s easier for learners to absorb and remember information. Immersive technologies therefore give us an unbelievable opportunity to aid the transfer of knowledge.

Improving formal education This immersion may take the shape of VR experiences that transport students away from the classroom. Or using AR to bring concepts to life in the classroom setting, for example by overlaying graphics, text, animations, and instructions onto the real world. So, rather than simply reading about something, students can experience a subject in exciting new ways, and even interact with it—­which can provoke an important emotional connection to whatever they’re learning and make the information much more memorable. Evidence suggests that learning through experience can increase the quality of learning and promote knowledge retention by as much as 90 percent.1 That’s in stark contrast to the 10 percent retention that’s typical of learning by reading. Making learning more immersive seems like a no-­brainer for achieving better results in the classroom. But it also makes learning more fun. Because, especially with virtual worlds, you can do things and experience things that aren’t possible in a classroom. Want to look at the Earth from outer space? No problem. Shrink down and take a tour inside the human body? Easily done. See dinosaurs roaming the land, or visit Ancient Rome,



or explore London during the Blitz? Yes, yes, and yes. Imagine a virtual dial in the metaverse, where classmates can twist it backwards and forwards to go backwards and forwards through time. We already have the immersive technology to travel to different periods in history—­case in point, there’s a VR telescope on a sidewalk in Paris that will give you a 360-­degree view of what that part of Paris looked like in 1628—­but the metaverse will make it easier to enjoy these experiences collectively, with classmates, and to easily move between different experiences. One study conducted a systematic review on the metaverse in education and concluded that the metaverse brings many benefits to education, but particularly the opportunity to explore environments that have historically been inaccessible (whether that’s due to cost, time, space, or whatever), and, in turn, to solve real-­world problems in virtual worlds.2 What’s more, such immersive experiences allow students to see the world from different perspectives—­literally putting themselves in the shoes of others. What a brilliant way to make the next generation more empathetic, and more aware of the challenges facing our world. What I’m describing, then, is a metaverse-­aided education experience that combines AR, VR, and even artificial intelligence (AI) to create an immersive imaginary educational world where learners (via their digital avatars) can interact with each other and subjects. Indeed, we’ve been moving towards this for a few years now. During the pandemic, virtual classrooms in platforms like Mozilla Hubs provided a way for students and teachers to gather online during lockdown, replacing physical classrooms with cloud-­based classrooms. The metaverse will simply push such virtual learning environments further into the mainstream—­ providing virtual platforms where students can log in and gather with their classmates and teacher for lessons (and with teachers being able to design their own classroom spaces that suit their lesson plans). The Roblox metaverse platform is already doing this, offering classrooms that enable virtual learning experiences that can take place in real-­world or made­up scenarios. In the case of Roblox, there are millions of user-­generated



worlds that can be used as education settings—­spanning everything from recreations of historical events to physics simulations. And students and their teachers can log in from anywhere, whether they’re at home or in the classroom, allowing for more remote learning opportunities. So, in the future we’re likely to see more of a blend of virtual and in-­person learning, with the virtual element taking place within metaverse platforms. In the US, high school Dallas Hybrid Prep is already following such a hybrid model, with students spending some of their time learning within the STEMuli educational metaverse platform. Students can access the platform from home, join up with their teachers, and complete game-­ style assignments, complete with virtual avatars and online currency. And even when students are together in a physical classroom, they can still enjoy a collective VR educational experience using VR headsets. This could open up a whole new world of field trips, without the expensive fees, travelling, and logistical headaches. I’m thinking of things like the VR Museum of Fine Art, where students can get up close to works of art. Or there’s the Google Expeditions app, which is designed for teachers to use with their classes, and features hundreds of adventures to choose from—­ some using VR and some using AR—­across history, science, the arts, and the natural world. In the VR experiences, students embark on an immersive simulated experience to destinations like the Louvre or Mount Everest. But VR doesn’t just excel at delivering fun and cultural school trips. It can be a powerful educational tool. As an example, Labster’s virtual lab platform is dedicated to enhancing science education, by letting students experiment with hyper-­realistic, simulated lab equipment across 250+ virtual lab simulations—­allowing them to conduct experiments in a practical, yet risk-­free, way. This ability to see and do is crucial for learning. One study on virtual learning shows that students who practice with VR headsets outperform students who learn only via a desktop.3 In the experiment, two sets of students—­one group given VR headsets and the other desktops—­were given access to science simulations on their devices. Later, when asked to conduct an experiment in a real lab, the students who had



used the VR simulation performed significantly better than the other group. A similar study of high-­school classrooms also found that virtual simulations significantly enhance students’ scientific knowledge.4 VR has tons of potential, then. But let’s not overlook technology at the less-­immersive end of the spectrum. AR, with its ability to overlay digital elements on top of real-­world objects in the classroom, can be a useful addition to many lessons. A great example comes from Froggipedia, a hands-­on AR experience that lets students study the internal organs of frogs without having to physically dissect a frog (a disturbing experience, as I remember from my own school days). Or circling back to the Google Expeditions app, there’s a range of AR experiences that bring certain concepts to life in the classroom. For example, the teacher could use the app to project a swirling tornado or beehive into the classroom, so students can get a closer look. Of course, the more we bring technology into education, the more potential there is to track important metrics across student performance, behaviour, and even attention. VR headsets, for example, can track users right down to their eye movements. And this gives educators an amazing opportunity to understand even more about how students are progressing, identify where they may be struggling, and generally improve the learning experience. This is where the metaverse and AI will collide to give educators deep insights, and—­importantly—­the ability to personalize education to each individual student. If one student needs to spend more time on a certain science simulation, for example, that can easily be catered for in a virtual setting. So, the metaverse won’t just create group virtual experiences—­it will also allow students to learn individually, at different speeds and in their own time, if it suits them.

Workplace learning All the benefits that the metaverse brings to formal education also apply to vocational learning: more immersive learning experiences, learning by doing and seeing, better knowledge retention, and so on.



VR, for example, has huge potential when it comes to training for tasks and scenarios that are too difficult, dangerous, or expensive to recreate in real life—­such as firefighter and law enforcement training. We already know that learning in VR can be incredibly effective, and this is largely because it allows the user to practice and build muscle memory, in a safe way. Like a flight simulator, but for pretty much any task you can think of. BP is one company that’s invested in VR-­enabled training for employees working in dangerous situations. To train employees in startup and emergency exit procedures at BP’s oil refinery in Hull, UK, the company partnered with Igloo Vision—­known for creating immersive shared VR spaces. When you work in an oil refinery, mistakes can be fatal, but the virtual training allowed employees to learn from their mistakes safely. How they pulled off this training is particularly interesting; rather than trainees each wearing their own VR headset, Igloo Vision built a 6-­metre igloo at the Hull refinery. Inside the igloo, employees could experience an extremely detailed replica of the plant and practice critical safety tasks, all in a safe, virtual setting. What’s great about this is that it provides the opportunity to assess whole-­shift teams at a time, rather than immersing each individual in their own simulation. This could be the future for critical team-­based training exercises and assessments. In the future, thanks to the metaverse, it’ll be so much easier for employers to create immersive training sessions for individuals and teams. If you think about it, in the metaverse, employers can build whatever training scenarios they want. Customer service training in a virtual store with virtual customers. Health and safety lessons in a virtual environment that’s fraught with hazards. Engineering training that takes the user “inside” the workings of a machine or component. You name it . . . Back in the real world, AR also has a lot to offer workplace training. As an example, multinational engineering conglomerate Honeywell has been using AR to address the problem of knowledge “leakage”, where older workers retire and take their knowledge with them. Traditionally, retirees were asked to put their knowledge into PowerPoint slides or Word documents



that could be shared in classroom-­like spaces with new hires. But Honeywell found that this passive learning experience led to an information retention rate of just 20–30 percent. So, they equipped both departing workers and new hires with a HoloLens mixed-­reality headset—­allowing retirees to record exactly what they were doing in their work, so that new workers could see this information overlaid onto their own work activities in front of them. This more active form of training boosted the level of information retained from 30 percent (at best) to 80 percent.5 Impressive, huh?

Lifelong learning Outside of the workplace and formal education settings, many of us choose to learn new skills for the sake of personal development—­whether it’s learning a new language, a musical instrument, a new crafting hobby, a new fitness technique, or whatever. Immersive technologies promise to make this much more fun and effective. One cool example comes in the PianoVision app (available on the MetaQuest gaming headset), which uses both AR and VR to teach piano. AR is used to project graphics directly on top of the piano or keyboard in front of you, showing you where to place your hands, while VR allows you to practice on a completely virtual piano. That’s right, you don’t even need to own a keyboard or piano to learn to play one. And you don’t need to learn how to read music. You can simply learn by following along with the immersive tutorials. In theory, the same technology can be applied to any musical instrument. The Drum Tutor drum school in Singapore, for example, is already using AR as part of its lesson plans. Similarly, language learning is becoming more immersive. The Mondly app uses AR to project interactive virtual creations into the room with you—­and this combined with a virtual language learning assistant is designed to make learning more natural and fun. For example, instead of just learning the word for “cat”, a cat will be projected into your room as you learn the associated words and phrases. You can even pet it and make it meow. In the future, as the metaverse evolves, we can expect language



lessons to transport us to, say, a busy virtual street in Naples, where we can interact with virtual market traders or order a virtual pizza in Italian. Beats learning phrases from a book, doesn’t it? With the ability to create immersive virtual classrooms, platforms, and experiences, there’s no doubt in my mind that the metaverse could be a huge breakthrough for education. But what I’m describing here is a big change in the way we learn. Moving from traditional classroom-­based education to blended virtual and in-­person lessons. Personalized experiences that allow students to learn at their own pace, and according to their ability, instead of lesson plans being dictated by the students’ age. An altogether more experiential approach to learning. We’re talking about major systemic change here, and that will require a lot of time and effort to implement (not to mention buy-­in from key decision makers, parents, and students). So, I’m not talking about an overnight, easy transition to metaverse learning. And I don’t have answers to the many challenges involved in making huge changes like this—­not least the cost and accessibility issues around equipping students with VR headsets, and the potential to widen the gap between the haves and the have-­nots. But I do know for sure that emerging technology has the potential to make education much more immersive and engaging.

Web3’s Impact on Education Personally, I believe the metaverse will play a more transformative role in education than web3. But that’s not to say web3 is irrelevant to education. Far from it. We will no doubt see web3 technologies, particularly blockchain and NFTs, make their own mark in education. But first, let’s explore the ideological aspect of web3 and how that applies to education.

Could education ever be decentralized? Education as it stands right now is highly centralized, with knowledge being transferred between institutions, such as universities (or, more



recently, platforms like Udemy), and learners. But one of the key principles of web3 is decentralization—­putting control in the hands of users. How might this affect education? It’s hard to say for sure. But web3 technology undoubtedly provides the potential for a not-­so-­centralized education system. Picture, for example, a system in which learners can pick and choose segments of courses from a range of providers—­depending on what’s most relevant to them—­and earn universally accepted micro-­credits as they go. Those education credits could be stored and validated on a blockchain system, allowing institutions and employers to verify an individual’s credentials—­kind of like a digital learning passport. Blockchain and tokenization make this possible. Decentralization could significantly improve access to education for people from all segments of society, because, instead of doing an expensive degree and saddling yourself with debt when you’re just starting out in life, you could pay for only what you needed to learn, when you needed to learn it. And then add to those skills over time, building up a lifelong portfolio of education credentials. To me, a system like this is much more appropriate for our rapidly changing world, where skills quickly become outdated, jobs become obsolete, and new types of jobs arise. The skills we need are constantly changing, yet the education system is not. In a decentralized education system, we could learn what we needed to, when we needed to. We could go through life gathering a vast range of skills and experiences and knowledge from different sources, which are transferable and accepted between industries and employers. We could partake in an education system that’s built for continual learning, as opposed to the front-­loaded system we currently have, where education largely takes place in the first two (or so) decades of life. Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs, see Chapter  2) could also play a role here, allowing learners and teachers to set their own agenda



(through transparent voting powers) and create a more community-­ driven, shared-­ownership approach to education. It’s an interesting prospect, this idea that education could potentially become decentralized. And it’s one that presents a serious threat (and, let’s be clear, a huge opportunity) for traditional education institutions.

Blockchain-­based credentials and education NFTs Let’s dwell a little more on this notion of blockchain-­based education credentials, diplomas, or degrees, because it could well be one of the more widely adopted facets of web3 in education. A clear advantage of blockchain is that we can store and verify our qualifications from various different providers and institutions all in one place—­somewhere super-­secure and (in theory) tamper-­proof. No more multiple pieces of paper, or calling your college to get copies of that certificate you lost the last time you moved house. It would all live on the blockchain. Like a crypto-­wallet or e-­passport, but for education credentials. In Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, the State Board of Skill Development has already begun to digitize diplomas and transcripts, issuing 100,000 verifiable diplomas on the Polygon blockchain. What’s interesting about this example is that the Board leapfrogged any attempt to create its own centralized system and went straight for the blockchain option—­showing that blockchain can be the first port of call for digitizing credentials, not a final destination that you slowly work towards. Here comes the NFT bit. Because NFTs are essentially units of data, stored on a blockchain, that are used to verify ownership of an asset, why can’t they be used to certify qualifications or store student records? After all, an NFT is just a token, and education lends itself well to the concept of tokens and credits—­attendance, courses, and qualifications could all be recorded or issued as tokens. So, I wasn’t surprised to see that Duke University in North Carolina issued NFT certificates for its Master of Engineering in Financial Technology degree. In the future, more degrees,



diplomas, and other education awards could be issued as NFTs and live on a blockchain. Blockchain-­based records offer advantages for employers, too. Blockchain platform APPII has created what it calls the “world’s first blockchain career verification platform”, designed to give employers confidence that the candidate sitting on the other side of the desk is really who they say they are. Candidates create “Intelligent Profiles”, recording details of professional achievements or educational qualifications, then educational institutions and businesses can verify those entries, and there’s no need for them to be checked again. The system also uses facial recognition technology to verify the identity of candidates against official ID, such as a passport. This could seriously streamline the vetting process for employers.

Key Takeaways Let’s finish up this chapter with some key takeaways we can all learn from the education sector. • In the metaverse era, education will increasingly adopt a hybrid format, with learning taking place across shared virtual environments and the physical classroom. • Immersive technologies like VR will play a key role here, allowing students to immerse themselves in new places, experiences, and even travel through time to bring lessons to life. Meanwhile, AR can be used to make learning more interactive and engaging, by bringing digital elements into the real world. This is all important because learning through experience is significantly more effective than learning by reading. • At all stages of life, more immersive learning techniques can help us gain new skills—­from VR-­and AR-­based workplace training to immersive language lessons, and more.



• Web3 may be less transformative for the education sector than the metaverse, but we can still expect blockchain and NFTs to play a role—­particularly when it comes to education records and qualifications being issued as digital credits and stored on a tamper-­proof blockchain. But we may also see a wider decentralization of education, with learners being able to study for micro-­credentials across their lifetime, instead of learning being concentrated in the earlier years of life and delivered by centralized authorities. The metaverse may be hogging most of the limelight when it comes to education, but that’s not the case in the next chapter. Turn the page to discover how web3 is disrupting the world of finance, IT, and other service industries . . .

Notes 1. Active Learning to improve long-­term knowledge retention; Academia; knowledge_retention 2. Is Metaverse in education a blessing or a curse: a combined content and bibliometric analysis; Smart Learning Environments; https://slejournal.­022-­00205-­x 3. A Structural Equation Modeling Investigation of the Emotional Value of Immersive Virtual Reality in Education; ResearchGate; https://www Investigation_of_the_Emotional_Value_of_Immersive_Virtual_Reality_ in_Education 4. Virtual Learning Simulations in High School; Frontiers in Psychology; 5. The Amazing Ways Honeywell is Using Virtual and Augmented Reality to Transfer Skills to Millennials; Forbes; bernardmarr/2018/03/07/the-­amazing-­ways-­honeywell-­is-­using-­virtual-­ and-­augmented-­reality-­to-­transfer-­skills-­to-­millennials/



DISRUPTING FINANCE, IT, AND OTHER SERVICE INDUSTRIES Web3, especially blockchain technology, will be utterly transformative for many service-­based businesses. If you think about it, any business that functions as an intermediary service or middleman could be threatened by blockchain and smart contracts—­which, after all, allow two parties to safely transact and do business without a third party to oversee or authenticate the interaction. As you can probably imagine, financial services providers such as banks and payment networks are facing a lot of disruption here, but in this chapter we’ll also take a look at a few other service-­based industries to see how they’re adapting to web3 (and, to a lesser extent, the metaverse). Rest assured, many of the lessons and examples from this chapter will transfer well to other industries. So, let’s get into it.

The Financial Sector And Web3 One exciting consequence of web3 is that it’s enabled completely new banking models that side-­step traditional banks and other financial institutions (like stock exchanges). And this has given rise to the decentralized finance movement.



Yes, even finance is becoming decentralized. Maybe If you haven’t yet heard of decentralized finance (or DeFi for short), here’s a quick run-­down. DeFi is the term used to describe a new internet-­native, crypto-­based financial system, where traditional intermediary services are replaced with smart contracts and blockchains in a peer-­to-­peer system. In other words, people trade directly with each other, sending and receiving money to and from their digital wallets, without the help of a centralized bank or other financial authority. The blockchain handles the transaction and provides a record of the trade, and the smart contract ensures that the transaction is trustworthy. But DeFi isn’t just about sending and receiving money—­it’s really an umbrella term that encompasses all sorts of financial transactions, including lending and stock trading. It’s basically the crypto version of traditional financial products, but without the regulation and oversight of traditional finance. This lack of regulation is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it frees up finance from the red tape and inefficiencies that come with trad­ itional finance. Not so good because it typically doesn’t have the same sort of consumer protections that you enjoy when you deal with a “normal” bank. For example, so-­called issuers of “stablecoins”—­cryptocurrencies whose value is pegged to a government-­backed currency, such as the US dollar—­aren’t legally required to have one-­to-­one backing (meaning they may not have the cash reserves to cover the coins being issued). So, in the event that users decided en masse to pull their money out and redeem their stablecoins for actual dollars, if there weren’t enough reserves to cover the redemptions, the whole system would collapse and people would lose their money. Plus, there are constant risks around scams and frauds—­and unlike with regular banks, there’s little recourse for victims. That said, DeFi does have the potential to solve a lot of problems with the traditional banking system. For one thing, it could strip out the inefficiencies that come with having a third party involved in simple banking transactions by just removing that third party altogether. It can also increase access to banking services for people all around the world who currently don’t have access to traditional banking providers or have been turned away by banks.



With DeFi, all you need is access to the internet. It may also transform and democratize the lending process, making it easier for individuals and businesses to raise money. What’s more, for those who are into the ideological aspects of web3, DeFi threatens to loosen the tight grip that powerful banks and other financial institutions have on our economies and society. It could create a better, more equitable financial system that serves everyone. But strip away all the hype and politics, and the DeFi movement is, at heart, about creating an internet-­native financial system that’s actually built for the web3 era, as opposed to the existing banking system which, for the most part, relies on massively outdated technology. (Did you know, for instance, that most traditional bank transactions rely on programs written in the COBOL programming language, which originated in the 1960s?) Think of it that way, and DeFi makes a lot of sense. Sure, there are hurdles to overcome around regulations and safeguards, but there’s no doubt that we’re heading for a web3-­and metaverse-­driven world, and DeFi could provide the financial structure for that world. Let’s delve a little more into financial services and banking, to see how they’re affected by web3.

Financial services in the future internet One of the major web3 aspects to impact financial services is, of course, cryptocurrency. The crypto market has grown enormously in size over the last five years, exploding from $16 billion five years ago to around $1.1 trillion at the time of writing.1 Crypto is a major asset class in its own right, but we also have NFTs (non-­fungible tokens, which are bought and sold in crypto), creating a new wave of digital assets. Financial institutions must decide whether they want to get involved with web3 assets and include them in portfolios alongside traditional assets. In other words, web3 could impact traditional approaches to asset management and wealth management—­providing new ways to invest and grow clients’ wealth. (There will also be significant investment opportunities around those companies and platforms that will shape web3 and the metaverse.)



While we’re on the subject of investing, blockchain can also be used to ensure money is invested more ethically in the global fight against climate change. In general, traditional financial organizations pay little attention to the climate impact of companies they invest in. Yet, many investors increasingly want to invest for the good of the planet. Blockchain can be used to verify an organization’s green credentials—­similar to verifying an individual’s educational credentials, in Chapter 6—­but, looking at the bigger picture, it can also be used to coordinate investment and ensure funding goes where it’s needed most. This is the idea behind regenerative finance (or ReFi), which focuses on the intersection of climate action and web3 (particularly blockchain) to create systems that restore and preserve our natural resources. With this in mind, the World Economic Forum has formed the Crypto Sustainability Coalition, dedicated to leveraging blockchain for climate action. Beyond digital assets and investing, we have the impact of blockchain and smart contracts on everyday banking processes. It’s early days for this technology, but blockchain is ideally suited to banking because it was designed specifically for storing transaction data, facilitating secure transactions, and creating a tamper-­proof history of transactions. One area where blockchain could add huge value is in complying with Know Your Customer (KYC) rules, where banks have to validate customer identities in order to detect and prevent fraud. Blockchain-­based startup Bluzelle worked with KPMG and a consortium of banks in Singapore, including HSBC, to develop a blockchain KYC platform. The project showed that, not only could blockchain cut the risk of identity fraud, but it could also cut costs by 25 to 50 percent, by reducing duplication and providing a clear audit trail.2 Elsewhere, Barclays has explored its own uses for blockchain, including simplifying payments infrastructure and using smart contracts to standardize post-­ trade processes. Overall, blockchain could help to overcome some of the notorious legacy technology problems that plague the financial services industry.



Blockchain is also beginning to transform lending In the traditional lending model, the money we deposit into our bank accounts is used to fund loans issued by the bank, and in return, we get a small amount of interest on the money we deposit with the bank. The bank is responsible for vetting borrowers, keeping track of records (on the bank’s own private database), and collecting funds. With web3, depos­itors no longer have to entrust their money to a bank which then lends that money out; instead, they can deposit their funds into a blockchain-­ based wallet with a smart contract. The smart contract then acts kind of like an escrow account, holding the money and disbursing funds to borrowers when certain conditions are met (e.g. providing collateral). All terms of the loan (interest, etc.) are visible in the smart contract to all participants. The smart contract also manages repayment of the loan, and the interest is paid back to the original depositors. This is already happening. According to McKinsey, more than $200 billion worth of loans was disbursed by web3 lending platforms in 2021.3 And it all takes place without a bank to facilitate the transaction, making it a perfect example of DeFi in action. It’s the web3 version of those peer-­to-­peer lending and crowdfunding platforms that sprang up several years ago. But just because blockchain lending is a key part of the DeFi space, doesn’t mean banks shouldn’t consider using blockchain themselves to improve lending processes.

Adding value for customers Blockchain clearly has a lot to offer banks, particularly when it comes to improving internal processes. But it can also help banks add value for their customers, thereby ensuring traditional banks stay relevant in the web3 era. For one thing, blockchain can allow customers to move money quickly, easily, and with lower transaction fees—­and I mean across different currencies (including crypto), anywhere in the world. Ultimately, with web3 banking—­whether we bank with a traditional provider or a digital-­native solution—­we can all expect to have digital wallets that can



seamlessly handle traditional currencies and cryptocurrencies, and even commodities, all in one place. Blockchain-­based money transfer network Ripple gives us a glimpse of this future. It has its own cryptocurrency, XRP, but can facilitate money exchanges across a variety of government-­back currencies, cryptocurrencies, and even assets like gold. Basically, it can process transactions around the world and serve as a trusted facilitator of transactions between two parties—­like a traditional financial services provider but built for web3. Think of it as the web3 equivalent of the SWIFT money transfer network and you’ve got the right idea. Transactions generally take just a few seconds—­compared to days for a traditional bank wire transfer—­and the fees are tiny (for each transaction, Ripple deducts a tiny amount in XRP, a fraction of a penny at current rates). Ripple is taking off to the extent that even traditional banks—­including Santander, Axis Bank, and PNC Bank—­are using the network. Of course, Ripple is just another centralized authority, like SWIFT or a bank, which to me only proves that there’s space for centralized authorities to thrive in web3. Financial services organizations must therefore take this opportunity to explore and experiment with web3 technologies, to see how they can provide better value for customers in the future internet. After all, traditional financial services companies bring a lot to the table in terms of trust and customer safeguards, and this could have a lot of appeal to those who are more sceptical about web3 solutions. But if they fail to adapt, financial organizations risk being overtaken by digital-­native solutions built expressly with the future internet in mind—­startups like Zelf, which describes itself as a true web3 or metaverse bank. Zelf allows customers to transfer money between the physical world and the virtual world, and facilitates the trading of in-­game items between gamers. This combining of physical money with virtual assets is really interesting because, according to Zelf, it potentially allows customers to do things they could never do with a normal bank. Like access loans by using their gaming loot as collateral, or have their credit score for buy-­now-­pay-­later game items based on their player ability. It’s a fascinating concept, and something traditional banks may want to watch carefully.



What about the metaverse? Will banking become more immersive? So far, we’ve talked a lot about web3, but let’s not overlook the importance of the metaverse in banking and financial services. As with any industry, the metaverse will become another channel for these organizations to interact with customers. It’s not unthinkable, then, that we’ll see virtual banks and offices where clients can seek financial advice, choose investments, grow their wealth, or simply carry out regular banking tasks—­the banking version of that Sotheby’s virtual auction house I mentioned in Chapter 4. In 2022, HSBC became the first financial services provider to enter metaverse platform The Sandbox, acquiring a plot of virtual real estate to develop for its own uses.4 The bank initially plans to use its metaverse presence to create brand experiences for new and existing customers, partnering with HSBC’s sports partners to create fun, educational experiences. But looking further ahead, this could evolve to include virtual banking.

Exploring IT and Data Services Decentralization is giving rise to some really interesting use cases in the IT sector, especially around data. In this section, we’ll explore some of these major web3 data and IT trends, while also considering the potential impact on non-­IT businesses. After all, given the importance of data to today’s businesses—­I always say that every business is a data business—­it stands to reason that any business could leverage web3 to improve their IT and data processes.

From centralized storage to decentralized storage networks One key trend is decentralized data storage solutions. The current centralized storage model (where businesses and individuals pay companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft for data storage) will not be fit for the future as the amount of data being created increases exponentially.



According to some estimates, data generated by 5G usage, electric vehicles, and other connected devices will increase the global data footprint by more than 300 times.5 Expanding centralized data centres to meet this huge increase in demand is unfeasible—­it would cost far too much to create centralized data centres capable of storing so much data. But web3 or decentralized storage could be the answer. Web3 or decentralized storage is a user-­centric approach to data storage where, instead of data being stored on single servers, it’s run on blockchain networks and distributed across multiple computers. To break it down a little more, decentralized storage brings together the computing power of thousands of individual computers into a powerful network that can store multiple copies of data, instead of one copy of the data in one place. So, if one computer in the network goes down, the data or content is still available because it’s replicated across multiple computers in the network. All this means the data is less vulnerable to attack (because there’s no one central point of attack), users don’t lose access in the event of a server failure, and users don’t have to worry that their data could be deleted by their provider (whether accidentally or on purpose)—­all of which are major downsides of the centralized storage model. Decentralized storage therefore promises to solve some of the problems with the current centralized approach. But it’s also more suitable for the web3 era in general. Remember that blockchain was designed to facilitate crypto transactions. Yet transaction data is tiny compared to, say, the image data associated with an art NFT. Which is why, in the case of an art NFT, the NFT is just a record, not the actual piece of art itself. The NFT lives on the blockchain, but the actual image lives “off-­chain”. Let’s say that the image lives on a centralized server and, for whatever reason, the provider deletes that user’s data. The NFT would effectively then be nothing but an empty container because the digital asset that it points to no longer exists. This could be a problem as NFTs grow in popularity and are increasingly used to denote ownership of real-­world assets as well as digital assets. We need a system that ensures data is preserved and protected for as long as users need. Decentralized storage could provide this.



One such decentralized storage provider is Filecoin, which functions as a supercomputer-­like storage network. Filecoin tokens can be used to rent storage space from other users’ computers, and those users get paid every time data is stored. It’s a peer-­to-­peer storage network, in other words, connecting people who have spare storage space with other people who need storage. Storj is another example of a blockchain platform that provides a decentralized network for data storage. (Storj is part of the Ethereum blockchain while Filecoin operates its own blockchain.) With Storj, files are divided into 80 pieces and distributed over the storage network, with each of the 80 pieces of data being stored in an encrypted format on a different computer or “node”—­which, in turn, provides incredible security. And to ensure the data remains private, it’s encrypted with client-­side encryption and erasure coding, meaning the owner of the node that’s storing a piece of data can’t view or delete it. What’s more, the owner of the data is given their own encryption key, ensuring that (a) they’re solely in control of their data and (b) their data can’t be mined without their permission. (A far cry from today’s tech companies building vast wealth off the backs of user data.) Users pay for storage in Storj tokens, and other users who allocate storage space and network bandwidth are compensated in Storj tokens—­showing how decentralized storage is intrinsically linked to the wider web3 and crypto movement. Other examples of decentralized data storage networks include Arweave and Sia. Clearly this model presents a threat to centralized data storage providers, but it may also present an opportunity for such providers to adapt their service offering. And for regular businesses, decentralized storage may provide a more attractive way to store their data—­or potentially even get paid for renting out their spare storage via networks like Storj. In this way, data storage becomes democratized, instead of controlled by a few powerful tech players. Since decentralized data storage ties in with this web3  notion of giving users more control, let’s explore what this may mean for personal data.



Democratizing personal data With the decentralized storage model, the individual user (or business) is entirely in charge of their own data—­and therefore enjoys greater data privacy. Power is taken out of the hands of tech companies and given back to individuals, to the extent that users could own all of their data—­personal data, financial data, education data, even social media data. Our data would be built around blockchain, and we’d each have our own private keys that govern access to that data. (As an aside, combine this with blockchain-­ based identity verification, and identity fraud could be a thing of the past.) In theory, then, any platform or company that wanted access to our data—­ such as Meta or a potential employer—­would only be able to access that data with our explicit consent. And we could potentially enjoy a share of the wealth that comes from sharing our precious data. So, in the web3 utopia, data ownership could be democratized and individuals would be able to profit from their data. This is one of the ultimate goals of web3, with decentralized storage, blockchain, and smart contracts forming the building blocks that make it all possible. So, instead of a small business paying a company like Meta for information on people’s interests, location, and so on (in order to market their business), the small business could directly pay specific groups of individuals for the same sort of data. As one of those individuals, you’d know exactly what companies have your data and what they’re using it for, instead of it all happening behind the closed doors of companies like Meta and Google. As such, we’re likely to see more data monetization platforms arise—­such as Streamr and Ocean—­that allow businesses and individuals to monetize and trade data. To sum up, when we talk about web3 and data, we’re not just talking about the way in which data is stored—­we’re talking about a world in which people can monetize their data in a way that’s currently only available to a few powerful organizations. It’s a dramatic shift from the current approach



to data, and one that I find fascinating. But we can no doubt expect a lot of opposition from the major tech organizations who stand to lose a lot of power (and revenue) if this web3 utopia comes to life.

Decentralized telecoms networks Before we move on, there’s another interesting use case that I want to quickly mention: decentralized telecoms networks. One example comes from Helium, a blockchain-­based network that describes itself as “the people’s network”. A Helium hotspot is a small gadget that plugs into a regular electric wall outlet in your home or business. The gadget then taps into the property’s existing wi-­fi and extends that wi-­fi coverage for miles, in the process providing a connection to other local devices and acting as a node in the Helium network. Helium has its own cryptocurrency, HNT, which powers the network, and hotspot owners are compensated with HNT tokens in return for operating their hotspot. The more a hotspot is used, the more HNT tokens it generates. The network is growing rapidly, with over half a million global hotspots as of early 2022 (up from 14,000 hotspots in 2021).6 For me, this is an interesting use case, because instead of building a telecoms network from the ground up, Helium has created a fully decentralized network that users effectively build themselves. It completely undermines the traditional business models of telecoms companies and internet service providers—­who are no doubt watching the growth of Helium closely. Indeed, we may see providers crack down on internet customers who have Helium hotspots for violating their terms of service.

The Impact on Other Services I believe every service-­based business—­indeed, every profession—­will be impacted by web3 and the metaverse to some extent or another. Accountants, for example, could adopt smart contracts and crypto payments with their clients. HR professionals could onboard new talent, especially remote workers, in an engaging metaverse-­based environment. Real estate agents



could create immersive property tours in the metaverse to market their real-­world properties, use AR to “dress” empty properties for viewings, or even pivot to marketing virtual real estate in the metaverse. You could say that many industries and professionals are under threat from the future internet. But there are also exciting opportunities to adopt new technologies, streamline services, or provide immersive new service offerings. Let’s look at a few examples from different sectors.

Streamlining insurance Insurance is one industry that faces a lot of disruption from blockchain technology. It’s still early days, but insurers are beginning to wake up to blockchain’s potential, especially when it comes to managing data, processing claims, and preventing fraud. For one thing, blockchain can improve how data is handled, remove many of the inefficiencies around data, and in turn make life easier for customers. If you’ve ever changed insurance companies, or shopped around for coverage, you know what a pain it is to give the same data over and over again. And you never know how safe your data is with each company. Blockchain could streamline this process because data can be stored and verified on the blockchain, eliminating the need to repeat the data entry or verification process. Tradle is one company working to develop blockchain solutions for KYC data requirements, potentially allowing insurers and other organizations to securely access already-­verified customer data. Then there’s the ability for smart contracts to improve the claims process, making claims smoother, more transparent, and less prone to fraud. With smart contracts stored on the blockchain, claims could be automatically processed when certain conditions are met (hello faster claims!), and the network would know if multiple claims had been submitted for the same accident. As a bonus, this could help to boost customers’ trust in insurers, reduce insurance fees (due to reduced fraud), and therefore solve the massive problem of underinsurance. (Consider that only 17 percent of



California households have earthquake insurance, despite the relatively high likelihood of experiencing losses from an earthquake.7 Largely this is because of the high cost of earthquake insurance.) Insurwave is a blockchain-­based marine hull insurance platform, designed to facilitate automatic insurance transactions and handle risk for commercial vessels. The result of a collaboration between companies like Microsoft and Maersk, Insurwave provides real-­time information to insurers and insurees, including ship location, condition, and safety hazards. So, if a ship enters a high-­risk area, the system detects this and factors it into insurance calculations. It’s a great example of using blockchain to ease insurance processes and make life easier for customers. Bottom line, now is a great time for insurance companies to begin working with blockchain startups to test new ways of leveraging blockchain to enhance their internal processes. Read more about how businesses are transforming their internal processes in Chapter 13.

Legal services in the metaverse and web3 era Lawyers are, essentially, middlemen. Very smart, very expensive middlemen who facilitate transactions and interactions between various parties. Naturally, then, smart contracts and blockchain pose a threat to many legal services. But also an opportunity, since clients across all sorts of industries will also have to navigate blockchain possibilities, and will therefore be looking for trusted advice and support. Lawyers could, for example, position themselves as experts in automatically executing smart contracts. Or there may be an opportunity to use blockchain to keep track of land registry and deeds, or even intellectual property rights. When you remember that blockchain is really just a super-­secure way of creating indisputable records of information, the possibilities are endless. Law firms may also facilitate the sale of virtual land in the metaverse—­or potentially even set up their own virtual offices in the metaverse, just as companies like HSBC are setting up their own metaverse presence. After



all, many law firms had to switch to virtual client meetings during the pandemic. The metaverse simply provides a more immersive way to meet with clients remotely. And no doubt there will be legal disputes that arise in the metaverse—­for example, around invasion of privacy or copyright infringement. Lawyers who are clued up on the metaverse and NFTs will be well placed to meet these needs. Even at this early stage of the metaverse, blockchain, and NFTs, it’s clear that law firms need to know about these technologies so they can guide and serve clients in the future internet.

How architects will design and create in (and for) the metaverse For architects, I see the metaverse (as opposed to web3) having a big impact. On the one hand, the metaverse may change how real-­world buildings are designed, because it provides an immersive, interactive space where architects can design collaboratively. Indeed, architects can already use collaborative design tools like NVIDIA’s Omniverse, which lets teams design together in real time as if they’re in the same room, and see changes instantly. Tools like this could also revolutionize how architects work with their clients. Imagine donning a VR headset and “walking around” your as-­yet-­unbuilt home, making design changes as you go (in collaboration with the architect), and seeing those changes take shape before your eyes. Clients could also virtually “test drive” buildings before a single brick is laid in the real world. But there’s another crucial element that architects must consider—­the need for designers to create the metaverse of the future and design those virtual spaces and buildings where people will gather. After all, we already have sports teams creating virtual replicas of their stadiums and Nike recreating its real-­world campus in the metaverse—­the next logical step is designing new homes, offices, galleries, shopping centres, and even whole cities in the metaverse. Things that have never and never will exist in the real world. I’m not an architect, but the thought of being able to design



free from the limitations of gravity, costs, materials, planning permission, and fire safety code seems super-­exciting. Sounds like an architect’s dream to me! Which is why high-­profile firms like Zaha Hadid Architects have already begun exploring the possibilities of metaverse design. But we also have new firms starting up with the sole purpose of designing for the metaverse—­firms like Voxel Architects, which designed the Sotheby’s virtual auction house. If I were an architect, I’d be very excited about the possibilities of designing in and for the metaverse.

Key Takeaways Let’s recap the key learning points from service industries. • Any business that functions as an intermediary service or middleman could be threatened by web3, blockchain, and smart contracts, because the technology allows two parties to safely transact and do business without a third party to oversee the interaction. • But there are opportunities as well as threats. Opportunities to provide a better customer service, to streamline internal processes, and to create exciting new services that are designed for the future internet. • In financial services, particular trends to watch include DeFi (decentralized finance), investing in digital assets, ReFi (regenerative finance), blockchain-­based lending, and blockchain-­based money transfer networks (which can handle a variety of currencies, crypto, and commodities all in one place). • IT is another industry being affected by decentralization, especially when it comes to decentralized data storage. With this model, businesses and individuals can rent storage space from other users in peer-­to-­peer storage networks—­or earn money by renting out their own spare storage. • Web3—­blockchain, in particular—­is also expected to give us more control over our data, allowing us to take ownership of all our



personal data in one place, and potentially monetize that data by trading with businesses that we choose. (As opposed to tech giants profiting from our data.) • Really, any service-­based business can expect to be impacted by web3 and the metaverse. Architects, for example, will be designing in and for the metaverse, insurance firms could benefit from smart contracts, and law firms may need to advise on metaverse legal issues. Now let’s move on to a sector that’s (arguably) another kind of service industry: the world of healthcare. Read on to discover what healthcare will look like in the metaverse and web3 era.

Notes 1. Web3: Opening new possibilities; HSBC;­gb/ feed/innovation-­and-­transformation/web3-­opening-­new-­opportunities 2. Could blockchain be the foundation of a viable KYC utility? KPMG; https://­blockchain-­kyc-­ utility.pdf 3. Web3 beyond the hype; McKinsey; financial-­services/our-­insights/web3-­beyond-­the-­hype 4. HSBC to become first global financial services provider to enter The Sandbox; Animoca Brands;­to-­become-­ first-­global-­financial-­services-­provider-­to-­enter-­the-­sandbox 5. How web3 data storage works; LeewayHertz; how-­web3-­data-­storage-­works/ 6. ‘The People’s Network’ is Growing Fast but Would-­be Miners Are Getting Left Behind; CoinDesk; the-­p eoples-­network-­is-­growing-­fast-­but-­would-­b e-­miners-­are-­getting-­ left-­behind/ 7. Rethinking Your Stance on Earthquake Coverage; LA Times; https://www­homeauto-­story1-­story.html



METAVERSE HOSPITALS AND MORE: HEALTHCARE IN THE FUTURE INTERNET The metaverse and web3  have the potential to provide significant breakthroughs in healthcare. From hospitals in the metaverse to digital twins of the human body, from blockchain medical records to a new system of decentralized healthcare, healthcare delivery may look very different in the future internet. In this chapter, we’ll explore how immersive metaverse technology and web3 can help improve our healthcare systems—­and lead to better health outcomes for all.

How the Metaverse Could Transform Healthcare Delivery Telehealth (healthcare delivered remotely via telecoms technology) really took off during the pandemic, when in-­person appointments for routine health niggles just weren’t possible. I see the metaverse continuing this trend for remote healthcare, allowing patients and healthcare professionals to connect in a more immersive environment. But the metaverse could transform so much more than telehealth appointments—­ particularly when it comes to digital twins being used to refine treatment, surgical



procedures being aided by immersive technologies, and mental health therapy incorporating virtual reality (VR). Let’s explore some of these exciting metaverse possibilities in more detail.

Better, more immersive telehealth appointments —­and improved access to healthcare Many of us have had a telephone or video consultation with a healthcare practitioner in the last few years. Imagine putting on a VR headset and enjoying a more immersive remote consultation—­whether it’s an annual check-­up, a review of test results, or diagnosing a minor condition that doesn’t require a physical exam or can be diagnosed visually. In fact, for the average GP or family doctor, minor complaints probably make up the majority of their caseload and these are exactly the sorts of appointment that can effectively be carried out remotely. Especially when you consider that today’s wearable devices, like the Apple Watch, are capable of gathering so much data on our body, including heart rate, sleep data, and physical activity. In the future, I see a system where this can be seamlessly shared with physicians to better inform remote consultations. VR would simply enable a deeper level of immersion for remote medical consultations, giving both the patient and the practitioner a better sense of “being there” together. Far more so than with a telephone or video consultation. Taking this a step further, we may even have virtual hospitals and clinics—­VR hospital environments in the metaverse, accessed via a headset, where patients can come for appointments. This sort of environment is well suited to mental health treatment and potentially even physiotherapy (using cameras to monitor the patient’s range of motion in the physical world), but I’ll talk more about immersive therapy solutions later in the chapter. Of course, all this means patients won’t be limited to healthcare professionals in their geographic location. A patient in Florida could connect



with a specialist in Melbourne, and vice versa—­all that’s needed is for the patient and provider to have VR headsets. Any scans and blood tests could be carried out locally, and the data transferred to the specialist, wherever they are in the world. For parts of the world where there’s a shortage of medical professionals, or in rural locations where people ordinarily have to travel long distances to access care, this could transform healthcare. And let’s be honest, healthcare is ripe for transformation. The population on our planet is growing and people are, generally speaking, living longer. Healthcare services around the world are under increasing pressure. Especially since the pandemic, waiting times can be long, access to certain services (such as mental health services) can be limited, and, depending on where you are in the world, medical treatment can be hugely expensive. Immersive metaverse technologies can not only improve patient outcomes by making treatment more effective, but could vastly improve accessibility for healthcare services and make healthcare more affordable.

Enhancing medical training Immersive technologies are also being used to deliver medical training (circle back to Chapter  6 for more on education and training). In one example, the World Health Organization’s state-­of-­the-­art learning centre, named The Academy, created an augmented reality (AR)-­based feature for its training app, showing health workers the proper way to put on and remove personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with COVID-­19 patients. The app allowed learners to not only see someone putting on and removing the PPE, but they could also direct the person’s movements, thereby learning by doing. I see the metaverse offering many more opportunities for immersive medical education and training. FundamentalVR is another great example. Accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, FundamentalVR’s technology acts like a flight simulator for surgeons, allowing them to practise surgical techniques in a safe, controlled environment. I’ll talk more about surgery later in the



chapter, but I find this idea of using VR to enhance precision and decision making for surgeons really exciting—­particularly when it’s combined with the concept of digital twins. Which brings me to . . .

Your digital twin will inform how doctors treat you In Chapter 1, we learned that it’s possible to create a digital twin of pretty much any item or system. A machine, a component, a public transport system, even an entire city. Could we have digital twins of the human body? It’s an idea that experts are already working towards. In the future, healthcare professionals will be able to use digital twins—­ which are, essentially, just virtual simulations that mimic real-­ world objects—­as “test dummies” for patients. With a digital twin of a patient, the healthcare provider would have a highly accurate digital representation of a patient’s body, right down to the cellular level. And this could be used to predict all sorts of outcomes, such as how they would respond to a certain medication or recover from an illness. Combine this with VR surgery and surgeons could practise a complex surgical procedure in a virtual setting, using data from the patient’s digital twin to accurately predict possible complications and even recovery time. In other words, we could each have our own digital twin that would enable healthcare professionals to run tests on a virtual version of ourselves, predict health outcomes, and design highly personalized treatment and rehabilitation plans. Healthcare providers could potentially even “age” our digital twin by, say, 10 years or more, to see how interventions taking place now could affect us in the future. For example, if a patient has a pacemaker fitted now, could it eliminate the need for surgery in the future? Or if a patient follows a specific diet, how long would it take them to reverse their type 2 diabetes? What a fascinating idea. In the medical world, this sort of highly



personalized approach is referred to as precision, predictive medicine. But to me it’s like having a medical crystal ball for each individual patient! But is any of this possible yet? We don’t yet have digital twins of an entire human body, but it is already possible to simulate parts of the body. Scientists have used digital twins to mimic heart cells to determine whether surgery is necessary or too risky for certain patients. Elsewhere, the European Union-­funded Neurotwin project is working towards designing a digital twin of an individual’s entire brain. The plan is to use the virtual model to enhance the treatment of neurological disorders, like epilepsy. And at Linköping University in Sweden, researchers created a digital twin of mice RNA (a nucleic acid present in all living cells that’s similar to DNA) to predict the effects of medication. The concept of digital twins isn’t just applicable to the human body. We could also have digital twins of hospitals (simulating staffing systems and bed occupancy, for example), of medical devices, of drugs in development, and even diseases. Digital twins are already being used to study Alzheimer’s disease in a bid to understand treatment options.

Surgery in the metaverse era I’ve already mentioned how the combination of VR simulations and digital twins could help surgeons train for, plan, and perform operations. Translate this into a broader metaverse environment, and we could see surgeons from different parts of the world coming together to rehearse and carry out complex procedures in a virtual space. This is already happening to some extent. In one example, a surgeon in Lisbon, Portugal was carrying out breast cancer surgery in the operating room, while being overseen and guided by a doctor 900  kilometres away in Spain. Thanks to immersive metaverse technologies—­in this case, mixed-­reality goggles—­it was like the surgeon supervising remotely was



in the same room. This could allow for better supervision and mentoring of newly qualified surgeons, who, in most healthcare systems, carry out their first post-­training operations without supervision. Immersive technologies can also help patients relax before or even during surgery (in cases where the patient is awake for the procedure). That was the idea behind a pilot study at St George’s Hospital in London. Patients undergoing procedures with regional anaesthetic were given the option of using a VR headset before and during their operation. Those patients who used the technology were immersed in calming virtual landscapes, and this proved incredibly effective. A staggering 100 percent of participants said wearing the headset improved their hospital experience, 94 percent said they felt more relaxed, and 80 percent reported feeling less pain.1 In fact, patients said they were so immersed in the experience, they weren’t even aware of being in the operating theatre. Back in the real world, the ability to project digital items onto patients (via AR or mixed-­reality tools) could also be a game-­changer for surgery. For example, with head-­up displays (the technology currently best known for projecting digital images and info onto car windscreens), surgeons could see data or images projected right in front of them—­so they don’t need to look away from the patient on the table. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset has already been tested in Abu Dhabi, being used during surgery to visualize patient data and provide holographic images of the patient’s body and organs. While not a surgical tool, the AccuVein visualization tool is another great example of using AR to overlay information—­in this case, a map of veins—­ onto patients. By overlaying a visualization of veins onto the patient’s skin, AccuVein helps healthcare professionals find veins more easily, especially veins that otherwise can’t be seen or felt. Evidence shows that vein visualization dramatically improves clinicians’ ability to find veins on the first attempt—­by as much as 98 percent.2 Also, in the real world, we have robotic surgery, or robot-­assisted surgery. We already have systems that combine cameras and robotic arms to carry



out surgery (with the robotic arms being controlled by a surgeon). Combine this with the metaverse, and you could have specialists carrying out robotic surgery from wherever they are in the world. Robotic systems like this allow surgeons to carry out complex procedures with more accuracy, resulting in fewer complications for patients—­in fact, according to one study, artificial intelligence (AI)-­assisted robotic procedures resulted in five times fewer complications compared to surgeons operating alone.3

Personalized, immersive therapy VR can also be particularly beneficial in therapy. In the metaverse, psych­ iatrists and therapists could use immersive metaverse experiences to treat a whole range of mental health issues, including post-­traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and even psychosis. VR is already beginning to establish itself as a useful tool in mental health treatment—­and the American Psychological Association has reported that VR is “particularly well suited to exposure therapy”.4 This has given rise to Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET), which at present is largely being used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. VRET involves using VR to expose patients to scenarios that may trigger their anxiety or PTSD symptoms, all within a controlled, safe environment. The goal is to condition the patient to confront triggers, process the emotions that arise as a result, and engage more deeply with treatment. The obvious advantage for clinicians is that VRET allows them to simulate personalized scenarios that would otherwise be challenging to recreate, while controlling every element of the patient’s exposure. Meanwhile, patients may feel a greater sense of control than they would if they were attempting to confront triggers in the real world—­plus, treatment can be continued at home, at their own pace. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta used VRET to treat veterans suffering from PTSD as a result of military sexual trauma. (Participants were shown simulated VR clips of military bases.) According to the findings, VRET helped to reduce depression and PTSD symptoms in these circumstances.5 In the UK, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, part of the National Health Service, has



adopted VRET for treating a range of phobias, including fear of flying, fear of heights, and fear of spiders.6 Pain management is another area that can be enhanced through VR. Clinical trials have shown that VR helps patients cope better with pain and reduces the use of opioids—­including one study where patients treated with VR reported a three-­point reduction in pain definition, on a scale of one to ten.7 Hoag Hospital in California is one of the US’s first hospitals to use VR pain treatment (outside of clinical trial settings, that is). After a six-­week period, treating around 200 patients with relaxing VR simulations, the team reported amazing results, with some patients saying the VR therapy was better than morphine.8 As well as asking patients to rate their pain before and after the VR sessions, the team also took magnetic resonance images (MRIs) before and after some of the sessions. The MRI data showed that the brain’s response to pain decreased while being treated with VR. VR specialists Firsthand Technology go a step further, combining VR with biometric feedback to enhance the treatment of acute and chronic pain. In other words, the patient enjoys a relaxing, immersive VR experience and a simple wearable device provides biometric feedback such as the patient’s heartrate. This allows the system to gather valuable insights on how the patient is responding, and even opens up scope to gamify the therapeutic process. For example, in one mindfulness-­based VR experience, where patients gather fireflies in the moonlight, the patient’s heartrate directly informs how much they can do—­the more relaxed they become, the more successful they are at catching fireflies. In the future, even physical therapy could potentially be delivered in the metaverse. VR-­based telehealth specialists Immergo Labs are creating a VR platform that will allow physical therapists to provide remote care to patients in 3D virtual clinics. These examples show how VR and the metaverse have the potential to overhaul how therapy is delivered, and allow patients to access effective,



immersive therapy solutions without leaving the house. I don’t expect VR-­based therapies to replace conventional therapeutic solutions, but these examples show how metaverse technologies can provide an additional boost to more traditional approaches and increase access to services for patients. It’s clear to me that many aspects of healthcare delivery could be enhanced by the metaverse. But, of course, there will be hurdles to overcome—­not least patients’ attitudes to receiving remote treatment, which may be seen as inferior to in-­person treatment. There are also questions around equality of access—­after all, VR headsets aren’t cheap—­and this could further exacerbate inequality in access to healthcare. I don’t have the answers to these issues, but I do know that the metaverse shows a lot of potential for improving health outcomes.

What About Web3? While the metaverse will transform how we interact with medical services, blockchain has the potential to streamline the behind-­the-­scenes processes and systems that support healthcare delivery. Electronic health record systems will be improved, patients will have more control over their health data, data could be seamlessly shared across healthcare providers (as opposed to the current system of data silos that lock customers into working with certain providers only), and claims handling could be made much more efficient. It’s all possible with blockchain.

The benefits of blockchain-­based health data There are many potential uses of blockchain in healthcare, but perhaps managing (and securing) health data is the most obvious. The healthcare industry is drowning in data—­clinical trials, patient medical records, complex billing information, and so on. Currently, health data is typically stored on centralized servers. But with blockchain, it’s possible to create



a common, blockchain-­based database of health data. This data could be stored on the blockchain itself (in encrypted format), or stored somewhere off-­chain, with the blockchain being used to manage access rights (much like how non-­fungible tokens stored on a blockchain record ownership, without storing the digital asset itself). Either way, the data could be accessed by authorized medical professionals, wherever they are in the world, and regardless of what electronic medical system they use. This would cut down on admin time for healthcare professionals and free up time for patient care. I’ll talk more about the impact for us as patients in a bit, but the benefits of making clinicians’ jobs easier are obvious. Indeed, the frustrations of current electronic health records are a major cause of physician burnout.9 The use of blockchain for healthcare data could also streamline many healthcare processes. Medical researchers and pharma companies could have wider access to patient data (anonymized data, that is, and only if patients gave their permission). Claims and billing could be streamlined, and fraud could be identified more easily, in turn reducing admin costs. What’s more, it would improve data security. Health data is highly personal, which makes healthcare organizations a prime target for hackers. (In 2021 alone, the personal health data of more than 45 million individuals was exposed by healthcare data breaches.10) But with data encrypted and stored on blockchains, it would be much harder for hackers to attack. In short, blockchain could provide the answer to most of the current failings and frustrations around electronic health data. Especially if we could create one single, global health data blockchain—­with each patient’s record in the chain only being accessible to those people that the patient has given access. It’s early days for blockchain in healthcare, but we are beginning to see use cases emerge. For example, blockchain-­based specialists like Synerio (formerly EHR Data) are working towards a global electronic health record. And Veridat is using blockchain to bring data hygiene to the pharma industry.



Another benefit of blockchain is that it will give patients much more control over their personal health data. Which, in turn, paves the way for decentralized healthcare . . .

The decentralization of healthcare In Chapter 7, we looked at the DeFi movement and how it is disrupting the financial sector. Could the same be in store for healthcare? Depending on where you are in the world, it’s not easy for healthcare organizations to share data (because there’s no universal standard for health data, it doesn’t always translate between different organizations’ systems). Which makes changing providers or working with multiple physicians from different organizations a nightmare. A key part of decentralization is giving users ownership over their data (see “democratizing personal data”, Chapter 7). In the case of blockchain-­ based medical records, this means that your medical data would be stored in a digital health record that you control—­rather than being stored across dozens of different medical providers’ systems. Everything would be stored in one place: your dental records, bloodwork history, prescriptions, DNA, even the data gathered by wearable devices like smart watches. And no one would be able to access that data without your permission. Imagine what this would look like in practice. When you visit a new clinic, the providers would already have access to your health data (because you would grant them access in advance), and you wouldn’t need to fill out lengthy forms. You could grant them access to some or all of your health data, depending on what they needed. What’s more, that provider would have access to your health data only for as long as they need it, as opposed to your data being stored forever with a clinic that you might only visit once. You would own your health data, not the clinics and other organizations involved in your care.



In theory, this facilitates a new era of decentralized healthcare because patients could easily switch between doctors. And patient groups—­people suffering from the same disease or condition—­could choose to pool their data and share insights, if they wanted to. Patients could even choose to monetize their health data. All this is beginning to emerge with services like DeHealth, an app that functions as a blockchain healthcare record, marketplace for health products, payment system, and personal health assistant. Individuals can securely store their health data and monetize it, by allowing their (anonymized) data to be shared with data consumers (e.g. pharma companies) in return for DHLT tokens (the app’s cryptocurrency). There’s also MedRec, which is designed to give patients and their providers one-­stop access to their medical history across all providers. MedRec also gives patients the chance to share their (again, anonymized) data with medical researchers. Other examples of platforms that allow patients to take charge of their data include MedicalChain and AiGIA. To sum up, we could be looking at a new evolution of healthcare where individuals not only have full control over their data, but can choose which medical services they interact with, as opposed to being “locked in” with any one provider. Like with DeFi, patients will, in theory, be able to access the services they want, whenever they want, without having to go through third parties. Naturally this threatens the business model of health maintenance organizations (HMOs), so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in practice. But the technology is certainly emerging to democratize and decentralize healthcare.

Key Takeaways To sum up the major takeaways from the world of healthcare. • Immersive metaverse technologies have the potential to improve many aspects of healthcare. Telehealth consultations will become



more immersive—­and these consultations could take place in virtual hospitals or clinics in the metaverse. • Some of the most exciting opportunities for healthcare in the future internet include digital twins (creating virtual simulations of patients to deliver precision, personalized healthcare); VR-­and AR-­ enhanced surgical training, surgical simulations, and remote supervision for new surgeons; and VR-­based therapy for mental health conditions, pain relief, and even physical therapy. • When it comes to web3, blockchain could have a big impact on healthcare, especially in terms of medical data. In the web3 era, patients will have sole control over their health data, allowing them to seamlessly share some or all of their health data with different providers, without filling in multiple forms, and without forking over their precious data to unsecure centralized systems. Now let’s move from healthcare to something very different: the world of manufacturing and industry.

Notes 1. VR headsets relaxing patients during surgery at St George’s; St George’s University Hospitals;­headsets-­ relaxing-­patients-­during-­surgery-­at-­st-­georges/ 2. Vein Visualization Emerges as Premier Augmented Reality Application; AccuVein;­visualization-­emerges-­as-­ premier-­augmented-­reality-­application/ 3. 10 Promising AI Applications in Healthcare; Harvard Business Review;­promising-­ai-­applications-­in-­health-­care 4. Virtual reality expands its reach; American Psychological Association;­reality 5. You can do that?! Feasibility of virtual reality exposure therapy in the treatment of PTSD due to military sexual trauma; Journal of Anxiety Disorders;


THE FUTURE INTERNET ?via%3Dihub 6. Mental health trust introduced virtual reality for phobia treatment; Digital Health;­health-­trust-­introduces-­ virtual-­reality-­for-­phobia-­treatment/ 7. Cedars-­Sinai Study Finds Virtual Reality Therapy Helps Decrease Pain in Hospitalized Patients; Cedars-­ Sinai; https://www.cedars-­ cedars-­sinai-­study-­finds-­virtual-­reality-­therapy-­helps-­decrease-­pain-­in-­ hospitalized-­patients/ 8. Virtual Reality Emerging As Effective Pain Management Tool; Forbes;­reality-­ emerging-­as-­effective-­pain-­management-­tool/ 9. Electronic health records contributing to physician burnout; Canadian Medical Association Journal; PMC5687935/ 10. Breaches exposed 45.67M patient records in 2021, largest annual total since 2015; SC Media;­ exposed-­45-­67m-­patient-­records-­in-­2021-­largest-­annual-­total-­since-­2015



INNOVATING INDUSTRY, STREAMLINING SUPPLY CHAINS: WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE FOR MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, AND OTHER INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS For me, industry is a sector that really shows how web3 and the metaverse will come together to create the future internet. We’ll have digital twins of factories and products, supply chain blockchains, blockchains supporting the transition to greener energy, employee training being delivered via augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), products being designed in the metaverse, and product aftercare being aided by digital twins and immersive technologies. Read on to discover the amazing advances taking place among manufacturers and other industrial organizations.



Manufacturing and the Metaverse Let’s start with the metaverse and its many applications in manufacturing.

Improving manufacturing processes—­a quick overview Manufacturers are already using metaverse technology (like AR, VR, and digital twins) to improve a number of processes. Take training and education as an example. Remember how Honeywell uses mixed-­reality headsets to aid the transfer of knowledge between retiring employees and new hires (Chapter 6)? This is just one example of how immersive technologies can improve education—­and not just when it comes to employees. British engineering company Rolls-­Royce has implemented immersive VR training for its business aviation customers. The remote training allows participants to service the Rolls-­Royce BR725 aircraft engine, by immersing them in a VR-­based, instructor-­led, two-­day distance learning course. (The VR equipment needed to attend the course is shipped to the customer by Rolls-­Royce.) The immersive VR course allows participants to get up close to a virtual version of the engine, interact with the engine and tools, watch the steps involved in a particular task, and then virtually complete the task themselves, under the supervision of an instructor. If this example is anything to go by, immersive metaverse technologies could not only transform education, but also enhance aftercare services. AR also offers many opportunities for manufacturers. For example, technicians in BMW service centres use AR glasses to complete complex repairs and solve maintenance issues. The glasses overlay video onto the technician’s world-­view, while also allowing them to connect with engineers and other experts to help them solve the problem. While we’re on the subject of BMW, the company also created a virtual factory that simulates an actual production line for electric vehicle drive­train systems. The company digitally replicated the production line to simulate its processes and ensure everything ran smoothly before it created 142


the real factory. But we’ll talk more about digital twins and simulations later in the chapter . . . Quality control is another process that can be enhanced by metaverse technologies. Airbus is using AR to overhaul the inspection process for its military aircraft. The company uses drones—­fitted with AR sensors known as LiDAR sensors—­to conduct fly-­around inspections of aircraft, and the data is then transmitted to inspectors who examine the data on their tablets and AR glasses. The new process saves time and minimizes damage to the aircraft. AR could even be used to improve warehouse processes, for example by helping staff pick orders more efficiently. In DHL warehouses, staff members are guided through the warehouse by graphics on AR glasses, and this speeds up the picking process and reduces errors. The metaverse may even change how manufacturers showcase their products. Hyundai, for example, has launched a metaverse space called Hyundai Mobility Adventure. Housed on the Roblox metaverse platform, the idea behind Hyundai Mobility Adventure is to showcase future mobility solutions in the metaverse. The experience features five virtual theme parks, such as a future mobility city and a racing park where players can experience Hyundai’s high-­performance brand of cars. And that’s not the only metaverse experience Hyundai has been working on; the company has created Hyundai Motorstudio on metaverse platform ZEPETO, also designed to showcase future mobility solutions. All things considered, the metaverse provides lots of exciting opportunities to change the way objects and products are created, built, and brought to market. But perhaps the biggest opportunities lie in a concept known as the industrial metaverse.

Introducing the industrial metaverse To be clear, I’m not talking about a separate metaverse for manufacturers. Rather, the industrial metaverse simply describes a vision of how industrial organizations can implement the metaverse—­specifically, by simulating 143


real-­world scenarios in the virtual world. Much like how BMW simulated a production line before the factory itself was created. To put it another way, the industrial metaverse is about mirroring real-­world systems in the virtual world. And this can prove useful in a number of ways. .

Boeing is one company embracing this idea of an industrial metaverse. Indeed, the company says it wants to build the next airplane in the metaverse. But what does this actually mean? Well, a central part of Boeing’s vision is building digital twins of the airplane, and the production system that will build it, in order to run simulations. That way, they can simulate complex operations before taking action in the real-­world manufacturing setting. Therefore, in the industrial metaverse, the data from simulations informs what happens in the real world. Key to this is the concept of synthetic data, or data created by simulations and algorithms as opposed to (or alongside) data generated in the real world. Synthetic data can be incredibly powerful, giving companies insights that it wouldn’t be possible to gain in the real world. Again, Boeing gives us an example of this. The company wanted to create an aircraft inspection system that harnessed AR to compare the current condition of an airplane to its previous states, based on both historic and current maintenance data. But creating this system with real-­world data (in this case, thousands of photographs of a plane) proved extremely difficult. The system needed more training data. So, the company built a digital twin of the plane instead, which generated more than 100,000 simulated images (something that would be expensive and impractical in the real world). Equipped with this wealth of simulated data, and combined with the real-­world photographs, the system worked. And this lays the groundwork for Boeing engineers to use AR to compare the plane in front of them with its historical condition. Really, we’re talking about creating a feedback loop between the virtual and physical worlds—­harnessing data from simulations and from the real world to make improvements. For example, on a real-­world production line, sensors from the physical machines could be constantly gathering information on machine performance. Using this real-­world data



in digital simulations, the manufacturer could predict possible machine failures. They could also trial different scenarios for machine downtime, thereby deciding the optimum time to carry out repairs and maintenance. In this way, the physical and virtual worlds are intrinsically connected, which allows for tangible improvements in the physical world. Problems can be identified before they arise. New ideas can be tried quickly and easily. This, in a nutshell, is the promise of the industrial metaverse. Clearly this vision doesn’t just rely on digital twins and immersive technologies like AR and VR; it also incorporates concepts like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, sensors, connectivity and the internet of things, even 5G. Therefore, the industrial metaverse brings together a whole range of emerging and rapidly evolving technologies to transform industry. That said, it should be obvious by now that digital twins are a major breakthrough technology for industry and the industrial metaverse. So, let’s explore digital twins in a little more detail.

Digital twins of factories, machines, and more Digital twins are proving especially valuable for factories. At Siemens Digital Native Factory in Nanjing, China, the entire factory was simulated with a digital twin at planning stage, and this allowed Siemens to detect and mitigate planning errors and, in turn, optimize the building process. Siemens says that having a digital version of this plant helped to increase capacity by 200 percent and productivity by 20 percent.1 Another company using digital twins to optimize factory operations is Hyundai. The motor company is partnering with Unity—­a platform for building real-­time 3D objects—­to design a “meta factory”. No, not a factory for Facebook, but a digital twin of a physical Hyundai factory used to troubleshoot problems and improve operations. Therefore, digital twins can provide significant value when planning factories, but also when it comes to improving existing factory operations.



Sensors installed across the plant can stream data to its digital twin—­and that data can be analysed for insights on how the system is performing. Based on this, manufacturers can adjust workflows, and even trial workflow changes in the digital twin first. Think of it this way and digital twins are really just a tool for improving decision making. Simulating whole factories (built or unbuilt) is one way to harness digital twins. But, really, it’s possible to create digital twins of pretty much anything—­right down to individual machines. Siemens says it is working with Nvidia to create just that—­digital twins that look and behave exactly like physical machines and allow for real-­time interaction. This means they’ll be able to tweak a factor (e.g. temperature) in the digital twin and understand exactly how the real-­world machine will be affected. Bosch is going one step further, blending the concept of digital twins with quantum computing—­incredibly powerful computers capable of solving complex problems that classical computers can’t begin to solve. At Bosch’s automotive electronics factory in Madrid, Spain, the company is combining data captured from manufacturing equipment with quantum AI tools to improve the simulation process. Products can also be simulated to predict potential problems. This could obviously revolutionize product design (more on that coming up), but it could also pave the way for greater insights on how existing products perform out in the real world. For example, sensors in cars could stream data on how various components in the car perform under certain conditions, or how they wear over time—­and this could be used to inform future product design or even predict when parts might fail. Kaeser, maker of compressed air and vacuum products, uses digital twins to replicate its compressed air systems in use by customers. This allows the company to monitor the condition of each product in use, remotely detect potential faults, and deliver timely maintenance. Not only does this ensure products perform better, but it’s more convenient for customers. It also makes sense that such a system would reduce maintenance costs,



because products can be monitored remotely and maintenance scheduled for when it’s really needed, as opposed to sending out engineers for routine maintenance according to an arbitrary schedule. How are other industrial organizations, beyond manufacturers, using digital twins? Shell has partnered with Microsoft to build a virtual model of the entire energy generation process. For example, a special “sensor fabric” is used to gather real-­time data from Shell’s production of liquified natural gas—­data that is then used to simulate and determine the best way to adjust operating parameters to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted during the process. Elsewhere, staff on HS2, the UK’s planned high-­speed railway line, will be using VR headsets to explore an exact 3D digital twin of the railway track. The digital twin is based on thousands of sensors being built into the real-­world track, with the real-­time data from these sensors allowing staff to identify and explore faults in VR before sending out engineers. Some issues may even be solvable remotely.

Improving product design and time to market Of course, digital twins can also be used to simulate products during the design process, allowing designers to spot flaws and improve the design before the product is actually built. And this could solve a lot of quality issues. (Boeing, for example, says that more than 70 percent of its quality issues are linked to design issues.2) It could also decrease the time it takes to bring products to market, simply by making the product development process more efficient. Maserati has done just that, partnering with Siemens to integrate a digital twin into the car manufacturing process. As an example, instead of having to build a physical prototype of a vehicle in order to test its aerodynamics in a wind tunnel, engineers can run those tests virtually, based on the car’s digital twin, without having to build the physical car. This obviously reduces design costs, but it also allows for greater innovation, because designers can experiment with a wide range of designs without the expense of building prototypes.



Combine digital twins with 3D printing and things get really interesting. Designers can design highly bespoke products—­ configured for each customer’s unique requirements—­using digital twins to test various parameters, and then the highly personalized product can be printed based on the digital model. (These days it’s possible to 3D print pretty much anything: food, trainers, entire houses, you name it.) Customers could even design their own products in the metaverse. Imagine going to a virtual Nike store, for example, and designing your own Nike shoe in front of your eyes, which could then be 3D printed in a factory in your part of the world. The possibilities for customization and personalization are endless. VR is also aiding the design process, by enabling immersive co-­creation spaces. (Similar to architects designing in collaborative metaverse envir­ onments, see Chapter 7.) Imagine, for example, designing an airplane by immersing yourself in a VR version of the plane’s interior. In the future, we can expect to see product designers increasingly don a VR headset to immerse themselves in whatever they’re designing. Designing in VR will be particularly powerful when combined with digital twins—­meaning the designer could immerse themselves in the design, making changes to the product in the virtual metaverse space, and the digital twin would update in real time to reflect those design changes. We can also expect that the metaverse will change product design in the sense that it opens up the possibility of creating new, virtual-­only products designed specifically for metaverse environments—­products that will never see the light of day in the real world. (Circle back to Chapter 5 for more on this.)

How Web3 Technologies Will Change Industry In terms of web3, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that blockchain will be particularly disruptive. Especially when it comes to the supply chain . . .



Logistics and supply chain uses With blockchain, every aspect of the supply chain can be tracked, traced, and verified in a secure, transparent, efficient way. Logistics companies and logistics teams in larger organizations have to deal with a lot of complexities in the modern supply chain: import and export processes, regulations, shipping containers, shipping backlogs caused by COVID-­19, shortages of skilled drivers, rising fuels prices, and, of course, working out the most efficient way of getting goods from point A to point B! Remember that blockchains can be private—­meaning that they don’t have to be public blockchains like those used by cryptocurrencies. Which, in turn, means that an organization and the parties involved in its supply chain can all have permissioned access to a private blockchain—­and that blockchain can be used as a super-­secure, permanent record of transactions where various parties along the supply chain record their actions. The status of goods in a warehouse, transit, delivery, and more can be tracked—­and much of this can even be automated, when combined with sensors placed on, say, pallets, shipping containers, and vehicles. This eliminates human error from the supply chain and provides transparency, since all parties in the chain can view the data. Add in smart contracts and there’s even more potential to streamline the supply chain. For example, funds stored on the blockchain could be released automatically, as per the contract terms, when a shipping container is loaded onto a ship. Let’s see what this looks like in practice. Maersk has partnered with IBM on a blockchain solution called TradeLens, which functions as a single source of truth for stakeholders across the supply chain. Here, parties can verify bills of lading, carry out credit checks, and be notified when, say, a ship arrives at port. The platform also includes automatically executing smart contracts. Elsewhere, FedEx is using blockchain to provide a trusted, timely record that can help to solve customer disputes. Ford and Volvo both



use blockchain to ensure the cobalt used in electric car batteries is sourced ethically. And Mercedes-­B enz developed a blockchain solution to manage contract consistency across the supply chain, to ensure suppliers comply with Mercedes standards in terms of working conditions, human rights, environmental protections, and other standards. Should a supplier deviate from their obligations, it becomes visible in the blockchain. Bottom line, blockchain and smart contracts bring many benefits to the supply chain, including fewer errors, reduced costs, reduced paperwork, and more precise tracking. It brings a new level of traceability and transparency to today’s incredibly complex supply chains. Security, too, since blockchains are encrypted, meaning they’re effectively tamper-­ proof, and only people with permission can add to or edit the data in the blockchain. This also benefits consumers, since information stored on the blockchain can provide an incredibly detailed, trustworthy product history, thereby giving consumers (and businesses, for that matter) more transparency on the products they buy. As an example, Nestlé has piloted a blockchain system that allows customers to track the ingredients in their food all the way back to the farm (the company uses blockchain to provide end-­to-­end visibility of its entire supply chain). Blockchain may also provide opportunities for organizations to monetize their supply chain data. Mercedes owner Daimler has worked with data-­ sharing platform Ocean Protocol to monetize data across its supply chain, by sharing data with selected supply chain partners (data such as the procurement of parts across different jurisdictions). It makes sense when you think about it—­data is a highly valuable asset in today’s business world. And blockchain can help organizations unlock some of the value in that asset. This ties in with the wider trend towards decentralizing data (see decentralizing health data, in Chapter 8, as an example). There’s more on decentralization coming up at the end of this chapter.



How web3 can aid the energy transition It’s no secret that we urgently need to transition away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable solutions. While energy giant Shell is primarily associated with oil and gas, the company—­and its competitors—­will play a key role in the energy transition. Blockchain (along with other technologies, like AI) is helping Shell accelerate that transition. How? The company has several projects at pilot and production stage. But one that really grabbed my interest was using blockchain to trace and verify the provenance of energy created from renewable sources. At present, it’s not always easy for customers and partner organizations to be certain how clean a specific energy source or supplier is. Blockchain can demystify this complex web of energy sources by using highly granular energy attribute certificates in real time at the source where the energy is created—­whether it’s a green energy source like solar panels or a wind farm, or a grey (i.e. non-­green) energy source. Every point of the journey is tracked and recorded on a blockchain. Shell is also working with Accenture and Amex on a project to increase the availability and use of sustainable aviation fuel, with the help of a public blockchain-­based chain of custody system. The system, called Avelia, is one of the first instances of applying blockchain technology to decarbonize aviation. Ultimately, Shell is banking on blockchain to help achieve its target of reaching net-­zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner. Elsewhere, BMW has partnered with non-­profit Energy Web and Belgian and German electric grid operator Elia to create a blockchain solution geared towards recharging electric vehicles. It works like this: when a car plugs into a charging point, information about that individual car is sent to the grid operator. Ordinarily, the grid operator wouldn’t receive data about individual vehicles, just aggregate data. So, for example, they’d have no data on how many cars using that charging station requested renewable energy. The new blockchain-­based solution, which assigns digital identities to electric vehicles, solves this problem and provides more visibility



for energy providers. In the future, the hope is that this system will allow charging points to “recognize” individual users and their preferences—­ for example, a preference that energy used to charge their vehicle comes exclusively from renewables. There are many other ways blockchain is supporting the energy transition. For example, there’s JustCarbon, a blockchain-­based marketplace for tokenizing and trading carbon credits—­giving customers an easier way to offset carbon emissions. There are also peer-­to-­peer energy trading platforms like Powerledger, which allow communities and individuals to participate in renewable energy markets—­essentially using smart contracts to facilitate the trading of surplus energy. Of course, we can’t deny that blockchain has a huge carbon footprint (see Chapter 2). But Ethereum’s recent move to reduce its carbon emissions by more than 99 percent shows that blockchain’s reputation as an energy guzzler may not be a long-­term issue.

How NFTs fit into the picture Where blockchains go, NFTs (non-­fungible tokens) invariably follow. And so it is with manufacturing and industry. There are many ways these companies can use NFTs, but perhaps the most obvious is creating NFTs to accompany certain products. Hyundai is already doing this, unveiling an NFT membership programme for owners of its IONIQ 6 electric vehicle. Called IONIQ Citizenship, the programme gives NFT holders access to special perks (like gift cards), exclusive access to Hyundai merch, and invitations to virtual events. In the future, we could see more and more products come with an NFT. NFTs could even be used to provide a service and ownership record for products—­which could prove especially useful for the automotive industry.



Decentralization in industry Just as we may see the decentralization of sectors like finance, IT, and healthcare, we may also see industry become less centralized. For one thing, with customers designing their own personalized products in the metaverse, and with those products being 3D printed at a location near them, there may be less need for huge, centralized manufacturing plants. At heart, the decentralization ethos of web3 is about taking power away from centralized authorities—­such as energy companies, or car manufacturers—­and putting it in the hands of individuals. It’s hard to predict how this may play out in practice. One example is the use of blockchain platforms to facilitate the trading of energy between individuals and communities, thereby eliminating energy providers from the picture. But how else could industry become decentralized? One project gives us a potential glimpse. It’s called DeAuto, and it describes itself as “the world’s first crypto robo-­vehicle community”. The project is designed to explore decentralized low-­carbon mobility design that’s driven by community efforts. The first DeAuto Hackathon resulted in nine teams presenting designs for smart mobility solutions. Could we see more products being designed by the individuals and communities that will ultimately use them? It’s certainly an interesting idea.

Key Takeaways Let’s finish up this chapter with some final key takeaways from the world of industry—­many of which could apply to other sectors as well. • When it comes to manufacturing, immersive technologies like VR and AR can enhance processes like employee training, aftercare services, product design, warehouse processes, and quality control.



• Another transformative technology is digital twins, which allow organizations to simulate products, machines, and even entire factories. This has given rise to the concept of the industrial metaverse—­ where real-­world systems are mirrored in the virtual world. In the industrial metaverse, a whole host of technologies come together—­AI, digital twins, sensors, and more—­to create simulations that inform actions in the real world. • In terms of web3 technologies, blockchain is already beginning to improve logistics and supply chain processes. Blockchain and smart contracts promise to increase data security, traceability, and transparency, while reducing costs and admin. Blockchain is also helping the energy sector accelerate its transition towards greener energy. • We may see more and more manufacturers incorporate NFTs into their products—­with the NFT providing exclusive access to VIP perks, content, and more. • We may even see industry being impacted by the wider web3 notion of decentralization (as with sectors like finance, IT, and healthcare). Now let’s explore another fascinating area that will change in the future internet—­namely, government and public services.

Notes 1. What is the Industrial Metaverse and why should I care; Siemens; https://­i s-­t he-­i ndustrial-­ metaverse-­and-­why-­should-­i-­care.html 2. Boeing wants to build its next airplane in the metaverse; Reuters; https://­w ants-­b uild-­i ts-­n ext-­a irplane-­ metaverse-­2021-­12-­17/



HOW GOVERNMENTS AND PUBLIC SERVICES WILL HARNESS THE FUTURE INTERNET Governments can be slow to react to new technologies, but I’m seeing some really interesting use cases come from government and the public sector—­particularly from the government of Dubai, which is enthusiastically adopting and planning for the metaverse and web3. Let’s explore the impact of the future internet on how our cities and countries are run.

The Metaverse Is More Applicable to Government Than You Might Think Governments will not be able to ignore the metaverse. The metaverse will alter fundamental parts of society and everyday life—­how we spend our time, where and how we spend our money, and so on—­so at the very least, governments will have to consider legislating what goes on in the metaverse. What constitutes a crime in the metaverse, for instance? Beyond the legislative challenges, local and national governments will also want to harness the metaverse and metaverse technologies to better serve 155


their people. Expect metaverse embassies, digital twins of cities in the metaverse, and the use of immersive technologies in military operations to name just a few examples.

Creating an official metaverse presence The virtual universe already features shops, concert arenas, galleries, and casinos. Why shouldn’t we have embassies and government offices as well? The government of Barbados is already thinking along these lines, opening a diplomatic embassy in the Decentraland metaverse platform. And the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Economy is opening up its own headquarters in the metaverse, describing the digital world as its “third address” (following two physical offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai). The virtual headquarters take the shape of a multi-­storey building, with each floor serving a different function (including a virtual conference space and meeting rooms). Visitors to the virtual headquarters take a ticket on arrival, which prompts a government employee to join them in the metaverse. But what can visitors do at the virtual headquarters? According to the Ministry, visitors will be able to sign legally binding documents in the metaverse, thereby eliminating the need to travel to one of the Ministry’s physical locations. While we’re on the subject of the United Arab Emirates, the government of Dubai even has its own metaverse strategy. As part of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, the Emirates intend to create 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030 and invest heavily in blockchain technology (more on blockchain coming up later in this chapter). Dubai aims to become one of the world’s “top 10 metaverse economies” and a global hub for metaverse communities. It’s all part of Dubai’s wider goal of attracting metaverse and web3 companies to Dubai, and generally boosting innovation. Dubai is certainly a leader in this field. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that Dubai’s government also plans to create a virtual replica of the city in the metaverse. Which brings us to . . .



The incredible potential of digital twins We’ve already seen in this book how digital twins can be used to model systems and processes—­which, in the context of government, could translate into modelling public transport systems, parking availability, traffic flows, energy usage, waste management, security, and more. In other words, digital twins can be a valuable tool for city planning, allowing officials to precisely map city services—­based on data gathered in the real world—­and enhance public services. This is intrinsically linked to the concept of smart cities—­basically, cities that leverage data and innovative technologies (like artificial intelligence, digital twins, and the internet of things) to increase efficiencies and improve the lives of residents. Digital twins can play a vital role in any city’s digital transformation, since they allow governments to analyse what’s going on in the city in real time and trial different solutions in the digital replica before making changes in the physical world. As we saw in Chapter 1, Shanghai is a great example of a digital twin city. The digital version of the city models 100,000 elements, including road traffic, size and location of apartment buildings, and e-­bike charging infrastructure. The model is used to plan public services, but can also be used to simulate the effects of natural disasters, such as flooding, to aid response planning. Digital twin technology doesn’t just apply to city environments, however. NVIDIA and Lockheed Martin are partnering with the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control in an innovative digital twin project—­aiming to better understand wildfires and stop their spread. When a fire is in progress, the system recreates the fire and landscape as a digital twin, then artificial intelligence (AI) is used to forecast the fire’s progression, and model the best ways to suppress the fire. Recommendations are passed on to incident command teams, helping them decrease response times, reduce risk to team members, and improve effectiveness. This points to many more potential uses of



digital twins—­modelling and improving pandemic response, natural disaster impact and relief efforts, national highway improvements, and so on. There are so many opportunities for governments to leverage digital twins. But digital twins aren’t just useful for planning and predicting—­they can also be used to create a digital replica of a city (or other environment) within the metaverse. Somewhere people from all over the world can visit and enjoy. Again, Dubai is leading the way here. In 2022, Dubai officials announced plans to create a digital twin city of Dubai called One Human Reality—­ Dubai’s official presence in the metaverse. This will allow Dubai’s residents and visitors alike to meet in, say, a virtual city park for a walk, and invite friends from all over the world to explore virtual Dubai with them. Another potential usage is to simulate time travel to moments in Dubai’s history, or see how landmark destinations looked in the past. To facilitate this, Dubai is exploring the use of physical portals in public places that would transport users to a different time (much like the Paris time-­ travelling telescope from Chapter 6). In the future, could you meet up with friends in a virtual version of your home city? Quite possibly. Looking even further ahead, we could even have digital twins of entire countries.

Military uses of metaverse technologies Defence makes up a huge part of most governments’ budgets, so it’s worth spending a few minutes exploring the military uses of metaverse tech. For the most part, this centres around using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enhance both the training of personnel and military operations in the field. As an example, the US Air Force is using VR to help speed up the process of becoming a pilot and address pilot shortages as experienced older pilots are tempted away to commercial airlines. One initiative to address this is the experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) programme, which incor­ porates VR and AR technologies to decrease the time and cost of training.



The US Navy has tested an AR platform called TRACER (or, to give it its full name, Tactically Reconfigurable Artificial Combat Enhanced Reality) at the Center for Security Forces in North Carolina. Built largely using off-­the-­shelf gaming gear, including the Magic Leap One AR headset and a simulated weapon that delivers realistic recoil, the system allows trainers to create different training scenarios that can be overlayed onto real-­life settings. Navy officials have also said the system will help them deliver better training on ships, where space is limited.1 In operational situations, it makes sense that AR and hybrid reality generally offer the most value (you can’t really expect soldiers to go around wearing VR headsets in battle). In 2020, the US Army announced it was investing in 40,000 pairs of mixed-­reality goggles (which is enough to outfit 10 percent of soldiers).2 Derived from Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, the IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) goggles display critical information and are designed to help troops identify enemy forces and make decisions more quickly. Plus, the goggles are equipped with thermal and low-­light sensors to help the wearer see in the dark. What’s so important about systems like this is that they are far more intuitive and easier to use than, say, handheld systems, which can distract the user. With goggles, the user never has to take their eye off the battlefield. The US Army has even trialled AR goggles for combat dogs. Seriously! (Military dogs apparently already wear protective goggles in bad conditions, so it’s not as outlandish as it sounds.) AR goggles allow trainers to give remote commands to military dogs as they scout for explosives and other hazards. Currently, the handler guides the dog using hand signals or laser pointers, but the handler needs to be close by for this to work. Using goggles, dogs can be guided to specific spots using on-­screen visual cues, with the handler watching via video and giving commands from a safe distance. Finally, as we saw in Chapter 8, VR can also be used to enhance the treatment of veterans, particularly those suffering from post-­traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and chronic pain. Extended reality (XR) technologies (the spectrum of immersive technologies that include VR and AR) is



proving so beneficial that, in the US, the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem (part of the VA) now has its own Extended Reality Network, dedicated to using XR to revolutionize veteran care. XR therapy is now available at more than 35 VA sites across the US.

Web3 Could Enhance Many Government Systems Now let’s focus more on the web3 side, to see how blockchain, crypto, NFTs, and even decentralized autonomous organizations could be harnessed by governments.

The infinite possibilities of blockchain In Chapter 8, we saw the potential of blockchain and smart contracts to revolutionize healthcare data and processes. Given that government systems are also generally working with huge volumes of data, it stands to reason that blockchain has just as much potential to enhance government data management and administrative processes. When you think about it, the challenges facing governments are similar to those faced by any large organization: how to provide transparency and accountability for actions; how to coordinate processes across disparate functions and departments; how to securely work with data; how to overcome the limitations of inefficient legacy IT systems. Blockchain can help governments and public sector organizations overcome all these challenges. Blockchain is so powerful because it allows for real-­ time coordination of data across a wide variety of stakeholders and participants. As such, governmental uses of blockchain could potentially stretch far and wide—­from storing and updating registry data (land, marriages, etc.) to managing digital identity and electronic voting. Take registries as an example. Government systems act as the “source of truth” for so much information, including the registering of births, deaths,



marriages and divorces, corporate entities, and land titles. Blockchain allows for these systems to be much more efficient—­particularly when it comes to updating records in real time, with the updates taking effect across the whole system immediately. In the Republic of Georgia, which has implemented a blockchain-­based land registry system, millions of land titles are registered on the blockchain and ownership of titles can (with the proper signatures) be legally transferred within minutes. There’s also the potential for smart, self-­executing contracts to drastically reduce admin burden and speed up services. Like Georgia, Sweden has a blockchain system for the transfer of land titles. By replacing traditional notarization with smart contracts, the system has reduced transaction time for title transfers by more than 90 percent. Smart contracts could even be used to manage trade between different countries. What about digital identity? As we saw in Chapter 7, blockchain will allow citizens to have more control over their personal data. As part of our blockchain-­based personal data, we could have a digital ID that functions as one immutable identity—­a digital ID that’s verified by a government department and serves as official ID, just like a physical ID card. Digital ID cards could underpin many digital government services, including electronic health records, academic credentials, the tax system, the pension system, and more. The Netherlands, for example, is already using blockchain to administer its pension programme. Digital ID also paves the way for online voting systems. Estonia has an internet voting (i-­voting) solution, which allows voters to cast their vote from anywhere in the world, by logging in with their government-­issued electronic ID card. In the March 2019 parliamentary election, more than 40 percent of votes were cast via i-­voting.3 Estonians can also use their electronic ID card for filing their tax returns and accessing other government services. Estonia shows that this sort of system is not only possible, it’s very popular with voters. It could also solve many problems associated with current voting systems. Consider the 2020 US presidential election, which was plagued by President Trump’s claims of voter fraud and a “stolen election”. With official



electronic ID and digital voting systems—­underpinned by super-­secure, encrypted blockchain—­there’d be no such nonsense. Votes would be cast and stored on the blockchain, the results would be verifiable and immutable, and the whole process of counting votes would be instant and transparent. Voters would have total clarity that their vote was received and counted, unlike with paper ballots (especially mail ballots). They wouldn’t need to take time off work or join huge queues just to exercise their right to vote. They’d even be able to participate in elections when they weren’t in the country. But of course, there are technical challenges to implementing such a huge change. There’s also a danger that blockchain voting would exclude voters in marginalized groups who don’t have official ID or access to a smartphone. Given these examples, I expect to see more governments seeking to harness blockchain and create official blockchain strategies. The Dubai Blockchain Strategy is a great example. The strategy is built around three pillars: improving government efficiency through blockchain, creating jobs and industry around blockchain, and establishing Dubai as an international blockchain leader. Dubai is piloting and considering a number of blockchain projects as part of the strategy, including a blockchain system for managing the lifecycle of vehicles, from the day they enter the country to their export or disposal. Such a system would make registering a car and transferring ownership easier, while also allowing buyers in the second-­ hand car market to see the entire history of a car. Another application is improving the visa application process for international travellers. Bottom line, blockchain can help governments offer more streamlined, thoughtful services to citizens—­services that are designed for the web3 era.

Could we see government-­issued NFTs? As governments begin to embrace blockchain, it makes sense that they may also use NFTs in an official capacity. Again, we can look to Dubai for an example. Dubai police released a collection of NFTs as part of a campaign to showcase the force’s security, innovation, and communication values. The collection of 150 free digital assets reportedly attracted



around 23  million people.4 Meanwhile, in the UK, the government has tasked the Royal Mint—­official maker of British coins—­with the creation of a government-­backed NFT that can be traded online. Remember in Chapter 6 how authorities in India were issuing educational certificates as NFTs? This is a great example of using NFTs to digitize certain records. NFTs could even be used as awards or certificates of achievement for government departments and partners, as shown by one use case in Japan. The Japanese government held a nationwide digitization competition for local authorities, and the winners were presented with an NFT as a certificate of their achievement. The NFTs were issued on the Ethereum blockchain network, but using Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP) technology, which means the awards can’t be traded on secondary markets. As we’ve seen throughout this book, NFTs can also be used as a record of ownership—­of physical assets as well as digital assets. So, in the future, land registry documents could be issued as NFTs, for example. Marriage certificates could be NFTs. Considering that you can have your digital avatar as an NFT, NFTs could even be used to verify personal identity in the metaverse. In theory, that is. There would of course be concerns around security, and the potential to hijack a person’s entire digital identity. But the possible applications of official NFTs are surprisingly vast.

Launching official digital currencies There’s no doubt that cryptocurrencies pose a threat to governments and central banks—­because, if more people put their money into crypto, as opposed to traditional currencies and assets, governments and central banks have less control. The future of money becomes increasingly disconnected from central authorities. Which is why many countries and central banks are exploring Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). A CBDC is virtual money that’s issued and backed by a central bank, and functions just as physical money—­so £10  in a CBDC would be the same as £10  in physical money. It’s like a



stablecoin (see Chapter 7), but issued by a central bank rather than a private company. CBDCs allow centralized power structures to maintain some level of authority in a digital currency world, while also providing those people who put their money in CBDCs with more protection than they’d get from the average cryptocurrency or stablecoin. Considering that many people are still so sceptical of crypto, CBDCs could improve the image of digital currencies and help more people embrace digital money. Several countries are either trialling or exploring their own CBDCs. The European Union is investigating how to design and introduce a digital euro (investigations are expected to conclude in 2023). The US government is researching the technical possibilities of a US CBDC. Australia is already trialling its CBDC. China is due to launch its CBDC is 2023. Meanwhile, Nigeria, Jamaica, and the Bahamas have already launched their digital currencies. In the UK, the Bank of England is exploring a potential CBDC version of the pound. But the government wants to go a step further and make the UK a hub for crypto-­asset technology and investment. In 2022, the government announced plans to see stablecoins recognized as an accepted form of payment. (Again, stablecoins are separate from CBDCs because, while they’re pegged to a traditional currency, they’re issued by a private company, not a central bank.) Governments also have some difficult decisions to make on how they regulate the crypto industry—­deciding, for example, which forms of crypto they support. The UK’s plans to accept stablecoins as an official form of payment indicate how some countries may choose to adopt certain aspects of crypto. In the US, for instance, the state of Colorado is planning to become the first state to accept cryptocurrency as payment for state fees and taxes.

Government departments and public services as DAOs In Chapter  2  we explored decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs)—­companies or collectives without a central governing body,



which are bound by rules and regulations coded into a blockchain. Surely this model couldn’t possibly apply to government. Or could it? The Digital Agency of Japan—­ a government agency focused on, you guessed it, digitization—­has launched a DAO as part of a wider effort to explore DAOs and web3. At a time when public trust in governments seems perilously thin—­and especially in countries where corruption is seen as a big problem—­the DAO model could provide a way forward. With the DAO, stakeholders have a say in decision making. Decision making is totally transparent. And smart contracts ensure that decisions and actions are automatically executed. Even policy could be created by consensus—­especially when combined with AI and digital twins to model potential outcomes. A new political party in Denmark is experimenting—­albeit in a tongue-­ in-­cheek way—­with automatically creating policy via AI. The Synthetic Party—­founded by an artist collective and fronted by a chatbot named Leader Lars—­is deriving its policies from AI. Voters can speak with Leader Lars on Discord and submit their own perspectives. At the time of writing, the party was vying for a seat in the Danish parliament. (The idea is that human representatives of the party—­not the AI chatbot—­will stand for election, and commit to carrying out the AI-­driven policies.) It’s a really interesting model, but as I say, some of the policies will raise eyebrows, such as establishing a monthly universal basic income that’s more than double the average Danish annual salary. The party’s goal is also to raise more awareness about AI. Does the Synthetic Party provide a glimpse of a future in which government decision and policy making is decentralized and automated? It’s an interesting idea, for sure.

Key Takeaways To recap the key points from government and public services: • In the future, we may see more government departments and embassies set up another home in the metaverse, providing a new way for citizens to interact with government employees and even carry out



certain tasks. We’ll also see digital twins being used for planning and modelling purposes (to improve public services)—­but also digital replicas of entire cities in the metaverse. • In terms of web3, blockchain has the potential to enhance a huge range of government systems and processes, such as registry, digital identity, and digital voting. • Several countries are embracing digital currencies, either by launching their own central bank digital currency (CBDC), exploring CBDCs, or allowing crypto to be used as an accepted form of payment. Some governments are also exploring issuing their own NFTs. Now let’s move from public life to everyday life. Turn the page to see how a wide range of pastimes, such as dating and travel, will evolve in the future internet . . .

Notes 1. US Navy tests TRACER augmented reality combat training platform; Naval Technology; https://www.naval-­­navy-­tests-­tracer-­ augmented-­reality-­combat-­training-­platform/ 2. ‘Mixed Reality’ Goggles Will Give U.S. Army Soldiers Super Vision; Popular Mechanics; mixed-­reality-­goggles-­army/ 3. Estonia leads world in making digital voting a reality; FT; https://www­6207-­49a0-­bbfb-­6ae5460fc1c1 4. Dubai Sees Crypto as Stepping Stone Towards Global Tech Hub; Blockchain News;­sees-­crypto-­as-­stepping-­stone-­ towards-­global-­tech-­hub



EVERYDAY LIFE AND LEISURE IN THE FUTURE INTERNET We’ve already covered so many aspects of everyday life—­ healthcare, education, shopping, gaming, entertainment, and so on. And in Part III we’ll look at how the world of work will change in the future internet. But before we move on to work, let’s dwell on some remaining everyday activities that we haven’t yet covered, and see how the future internet will change how we spend our time.

Catching Our ZZZs Aside from work, sleep takes up the majority of our daily lives, with adults in the UK and US averaging around eight hours sleep a night. (According to the World Economic Forum, the lucky Chinese average more than nine hours.) You might think sleep would be immune to metaverse and web3 developments—­what’s more offline than sleep?—­but you’d be wrong.

Sleep to earn? You’ve heard of “play to earn” gaming (Chapter 4). Well, now you can sleep to earn. The Sleep City metaverse ecosystem and app is geared around the idea of earning money while you sleep, with the help of non-­fungible 167


token (NFT) pillows and the SCT crypto token. If you rolled your eyes at the words “NFT pillow”, I get it. This might be one of the craziest metaverse use cases I’ve come across while writing this book, but it is real. Users simply turn on the app before going to sleep and earn SCT tokens while they catch their ZZZs. But what the heck is an NFT pillow, you ask? Think of it as an in-­game accessory like you’d get in Fortnite and you have the right idea. Users can buy, sell, or rent a pillow on the app’s marketplace (there are different kinds of pillows, with different features). And the more individuals participate in the ecosystem—­by, say, upgrading their NFT pillows over time—­the more rewards they earn while they sleep. Setting aside the strange world of NFT pillows and sleep-­to-­earn ecosystems, there’s another interesting intersection between real-­world slumber and the metaverse: the use of virtual reality (VR) to improve sleep.

VR-­enhanced sleep Research shows that, for those people who struggle with sleep, relaxing VR simulations can aid the process of falling asleep and improve the quality of sleep. Now this is an idea that makes sense. I like to read or listen to content before I go to sleep, because it helps to quiet my busy brain and induce that sleepy feeling. Others may choose to meditate or practise journalling or visualization. We all have our ways of distracting the mind and preparing the body for sleep, but for those who struggle with this process, being immersed in a calming VR environment can help to induce a relaxed state and, in turn, “facilitate sleep initiation” (researcher speak for nod off).1 VR was even shown to reduce the user’s heart rate and resulted in “fewer nocturnal awakenings”. Sleep is serious business. It’s essential for physical health, mental wellbeing, and productivity, and it’s something many of us worry about. As such, more wearable sleep-­monitoring tools are coming onto the market. Yet these tools can generally only collect simple sleep data, such as body



movement, snoring, and heart rate. They can’t monitor brain waves—­ which is what you ideally want in order to fully analyse sleep patterns. Which brings me to the field of brain–computer interfaces, where there’s a direct communication pathway between the brain’s activity and an external device. Robotic limbs that are controlled by brain waves are one example. But could the next frontier in sleep-­monitoring tools combine brain-­interface technology and the metaverse? That’s the idea behind a frontal sticker developed by Shenzhen Chuangda Yunrui Intelligent Company. The forehead sleep recorder collects detailed, real-­time data on sleep stages and the company says that, in the future, this could be seamlessly integrated into the virtual world. For example, doctors could potentially combine this sort of monitoring tool with patient digital twins in the metaverse to better understand and treat sleep disorders.

Spending Time Online This is another aspect of everyday life that takes up more time than we might care to admit. So how might online life change in future?

Richer search experiences I was explaining Google’s artificial reality (AR) search function to a group recently, so I googled “T-­rex” and, as we looked through my phone screen, a digital T-­rex appeared in the conference room in front of us. This was a room full of people who work in the technology field, and even they didn’t know this was possible with a simple Google search. (Providing your phone is equipped with AR capabilities, that is. So that’s ARCore-­ supported Android devices or iOS 11 and up.) Many people are unaware that we already have the technology to deliver much richer search experiences, where, instead of being presented with a wall of text, the subject comes to life in front of you.



As the metaverse evolves, I expect online searches to become even richer and more immersive. Want to book a table at a restaurant you’ve never been to before? In the future, you might be able to search for it online and see a realistic virtual rendering of the restaurant in front of you, via your phone screen or AR glasses. And if you’re wearing VR goggles, you’ll be able to virtually visit the restaurant in the metaverse and choose the exact table you want. I genuinely believe this is the future of internet searching. Subjects will be brought to life in incredible new ways. We’ll be able to go anywhere, see anything, with a simple search. Email and messaging apps may also evolve. This is an area where we may see more web3 adoption—­for example, instead of having a traditional web2 email account, you could have a blockchain-­based web3  mailbox linked to your digital wallet. In theory, this would mean you could just communicate with other users and companies via your wallet address, rather than having to fork over your email address and other personal information.

The future of social media Social media will also change drastically in the future internet. Indeed, Meta is already creating the next generation of social virtual interactions with the Horizon Worlds universe. In the metaverse, social media will increasingly incorporate gaming, e-­commerce, and extended reality (particularly VR, but also AR and hybrid reality). Rather than just connecting with our friends over 2D web pages, we’ll connect with them in immersive, 3D spaces that can be . . . well, whatever we want them to be. As VR technology evolves, these experiences will even include touch and smell. So, instead of FaceTiming your mum, you’ll be able to meet in a virtual park (or wherever) and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells as if you were in the same physical space. What we’re talking about, therefore, is the next iteration of social media—­and it all takes place in the metaverse.



Of course, there will be downsides to this. Bullying and harassment could feel magnified in an immersive metaverse environment. Fake news may seem more real than ever. The things we love and the things we hate about social media will be magnified. As such, we’ll need new kinds of safeguards for the metaverse—­such as Meta’s “safe zone” feature, which allows users to instantly create a barrier around them in Horizon Worlds. Plus, as we saw in Chapter 2, the web3 notion of decentralization may also shape the future of social media. New decentralized social media platforms will arise to challenge the centralized behemoths like Meta and YouTube. One example is Steemit, a blockchain-­based social media and blogging platform where users earn the STEEM cryptocurrency for publishing and curating content. By voting on posts and comments, users play a role in deciding the payout for posts. Compare this to a platform like Facebook, where the platform itself earns money from your presence, and it’s easy to see the appeal of decentralized social media platforms. Steemit even has a video-­sharing element, called DTube (Decentralized Tube), designed to rival YouTube. So, it’s no surprise that some existing platforms are considering moving to a blockchain model, where participants can be rewarded with tokens. Reddit is exploring blockchain. And Kickstarter is already making the move. Bottom line, we can expect to see some interesting power struggles ahead. Will we end up with a decentralized social media utopia? I’m sure some of the traditional social media giants will do their best to ensure the answer to that question is no. Only time will tell . . .

Working Out in the Metaverse Back in Chapter 4, we saw how the world of sports is beginning to embrace the metaverse (digital replicas of stadiums, for instance) and web3 (such as sports NFTs). But what about personal fitness? How will that evolve?



For one thing, you’ll no longer have to go to physical, brick-­and-­mortar gyms if you don’t want to. You can work out at home, while still enjoying the benefits of going to a gym (such as socializing with others, or getting advice and motivation from a personal trainer). In fact, we already have metaverse gyms. There’s the aptly named MetaGym, which has virtual trainers who will guide you through your workout. Another example, Gympact, even rewards users for working out, with points that can be spent on avatar goodies, like clothing. But how does a metaverse workout, well, work? Generally speaking, you’d access the metaverse gym via a VR headset. You create an avatar to represent you in the virtual space. And you can choose from a variety of exercises and settings—­such as working out surrounded by mountains or next to a beautiful lake. You can also meet with friends in your virtual gym—­ say if you’re running on your treadmill at home, while your friend is on their treadmill in their home, your avatars could be running next to each other in the metaverse. In theory, a whole range of metaverse workouts are possible, to mirror whatever you’re doing in the real world—­running on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, rowing on your rowing machine, lifting weights, doing yoga, you name it. In the metaverse, there’ll be a workout to suit your preferences, whatever they are. And with virtual trainers, you’ll be able to get personalized coaching and advice. We can also expect to see web3 creep more into fitness. For example, the OliveX fitness and wellbeing app aims to gamify fitness with blockchain-­ based play-­to-­earn experiences. Using the OliveX app, you can track your fitness goals and activity, and as you reach various milestones, you earn badges. OliveX has also partnered with boutique fitness studio brand TRIB3 to bring HIIT workouts and fitness classes to The Sandbox metaverse platform.



Enriching the Travel Experience Metaverse technologies, especially VR and AR, have the potential to transform the nature of travel. As we saw in Chapter 6 (education), VR allows us to explore new places—­and even periods in history—­without physically travelling there. And while this will never surpass the richness of real-­life travel, there’s still value in being able to explore the world from home—­not least because we can check out destinations before we travel there in real life, or visit places that we might otherwise never be able to visit.

Virtual travel As an example, Patagonia on Oculus Rift is a VR experience that allows us to visit the remote mountain landmark of Monte Fitzroy, and specifically Laguna Sucia, the stunning glacial lake that lies at the foot of the mountain. The experience combines 360-­degree video with elements of gaming, so you can take off and soar around the turquoise lake, as if you were a bird, while listening to narration that explains the area’s culture, history, and geology. You can also stop and explore the lake from several different vantage points. And for those places in the world that are a little easier to get to, VR allows us to visit places in advance to “try before we buy”. With this in mind, hotels are using VR as a marketing tool, creating immersive virtual tours to tempt guests and show exactly what they can expect from their stay. Atlantis, the Palm—­an upscale hotel situated on The Palm Jumeirah, the famous manmade palm-­shaped archipelago in Dubai—­has created a stunning panoramic VR video to woo would-­be guests. The VR video provides a whistle-­stop tour of the hotel’s key features, taking in the impressive lobby, the Royal Bridge (the biggest suite in the hotel), one of the underwater suites that let you get up close with the aquarium life, the famous Nobu restaurant, the aquarium, pool, and waterpark. The experience finishes with a night-­time stroll around the gardens.



As the metaverse evolves—­and as it incorporates more digital replicas of real-­world places—­we’ll be able to travel to a wide range of places from the comfort of home. And because the metaverse is all about connected experiences, we’ll be able to seamlessly move from one place to another—­ instead of virtual travel taking place on disparate apps, as is the case now—­ and we can invite our friends to join us.

Improving real-­world travel Back in the physical world, we’ll see more destinations incorporate VR and AR into attractions. Remember in Chapter 3 we learned that Disney has filed a patent to create a virtual-­world simulator in a real-­world venue, using projected images? Expect more along these lines. We already have entire theme parks dedicated to VR (such as the VR Star Theme Park, located in southwestern China, or Dubai’s VR Park, both of which offer a huge variety of VR rides, games, and experiences). But even traditional theme parks are beginning to incorporate a VR or AR element into rides. For instance, riders on the Kraken Unleashed rollercoaster at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida are given VR headsets to enhance the traditional rollercoaster experience. Alongside all the usual loops, twists, and stomach-­ dropping thrills of a rollercoaster, the VR headset takes riders into a digital underwater world that matches the theme of the ride. (See also virtual and augmented concerts, in Chapter 4.) Also in the real world, AR is helping travellers overcome some of the challenges of visiting an unfamiliar place. For example, there’s the Google Maps Live View AR feature, which overlays super-­clear AR arrows and directions onto the real-­life street in front of you, guiding you on where to walk and where to turn. Another example comes from Tunnel Vision NYC, an AR app that turns New York City’s subway maps into interactive visualizations. You can point your phone at a New  York Metropol­ itan Transportation Authority map and see helpful information overlaid over the map. Similarly, Chinese ride-­sharing app DiDi has an AR feature that guides passengers through busy buildings such as airports and train



stations to find their exact pick-­up location. Advances like this are simple, but they show how metaverse technologies can help to take some of the niggles out of travelling in the real world, as well as open up new virtual travel opportunities.

Web3 and travel Web3 tech will also make its way into the travel sector, especially in the form of blockchain-­based booking platforms. TUI Group is already integrating blockchain into its travel business, in the form of smart contracts housed on a private blockchain, but the company also sees a future for blockchain-­ based platforms to eliminate intermediary businesses like Expedia. TUI has developed a blockchain system, dubbed BedSwap, which maintains hotel bed inventories in real time, so if a room becomes unexpectedly available, it can be offered to customers within seconds, without relying on booking platforms to manage the info. We can also expect to see travel-­related NFTs make their mark. In one example, luxury hotel brand Marriott Bonvoy partnered with artists JVY, TXREK, and Erick Nicolay to create three NFTs, which were awarded—­ along with 200,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each—­to three winners. In the future, we could potentially have our travel documents, booking info, and even passports as NFTs on the blockchain.

Dining Out in the Metaverse Era People think I’m crazy when I talk about metaverse restaurants, but hear me out. Because this is already happening—­as we saw in Chapter  1, McDonald’s is planning to create virtual restaurants. True, you won’t be able to eat a Big Mac there, but you will be able to hang out and order food to be delivered to your (real-­world) home. Advances like this will almost certainly have an impact on the restaurant sector, changing how restaurants interact with their customers.



Metaverse technologies may also change the real-­world dining experience. With VR and AR, the dining experience can be augmented in a way that enhances the food we’re eating—­for example, by transporting us to the majestic forests where the wild mushrooms in our wild mushroom risotto were foraged. Immersive dining experiences are already available. The best known can be found at Sublimotion, which opened on the Spanish island of Ibiza in 2014. (A second Sublimotion restaurant has since opened in Dubai.) Sublimotion is the world’s most expensive restaurant, with meals clocking in at more than $2,000 per head, but it’s also an immersive, multi-­sensory, theatrical experience that combines a 20-­course fine-­dining taster menu with art and technology. Digital 360-­degree screens surround diners and change throughout the meal, so that each course has its own immersive element. Every surface in the dining room, including the 12-­seat dining table, can have images projected onto it. It is an incredible evening out! Imagine the possibilities in the future, as VR and AR hardware becomes smaller, lighter, and more accessible. Not only will we be able to enjoy experiences related to the food we’re eating, we could also choose our own restaurant surroundings. Picture donning a pair of AR glasses (or popping in your AR contact lenses) and enjoying restaurant surroundings that are unique to you. So, you could see a bright, modern space with lots of hanging plants, while your dining partner may prefer to see dark mahogany tones and a roaring fire in the corner. Across so many sectors, and in so many areas of everyday life, we’re seeing the boundaries between the real world and the digital world becoming increasingly blurred—­and dining out will be no exception. Sublimotion isn’t the only immersive restaurant in Dubai, by the way. There’s also the MetaTerrace restaurant and nightlife spot, which has its own VR chamber. Incidentally, MetaTerrace was the location Brazilian footballer Dani Alves chose to unveil his NFT collection, created in collaboration with luxury watchmaker Backes & Strauss. The collection spanned 43  luxury watches and their accompanying NFTs—­which, as



well as matching the physical watch, also commemorate trophies from the footballer’s career. In other words, in the metaverse era, expect to see virtual restaurants, bars, and clubs being used as launch events for NFTs and other digital products.

Dating and Sex in the Future Internet Dating apps are enormously popular, and effective, but compared to the metaverse they’re a bit flat and unimaginative. Why chat on a 2D screen when you can go on a virtual date anywhere in the world? Strolling around Central Park in the snow? Mini-­golfing on the moon? Admiring a Greek island sunset? Let’s see how the metaverse will change dating.

VR dating VR could revolutionize the experience of dating online or maintaining a long-­distance relationship because, in the metaverse, two people can share a virtual experience, even if they’re thousands of miles apart. VR therefore provides a low-­cost—­and low-­risk—­way to meet new people and explore potential love matches. All you need is a VR headset and a dating app that supports virtual experiences. Indeed, some dating apps are already beginning to incorporate a VR aspect, and I expect more will trial their own VR experiences in the near future. In one example, The League dating app has used VR to provide a “virtual blind date party”. But there’s also Planet Theta, which describes itself as the world’s first VR dating app, where users can meet new people and enjoy immersive experiences like going on a romantic forest walk. Other examples of VR dating services include Nevermet, Flirtual, and Second Life’s Lonely Hearts Dating Agency. I mean, why shouldn’t we go on dates in the metaverse? After all, people already play immersive video games and attend virtual concerts. Going on a date isn’t such a big leap from that.



On a virtual date, we could go anywhere and be anything we wanted. Your avatar could be a cute bunny, for instance. Or a stormtrooper. Or whatever reflects your personality and interests. The possibilities are endless. VR dating is also proving to be a safe way for people to experiment with their gender expression and sexual identity. Going on virtual dates is one thing, but what about getting married in the metaverse? One couple has already done just that, holding a virtual wedding with avatars of themselves, while friends and family participated from home. (Technically, it was a reception, since the couple had already exchanged their vows in a legal ceremony in the physical world.) The event was even attended by the bride’s late father—­or rather, his avatar. Food and drink was delivered to guests’ homes, giving the feel of a real reception, and the happy couple even created NFTs for their wedding.2 This may all seem a bit kooky, but it could become much more common as people spend more of their everyday lives in virtual worlds. Looking further ahead, the virtual dating experience could become even more immersive, to the point where you can “feel” the other person, hold their hand, and smell their perfume. One report by eHarmony and Imperial College Business School predicted that we’ll be able to go on full-­ sensory virtual dates by 2040.3 And if a date goes well then that brings us to . . .

Virtual sex Naturally, metaverse technologies offer a way to explore sexuality safely, through highly realistic experiences. This can span anything from augmenting sex in the real world, to having sex in the metaverse with a virtual partner, to watching porn in VR. The latter offers a 180-­to 240-­degree view of the scene, making the viewer feel like they’re immersed in the scene itself—­much more so than watching a 2D image—­or even participating in



the scene. VR porn is becoming so popular that, by 2025, it’s expected to be the third-­largest VR sector behind video games and the NFL.4 Combine all this with real-­world technology—­such as smart sex toys, realistic sex dolls, or haptic suits that provide a sense of touching and being touched—­and the boundaries between physical and digital sex become more blurred. In theory, VR lets people live out their every sexual fantasy—­but of course, there are ethical questions and potentially very real consequences to this. Is it considered cheating if someone has virtual sex with someone other than their partner? Or how would you feel if that creepy guy from the coffee shop created a realistic virtual version of you that they could have sex with whenever they wanted, without your knowledge? What if you used AR to augment the face of someone you’re having sex with in the real world, to make them look like someone else entirely—­isn’t that a bit, well, wrong? It’s not just a moral question. There will be legal issues to iron out around what should and shouldn’t be allowed in virtual environments. Who knows how legislators will respond but, in my view, if something isn’t allowed in the real world (like having sex with someone without their knowledge), it shouldn’t be allowed in the virtual world. Highly immersive VR porn could also affect real-­world behaviour. There’s some evidence that pornography plays a role in sexual violence.5 So if users engage with extreme pornographic content—­depicting, for example, rape, sex with minors, or sex with animals—­in a highly immersive, realistic environment, where they’re “acting out” that interaction in first-­ person, could this increase the risk of them committing the same acts in the real world? But to end on a happier note, sexting with your partner when you’re apart may become a quaint thing of the past, as you instead meet up in a luxury metaverse hotel for a virtual quickie!



Key Takeaways Let’s finish with some final key takeaways on how everyday life will evolve: • For those of us who struggle with sleep, calming VR simulations have been shown to promote relaxation and aid the process of falling asleep. Meanwhile, we have new metaverse platforms that promise a way for people to earn while they sleep! • Our online activity will evolve in several ways: internet searches will return richer, more engaging results by using AR (and perhaps VR) to bring subjects to life; social media will become more immersive and engaging; and we’ll see new decentralized social media platforms emerge that reward users for participating. • In terms of fitness, metaverse gyms are already emerging that allow users to work out at home, while still benefitting from access to a virtual trainer or coach. • Thanks to VR, we’ll be able to travel to new places to check them out before we book, or head to places that would otherwise be inaccessible. Meanwhile, AR is aiding travel in the real world through immersive route-­finding instructions. And in terms of web3, we can expect to see blockchain-­based booking platforms, travel-­based NFTs, and potentially the use of NFTs for travel documents. • Dining out will also be impacted by the metaverse. From visiting virtual versions of restaurants to enjoying a VR experience in a real-­ world restaurant, expect dining to become more immersive and futuristic. • Finally, dating and sex will also be transformed, through VR dates, virtual sex, and VR porn—­raising interesting moral and legal questions on what should and shouldn’t be allowed in the virtual world. This brings us to the end of our exploration of specific sectors and activities. Now let’s see how the world of work will change in the future internet and explore practical ways businesses can prepare for the metaverse and web3.



Notes 1. When sleep goes virtual: the potential of using virtual reality at bedtime to facilitate sleep; Sleep; PMC7734477/ 2. Weddings In The Metaverse: Would You Get Married in VR and AR?; Bernard Marr;­in-­the-­metaverse-­would­you-­get-­married-­in-­vr-­and-­ar/ 3. The future of dating: 2040; eHarmony;­ advice/wp-­content/uploads/2015/11/­Imperial-­College­Future-­of-­Dating-­Report-­20401.pdf 4. How Robots, IoT And Artificial Intelligence Are Changing How Humans Have Sex; Bernard Marr;­robots-­iot-­and-­ artificial-­intelligence-­are-­changing-­how-­humans-­have-­sex/ 5. Exploring the Connection Between Pornography and Sexual Violence; Violence and Victims, Volume 15, Issue 3; abstract.aspx?ID=187015


PA RT I I I LEVERAGING THE FUTURE INTERNET IN YOUR BUSINESS As we’ve seen throughout this book, organizations across a wide variety of sectors are already taking advantage of metaverse and web3 opportunities. How can your organization do the same? In this third part, we’ll explore how to leverage the future internet in your business—­with a particular focus on reimagining your products or services, internal processes, skill sets, culture, and strategy for the future internet. As always, there’ll be plenty of helpful examples from a range of sectors—­because, by understanding what other companies are doing right now, you can better imagine your own future.



RETHINKING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES Every organization must take a look at the products and services they provide today and consider the opportunities—­and the threats—­that come with the future internet. This might include thinking about creating virtual products and services, creating hybrid products and services that span both digital and physical, augmenting your existing products and services, or making use of the many products and services designed to harness web3 and metaverse opportunities. In fact, we’ve already covered many examples of new products/services and augmented products/services throughout the book. So, consider this chapter an opportunity to dwell on products and services in more detail, with plenty more examples for inspiration. But do keep in mind that the future internet is evolving fast. Some of the products and services being developed now for the metaverse and web3 may not exist in a few years’ time. And there’ll be new products and services that we can’t yet imagine. Amazing innovations are coming our way, and some are bound to take us by surprise. But let’s explore how companies are rethinking their products in the here and now—­and finding new ways to create value in the future internet.



Augmenting Existing Products and Services A good starting point is to look at your existing products and services and explore how you could enhance them with metaverse and/or web3 technology. Consider how Fortnite and Roblox have reinvented themselves from gaming platforms to trailblazing metaverse platforms that provide immersive virtual experiences (like Fortnite concerts or virtual stores in Roblox). Or how smartphone manufacturers are increasingly building artificial reality (AR) capabilities into their phones, allowing users to see immersive virtual elements overlayed over the real-­world view, simply by using the built-­in camera. (Interestingly, smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, Samsung, and HTC are also exploring embedding web3 capabilities into devices.) Auto manufacturers are beginning to augment their cars with AR—­and even virtual reality (VR)—­technology. A simple example is using AR to enhance navigation systems by displaying superimposed arrows on the image of the road. But we can certainly expect the in-­car experience to become more immersive and entertaining. Audi is already working towards this with Holoride technology, which combines VR with real-­ world vehicle data to create an immersive gaming experience. (In order to entertain passengers, it should be said, not the driver!) So, instead of looking out the window and seeing a dreary city view, the passenger can put on a VR headset and see an interactive fantasy world. And the fantasy journey synchs with the real car’s movements, including braking, accelerating, and turning. Interestingly, the technology has even been shown to reduce motion sickness in passengers.1 Elsewhere, photographers can create digitally rendered content instead of (or alongside) traditional photos, thereby increasing the amount and diversity of content they can create. This is already happening—­flip through an IKEA catalogue and 75 percent of the photos you see aren’t photos at all. They’re CGI. And filmmakers can use VR to “step inside” the movie they’re making. The 2019 remake of The Lion King used virtual cameras



to film photorealistic lions in Africa, all on an empty sound stage in the US. With synced VR headsets, the director and crew could walk among the lions and view the scene from the first-­person perspective, instead of looking at it on a monitor. What about enhancing products or services with web3? A good example is augmenting a physical product with an accompanying non-­fungible token (NFT). Like how legendary music magazine SPIN—­known for its iconic covers that are collectors’ items in their own right—­is selling its covers and other art assets as collectible NFTs. Real estate can also be sold as an NFT—­and not just virtual real estate. In 2022, a three-­bedroom house in South Carolina was sold as an NFT for $175,000 through the Roofstock onChain NFT marketplace. By buying the NFT, the purchaser (who is a real estate investor) now owns the physical property. And the purchase was as quick as buying, well, anything online—­just a quick click versus the months it traditionally takes to purchase a home. This could open the doors to a whole new way for people to buy property. The tokenization of real-­world assets also allows products to be sold in a distributed ownership model, where multiple customers share ownership of an asset and the ownership community is managed via a blockchain. A great example is the Crurated wine platform from Chapter 2, which offers members the chance to buy fractions of wine barrels, certified by NFT and blockchain technology. There’s also the Otis platform, which allows people to buy, sell, and trade a share of collectibles, such as artworks, comic books, and fashion items. A group of collectors owns the item in question—­let’s say it’s a vintage, rare handbag—­and decides as a group if and when to sell it, with all the owners getting a share of the sale. Elsewhere, many companies are getting a lot of value by adding a blockchain element to their products and services, such as using blockchain to record product origin details. (Like how Shell is using blockchain to



trace and verify the provenance of energy created from renewable sources, see Chapter 9.) Alternatively, you could replace inefficient transaction and contract processes with blockchain-­based smart contracts that automatically execute actions (e.g. payment or shipping) when certain terms are met. (There’s some crossover here with improving business processes, see Chapter 13.) There’s no doubt in my mind that companies which ignore the impact of the metaverse and web3 risk being overtaken by startups who are creating new, improved versions of existing products and services—­reimagining them for the future internet. Remember how I said smartphone manufacturers are exploring web3? They don’t have a choice—­blockchain platform Solana is already launching a so-­called “crypto smartphone” in 2023. Another blockchain platform, Polygon, is partnering with Nothing Tech to create its own smartphone designed to make using web3 apps easier. If existing phone manufacturers don’t start to design phones with web3 apps in mind, they risk losing market share. Music streaming services are another example. If platforms like Spotify don’t adapt for the web3 era, they risk being overtaken by services like Audius, which are already reimagining music streaming. Audius is a blockchain-­based decentralized streaming service, which has its own crypto token, AUDIO. The artist-­owned platform lets musicians decide how their music is monetized and allows them to connect directly with fans. Writers may also be looking for a better way to connect with their audience and monetize their content. Which is why new decentralized publishing platforms are arising to challenge existing platforms like Medium. A good example is, a decentralized publishing platform that uses crypto and blockchain technology to offer writers new ways to share and monetize their work. Writers can turn their work into an NFT, for instance, or crowdfund story ideas. It’s Medium for the web3 era, basically—­and it could pose a serious threat for Medium and its peers in future.



Bottom line, if you don’t augment your products and services for the future internet, chances are another company will come along with that improved offering.

Creating Completely New Products and Services for the Future Internet Throughout the book we’ve seen many companies create new products for the metaverse and web3 era, some of which may only exist in the virtual world. Could your business create new products and services that are designed with the future internet in mind? Or could your existing products or services be threatened by these new digital offerings? When it comes to digital-­only products, it seems the next generation are only too happy to spend real money on products that don’t exist in the physical world. (I know my children routinely spend their pocket money on Fortnite skins, and yours may well do the same.) In fact, Fortnite (and gaming in general) has led the way in creating digital-­only products. What’s really interesting is that Fortnite is a free-­to-­play game, so the sale of in-­game items is clearly a vital revenue earner for the game’s makers. In-­ game purchases are so popular that close to 70 percent of Fortnite players purchase outfits, accessories, and dance moves for their virtual characters.2 Keep in mind that the outfits, accessories, and moves don’t give players any actual advantage when playing the game—­it’s purely about making your character look different from those who don’t pay for products. It’s safe to say that the ability to differentiate yourself from others matters to those in the metaverse. Beer brand Stella Artois has taken a different tack with digital products, teaming up with blockchain-­based horse-­racing game Zed Run to create 50 digital horses for buyers to collect, race, trade, and even breed. Virtual horse racing has become something of a phenomenon (see also esports, Chapter 4), with some prize horses being traded for more than $140,000.3 As part of this project, named “Racing in the Life Artois”, Stella Artois



is also building a branded 3D racetrack where purchasers of the digital horses (which feature Stella Artois-­branded jerseys) can race their steeds. But what’s this got to do with beer? Well, the company is a sponsor of sporting events, so why not branch out into the online equivalent? To put it another way, the company is translating what it does in the real world into the virtual world, and that’s a smart strategy that any company should consider. Even auto companies are creating virtual products and experimenting with NFTs. Ford, for example, is preparing to offer digital artwork of its automobiles authenticated by NFTs, as well as virtual automobiles, accessories, and clothing for use in virtual environments. Hong Kong rail operator Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR) is also entering the metaverse with a virtual subway-­themed amusement park. The park, located in metaverse platform The Sandbox, will feature a virtual subway station. But why would a public transport company want to enter the metaverse? Because, according to MTR, it might help them find new opportunities for products and services. For example, MTR may use the virtual environment for education purposes in future. Things like Fortnite skins and Stella Artois’ horses may only exist in the virtual world, but some companies are making virtual products that have very real applications in the physical world. A cool example comes from Merge EDU, which has designed a range of digital teaching aids for STEM subjects. The teaching aids immerse students with 3D objects and simulations they can “touch” and interact with—­thereby engaging multiple senses to help students understand complex science concepts. I love this example because it shows that there’s room for all kinds of companies to create innovative digital products, and for those products to be used in the physical world around us. Elsewhere, Coca Cola created a new product that spans both the virtual and physical world. You might remember I mentioned in Chapter 5 that Coca Cola had launched a drink called Zero Sugar Byte in the Fortnite



world. Well, the drink has a limited-­ edition real-­ world counterpart, launched in retail outlets across Latin America (and available to purchase in the US online). Apparently, the real-­world Zero Sugar Byte brings “the flavor of pixels to life” and is “reminiscent of powering up a game”. Clearly the drink is aimed at gamers, but it’s an interesting example of creating a hybrid product that features both virtual and physical elements. What about services? Throughout the book we’ve seen even very trad­ itional companies offering blockchain-­based services to their customers, including Shell and travel giant TUI. And, of course, new providers have sprung up offering web3-­driven services. One example comes from Ocean (Chapter 7), a platform that allows businesses and individuals to exchange and monetize data. With Ocean, researchers and companies can pay for access to the data they need, without the data ever having to leave the hands of those who own it. There’s also a new web3 service called nxyz—­run by a former Google ad boss—­which trawls blockchains for valuable data, such as which NFTs people are buying or how much people hold in their crypto wallet. The data can then be sold and streamed to app developers in real time, much like how Bloomberg sells financial data to Wall Street firms. Another good example comes from BlockBar, the NFT marketplace for high-­end wines and spirits that I briefly mentioned in Chapter  5. The founders of BlockBar, Sam and Dov Falic, are the latest generation of a well-­known family business, Duty Free Americas, the travel retailer that sells duty-­free wines, spirits, perfumes, and more. But the brothers spotted an opportunity to create a different kind of marketplace for the web3 era. BlockBar is a direct-­to-­consumer NFT marketplace that connects consumers and collectors with luxury alcohol brands such as Glenfiddich and Hennessy, allowing brands to sell NFTs that are tied to physical luxury and limited-­edition products. (The NFT acts as proof of ownership, but may also provide the NFT holder with access to exclusive perks and content.) With BlockBar, the Falic brothers are taking the business of selling wine and spirits into the twenty-first century. And it’s proving popular



with brands and consumers alike; the marketplace reached $7 million in sales in its first year, and has more than 300,000 users (with plans to hit one million users and $25 million in sales in its second year).4

Don’t Forget About Metaverse and Web3 Support Services and Products In a gold rush, the people who get rich are those who sell shovels! And so it is with the metaverse and web3. Many companies are doing extremely well by offering products and services that enable other companies to succeed in the future internet. Some of these providers may have created completely new products or services designed for the future internet, others may have evolved their existing products or services to better suit metaverse and web3 uses. Consider platforms that allow people to create and trade NFTs, make their own avatars, harness blockchain technology, build immersive metaverse environments, create digital twins of real-­ world objects, and so on. As we look at some examples, consider whether your business could (a) work with such companies to aid your product/service development or (b) create your own version of a metaverse-­or web3-­enabling product/service. Autodesk is a good example of a provider that has transitioned from computer-­aided design software (including AutoCAD) to designing for the metaverse. NVIDIA is another company that’s evolving its offering, from initially powering video game graphics to, today, providing the Omniverse cloud services that allow teams to design metaverse applications. There’s also Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, who have now created a free real-­time graphics engine called Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), which allows other game studios, metaverse platforms, and even individuals to design incredibly detailed photorealistic virtual environments. And because it’s a low-­code platform, you don’t need a ton of development expertise to create immersive experiences for the metaverse. UE5 is being used in a wide



variety of industries beyond gaming, including architecture, engineering, and filmmaking. Another company that promises to shape the metaverse is Matterport, which uses 3D and 360-­degree cameras to create digital twins of real-­ world spaces for the metaverse. This allows companies to create an accurate virtual model of, say, a store, an office, or even an entire building. This could revolutionize how real estate companies, hotels, and hospitality businesses—­to name just a few—­show up in the metaverse. Other providers who offer digital twin makers include Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. Also in the metaverse space we have platforms like Sandstorm, which connects brands with metaverse builders, making it easier for brands to hire the metaverse talent they need on demand. There’s also SurrealVR, which allows content developers to make any VR experience a social one, with features like voice chat and networked gameplay. There’s Virbela, which creates immersive 3D virtual workspaces that allow remote workers to feel like they’re working in the same room as their colleagues. (See also virtual meetings, Chapter 13.) And, of course, there are avatar generators like Ready Player Me, which create 3D full-­body avatars. These are just a few of the many, many companies offering tools and services for brands which want to step into the metaverse. And if you’re worried about user behaviour in virtual spaces—­particularly the potential for abuse and toxicity in virtual interactions—­there are tools like Speechly, which detects abuse, profanities, and even self-­harm in virtual conversations. And it does it all in real time, helping to make virtual environments safer for your users. Meanwhile, in the physical world, hardware manufacturers will play a huge role in how the metaverse evolves. As well as better capabilities for phones, we’ll have smaller AR and VR glasses that are more comfortable to wear for longer periods (Apple, for example, is developing AR glasses). We may even see VR and AR glasses being sold on a subscription model,



just like mobile phones are. We’ll also have more affordable haptic suits that make virtual experiences feel much more realistic. And looking even further ahead, we might have brain–computer interfaces that allow us to hook our brains up to the metaverse. It’s impossible to say which of these will take off and which will disappear into obscurity, but the technology is coming to make the metaverse more accessible. Which means your customers will be spending more time in the metaverse. Back in the real world, there are AR app builders which enable businesses to offer AR features to customers (like how the IKEA app allows customers to see exactly how a product would look in their home). Banuba is one company that creates AR tools for businesses, such as guided virtual try­on tools that showcase products (e.g. eyewear) virtually. Increasingly, more and more of this technology will be low-­code or no-­ code, meaning anyone will be able to harness these tools—­much like anyone can build a website using tools like Square Space. In the future, then, there will be simple, drag-­and-­drop interfaces for building immersive and web3 solutions. This is beginning to happen with no-­code blockchain builders like Forkchain. And that brings us onto the web3 side of things . . . On the subject of blockchain, there are many blockchain-­as-­a-­service (BaaS) offerings, which essentially function as blockchain infrastructure providers, allowing potentially even small businesses to tap into blockchain technology. It’s the blockchain equivalent of the software-­as-­a-­ service model that many businesses will be familiar with. Examples of BaaS providers include PayStand (specializing in blockchain for payments) and Bloq (for authentication and security). Plus, there are the many NFT marketplaces and decentralized exchanges that facilitate the trading of digital products and crypto. Platforms like OpenSea and Uniswap are well-­known examples. But there are also highly specific platforms emerging, like BlockBar. So, whatever your sector or industry, know that there will be partners who can help you take steps into web3 as well as the metaverse.



Action Steps Rather than finishing with a recap of key takeaways, in this part we will finish each chapter with some practical steps and tips for what to do next. So, when it comes to rethinking your products and services: • While there are many opportunities to explore, don’t overlook the potential threats to your business from these new forms of digital and hybrid products/services. How might the metaverse and web3 threaten your current offering? • Look at all your existing products and services and examine ways to make them more immersive or web3-­compatible. Ask yourself, how can we augment what we already do for the future internet? • Consider the potential for entirely new products and services, which may span a hybrid of digital and physical, or digital-­only. Ask yourself, how can you translate what you do in the physical world into something new for the virtual world? • Also consider whether the partial ownership model—­where products can be broken up, sold as tokens, and owned by a community of people—­may appeal to your customers. • Don’t be afraid to have a go. Yes, there are still many unknowns around the metaverse and web3, but if you wait until the metaverse and web3 are fully established, you risk being overtaken. Now is the time to experiment, try new things, and see what resonates with your customers. • But don’t fall into the trap of technology for technology’s sake. However you choose to evolve your products or services, it must add value for your customers. • Keep in mind the many products and services that are designed to help businesses step into the metaverse and web3. Ask yourself, how can we partner with these companies to aid our product and service development? Or could your company offer your own metaverse-­or web3-­enabling products/services?



Clearly there’s a lot of overlap between what your business sells and how your business is run. So, let’s move from products and services to internal business processes—­to see how businesses are reimagining operations for the future internet.

Notes 1. Holoride: Virtual reality meets the real world; Audi; .com/en/innovation/development/holoride-­virtual-­reality-­meets-­the-­real-­ world.html 2. Fortnite Business Model: How Fortnite Makes Money; What Is The Business Model Of;­ models/how-­ fortnite-­makes-­money/ 3. Stella Artois takes a punt on virtual horse racing as esports metaverse craze takes hold; The Drum;­ artois-­takes-­punt-­virtual-­horse-­racing-­esports-­metaverse-­craze-­takes-­hold 4. BlockBar hits $7 million in sales; The Spirits Business; https://www.thespirits­bar-­hits-­7m-­in-­sales/



RETHINKING BUSINESS OPERATIONS Companies will not only need to change and adapt the products and services they offer in the future internet, but also how they operate internally. Throughout the book, we’ve seen many examples of how metaverse and web3 technology can improve business processes. Blockchain, for example, excels at streamlining processes, eliminating the need for middlemen, verifying identities, streamlining financial transactions, and tracking items across the supply chain. As we’ve talked a lot about blockchain-­based business processes across several chapters, this chapter will lean a little more towards metaverse opportunities. (Indeed, you might be surprised at the huge potential for the metaverse to change how your business operates.) Here, we’ll focus on a few key business functions to see how organizations are already leveraging the metaverse and web3. But before we get to those business functions, did you ever consider that the future internet could fundamentally alter your business model?

Rethinking Your Business Model There’s no doubt in my mind that the future internet will challenge existing business models, and present exciting opportunities for new business models. If your company provides a middleman service, for example, you may find blockchain and decentralization to be a significant threat.



If this all sounds a bit dramatic, remember that the metaverse and web3 are the next evolution of the internet. And most of us can recall just how much the second evolution of the internet—­social media and user-­ generated content—­changed the way we do business. So too will this next iteration of the internet. We’ll have new forms of ownership (tokenization and shared ownership), new community models (decentralized autonomous organizations, DAOs), and entirely new business relationships (like how luxury wine and spirit makers are engaging directly with consumers and collectors via BlockBar’s non-­fungible token, NFT marketplace, Chapter  12). Business owners must begin to prepare for this now, and consider whether their business model needs to adapt for the future internet—­or whether they should be experimenting with entirely new business models. Tokenization and the rise of digital assets presents a fundamental change—­ and opportunity—­for many businesses. But looking beyond the potential to create exciting new digital products and services, businesses must also consider the fact that these digital assets can now be traded among individuals. Ownership of digital assets can be transferred between individuals via web3 marketplaces, which up until now hasn’t been the case with digital assets like ebooks, downloaded music, and so on. With smart contracts, the original creator can receive a share of secondary sales. How might this impact your business model? How can you embrace this to the benefit of your brand? Web3 and decentralization will also bring about more collaborative communities, and this too may influence your business model. With blockchain and smart contracts, it’s easy to incentivize and pay a broad group of collaborators for their contribution to your brand—­creating digital art and brand content, for example. The play-­to-­earn craze from the world of gaming shows that loyal customers increasingly want to be valued and compensated for their contribution. In the future internet, customers and users become more like partners. How will you adapt your business model in line with this movement?



The very idea of ownership is going to change dramatically in the future internet, and everything from real-­world property deeds to art, music, and even our digital identity may ultimately exist in the digital realm. This will be a huge change for many businesses to grapple with. While you mull over the potential implications for your business model, let’s explore some business processes, starting with something we all spend too much time on: meetings!

Meetings and Collaborative Working in the Metaverse Let’s be honest, the whole Zoom meeting experience isn’t great. It’s tiring. It can be clunky. And while it met a need during the pandemic, the long-­ term future of working will require a much more immersive approach to remote meetings and remote working. The good news is that, thanks to immersive co-working tools, it’s becoming increasingly possible to feel like you’re in the same room with distant colleagues. Remote working is now so intertwined with the notion of, well, work that some companies are setting up virtual offices—­a digital office (which may or may not be a replica of the real-­world office), complete with virtual workstations and virtual meeting rooms, accessed via a virtual reality (VR) headset. Think about it for a second: with a Zoom meeting, you have the distractions of home life all around you—­the laundry drying in the corner of your office, the cat impatiently waiting for its dinner, maybe a couple of kids arguing somewhere in the background. But strap on a VR headset and those distractions are instantly blocked out. You can see your colleagues’ virtual avatars in the meeting space, as if you were sat around the same table. You can see their body language. The audio is smoother, so you can have a more natural conversation rather than waiting to take



turns. And you can angle your head and give eye contact (or rather, the avatar version of eye contact) to whomever is speaking. As we saw in Chapter 12, thanks to metaverse-­building tools like Unreal Engine 5, it’s easy to build your own virtual world where colleagues can collaborate. Or you can use a tool like Matterport to create a digital twin of your real-­world office space. Or you can make yourself at home in one of the existing metaverse platforms, like Meta’s Horizon Workrooms—­an immersive virtual office and meeting room environment. It’s a bit like a co-working space, but in the metaverse. If Meta has its way, Horizon Workrooms will be where we’ll go to do our jobs in the future. But what’s it like to actually use Workrooms? At the time of writing, it’s a bit of a work in progress, with some features still under development. Generally speaking, you need a Meta Quest 2 VR headset to access Workrooms, although some features (like joining video calls) are available on a basic desktop. And once you enter the Workrooms environment, everyone has their own virtual office where they can access their real-­world computer (via the Meta Quest Remote Desktop app). So, you can do your regular computer work, but you can also host and join virtual meetings (and share your computer screen with attendees). There’s even a virtual whiteboard to write on. The cool thing about Horizons is that your avatar can express itself with hand movements, body language, and facial expressions. It’s a much more immersive way to have a virtual conversation, and an interesting glimpse of how work may look in five years’ time. But Meta won’t be the only option for immersive virtual working and meetings. There’s the NVIDIA Omniverse collaborative working platform. Fujitsu has unveiled its own “co-­creation metaverse” called CX Lab, designed for virtual co-­creation. There’s a tool called Avatour, which allows people to “be at” the office or job site while working remotely. And there’s the Proto M holographic device which allows you to beam a pint-­ sized, full-­body hologram of yourself into meetings in real time.



And if you’d rather stick with existing tools, Zoom has now added a 3D virtual avatar feature that mimics your head movements and facial expressions. Meanwhile, Microsoft Teams has a collaborative virtual platform called Mesh, complete with animated avatars. Especially for teams who design collaboratively together, while being physically in different locations, these kinds of tools can provide a significant boost to remote collaboration. That’s why renowned architectural firm KPF is using Omniverse as a collaborative design tool, allowing architects to build virtual simulations and experience buildings from the users’ point of view, before the project is built. BMW does a similar thing, working with game developer Epic Games and using mixed-­reality technology to quickly visualize new car interiors and other vehicle functions. Designers can even use the technology to simulate the car driving through different cityscapes, and view the vehicle from different angles. Of course, it’s not that comfortable to wear a VR headset all day, so until the hardware gets smaller and lighter, VR collaborative working is perhaps best limited to a couple of hours at a time. But in the future, we could spend more time immersed in the virtual workplace, from the comfort of home.

Selling and Marketing in the Metaverse We’ve seen countless examples of brands finding new ways to engage with customers through metaverse and web3 technology—­including immersive brand experiences, exclusive collectibles, and brand content as NFTs, virtual try-­on functions, and mega-­personalized digital products. Today, brands can create their own world in the metaverse—­a place where customers can come and interact with the brand in a way that’s much more immersive than a website or social media video. And thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), these experiences can even be unique to each customer (think AI-­powered characters that interact with users). And depending on where you are in the metaverse, you can engage with customers directly,



without having to navigate the strict requirements of a third-­party platform, like Meta or YouTube. Now is the time to experiment with metaverse-­and web3-­based advertising and marketing. For example, you can offer collectible NFTs, like Nike and Coca Cola have done, or use NFTs as a way to prove ownership and authenticity of a product—­thereby boosting the exclusivity of your brand and safeguarding against counterfeit products. You can advertise on metaverse billboards. Set up a retail or brand space in the metaverse. Create an immersive brand-­themed game. Sponsor events in the metaverse (or hold your own virtual events). And collaborate with influencers and brand ambassadors in new ways. These are just a few of the examples we’ve seen already in this book. The key takeaway here is that, in the metaverse era, the customer journey will become more immersive and engaging. The 3D nature of metaverse spaces gives customers a sense of “being there” that goes way beyond anything we’re used to in “traditional” online spaces. And as your customers’ avatars move through these 3D environments, it doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine that there will be more opportunities to observe, measure, capture, and analyse their actions for clues on how to engage with them more effectively. In other words, the metaverse will take social sentiment analytics to a whole new level! Looking even further ahead, if artificial reality (AR) and VR glasses (or lenses, or brain–computer interfaces) take off, customers will be able to personalize and edit both the physical and virtual worlds to suit their preferences. For example, brand logos on clothing and billboards at virtual events could change depending on who’s looking at them, which is really cool. But where to start now? For product-­based businesses, one of the best starting points might be to invest in a tool that lets customers virtually try out your product. This can be an AR feature in your app that digitally places a 3D rendering of a product in the customer’s room, for instance,



or superimposes a shade of lipstick onto the image of their face. Eyewear company Warby Parker has a brilliant virtual try-­on app that allows customers to browse different frames and lenses and see how they look on their face. (It scans and measures the customer’s face to simulate various glasses on their face in real time.) Or, depending on your product, you might create a more immersive experience, such as a virtual showroom that customers can visit. Porsche has a VR showroom where customers can get up close with a 3D simulation of their future vehicle. And clothing retailer H&M has created its own virtual showroom—­a place where customers, influencers, stylists, press, and employees can come to learn more about H&M collections, right down to 3D-­rendered cloth materials that simulate how the clothes move in real life. It’s just another way for the brand to bring new collections and campaigns to life. But remember that you can also use the metaverse as a way for customers to carry out transactions—­as an alternative to ordering on your website or through an app. Consider that Domino’s customers can now order pizza in Decentraland and have it delivered to them in the real world. (We know that McDonald’s has plans to do a similar thing, creating its own virtual restaurant where customers can order food for delivery.) Brands may also want to consider integrating blockchain transactions (choosing one of the more environmentally friendly blockchain platforms) into the customer journey, as more and more customers expect to pay for goods and services from their digital wallet.

Enhancing Human Resource Processes with Immersive Technologies Clearly the future internet will impact the skills that companies need. I’ll talk more about that in Chapter 14, but for now let’s explore how the key human resource (HR) processes of recruitment, onboarding, and training can be enhanced with metaverse tech.



For one thing, the metaverse can provide a novel way to attract and recruit talent. In one example, creative agency BBH Singapore recreated its office virtually in order to host an open-­house career fair, featuring live video streams to give the feel of an in-­person event. By recreating the firm’s actual office, the idea was to give candidates a sense of what it’s really like to work for the company. In Chapter  4  we learned how racing team McLaren has embraced the future internet with an esports and virtual racing programme. Bearing in mind that the company has recruited drivers for McLaren Shadow (its e-­racing team) from the world of esports players, we can expect to see more companies recruit brand ambassadors, employees, and representatives from metaverse experiences. And once you’ve secured amazing talent, the metaverse can provide a unique way to onboard new hires. Accenture says it will onboard an impressive 150,000 new hires in the metaverse, with staff strapping on a VR headset on their first day and beginning their careers at the company’s metaverse environment, called the Nth Floor. The idea is to offer a focused experience for new recruits, allowing them to learn, complete various HR functions, and network with colleagues without the distractions of a busy work or home office. Training and education is something we covered extensively in Chapter 6, but here’s one more example to inspire you. GE’s healthcare division offers an interactive VR training programme for healthcare technology management professionals, providing guided instructions on how to service and repair healthcare technology. Thanks to VR, the training can be conducted onsite at the provider’s facility (e.g. a clinic), so staff don’t have to travel to a GE training facility. Clearly this saves time and money for GE’s clients, but the virtual aspect also allows training to be customized to each hospital and health system. And because the training is virtual, trainees can make mistakes and learn as they go, in a low-­risk way.



Providing Customer Support in the Metaverse Welcome to the age of metaverse customer service, in which businesses can support and communicate with customers in 3D in real time. This could take many forms. One example is providing immersive instructions to help customers assemble and set up a product, replacing tome-­ like instruction manuals (or those mystifying IKEA instructions) with 3D product demos in VR or with AR-­enhanced instructions that superimpose actions over the real-­world object via the customer’s smartphone. (Imagine “Press here” showing up on screen with a big arrow indicating the exact spot on the product.) When products fail, problems could be diagnosed visually in real time by remote support staff viewing the product via a video link. Then they could give AR-­enhanced instructions to help the customer fix the issue themselves—­no need for the customer to send the product away or take it to a workshop, or for technicians to make house calls. Imagine how much time and money this could save the average business. For customer queries, AI chatbots or even human customer service agents could take the shape of virtual avatars that converse with customers in the metaverse, building stronger customer relationships in the process (at least, much more so than a basic chat function). And, of course, the fact that the metaverse and web3 will give rise to new kinds of products (such as NFTs) will also shape customer service, since some customers may need more advice and guidance on these products—­ products they may never have bought before. So, when considering the potential to augment your existing products/services and create new products/services for the future internet, don’t forget that this is likely to provoke new customer questions and support needs among customers. How will you adapt your customer service process to meet this new need?



An important thing to keep in mind is that the customer experience in the metaverse should align with the experience customers are used to in the physical world. AI-­based customer service avatars, for instance, should be comparable to traditional levels of service. Basically, how you take care of customers in the metaverse should reflect how you have taken care of your customers up until now. It’s early days for customer service in the metaverse, but there’s every reason to think customer support is on the cusp of becoming more personal, more engaging, and more efficient in the future internet.

DAOs, and Changing How Businesses Are Governed and Run We started the chapter by talking about business models, so let’s close the chapter by exploring business structures. And this is where the web3 part really comes into play, since blockchain and smart contracts have given rise to DAOs, which are run by stakeholders as opposed to executives. It’s a new way of organizing, governing, and running a business. Sure, it’s not right for every business, but it is worth bearing in mind—­especially since DAOs can be a really powerful way of building a sense of community, collaboration, and everyone working towards a common purpose. Circle back to Chapter 2 for a recap on how DAOs work, but very briefly they are organizations that run on blockchain and function without a traditional management structure. There is no one person or board in charge—­instead, the organization is owned and operated by the community. Decision making is taken out of the hands of a powerful few and put in the hands of the majority, with decisions being recorded on the blockchain and enacted via smart contracts. One example comes from Braintrust, a decentralized, blockchain-­based talent network that’s owned and managed by those professionals who are part of the network. By cutting out the middleman (i.e. traditional talent platforms that take a percentage of each contract), Braintrust says it can 206


offer transparent fees with incentives that are aligned across talent and enterprise partners alike. Now, you may not want to transition your entire organization into a DAO, and that’s fine. But could the DAO model provide a useful way of structuring, say, a spin-­off business or new division? Global luxury rum brand Dictador created a DAO called ArtHouse Spirits DAO, which is run by a closed community of investors and is responsible for a collection of the world’s rarest and oldest rums, worth more than $50 million. But Dictador didn’t stop there. In 2022, the brand unveiled its new CEO—­a human-­like, AI-­powered robot named Mika. The bot will act as the official face of the Dictador brand, and will be responsible for communicating with the DAO community. In another example, play-­to-­earn gaming guild Yield Games Games (YGG) has established a DAO called BreederDAO that will produce in-­game NFT assets used in play-­to-­earn games such as Axie Infinity (see Chapter 4). Perhaps the DAO structure could help your business take steps into the metaverse and web3? By this point you may be asking yourself whether executives will even be needed in future! While the DAO model is likely to prove popular in new web3 businesses, it’s unlikely to become the dominant business structure for most industries. That said, I do believe there are lessons that any leadership team can learn from the DAO model—­especially when it comes to being transparent with decision making and open to trying new proposals.

Action Steps When it comes to your business processes: • We’ve covered just a few of the key business processes in this chapter, but the metaverse and web3  have the potential to enhance all business processes. So take a good look at all your existing business processes to explore how future internet technology could help your business become more efficient and effective.



• Give special attention to the possibility of making processes more immersive—­especially when it comes to things like remote meetings, virtual customer service, selling in virtual show rooms, and so on. • As always, there’s no point implementing a new technology if it doesn’t provide real value. You want to avoid technology for technology’s sake. • It’s also really important to look at how the future internet might impact your fundamental business model and the way in which your organization is structured and governed (DAOs). In this chapter we touched on attracting and recruiting talent in the future internet. But what sort of skills will your organization need in order to thrive in the metaverse and web3? Turn the page to find out . . .



ATTRACTING, DEVELOPING, AND RETAINING THE RIGHT SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE INTERNET Having explored the potential impact of the future internet on your products/services and business processes, it’s time to think about the kinds of skills your organization will need to thrive—­plus, how you’ll build those skills. So, we’re talking about attracting people with metaverse and web3 competencies, but also upskilling your existing talent. That latter point is crucial because, due to the shortage of skills in this field, many organizations will struggle to recruit new talent. Which brings us to . . .

The Future Internet Skills Shortage It’s safe to say there’s a huge global skills shortage around future technologies—­not just across web3 and metaverse skills, but also data, artificial intelligence (AI), and other technology trends. But the problem is



especially compounded in web3 and metaverse skills, because these areas are so new. The pool of people with these skills hasn’t had much time to grow compared to, say, web2 skills. So how bad is the skills shortage? Pretty bad. At the time of writing, there are estimated to be only around 20,000 developers working in the web3 space,1 which is nothing compared to the volume of developers working in web2. Yet, at the same time, there’s huge demand for web3 skills. According to LinkedIn analysis, job postings in the US containing keywords like “blockchain”, “cryptocurrency”, and “Ethereum” grew 395 percent from 2020 to 2021.2 We’re talking, then, about jobs like blockchain developer, smart contract developer, blockchain solutions architect, web3 community managers, and so on. Meanwhile, in terms of metaverse skills, we’re largely talking about jobs like virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) software engineer, 3D game designer, ecosystem developer, hardware builder, safety manager, not to mention metaverse marketing and events specialists. Clearly, this shortage presents a barrier to organizations keen to move into web3 and the metaverse. In a labour market where demand massively outstrips supply, the few people with these skills have their pick of the jobs. So, if you’re going to hire new talent, you’ll need to be a really attractive organization that people are clamouring to work for. But you can also develop the talent you already have—­something which I think will be a key strategy for most organizations that aren’t the Googles and Metas of this world. We’ll talk more about developing employees later in this chapter, but for now let’s focus on attracting talent.

Attracting New Talent Given the skills shortage, employer brand matters more than ever in the future internet. So how can you boost your employer brand to attract the best talent possible?



Buffing up your employer brand Salary isn’t enough to attract (and keep) talent these days. Increasingly, people expect more from their employers, including that sense of belonging and feeling valued, having the freedom to grow and develop, and enjoying a flexible work schedule and environment. They want more from their leaders, too, including a more transparent, open leadership and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. In other words, company culture matters to potential employees—­and when they have their pick of positions (as is the case amidst the current skills shortage), culture could be the deciding factor. Culture is therefore something you’ll need to work on—­and communicate well to those outside the organization—­if you’re to improve your hiring success. I’ll talk more about creating the right company culture in Chapter 15, but how else can you boost your profile as an attractive employer? One good option is to encourage your existing employees to become brand advocates. After all, your employees all have their own networks, which could be rich sources of talent. Are you making the most of these networks and treating your employees as advocates? In my experience, most companies aren’t doing enough of this. But what exactly can you do? For one thing, you should encourage your employees to share—­online and offline—­their experiences of working for your company, and talk (within reason) about the exciting projects they’re working on. You can also create an employee referral programme that incentivizes employees to refer candidates. This is a great recruitment strategy because it’s a cost-­effective way to connect with amazing talent, and referred candidates generally stay longer with a company. It’s a win–win. You can also work with external influencers to raise your profile among passive candidates (i.e. those people who aren’t explicitly looking for a job but could be tempted away from their current role). For example, when I work with a company on a project (it could be building a data strategy, planning for the future internet, training executives on AI possibilities, or



whatever), I’ll often write articles about that company to share with my audience. While I primarily do this to show how companies are planning for and implementing future technologies, for the company in question, it spreads the word that they’re working on cool projects. You can also get the word out via press releases and other public relations activities. Remember, passive candidates represent a huge pool of untapped talent, but because they aren’t actively looking for a new job, you won’t find them on job boards and other places where you’d typically source candidates. You have to get them to notice you in other ways by boosting your visibility as an attractive employer. Of course, you may also want to tap into freelance workers. Indeed, I expect most organizations will become more porous in the future internet, blending regular employees and gig workers to complete projects. Read more about porous organizations and gig workers in Chapter 15.

Creating innovation hubs Most of the web1 and web2 tech that we’re familiar with has been driven by Silicon Valley—­probably the best-­known tech hub for startups and corporations alike. But now, new centres of innovation are emerging around the world, where blockchain and metaverse companies are establishing themselves outside of Silicon Valley. You might be surprised, for example, where blockchain talent is concentrated around the world. Yes, the US and UK feature in the top 10 countries for blockchain talent, but the UK only clocks in at number 6 and the US at number 9. (Cambridge is fast becoming an innovation hub in the UK, and Miami is the US’s largest web3 hub.) Coming in at the top of the blockchain chart we have Japan, China, and Lebanon, respectively, followed by Switzerland and South Africa. Also in the top 10 were Singapore, Bahamas, and Estonia.3 Dubai is also establishing itself as an international hub for blockchain and the metaverse. Why are these places becoming centres of innovation? Generally because they have favourable attitudes to web3,



blockchain, and crypto, favourable tax structures, and perhaps a wider acceptance of digital payments and finance among the general public. Establishing your business in an existing or emerging tech hub certainly makes it easier to tap into tech talent. Or you could build your own innovation hub—­a new part of the business that serves as a place for experimenting, research, innovation, and collaboration. A team that functions outside of the core business and instead focuses on coming up with exciting new concepts and overcoming challenging business problems. It’s a place where ideas can be launched quickly, so that the organization can accelerate its digital transformation. Amazon Alexa came out of such an innovation hub. But if you think this is just for tech businesses, think again. I’m seeing more and more non-­tech organizations create their own innovation hubs—­like Walmart, with its “incubation arm” Store No. 8, which is tasked with reimagining the future of commerce. One way to create an innovation hub is to team up with a network of startups. Telecoms company Telefonica has done this by creating an open innovation hub where startups and developers with metaverse expertise are invited to partner with Telefonica—­so Telefonica benefits from the startups’ metaverse skills while the startups are better able to grow and reach global scale faster with Telefonica’s help. But you can also establish your own team of innovators within the business. If you’re going to do this, it’s really important to clearly define your goals, so those in the hub know what they’re working towards. What business problem do you want them to solve, for example? I would also encourage any organization to ensure their hub is as diverse as possible, including people of different ages, genders, religions, economic backgrounds, and so on, since this is a safe way of ensuring diversity of ideas. And, of course, you’ll want to monitor the hub’s success closely, so that you can adapt what’s not working and do more of the stuff that is working. One challenge you’ll have to consider when creating an innovation hub is remote working. But, as we saw in Chapter  13, thanks to immersive



technologies, it’s becoming easier to recreate the collaborative working environment across remote settings. You’ll also need to think about how you’ll create links between the innovation hub and the rest of the organ­ ization. What you don’t want is an innovation hub that functions in a completely disconnected way from the rest of the company, with no sharing of knowledge and culture between the two. One good way around this is to rotate people in and out of the hub and the organization at large—­for example, an individual secondment to the innovation hub, or the hub collaborating with a business team on solving a particular problem. That way, knowledge can be shared more easily.

Developing Your Talent In a labour market where demand outstrips supply, and skills quickly become outdated anyway, it’s really important to invest in your employees and support their growth—­so that they can adapt to the organization’s changing needs and learn new skills. This is why you need a talent development strategy. (And, as a bonus, having a talent development strategy will also help you attract new talent, since career development opportunities frequently feature high on candidates’ wish lists.)

Your talent development strategy A sensible place to start is identifying the skills your organization needs (depending on your plans for products/services and business processes). What sort of skills might you be looking at? Generally speaking, in-­demand skills across metaverse and web3 include: • 3D modelling and design • computer programming • VR and/or AR development • blockchain/NFT/crypto engineering



• UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) design • project management • data analysis • cybersecurity • marketing • ethics and social responsibility Having identified the skills you need, you can then identify where you have existing skills gaps in your organization. Only then can you create a plan to develop the missing skills. As a general rule, those already working in the web2 space are well placed to transition to web3 skills. But don’t overlook employees who aren’t explicitly working in tech roles—­because the future internet will create all sorts of interesting roles, including ethics advisors, safety managers, virtual event planners, and so on.

Upskilling your people Talent development is different for each company, but the most obvious options include formal education provided by external providers (this could be digital learning, not necessarily in-­person learning), internal training programmes, mentorship programmes, and informal on-­the-­job learning opportunities. The good news is, many education providers are offering courses in metaverse and web3 skills. And this spans the whole spectrum, from huge online learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera, to niche, tech-­specific providers like Tech Educators. Some of the platforms we’ve mentioned throughout this book also offer courses and education resources—­Roblox being a good example, with its Roblox Studio tutorials. And universities are also beginning to branch out into metaverse and web3 education; for example, in the UK, the University of Manchester



is offering a course on smart contract development. There are also new degrees on offer at universities around the world in subjects like human– computer interaction, computer game design, and extended realities. Bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in computer science remain perennially useful, as well. Of course, there are other ways of expanding your organization’s capabilities and tapping into talent—­such as acquiring other businesses, or partnering with specialist firms who can, say, create an NFT drop for you. I’ll talk more about those strategies in Chapter 16.

A Word on Retaining Talent When you put so much effort into attracting new talent and upskilling your workforce, it stands to reason that you want people to stick around. Attractive pay and benefits are key components here, but so too is company culture and the employee experience in general. I’ll talk more about building the right culture in the next chapter. But how else can you boost retention? To boost retention, you first need to understand why people leave jobs. Poor benefits and salary are major drivers of employee turnover, as are lack of development opportunities, lack of recognition for a job well done, lack of connection to a common purpose, and lack of remote and flexible working. Flip these around and you have amazing drivers of employee retention: remote working options and flexible working schedules that allow people more time for non-­work pursuits and a better work–life balance; a sense of connection and that all-­important feeling that the job they’re doing matters; a system of rewards and recognition that ensures employees know their contribution is seen and valued; an attitude to talent development that allows people to grow and acquire interesting new skills across the employee lifecycle; and a structure of compensation and benefits that



gives people a decent quality of life. These are a good starting point for any company that wants to boost retention. But there are other strategies you should consider. One is to hire for culture fit and potential, not just skills—­because when someone is a great fit for your organization, even if they aren’t a 100 percent skills match, they’re more likely to stay longer and be happier in the company. Skills can be developed, but a cultural mismatch is hard to overcome. Onboarding is another vital aspect, not just for getting new employees up to speed quickly, but also for ensuring they connect with the company’s values and purpose (which, in turn, means they’ll be more likely to stick around). Employee wellbeing and work–life balance also require attention, because a stressed employee is much more likely to be looking for an exit. As well as considering remote and flexible working arrangements, you might also want to consider reduced working days or even a four-­day week. Four-­day week trials have taken place in many countries in recent years, including England, Belgium, Sweden, and Iceland, and other projects are starting in the US, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and New Zealand. And finally, when people do leave—­because, it happens—­learn from those departing employees. Use exit interviews to find out why they’re leaving so that you can address those issues in the future.

Action Steps When it comes to skills: • Because of the skills shortage in this area, you may struggle to recruit the talent you need. A good way forward is to work on your employer brand, or consider creating an innovation hub that will help you ride the wave of transformation. • Identify the skills your organization needs to thrive in the metaverse and web3, and then compare that to the skills your organization



currently has. This will give you a clear picture of your existing skills gaps. • Ask yourself, how are you going to plug those gaps? For many companies, building internal skills (or partnering with specialist providers, see Chapter 16) is the most sensible way forward. Which is why you’ll want to create a development strategy for building skills internally—­through training, education, mentoring, and so on. • Encourage your people to experiment with technology, for example, through Roblox tutorials and the like. People should feel able to play around. Now is the time to do this, while the metaverse and web3 are still so new. If you have an innovation hub, encourage collaboration between the hub and other business teams to foster that culture of experimentation. Company culture is such an important factor in attracting talent and building a team that’s satisfied, engaged, and happy to stick around for the long haul. Turn the page to discover what an ideal company culture looks like in the future internet era . . .

Notes 1. Migrating Talent from Web2 to Web3; Andrei Majewski, LinkedIn; https://­talent-­from-­web2-­web3-­headhunting­101-­brave-­andrei-­majewski/ 2. LinkedIn News Post; LinkedIn;­news_ theworkshift-­economy-­labormarket-­activity-­6887062336839016450-­67iT/ 3. Top 10 Countries Leading Blockchain Technology In the World; Blockchain Council; https://www.blockchain-­­10-­countries­leading-­blockchain-­technology-­in-­the-­world/



CREATING THE RIGHT CULTURE FOR SUCCESS I was recently working with a large insurance firm. They had realized that web3 was both an opportunity and a threat to their business, and their plan to tackle this involved acquiring another company—­a company with the web3 (largely blockchain) skills they so desperately needed. They bought the company and . . . its employees left in droves because they didn’t like the insurance company’s culture. The moral of the story is, you can’t just acquire your way through future internet transformation. You have to build a culture that sets your organ­ ization up for success and ensures much-­needed talent stays put. In this chapter, we’ll look at 12 components that I believe are absolutely crucial in any organization’s culture. These components, combined with the skills we looked at in Chapter 14, and a solid future internet strategy (coming up in Chapter  16), will provide a strong foundation for success in the future internet. Before we get into the components, however, we have to acknowledge that developing culture can be hard when more people work remotely. There are many benefits to remote and hybrid working arrangements, and cer­ tainly plenty of technology solutions to support this major shift in how we work, but there’s no doubt it can put a strain on company culture. Maintaining those shared values and behaviours that unite the people in



your organization around a common purpose can be tricky when teams are remote. The good news is, technology has an important role to play in overcom­ ing these challenges, particularly the more immersive online working environments that are beginning to emerge (see Chapter  13). The huge advantage of these metaverse technologies is the sense of “presence”, or that feeling that you’re actually in a room communicating with colleagues, rather than sitting in front of a screen with potentially hundreds of miles between you. Now let’s look at the key components of culture that I believe will set organizations up for success in the future internet.

Being Purpose-­Driven Does your business exist to serve a meaningful purpose—­a purpose that people can genuinely connect with? If not, this is something you’ll want to work on, because purpose is a vital part of attracting people—­customers and employees alike—­to your brand. Indeed, according to Deloitte, com­ panies that lead with purpose enjoy higher market share gains, grow three times faster than their competitors, and achieve higher customer and employee satisfaction.1 Purpose defines why the organization exists. Not what the organization is or what it does. Purpose isn’t the same as having a mission and vision. Purpose is about striving for something better, be it a better world, a bet­ ter way to do something, or whatever is important to your organization. It’s about creating a positive impact, for individuals, for communities, for society, or for our planet. It’s about delivering more than profits. Danish multinational pharma company Novo Nordisk is a company with a clear purpose—­to defeat diabetes by accelerating prevention of type 2 diabetes and obesity and providing access to affordable care for vulnerable



patients around the world. Or there’s The Body Shop, which is fighting for a fairer world by helping 40,000 economically vulnerable people around the world access work, and ensuring the ingredients used in its products are sustainably sourced and traceable. Bottom line, companies must now be recognized as a force for good if they want to thrive. That’s not to say profit doesn’t matter—­just that the onus now is on profit with purpose.

Encouraging Continuous Learning It’s so important to encourage curiosity and continual learning in your teams, because curiosity and continual learning are fundamental to being able (and willing) to embrace change. They ensure that skills stay sharp, and that individuals and organizations can keep up with the major trans­ formations taking place across all industries. Curious people have active, rather than passive, minds. They ask a lot of questions. They’re not afraid of being seen as dumb, or saying “I don’t know”. (To a curious person, there’s no such thing as a “dumb question”.) Nor are they afraid of being wrong; they’d rather learn something new than be right all the time. They’re generally good lis­ teners too, and have the ability to listen without forming assumptions or hasty judgements. You can see how these attributes can benefit any organization. So, how can your company foster a curious mindset and build a culture of continuous learning? A good starting point is to celebrate learning and effort (e.g. by linking performance evaluations to learning goals), instead of just celebrating outcomes or output. You can let employees broaden their interests and define their own learning goals. You can invest in learn­ ing and upskilling resources for your teams (as per the skills we talked about in Chapter 14). And when it comes to hiring, you can make curios­ ity one of the attributes you assess candidates for.



It’s also important that your culture is one where people feel they can speak up and ask questions without fear of feeling dumb. Leaders can model this in their own behaviour, especially if they practise humility and openly acknowledge their own weaknesses and gaps in their knowledge. Curious people don’t need to be the smartest person in the room.

Embracing a Flatter Hierarchy As you’ll have gathered from this book, the rise of web3 is bringing about new business structures. Community-­ driven instead of hierarchical. Decentralized and open source as opposed to monopolistic. Distributed ownership versus ownership by a powerful few . . . On top of this, the nature of work itself is changing. The gig economy is thriving. More people work from home or have adopted a hybrid work­ ing arrangement. The workforce is increasingly global. So, while the tradi­ tional hierarchical business structure has worked well for generations, things are beginning to change, as companies recognize the need for more agile structures that allow the business to respond to change. We now have flat organizations in which everyone is seen as equal—­ similar to the DAO approach. But this can be hard to implement in a large organization, and is more typically seen in startups. For established, larger organizations the “flatter” structure may be more appropriate. Flat­ ter organizations adopt some of the facets of flat organizations, for exam­ ple, the bulk of the company being built around flexible communities or teams, and decision making being more democratic. But a flatter organ­ ization still retains some form of hierarchy, albeit with fewer layers than traditional hierarchical companies. So, in a flatter structure, departmental boundaries are eliminated and teams collaborate freely on projects that deliver the organization’s strategic goals. These teams are generally small (Amazon calls it “two pizza teams”, meaning they can be fed by two pizzas), but they can combine resources



with other teams when they need to scale up and deliver larger projects. And teams generally have more autonomy—­so, they may have specific requirements and strategic goals that they need to deliver, but it’s up to the team itself to decide the best way to complete the project. This means there’s little need for a middle-­management layer to supervise teams—­in a flatter organization, employees interact directly with higher-­up leaders. Employees also have more decision-­making power, and careers are more flexible than in a traditional organizational structure. Employees may even “float” from team to team and project to project, rather than staying in one defined role. Two companies that have transitioned to a flatter structure are Whirlpool and Cisco. Whirlpool has done away with traditional job titles, replac­ ing them with just four job types that all employees—­at every level of the company—­fit into. And at Cisco, employees have the freedom to work whenever, wherever, and however they want. One of the main advantages of flatter organizations is that it’s easier to innovate, because decisions happen fast and projects can be executed more quickly. With a wave of technology-­driven transformation coming our way, the ability to innovate and move fast will be really important.

Becoming a More Porous, Gig-­Ready Organization In their book The Human Cloud, Matthew Mottola and Matthew Coatney argue that traditional full-­time employment will be a thing of the past, as organizations shift to hiring people on a contract basis—­with those con­ tractors mostly working remotely. I tend to agree that we’re heading for a future in which more people work as “free agents” rather than traditional employees. This means the talent pool is now truly global. Your freelance hires could be located anywhere in the world, and you’re no longer limited to those who live in the same city,



or those who are willing to move. Which is good news as organizations seek to tap into new skills that they’ve never needed before—­blockchain being a good example. If you’re not located in one of the top blockchain locations in the world, you can still access the talent you need via the “human cloud”. This opening up of the talent pool is also a positive thing for diversity, but more on that later. In other words, all organizations must start planning for a more blended, porous workforce, where employees and independent workers collabor­ ate on projects. Even if you don’t regularly dip into a freelancer pool at this time, chances are you’ll need to in future, so start building that free­ lancer network. Just as with employees, you want freelancers to feel like a valued part of the team. It’s therefore a good idea to design an onboarding process for inde­ pendent hires, a bit like the onboarding you’d do for full-­time employees. This might include educating them on your company culture and values, and properly introducing them to the people they’ll be working with. And if freelancers happen to be local, you could invite them to spend some time in the office with their non-­freelance colleagues. Yes, freelancers will generally want to work from home most of the time, and that’s great, but it’s worth having some hot-desking spaces where freelancers can occasion­ ally stop by for a day of in-­person collaboration. And it goes without saying that if you want to keep hold of your best inde­ pendent workers, you must offer competitive pay, give them steady work, pay them on time, and show appreciation for a job well done. This will become increasingly important as more companies dip into the gig econ­ omy, and competition hots up for the best independent talent.

Learning From Open-­Source Technology We’ve seen in this book that open source is a big part of web3, and many (myself included) believe it’s the future of tech. Whether you’re



a tech business or not, there are many lessons your organizational cul­ ture can learn from the open-­source movement. And I’m not just talk­ ing about using open-­source software. I’m talking about developing an organizational culture built on some of the same concepts as open-­source technology—­things like collaboration, transparency, and open communi­ cation. By building these concepts into the fabric of your organization (i.e. making them part of everyday business practice) you can foster innova­ tion and boost engagement. Take communication as an example. The open-­source way is for teams to share project details, goals, and metrics with other teams in the busi­ ness, as opposed to working in tight siloes. Open communication means that teams know what other teams are working on, understand how their own work might be affected, and are better placed to collaborate and share insights. Open source in the tech sense is also associated with constantly refining and improving, as opposed to the old-­fashioned approach of waiting to launch a product or project until it’s 100 percent perfect. In this age of rapid change, waiting for something to be perfect is risky business. Bet­ ter to innovate fast and constantly improve and refine. That’s the open-­ source way. It’s an experimental culture, in other words—­where people feel encouraged to try new things.

Supporting Individualism (Without Losing Collectivism) We know that the metaverse and immersive technologies will bring incred­ ible opportunities to create unique, personalized experiences. Everyone will have their own unique avatar, for instance. And with augmented real­ ity, we’ll be able to augment the world around us to suit our preferences. This drive towards individualism and personalization will have an impact on your company culture, since employees will increasingly expect an



employee experience that’s tailored to their unique needs. Gen Z in par­ ticular (but not exclusively) want challenging, meaningful work. They want to identify with their employer’s purpose. (Case in point: 65 per­ cent of people want to work for an organization “with a powerful social conscience”.2) They desire flexible working that fits in better with non-­ work life. And they expect training, mentoring, and the ability to grow in their career. In other words, people want to be recognized and treated as individuals. And as we spend more time in the metaverse—­where we can literally cre­ ate our own worlds—­this will only become more pressing. The ways to foster individualism are fairly obvious—­flexible working, tai­ lored development plans, allowing people to decide how best to complete tasks and projects, and so on. The tricky part is balancing individualism with collectivism. Since, even in this age of the individual, organizations still need people who can work well in teams and collaborate to drive the business forward. Businesses can’t afford to pursue individualism to the extent that everyone in the company is acting without any thought for others. What you want, then, is to adopt the collectivist ideals of collaboration—­ perhaps by embracing open-­source concepts and a flatter organizational culture—­while leaving space for individual innovation, freedom, and expression.

Providing an Awesome Employee Experience If you want people to stay with the organization, you need to provide a great working experience. Many parts of life are becoming more experi­ ential (shopping being a prime example), and people increasingly want to spend their money on experiences rather than, you know, stuff. Amidst this wider trend for experiences, work must also become more experi­ ential. What I mean by that is, employers must consider how to create an



experience that helps to attract and retain talent. (And that goes for inde­ pendent talent, as well as traditional employees.) Employee experience is different to employee engagement—­although a good employee experience obviously leads to higher engagement. Rather, the employee experience encompasses everything that occurs in the employee lifecycle, from the recruitment process to the final day working for the company. Obviously, organizational culture plays a big role in the employee experience, so all the other components in this chapter will help you build a better employee experience. But you’ll also need to consider things like technology and skills (i.e. making sure people have the technol­ ogy and skills they need to do their job well and enjoy their work), and the physical work environment. In terms of the physical environment, we’re talking about creating a workplace that is clean, safe, comfortable, enjoyable, and—­hopefully—­an inspiring place to be. And remember, these days this also includes mak­ ing sure those working from home are in a good environment. This is all common sense, but it’s something a lot of organizations fail at. Accord­ ing to Deloitte, only 22 percent of executives feel their organizations do an excellent job of creating a great employee experience (despite 80 percent acknowledging that employee experience is either important or very important to business success).3 Something is going awry with the employee experience. But there are shining examples out there. NVIDIA is a company that’s reg­ ularly praised for providing an awesome employee experience. The com­ pany takes a family-­first approach, where work–life balance is prioritized. It offers amazing programmes for parents, including 22 weeks fully paid leave for birth mothers and 12 weeks fully paid leave for fathers and adop­ tive parents, plus there are plans that cover egg freezing and fertility treat­ ment. It’s clearly a caring culture. And there’s a bar in the office, allowing employees to blow off steam or just hang out! It’s no wonder 96 percent of employees say it’s a great place to work, compared to 59 percent at a typical US company.4



Becoming a Technology-­Enabled (Yet Human-­Centred) Business When people don’t have the technology they need to do their job well, motivation goes down the toilet. Which means technology is a key enabler of the employee experience. And, of course, technology is central to the future internet. So, if you think you’re not a tech business, think again. These days, every business is a tech business. Regardless of sector or size, the metaverse, web3, data, artificial intelligence, and other future tech­ nologies will utterly shape how you do business. This means every organization must invest in the right technology that enables people to do their jobs successfully and work how they want (which will increasingly mean remotely). In my experience, the tech peo­ ple work with in companies often lags behind the tech they use at home. Or at least, that was the case before the pandemic. Now, most companies are routinely using tools like Slack and Zoom, and they even support peo­ ple bringing their own devices into work, so the gap between the tech we use at home and what we use at work is closing. But it’s really important that companies don’t lose their “humanness” on the journey to becoming a tech-­centred business. Because, as we’ve seen throughout this chapter, human skills like collaboration and communica­ tion will be more, not less, important in the future internet. Which is why I encourage the organizations I work with to see themselves as “human-­ centred technology companies”, which benefit from the very best of humans and technology.

Being Transparent In many ways, blockchain and web3 are fundamentally built on the notion of transparency. And now, with decentralized autonomous organiza­ tions (DAOs), we have these new kinds of organizations, platforms, and communities where all decision making is done in the open within clear



frameworks. But even for those businesses that aren’t DAOs, transparency is going to become even more important than it is today. Transparency means being open and straight-­up with customers, employ­ ees, and even, in some cases, your competitors. Open about how you source your materials, how employees feel about working for your busi­ ness, where your company needs to improve, the climate impact of your business activities, diversity (or lack of) within the organization, your val­ ues, your business processes, how you make decisions, and how you use technology. As an example, a transparent organization will be open with its customers and employees about exactly what data it captures, how it uses that data, and why it uses that data. It will explain this in an easy-­ to-­read way, not bury the truth in terms and conditions that are 30 pages long and which nobody is expected to read. A transparent organization will also be honest about the potential impact of automation, for instance, and how people’s jobs will change—­while also preparing them for those changes and helping them transition to new roles. I can’t state enough how important this will be in the future internet. Not just for building a robust company culture that inspires trust and pride among employees, but also for your brand in general. Because trust and transparency matter to customers just as much as employees. And as more web3 businesses arise with promises of decentralized this and community-­ driven that, they will influence what people expect from businesses, and change what it means to be an authentic, honest organization. Which brings me to . . .

Leading with Authenticity If your organization is going to be authentic and trusted, you need authen­ tic, trustworthy leaders. Leaders who are focused on communication, engagement, empathy, trust, and human connection. Leaders who inspire loyalty. As businesses face rapid transformation, we need authentic leaders now more than ever.



The best authentic leaders have that quality often referred to as “heart”, meaning they lead as a human being who recognizes and responds to the humanness in others. They’re honest, too. They inspire trust because they don’t say things they don’t mean. And they’re comfortable discussing fail­ ures and mistakes, as well as successes. As such, authentic leaders are self-­ aware. They know their weaknesses as well as their strengths, and they’re happy to share those weaknesses. Happy to learn from them. Authentic leaders also bring their whole self to work. Gone are the days when a leader would have one persona for work and leave their “real” self at home. Today, the public persona of an authentic leader reflects who they really are in private. In fact, they often use public platforms to show who they are and what’s important to them—­rather than allowing corpor­ate comms to speak for them. They’re willing to take a stand on issues they care about, whether it’s abortion, gun control, racism, or whatever. As an example, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman uses social media to highlight issues and support social justice causes. Authentic leaders clearly have a strong ethical and moral compass. Which brings us neatly onto . . .

Prioritizing Ethics Ethics is fast becoming a critical issue for businesses. The future internet—­ but particularly the fact that we’ll spend more of our lives in virtual worlds—­is giving rise to a whole new set of ethical challenges to over­ come. What behaviour will be allowed in the metaverse? Are avatars in danger of being hacked (tantamount to identity theft)? Can we “die” in the metaverse? Is it okay for companies to track our every move in the metaverse? How can we maintain privacy in the metaverse? How can we use the future internet to make the world a better, safer, more equitable place? Even beyond the future internet, our world is facing some huge challenges, like climate change and social inequality. We need ethical busi­ nesses to help tackle these huge challenges.



Ethics matters to your employer brand and company culture because—­you guessed it—­people want to work for ethical companies. An overwhelming majority (82 percent of people) would rather take a pay cut to work at an ethical company than get paid more to work somewhere unethical.5 It stands to reason, then, that an ethical business is much more likely to attract and retain the best talent. There have always been ethical challenges around business, and there always will be. But there’s no doubt we’re facing new ethical questions that many companies simply won’t be prepared for. For this reason, I recom­ mend businesses create an ethics council to help navigate ethical issues—­ more on this in Chapter 16.

Embracing Diversity We can’t create a future internet that’s relevant to everyone if certain peo­ ple feel excluded. And yet, as it currently stands, the metaverse and web3 aren’t all that inclusive. Certainly, there’s a yawning gender gap. Not in terms of participation in the technology, but in leadership. Of the organ­ izations that make up the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3, the consor­ tium responsible for metaverse development and standards, just 8 percent are led by female CEOs. Among members of the Metaverse Standards Forum, 9 percent are led by women.6 (And yet McKinsey research shows that women are more likely than men to use metaverse platforms, and spend more time on these platforms.7) I doubt the leadership stats will come as a surprise to you, since it’s pretty much the same as the wider business landscape (9 percent of For­ tune 500 companies are currently led by women). But we clearly need more women leaders, and more diversity in every sense, in every com­ pany. Not just of gender, but also age, race, religion, (dis)ability, socio­ economic status, sexuality, and so on. Organizations need diversity of thought and diversity of experiences if they’re to successfully navigate digital transformation.



For me, diversity and inclusion will be a key differentiating factor in the more porous, more flexible, faster-­paced organizations of the future. And the incentive is certainly there for employers to embrace diversity—­after all, organizations with inclusive cultures (meaning people feel like they are welcome and belong) are more likely to achieve better business outcomes.8 Which is why more employers are appointing people to be in charge of diversity and inclusion. At Netflix, for example, Vernā Myers has been Vice President of Inclusion Strategy since 2018, working to build a plan to increase representation and “cultivate a community of belonging and ally­ ship”.9 Because diversity and inclusion “unlocks our ability to innovate, to be creative, to solve problems. It breaks up group think. It brings different lived experiences and perspectives to a problem, so that we’re no longer solving them in old ways”. I cannot stress enough how important it is for organizations to embrace new perspectives and experiences in the future internet. But remember, we’re not just talking about hiring with diversity in mind, we’re also talk­ ing about building a culture of inclusion. As Vernā Myers puts it, “Diver­ sity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Action Steps When it comes to building the right culture: • Measure what your employees think about the organization’s culture and the employee experience. Otherwise, how else will you know what you’re doing right and where there’s room for improvement? Use what you learn to track improvement over time. • Make sure you define your culture and communicate that culture so that everyone is on the same page. Make this part of your onboard­ ing process (for employees and freelancers) to ensure everyone feels included and understands the culture.



• People who work remotely may be more likely to become discon­ nected from the organization’s culture and purpose, so ensure they have open lines of communication with colleagues and leadership, and encourage them to speak up if they begin to feel less connected. Use technology to make people feel more immersed and connected. • It’s okay to make changes if something isn’t working. Your company culture isn’t set in stone, and it will need to evolve—­with these core components in mind—­as the future internet evolves and the nature of work changes. Throughout this part, we’ve explored how businesses can prepare for the metaverse and web3. Let’s pull these many strands together by creating a strategy for the future internet . . .

Notes 1. Purpose is everything; Deloitte; topics/marketing-­and-­sales-­operations/global-­marketing-­trends/2020/ purpose-­driven-­companies.html 2. 10 Mega Trends that are (re)shaping our world; Ipsos; sites/default/files/10-­Mega-­Trends-­That-­are-­Reshaping-­The-­World.pdf 3. The employee experience: Culture, engagement and beyond; Deloitte; https://­capital-­trends/2017/ improving-­the-­employee-­experience-­culture-­engagement.html 4. Benefits at NVIDIA; NVIDIA;­us/benefits/ 5. Ethical Dilemmas: How Scandals Damage Companies; Western Governors University;­dilemmas-­how-­scandals-­ damage-­companies1909.html#close 6. Even the metaverse has a lack of women in leadership roles; Fortune; https://­the-­metaverse-­has-­a-­lack-­of-­women-­in-­ leadership-­roles/



7. The Metaverse: More Women Are ‘Power Users’; But Women Have Less Power; Insider;­ metaverse-­more-­women-­are-­power-­users-­but-­women-­have-­less-­power-­ 1031929799 8. The diversity and inclusion revolution; Deloitte; content/dam/insights/us/articles/4209_Diversity-­and-­inclusion-­revolution/ DI_Diversity-­and-­inclusion-­revolution.pdf 9. Inclusion Takes Root at Netflix: Our First Report; Netflix; .com/en/news/netflix-­inclusion-­report-­2021



DEVELOPING A FUTURE INTERNET STRATEGY By this point, you’re probably thinking, “So how do we now do all of this? How do we, from a broad perspective, prepare our organization for the future internet, and, from a more granular perspective, pinpoint our next steps?” Or words to that effect . . . This chapter will help. Here, we’ll explore how to create a plan for the metaverse and web3.

Start by Defining Your Purpose and Ambition As with any business plan, always start with your purpose (mission) and ambition (vision). Because these are where you articulate the organization’s raison d’être and ultimate goals. If you don’t already have mission and vision statements, now is a perfect time to craft them. And if you do have them, great—­but do review them to check they’re still fit for purpose. In other words, consider how the future internet will affect your mission and vision over the next few years.



Just to clarify, your mission (or purpose) statement articulates why the business exists, what purpose it serves, and for whom. You’re essentially answering the question, “What do we do?” Your purpose should focus on the here and now, rather than where you want to be in future. Your vision (or ambition) statement is where you outline your aspirations for the future. It’s a bit like a strategic guiding star that tells people where the organization is heading and what it wants to achieve. Both statements should be clear and specific, but also motivational—­ inspiring people inside and outside the organization to unite behind its purpose and ambition.

Check Your Existing Business Strategy No doubt you already have a business strategy that sets out core business goals and activities for the next year or several years. But is it still relevant for the future internet? Are you absolutely sure you have the right strategy in place given the wave of transformation coming your way? Is your business in the right strategic position to thrive in the future internet? In other words, you need to carefully review—­and dare I say, challenge—­ your existing business strategy. Don’t just transplant blockchain, for example, into your existing business strategy to make it more relevant for the future internet. Genuinely consider whether you need to do a complete rethink of your business strategy.

Look at Products/Services and Business Processes As part of re-­evaluating your business strategy, you’ll also explore your customer value proposition. Value being the key word here. However you choose to enhance your products/services (or bring new products/services



to market), it’s really important to focus on value. Ask yourself, “How do we add value for our customers and to the wider world, through metaverse and web3 technologies?” I’m saying the word “value” a lot, but I’ll say it again: value must be your number one driver here. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting precious resources on technology for technology’s sake. Now, it’s absolutely fine to experiment with new technologies and come up with exciting new ideas and use cases by immersing yourself in emerging technologies. And as part of that you may identify an experimental project (or projects) that perhaps aren’t your most strategic, pressing priorities. That’s fine. Experiment away! But even your most experimental projects must still add value for your customers, employees, or other stakeholders (and I’d include community and wider society under stakeholders). Otherwise, what’s the point? I’d say the same thing about business processes. As you explore your business processes to see how you can enhance them with metaverse and web3 technologies, make sure you remain laser-­focused on adding value. Circle back to Chapter 12 for rethinking products and services, and Chapter 13 for internal business processes.

Identify Your Priority Future Internet Projects Having explored your products and services and internal processes, you should have arrived at a list of potential use cases that you could implement in your organization. This may include things like adding a virtual, augmented reality (AR)-­based try-­on service to your app, launching a non-­fungible token (NFT) that accompanies a physical product, creating an immersive metaverse experience for customers, implementing immersive remote working tools, bringing blockchain into the supply chain, and so on. How do you narrow these down and identify which one(s) to focus on first?



With any future technology, I always advise my clients to identify one key strategic project that will help the organization deliver its vision. Something that’s 100 percent aligned with your organizational goals and will deliver significant value. That’s a great starting point. You can have other strategic projects in mind to follow after that, but choose one as your top priority. Naturally, strategic priority projects can take time to execute. So, I also recommend identifying one, two, or even three “quick-­win” projects. These might be more experimental rather than strategic, or they could just be smaller projects that you can pull off successfully in a shorter space of time, with fewer resources. It’s all good, so long as they add value. There are a couple of reasons why I recommend identifying quick-­win projects. For one thing, it’s a low-­risk way of testing your ability to execute a future internet project—­and in the process your team builds confidence and will learn valuable lessons that will feed into your bigger, more strategic projects. Secondly, pulling off a few quick wins helps to get people on board with the metaverse and web3 technologies—­it shows that you can add value and make a difference to the organization, and the people it serves, with these technologies. I’m all for quick wins, and so should you be!

Build Your Skills Plan In Chapter  14  we talked a lot about the skills you’ll need to implement your future internet projects, and this forms a critical part of your strategy. I recommend all organizations do a skills audit in order to identify their skill gaps and create a proper talent-­development strategy. Circle back to Chapter 14 for more on this.

Look at Potential Partners and Acquisition Opportunities If you don’t have the necessary internal skills and can’t hire people with those skills (which may or may not include freelancers, see Chapter 15), what can you do? Well, you can acquire companies with the necessary 238


skills, you can form partnerships with other companies, or you can work with external consultants.

Acquiring your way to future internet success Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) have always been a good way for organizations to adapt to changing market conditions and grow their business. And considering that metaverse-­related M&As have totalled $77 billion in the last 18 months (at the time of writing), it’s safe to say M&As remain a popular choice for businesses wanting to adapt.1 Long before it transformed itself into Meta, Facebook saw the enormous potential of virtual reality (VR) and acquired a very young VR startup called Oculus. Now, the Oculus hardware forms the backbone of Meta’s VR offering, and is how many people will interact with the metaverse in future. More recently, Meta has acquired VR game developers Downpour Interactive, Sanzaru Games, Ready at Dawn, and Beat Games. Meanwhile, Microsoft is (at the time of writing) spending mega-­bucks buying game company Activision Blizzard (mentioned in Chapter  4) as part of its metaverse strategy. But it’s not just tech companies who are buying their way to success. Walmart announced in 2022 that it would be acquiring optical AR technology specialists Memomi, in order to provide more optical try­on functions and contact-­free digital measurements for optical care. Memomi had been providing digital measurements for Walmart’s optical customers since 2019, which goes to show that partner organizations (more on that coming up) can make great acquisition targets in future. However, when you’re acquiring a company, it’s really important to consider compatibility between the two organizational cultures, and to make your own culture as attractive as possible for those new employees who will be integrating into your organization. Refer back to Chapter 15 for more on building the right culture for the future internet.



Forming partnerships and joint ventures Partnerships and joint ventures can be a fantastic way to access skills, execute projects, and grow your business in the future internet. Indeed, there have been a few interesting examples of companies teaming up. Blockchain-­ enabled cybersecurity and metaverse advertising platform DatChat is entering into a joint venture with metaverse builders MetaBizz to develop a new social networking metaverse called The Habytat. Elsewhere, football news and video platform OneFootball is creating a joint venture with blockchain game specialists Animonica, and the company known for creating sports NFTs with the NBA, Dapper Labs. The new venture, One Football Labs, will transform digital experiences for footballs fans, and bring them from web2 over to web3. Elsewhere, Ripple—­the blockchain-­based money transfer network I mentioned in Chapter 7—­believes partnerships are so important, it’s hiring a director of joint venture partnership, responsible for setting joint venture strategy and exploring new business opportunities.

Tapping into external consultants Another option is to hire consulting partners who can hold your hand and help you implement future technologies. These days, most of the big consulting firms around the world have a future internet team that specializes in metaverse and/or web3 opportunities, but there are also many smaller specialist firms. I’m not going to tell you who you should work with, but as a starting point for your own explorations, there are big-­name organizations like Meta, NVIDIA, Unity Software, Accenture, Deloitte, EY, and Capgemini who offer metaverse and/or web3 consulting. Smaller specialist providers include companies like LeewayHertz, Bloq, Codezeros, SoluLab, ArcTouch, and 101 Blockchains. When it comes to choosing the right consulting provider, cost of services will obviously be a major deciding factor. Some providers may offer fixed-­price solutions, although be aware that this may make it difficult to evolve and adapt to market changes. Also be sure to look carefully at their 240


reputation and portfolio. What sorts of projects have they completed, and how do customers rate them?

Define What Success Looks Like No matter which route you take—­whichever projects you undertake, however you access skills—­it’s really important you define measures of success for future internet projects. This may include tangible goals (e.g. a certain number of visitors), less tangible goals (e.g. improving skills in a certain area), milestones, and of course metrics that will help you track measures of success. In other words, this step is all about articulating impact (so, what do you want to get out of your project?) and then identifying how you will measure that impact (e.g. measuring your “before” and “after”). There are lots of ways you can measure success in the metaverse and web3. And sometimes, how you measure success in the future internet may look very similar to how you’ve traditionally measured success. For example, when launching a new NFT product, you might measure return on investment (ROI) through things like the number of people who sign up for the product waiting list, number of views, and, of course, sales. This may resemble how you’d measure ROI when launching a physical product. That said, the metaverse and web3 do offer new ways to measure, or the opportunity for deeper insights. Basically, if it’s digital, you can measure it. So, you may find yourself measuring anything from the actions that avatars take in a virtual setting, to how long people dwell in a virtual world that you’ve created. Your metrics will vary from project to project—­depending on your goals, of course—­but some measures that may prove useful are: • number of visitors • daily active users/monthly active users 241


• dwell time • community engagement (i.e. are people sticking around and interacting with each other?) • brand recognition • sales • conversion rate (e.g. visiting a virtual world or game, then buying a product within it) • number of active wallets • total value of crypto assets Bottom line, it’s really important to set out your goals from the start, and then decide the best ways of measuring those outcomes.

Don’t Forget about Ethics and Governance In Chapter 15, I talked about the importance of building an ethical company culture. I also recommended you create an ethics council or ethics advisory board. This is by far the best way to ensure you put in place the right governance and are giving proper consideration to the many ethical challenges that come with the future internet (things like privacy, data security, using technology for good, and so on). More and more organizations are setting up such advisory boards, including Microsoft’s Aether Committee and Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board. But having an ethics advisory board isn’t just important for the future internet. It will help you improve all aspects of the business—­how best to handle business disruption, for example, or how to avoid unconscious bias in hiring. An ethics advisory board should create a strong foundation of ethics right across the company, not just in certain areas.



The advisory board should be made up of ethics experts who can bring diverse perspectives to the organization (diversity of voices is really important). The board could take the form of an internal working group, an external panel, or a hybrid committee that spans external and internal people. But it’s really important to note that this is not a decision-­making body. It’s an advisory body (the clue’s in the name). So, it won’t tell your leadership what to do or make decisions for you, but it will advise you, provide recommendations based on research, guide decision making, and potentially even oversee the proper implementation of ethics principles. (That said, some experts argue that ethics advisors should not get involved with implementation.) While having an ethics advisory board is hugely important, you also want to ensure ethics is embedded in the fabric of the organization—­a core part of your culture, if you will. Therefore, you’ll want to raise awareness of ethical challenges and decision making, and ensure practices are integrated across the entire organization. Remember, it’s those employees at the front end of tech development who often make a lot of day-­to-­day decisions around ethics, so it’s really important that those employees understand how ethics principles relate to them and their work. Also ensure there’s a process for employees to bring ethical challenges and questions to the advisory board. Some companies have even formed internal groups that help employees get to grips with ethics issues. For example, H&M has an “Ethical AI Debate Club” that helps to ensure employees understand the importance of artificial intelligence ethics.

Finally, Identify the Technology You Need You might be surprised to see technology come last in the plan, but that’s very deliberate. In fact, it’s how I approach any future technology strategy. You should always work through your goals, vision, wider business



strategy, core projects, skills, ROI metrics, and ethical considerations before you even think about investing in new technologies. Never, ever go straight to technology to solve your business challenges. Because those earlier steps—­things like skills and goals and ethics—­ they’re the hard parts. Having worked through those, it’s relatively easy to identify the technology you need to make it all happen. That said, I recognize that the tech side of things can seem daunting, especially in such a fast-­evolving area like this. Which is why it’s so important to have the right skills in place—­or the right partners or consultants on hand—­to help you identify which technologies are needed to deliver your goals. And remember, as a futurist, I work with brands all over the world to help them devise their future internet strategies. If you think I can help your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ll give a few ways to connect with me at the end of the book, but first, let’s conclude with some final words on the future internet . . .

Note 1. Major investment and M&A in the metaverse; Benchmark International;­i nvestment-­a nd-­m a-­i n-­ the-­metaverse



I started this book by welcoming you to web 3.0, the third iteration of the internet, driven by immersive technologies and decentralization. I hope you’re excited to head down this road towards the future internet. Me? I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. No one can predict the future. (Not even me, and my job title is “futurist”.) Maybe the future internet will become a decentralized utopia, where decisions are made by individuals and communities rather than powerful tech corporations. Maybe new power structures will arise that, when you scratch the surface, look remarkably like the power structures of old. We can’t say for certain. But one thing we can rely on is change. Change isn’t just coming—­it’s in full swing. If there’s one thing you take away from this book, I hope it’s that we’re already well on our way to the future internet. Use cases are already emerging. The technology is fast evolving. This is happening. We don’t know the final destination, but the journey has absolutely begun. We’re on the plane, the doors are shut, and the plane is taxiing! I get that uncertainty and change can unsettle people, especially when it comes to technology. But uncertainty has always been a factor in life and business. After all, the old adage that “change is the only constant” dates back to pre-­Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus!



And while we can’t say for certain exactly how things will shake out, and which organizations will dominate the future internet, we can be confident that those who bury their heads in the sand will struggle to thrive in the future internet era. Struggle to survive, even. So now is the time to embrace this era of rapid transformation and experiment with your own metaverse and web3 use cases. Now is the time to build your future internet strategy, rethink what your business does (and how it does it), and build a business that’s fit for the future. While we’ve talked about technology a lot, let’s not forget the human side of the future internet. The technologies that we’ve explored in this book have the potential to change our world for the better. Making the world a fairer place for those who inhabit it. Increasing access to fundamental services like healthcare and financial systems. Adding value to everyday life. Making life easier, more fun, more sociable. It’s up to us to use these amazing technologies to create the world that we want to live in, for us, our communities, and the generations to come. If each organization can become a human-­centric, technology-­driven organization—­one that leverages future internet technologies to improve the work experience and add value for all stakeholders—­that stands us in good stead for a bright, bright future. Don’t you think?

Share Your Thoughts Now it’s over to you. I’d love to hear what you think about the future internet. Writing books like this is great, but it’s even more important to me to establish a dialogue beyond these pages. So, feel free to ask questions, or share your thoughts. And of course, you can always get in touch if you need help preparing your organization for the future.



You can connect with me on the following platforms: LinkedIn: Bernard Marr Twitter: @bernardmarr YouTube: Bernard Marr Instagram: @bernardmarr Facebook: Or head to my website at for more content (including my podcast) and to join my weekly newsletter, in which I share the very latest information.



Bernard Marr is a world-­renowned futurist, influencer, and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 22 best-­ selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes, and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-­known organizations. He has over 2  million social media followers, 1.8 million newsletter subscribers, and was ranked as one of the top 5 influencers in the world by LinkedIn. Bernard helps organizations and their management teams prepare for future trends and create the strategies to succeed. He has worked with or advised many of the world’s best-­ known organizations, including ­Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Dell, IBM, Walmart, Shell, Cisco, HSBC, Toyota, Nokia, Vodafone, T-­Mobile, the NHS, Walgreens Boots Alliance, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, NATO, and the United Nations. Connect with Bernard on LinkedIn, Twitter (@bernardmarr), Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to take part in an ongoing conversation, subscribe to Bernard’s podcast, and head to for more information and hundreds of free articles, white papers, and e-­books. If you would like to talk to Bernard about any advisory work, speaking engagements, or influencer services, please contact him via email at [email protected]. Other Wiley books by Bernard Marr include: • Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organizations (winner of the 2022 Business Book of the Year Award)



• Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to ­Succeed in a Digital World • Extended Reality in Practice: 100+ Amazing Ways Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Are Changing Business and Society • Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies That Are Driving the 4th Industrial Revolution • Artificial Intelligence in Practice: How 50 Successful Companies Used AI and Machine Learning to Solve Problems



5G connectivity 53 6G connectivity 53 101 Blockchains 240 A ABBA 70 ABBA Voyage 70 ABBAtars 70 Accenture 36, 151, 204, 240 Nth Floor 47, 204 AccuVein visualization tool 132 Activision Blizzard 66, 239 advertising 46 AiGIA 138 Airbnb 36 Albarn, Damon 72 Amazon 26, 41, 117, 222 Amazon Alexa 213 Amazon AWS 193 America’s Got Talent 17 Amex 151 Animonica 240 APPII 109 Apple 42, 53, 80, 193 Apple Watch 128 AR glasses 15, 142, 143, 193, 202 AR headset 42 architecture 124-­5, 126, 201 Arc-­Touch 240

Ariana Grande 70 arrival of future internet 40-­2 art 61-­5 generative 60, 62-­3 Art Blocks 63 art galleries 63-­4 artificial intelligence (AI) 40 Arweave 119 Asian Games (2022) 78 assault and harassment in virtual worlds 50 Atlanta Braves 79 Audi 186 Audius 188 AUDIO crypto token 188 augmented reality (AR) 7, 15, 39, 86, 99 authenticity 229-­30 AutoCAD 192 Autodesk 192 Autoglyphs 62 automation 40 avatars 16-­18 Avatour 200 Avelia 151 Axie Infinity 69, 207 Smooth Love Potion (SLP) 69 Axis Bank 116 Azure 193



B Backes & Strauss 176 Balenciaga 73, 88 Banuba 194 Barclays 36, 114 BBH Singapore 204 Beat Games 239 BedSwap 175 Bernard Marr 2.0 (avatar) 17, 18, 71 Bitcoin 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 41, 47 energy consumption 52 Bitmoji 18 Blackpink 71 Blankos Block Party 88 BlockBar 94, 191, 194, 198 blockchain 1, 2, 26, 28, 35, 40 applications in education 108-­9 in financial sector 115 in games 67-­8 in government and public services 160-­2 in healthcare 135-­7 in retailing 92-­5 core features 29 description of 29-­31 future of 47-­8 proof-­of-­stake 52 blockchain-­as-­a-­service (BaaS) 194 Bloq 194, 240 Bluzelle 114 BMW 47, 142, 144, 151, 201 Body Shop 221 Boeing 144, 147 Bollé’s 86 Bosch 146 Boss, Hugo 12

BP 104 BR725 aircraft engine 142 brain–computer interfaces 44, 169, 194, 202 Braintrust 206 Budnitz, Paul 96 bullying, online 13 Burberry 88 Burning Man festival 33 business model 197-­9 C Cameron, James 16 Capgemini 240 Carrefour 93 casino, virtual 92 Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) 163, 164 Charlotte Tilbury 87, 91 Beauty Wonderland “Magic Charlotte” avatar 91 China internet in 49 VR Star Theme Park 174 Cisco 223 Coachella festival 76 Coca Cola 88, 190, 202 Zero Sugar Byte 190-­1 Codezeros 240 Cohen, Charli 91 collaborative working 199-­201 Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control 157 continuous learning 221-­2 Coursera 215 COVID-­19 pandemic 10, 18, 129 Cowell, Simon 17



“creator economy” 59-­61 crowdfunding platforms 115 Crown Shyness 76 Cruise, Tom 17 Crurated 33, 187 crypto stamps 33 cryptocurrency 26, 28, 47, 48, 113 crypto-­driven platforms 1 cryptography 30 customer support 205-­6 D Daimler 150 DALL E 2 60, 62 Dallas Hybrid Prep 102 Dani Alves 176 DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) 34-­5, 68, 107, 164-­5, 198, 206-­7 Dapper Labs 240 data storage 118 DatChat 240 dating 177-­9 VR dating 177-­8 De Beers 31 de’ Medici, Cozomo 64 DeAuto 153 DeAuto Hackathon 153 Decentraland 21, 27, 29, 31, 34, 47, 49, 64, 74, 92, 156, 203 Fashion Street 91 MANA 21 SciArt in 63 Tominoya Casino 92 decentralization 1, 3, 5, 25-­38, 39, 40 decentralized applications (dApps) 31-­2

decentralized autonomous organizations see DAOs DeFi 112, 113, 115 DeHealth app 138 DHLT tokens 138 Deloitte 240 Denmark: Synthetic Party 165 Dictador 207 ArtHouse Spirits DAO 207 DiDi app 174 Digital Agency of Japan 165 Digital ID 161 digital twins 17, 18-­19, 47, 79, 127, 192-­3, 200 of cities 156, 158 in factories 145-­7 in governments and public services 157-­8 in industry 141 in manufacturing 142, 144 medical care and 130-­1 product design and 147-­8 in sleep disorders 169 dining out 175-­7 Dior 73 Disney 44, 174 distributed computing 29, 30 diversity 231-­2 diversity of experiences 231 diversity of thought 231 Dolce & Gabbana 88 Domino’s 203 Dorsey, Jack 28 dotcom crash 41 Dov Falic 191 Downpour Interactive 239 DTube (Decentralized Tube) 171



Dubai Blockchain Strategy 161-­2 Metaverse Strategy 156 One Human Reality 158 VR Park 174 Duffin, Rob 74 Dulux 86 Duty Free Americas 191 E edge computing 53 education 99-­110 blockchain-­based credentials and education NFTs 108-­9 continuous learning 221-­2 decentralization 106-­8 formal 100-­3 immersive 100-­6 lifelong learning 105-­6 Web3 impact on 106-­9 workplace learning 103-­5 eHarmony 178 EHR Data 136 electronic ID 162 electronic sports 77-­8 Elia 151 Emerge 45 employee experience 226-­7 encryption 29 energy requirement 48, 52 Energy Web 151 Epic Games 20, 65, 192, 201 eracing 81 esports 77-­8 Estonia internet voting (i-­voting) 161 Ethereum 20, 27, 31, 32, 47, 48, 52, 63, 152, 163

ethical challenges 49-­51, 230-­1 ethics advisory board 242 Etihad Stadium 79 Evinco Winery 35 Expedia 37, 175 extended reality (XR) 13-­16, 159 augmented reality 15 hybrid reality 15-­16 reality vs unreality 16 virtual reality 14-­15 EY 240 F Facebook see Meta Falic brothers 191 fashion and retail 85-­98 brands 89-­91 customer experience 85-­7 digital-­only products 87-­8 NFTs in 94-­5 Web3 impact on retailers 92-­5 Web3 platforms as physical retailers 96-­7 FedEx 149 Filecoin 119 financial sector 111-­17 adding value for customers 115-­16 blockchain and lending 115 decentralization 112-­13 immersivity 117 in future internet 113-­14 firefighter training 104 Firsthand Technology 134 flight simulator 104 Flirtual 177 Flyfish Club 95 Ford 149, 190



Forever 21 90, 91 Shop City 90 Forkchain 194 forking 53 Formula 1 81 Fortnite 2, 10, 11, 20, 32, 41, 47, 52, 88, 168, 186, 189, 190, 192 concert 74 game 66, 70, 88 gaming universe 65 Fortnite Skins 67 Fortnite World Cup 77 Froggipedia 103 Fujitsu CX Lab 200 FundamentalVR 129 fungible assets 32

Gorillaz 72 governments and public services 155-­66 blockchain 160-­2 as DAOs 164-­5 digital currencies 163-­4 government-­issued NFTs 162-­3 metaverse 155-­60 digital twins 157-­8 military uses 158-­60 official presence 156 GPT-­3 technology 62 Grande, Ariana 10 Gucci 46, 88 Gucci Garden 88 Gympact 172

G GameFi 68 gaming 10, 65-­9 gas fees 51 Gaultier, Jean Paul 88 GE 204 Gem 36 generative art 60, 62-­3 glasses, virtual reality 193, 202 Glenfiddich 94, 95, 191 goggles, virtual reality 15, 16 Google 1, 26, 41, 117, 120 artificial reality (AR) search function 169 Google Cardboard VR viewer 14 Google Expeditions app 102, 103 Google Glass 15 Google Maps Live View AR 174 Google Meet 89 Google Search 12

H H&M 203 “Ethical AI Debate Club” 243 HADO 66, 78 haptic gloves 45 haptic patch 45 haptic suits 15, 45, 50, 194 hardware innovations 42-­3 Hawk-­Eye 79 headsets, virtual reality 14, 42, 51, 199 health maintenance organizations (HMOs) 138 healthcare 127-­39 blockchain-­based health data 135-­7 decentralization of 137-­8 metaverse and 127-­8 digital twins 130-­1 medical training 129-­30 personalized, immersive therapy 133-­5



healthcare (Continued) surgery 131-­3 telehealth appointments and access 128-­9 Helium 121 cryptocurrency, HNT 121 Hendrix, Jimmy 17 Hennessy 191 Heraclitus 245 Hewlett, Jamie 72 HoloLens headset 105, 132 HoloLens technology 159 Holoride technology 186 Home Depot 86 Honeywell 104-­5, 142 Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR) 190 HOSPITALS 127-­39 HS2 147 HSBC 46, 114, 117, 123 HTC 186 Huawei 186 Hudson Yards 96 Hugo Boss 73, 86, 87, 89 human resource processes 203-­4 hybrid reality 15-­16 Hyundai 145, 152 IONIQ Citizenship 152 Hyundai Mobility Adventure 143 Hyundai Motorstudio 143 I IBM 149 identity hacking 51 Igloo Vision 104 IKEA 86, 186, 205 app 86, 194

image recognition technology 43 Immergo Labs 134 immersiveness 1, 3, 5, 28, 39 Imperial College Business School 178 inclusion 232 India, educational certificates as NFTs in 163 individualism 225-­6 Industrial Light and Magic 70 industrial metaverse 143-­5 industry decentralization 153 energy transition 151-­2 logistics and supply chain uses 149-­50 NFTs 152 Web3 technologies and 148-­53 IndyCar 81 inequality 51 influencers, virtual 73 initial game offerings (IGOs) 67 Instagram 31, 73 insurance 122-­3 Insurwave 123 intelligent NFTs 48 interconnected systems 40 interoperability 11-­12, 52, 65 iPhones 42 IPO (initial public offering) 67 IT and data services 117-­21 centralized storage to decentralized storage networks 117-­19 decentralized telecoms networks 121 democratizing personal data 120-­1 IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) goggles 159



J Japanese Grand Prix (2022) 81 JP Morgan 46 JustCarbon 152 JVY 175 K Kaeser 146 Kickstarter 171 Kings of Leon: “When You See Yourself ” 75 Know Your Customer (KYC) rules 114 KPF 201 KPMG 114 L Labster 120 Lady Gaga 72 land registry 161 Larsson, Zara 73 Lauren, Ralph 20 law enforcement training. 104 Leader Lars (chatbot) 165 League dating app 177 League of Legends 77 LeewayHertz 240 legal challenges 49-­51 legal services 123-­4 LiDAR sensors  143 lifelong learning 105-­6 Lightsum 88 Lion King, The (film) 186-­7 Lockheed Martin 157 Los Angeles Department of Transportation 18 M Madison Beer 92 Maersk 123, 149

Magic Leap One AR headset 159 MANA 34 manager/scholar scheme 69 Manchester City FC 79 Manchester United FC 82 manufacturing 142-­54 digital twins 145-­7 improving  142-­3 product design and time to market 147-­8 marketing 46, 201-­3 marriage certificates 163 Marriott Bonvoy 175 Marshmello 70 Maserati 147 Mastercard 52 Matrix movies 9 Matterport 193, 200 McDonalds 22, 175, 203 McKinsey 115 McLaren 81, 82, 204 McLaren Shadow 204 medical training 129-­30 MedicalChain 138 Medium 188 MedRec 138 meetings 199-­201 Memomi 239 Mercedes-­Benz 150 Merch 73-­4 Merge EDU 190 mergers and acquisitions (M&As) 239 Meta 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 19-­20, 21, 26, 27, 29, 31, 40, 44, 45, 120, 202, 239, 240 future of 66 Horizon Workrooms 200 Horizon Worlds 20, 41, 47, 50, 170-­1



Meta (Continued) “safe zone” 171 Safety Advisory Board 242 meta factory 145 Meta Quest 2 VR headset 200 Meta Quest Remote Desktop app 200 MetaBizz 240 Habytat, The 240 MetaGym 172 Metaphysic 17 Meta-­Quest gaming headset 105 MetaTerrace 176 metaverse 1, 7-­23, 101, 155-­60 augmenting the human body for 43-­4 beginner’s guide to 9-­10 businesses and 21-­2 concept 8, 9-­10, 11 corporate life in 47 digital currencies 163-­4 digital twins 157-­8 effect of 8-­13 hospitals 127-­39 industrial 143-­5 interoperability 11-­12 military uses 158-­60 as new marketing channel 46-­7 official presence 156 physical world 12-­13 products and services 192-­4 technology 13-­18 vs multiverse 10-­11 Microsoft 66, 117, 123, 147, 159, 193, 239 Aether Committee 242 HoloLens headset 132 Microsoft Teams Mesh 201

Mika 207 Miku, Hatsune 72 military 158-­60 Miquela, Lil 73 188 mixed reality 15-­16 Mixtape Social 74 Mixtape Token 74 Mojo Vision 43 Mondly app 105 Morgan Stanley 88 Mottola, Matthew (and Matthew Coatney): The Human Cloud,  223 Mozilla Hubs 101 multiverse vs metaverse 10-­11 music and entertainment 69-­76 artificial intelligence (AI) 60 live music 70-­1 NFTs 75-­6 virtual popstars 71-­3 Musk, Elon 44 Myers, Vernā 232 N Nadella, Satya 66 NASA 45 National Basketball Association (NBA) 32, 80 “Pixel Arena” 79 Top Shot blockchain platform 81 Nationwide 36 Nestlé 150 Netflix 232 Netherlands pension programme 161 Neurable 44 neural VR 44 Neuralink 44



Neurotwin project 131 Nevermet 177 NextVR 80 NFT pillow 168 NFTs (non-­fungible tokens) 2, 20, 26, 28, 40, 113 airdrops 33 auctions, curated 64-­5 education 108-­9 fashion and retail 94-­5 future of 47-­8 games and 67-­8 government-­issued 162-­3 hype 32-­4 in industry 152 intelligent 48 in music and entertainment 75-­6 in sports 80-­2 Nicolay, Erick 175 Nike 20, 22, 46, 74, 90, 91, 148, 202 CryptoKicks 94 Nikeland 22, 90 non-­fungible tokens see NFTs Norby, Vibhu 96 Northwestern University 45 Nothing Tech 188 Novo Nordisk 220 NVIDIA 20, 146, 157, 192, 227, 240 NVIDIA Omniverse 124, 200 nxyz 191 O O’Reilly, Tim 41 O’Reilly Media 41 Ocean 120, 191 Ocean Protocol 150 Oculus 14, 239 OliveX fitness and wellbeing app 172

Omniverse 20, 192, 201 Onboarding 217 OneFootball 240 online life 169-­71 future of social media 170-­1 search experiences 169-­70 Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 231 OpenAI 62 OpenSea 76, 194 open-­source, definition 26 open-­source technology 224-­5 Opulous 76 organizational culture, successful 219-­30 authenticity 229-­30 continuous learning 221-­2 employee experience 226-­7 flatter hierarchy 222-­3 gig-­ready organization 223-­4 individualism 225-­6 open-­source technology 224-­5 purpose-­driven 220-­1 technology-­enabled business 228 transparency 228-­9 Otis platform 187 P Pak 64 ParagraphAI 60 PayPal 230 PayStand 194 Peckham, Eric 11 peer-­to-­peer lending 115 permissionless, definition 26 personal protective equipment (PPE) 129 PianoVision app 105



Pikachu AR experience 91 Pilot Training Next (PTN) programme 158 Planet Theta 177 platform business 36 play to earn (P2E) model 68-­9, 167 PNC Bank 116 Pokémon Go 12, 15, 66, 91 Polar 71, 72 Polygon 108, 188 popstars, virtual 73 porn, virtual reality 179 Porsche 203 Powerledger 152 pplpleasr (AKA Emily Yang) 61, 62 Presley, Elvis 17, 71 privacy challenges 51 products and services 185-­94 augmenting existing 186-­9 creating new 189-­92 metaverse and Web3 support 192-­4 Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP) technology 163 proof-­of-­stake algorithms 48 proof-­of-­stake systems 52 proof-­of-­work algorithms 48 Proto M holographic device 200 public services see governments and public services Q quantum computing 146 R Ready at Dawn 239 Ready Player Me 18, 193 Ready Player One 8, 9, 39 real estate 187

reality vs unreality 16 real-­world attractions, transforming 44 regenerative finance (ReFi) 114 registries, Government 160-­1 regulatory challenges 49-­51 Rembrandt: Storm on the Sea of Galilee, The 63 Renault 73 retail see fashion and retail Ripple 240 XRP (cryptocurrency) 116 Roblox 74, 90, 91, 92, 101, 186, 215 avatar 52 platform 20, 22, 73, 88 Roblox Studio tutorials 215 Rolls-­Royce 142 Roofstock onChain NFT marketplace 187 Royal Mint 163 Russian internet 49 S Sam 191 Samsung 53, 186 SAND 20 Sandbox, The 20-­1, 27, 31, 117, 172, 190 Sandstorm 193 Santander 116 Sanzaru Games 239 scalability 52 Schulman, Dan 230 SeaWorld, Orlando 174 Second Life 10 Art Korner 63 Lonely Hearts Dating Agency 177



Secretum 27 Selfridges 91 Electric/City 91 selling 201-­3 sex 177-­9 Shanghai Urban Operations and Management Center 18 Shell 147, 151, 187, 191 Shenzhen Chuangda Yunrui Intelligent Company 169 Sia 119 Siemens 146, 147 Siemens Digital 145 Silicon Valley 212 Singapore Drum Tutor drum school 105 Singapore Grand Prix (2022) 81 skills shortages 53-­4, 209-­10 attracting new talent 210-­14 employer brand 211-­12 innovation hubs 212-­14 retaining talent 216-­17 talent development  214-­16 upskilling 215-­16 Slack 228 sleep 167-­9 VR-­enhanced 168-­9 Sleep City metaverse ecosystem and app 167 smart cities 157 smart contact lenses 43 smart contracts 30, 36 smart glasses 42-­3, 53 smart headsets 43 smartphones 43 Snapchat 15, 89, 91 Snoop Dogg 20, 32 social media, future of 170-­1

Solana 96 “crypto smartphone” 188 metaverse music festival 71 Solana Spaces 96 SoluLab 240 sonic branding 46 Sotheby’s 64 Metaverse 64 virtual auction house 117, 125 Sound 46 SpaceX 45 spatial audio 46 Speechly 193 SPIN 187 splinternet 49 sport 76-­7 broadcasting 79-­80 NFTs in 80-­2 traditional vs metaverse 78-­9 Spotify 73, 188 Square Space 194 stablecoins 112, 164 STEEM cryptocurrency 171 Steemit 171 Stella Artois 189 “Racing In The Life Artois” 189-­90 STEMuli educational metaverse platform 102 Stephenson, Neal: Snow Crash 10 Stolen Art Gallery 63 Storj 119 strategy development 235-­44 ethics and governance 242-­3 existing business strategy 236 external consultants 240-­1 partners and acquisition opportunities 238-­41 partnerships and joint ventures 240



strategy development (Continued) prioritising future internet projects 237-­8 products/services and business processes 236-­7 purpose and ambition 235-­6 skills plan 238 success 241-­2 technology 243-­4 Streamr 120 Sublimotion 176 Superplastic 96 SuperRare 64 surgery 131-­3 SurrealVR 193 Sweeney, Tim 65 Swift, Taylor 74 SWIFT money transfer network 116 Synerio (EHR Data) 136 Synthesia 17, 60 synthetic data 144 T talent development  214-­16 retaining talent 216-­17 strategy 214-­15 upskilling 215-­16 Tech Educators 215 TechCrunch 11 technology 13-­18, 52-­3 avatars 16-­18 current limitations of 18 digital twins 18-­19 extended reality technologies 13-­16 Telefonica 213 Telehealth 127 Tencent 1

Tesla 18 Teslasuit 45 Tezos 81, 82 Tez (cryptocurrency) 81 TheSoul Publishing 71 TikTok 17, 18, 60 token gating 95 tokenization 198 91 touch, sensation of 45-­6 TradeLens 149 Tradle 122 transparency 228-­9 travel 173-­5 real-­world 174-­5 virtual 173-­4 Web3 and 175 Travis Scott 70, 74 TRIB3 172 trolling 13 Truist Park 79 Trump, President Donald 161 trustless, definition 26 Tunnel Vision NYC 174 Twitter 28 TXREK 175 U Uber 36 Udemy 107, 215 UFC Strike 81 UI Group 37, 175, 191 Uniswap 194 Unity 145 Unity Software 240 Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) 192-­3, 200 Urban Outfitters 95



US Air Force 158 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 36 US Department of Agriculture Forest Service 157 US Food and Drug Administration 43 US Navy TRACER (Tactically Reconfigurable Artificial Combat Enhanced Reality) 159 US Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem 160 Extended Reality Network 160 V Vans 20, 21-­2 Veridat 136 Virbela 193 Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) 133 virtual reality see VR virtual worlds 63 Visa 52 Viture 42 Volvo 149 voting systems, digital 161-­2 Voxel Architects 125 VR 1, 7, 14-­15, 39, 99 glasses 193, 202 goggles 15, 16 headsets 14, 42, 51, 199 potential of 239 VR Museum of Fine Art 102 W Walmart 92, 93, 239 Electric Fence 92

Food Safety Collaboration Center 35-­6 “incubation arm” Store No. 8, 213 Universe of Play 92 Walmart Land 92 Warby Parker 203 Warner Music 76 Web Crawler 42 Web1 1, 25, 26 Web2 1, 25, 26, 41 Web3 25-­37 in action 27 applications education 106-­9 industry 148-­53 music 74-­5 products and services 192-­4 retailers 92-­5, 96-­7 travel 175 for beginners 25-­6 impact on businesses 35-­7 as ideology 27-­8 technology 29-­35 vs metaverse 28-­9 WeChat 27 weddings, virtual 178 Weinsanto, Victor 88 WhatsApp 27 Whirlpool 223 Wilkens, Patrik 71, 72 William Grant & Sons 94 working out 171-­2 workplace learning 103-­5 World Economic Forum Crypto Sustainability Coalition 114 World Health Organization The Academy 129



X XR therapy 160 Y Yang, Emily 61, 62 Yield Games Games (YGG) 207 BreederDAO 207 YouTube 60, 61, 71, 73, 171, 202

Z Zaha Hadid Architects 125 Zed Run 189 Zelf 116 ZEPETO 143 Zironi, Violetta 75-­6 “Little Rain Must Fall, A” 76 Zoom 46, 89, 199, 201, 228 Zuckerberg, Mark 9, 10, 13, 19, 21, 66


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