Foresight 10: Facebook’s quest to go from a social media company to a metaverse company + how NFTs will impact our future wardrobes

A bi-weekly newsletter diving into the concepts, people and brands shaping the future of retail and entertainment.


Welcome back to Foresight!

The metaverse is having a moment. It seems as if every major news outlet is digging into the topic—my personal favourite: WTF is the Metaverse? And recently, Facebook decided to go all in. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of constructing social apps and hardware to support them, to participating in the creation of “the successor to the mobile internet” and pledging to turn Facebook from a social media company to a metaverse company in about five years. Mark Zuckerberg’s interview with The Verge on his vision for the metaverse and what this could look like is lengthy though a great read. As much as I’d like to say I’ve covered the best parts, there were many insightful moments beyond what’s below. 

We’re also discussing how NFTs will impact our future wardrobes based on the perspectives of 13 founders, designers, futurists and programmers. Again, an excellent read for more predictions from industry leaders.

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IDEAS, INSIGHTS & FORWARD THINKING PERSPECTIVES

Facebook confirms its all in on the metaverse with new dedicated division

It was recently announced that Facebook has set up a new product team that will work on Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse. Facebook Reality Labs will include the new product team as part of its division, as much of the work done at FRL is deeply connected to the CEO’s vision. As explored in Foresight 07, the metaverse has been defined as a convergence of physical, augmented and virtual reality in a shared space online. For Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse could be “the successor to mobile internet” and wants you to think about it as an “embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content—you are in it.” Facebook’s VP of AR and VR, Andrew Bosworth wrote in the announcement: ”To achieve our full vision of the Metaverse, we [...] need to build the connective tissue between these spaces — so you can remove the limitations of physics and move between them with the same ease as moving from one room in your home to the next.”

There’s an understanding that Facebook isn’t going to be the only company building the metaverse—it will be in partnership with many other companies, creators and developers. When asked about where the metaverse will take place, Zuckerberg argues how our relatively small phones we spend massive amounts of time on every day, are not how we’re meant to interact. And meetings on a screen, this isn’t how we process things either. “We’re used to a sense of shared space and what virtual and augmented reality can do, and what the metaverse will broadly help people experience, is a sense of presence that is much more natural in a way we’re made to interact. Interactions will be a lot richer, they’ll feel real.” In the future, he envisions doing interviews where the journalist and himself can be in the same room as holograms and it will feel like they’re in the same place. Facebook envisions the metaverse to be accessible on different platforms, including PC, mobile devices, gaming consoles, virtual reality and augmented reality. The experience can also be 3D, though it doesn’t have to be. "You might be able to jump into an experience, like a 3D concert or something, from your phone, so you can get elements that are 2D or elements that are 3D."

According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse is going to be a huge part of the next chapter for the technology industry, with possibly one of the biggest challenges the industry faces being fitting supercomputers into eyeglass frames that are 5mm thick. Of course, regulations were questioned which brought up an interesting point—who will govern virtual spaces, how will the contents be moderated and what its existence would do to our shared sense of reality. We have yet to fully regulate the 2D version of social platforms, surely the 3D version will be far more difficult.

Fashion experts on how NFTs will impact your wardrobe in the future

Although NFT fashion is in its infancy compared to NFT art, which has been auctioning off for millions of dollars at Christie’s, there are a number of parallels with the traditional fashion world.  The massive toll on the environment discussed in Foresight 08 of course needs to be eliminated first but in the real world, NFTs could seriously reduce the waste produced by the fashion industry. Mass adoption of crypto fashion leans on a couple of factors, its connection to gaming and COVID. For people who’ve spent most of their lives gaming online, the difference between purchasing a skin in Fortnite and buying an NFT that can only be worn in AR is small. And although most consumers are still looking for the tactility of real clothing, spending money on a pair of virtual sneakers has become an easier sell since COVID. At this point in the hype cycle, “NFTs will continue to feel like a blown-out, trillion-dollar market-cap version of Pokémon GO, where aesthetics take a back seat to the functionality of the medium.”

Until the dust settles, here are a few experts on what we can expect from the coming decade in non-fungible fashion. You can read the perspectives of all 13 founders, designers, futurists and programmers here.

Karinna Nobbs, Co-Founder of The Dematerialised, a Web3 marketplace

The future shopping experience — buying NFTs and digital fashion — will look something like a digital mall, though more abstract and less terrestrial. We’ll merge VR, AR, and extended reality. When you come on our site, you’re immediately in a programmable 3D environment. You can take the garment that you’re interested in into an AR environment and inspect it and try it on. Eventually different brands will be able to exist in the same space at the same time. Big brands will try to equate this to a department store, but the virtual mall of the future will be about having separate branded worlds that interconnect.

Regina Turbina, Founder of Replicant, a digital fashion retailer

Initially, crypto fashion was about buying things that didn’t exist in the real world, like clothes made of dragon textures. But now most of our buyers are people who want their clothes to replicate real clothing. We’ve started using real-world patterns to make clothes, so if somebody would like to redeem their digital clothing, they can have it produced IRL. NFTs are the technology that allow us to do this. If you have an NFT token of a garment, you can keep it as a collectible, use it in a photo, or send it as a gift, but also produce it in real life. In the future, when most people have a 3D printer in their home, they’ll be able to print the clothes themselves.

Ryan Mullins, CEO and Creative Director at Aglet, a location-based sneaker game

Gaming is the next social network, games are the next mall. Kids spend most of their time in these game worlds. The behaviours of the game and corporate worlds will merge, because companies are games. Adidas is a game. Adidas has an ecosystem of an app, a website, retail stores, and wholesale partners. That’s a game world. So what they can do is design the experience so that you play within that space to try and get goods that you collect and show off. Gaming and fashion are not the same thing, obviously, but the game is the platform on top of which virtual fashion is going to explode.


WHAT I’M READING

This technology will have a profound effect on the fashion industry

AR platform for trying on clothes launches

Twitter to let retailers add products to their profiles in shopping push

Pangaia’s “quirky invention” utilizes pollution to create an end product

Retailers to face more disruptions due to climate change