Who are You in the Metaverse? Why Personal Avatars Matter

A new word is trending thanks to Facebook’s 2021 announcement of their business name change to Meta. The word is metaverse, and Meta is alluding to the recent increase in capital that is going into metaverse technology. While many video gamers are already familiar with this term, many more are confused by its implications

According to Daniel Marcinkowski, the Marketing Manager at Ready Player Me, a company that creates custom avatars: “As for the metaverse that’s taken over the press headlines, it is being defined as we speak.” The metaverse is a term that was originally coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book Snow Crash. In the book, individuals join the metaverse by putting on virtual reality (VR) goggles and joining a virtual environment powered by the internet. This virtual environment allows users to flit between apps seamlessly. As Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta stated in an NPR article: “A lot of the metaverse experience is going to be around being able to teleport from one experience to another.”

While this “teleportation” won’t be a reality for a while, there are many companies already working to develop the technology of the metaverse. Ready Player Me is one of those companies, as is their parent company, Wolf3D. Together, these companies create personal avatars that individuals can apply in many virtual settings, from video games to meetings. The VR industry is one of the biggest sectors to be impacted by the rising metaverse, as capital is pouring into the market. “We believe that in the future, we will interact with each other virtually even more than we do now with smartphones and computers,” Marcinkowski explained. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made people more reliant on the internet for education, socialization, and work, it will only be a natural next step to expand this internet into a metaverse.

And with this expansion comes confusion, as individuals may feel lost in the bigger internet. That’s why companies like Wolf3D and Ready Player Me make profits by helping individuals make the metaverse more personal and customizable. “Virtual identity and avatars will be an important part of it, as they will allow us to express ourselves in ways that simply don’t exist in the physical world,” Marcinkowski added. As individuals enjoy exploring new identities via virtual avatars, a new niche opens in the metaverse and VR industries. These personal avatars allow many more options for self-expression than in real-life. Additionally, people feel freer to explore as they have a screen to hide behind, should they be nervous about trying something new.

These personal avatars can be applied in almost any virtual setting. People can use their avatars as characters in online video games like Fortnite or as placeholders for themselves in virtual meetings. Ready Player Me boasts that their avatars can be used in over 760 apps alone, on multiple devices, from a laptop to a VR headset. Ready Player the markets toward the rising metaverse by giving users opportunities to create themselves in this new virtual setting. This type of business model has been dubbed the Direct-to-Avatar (D2A).  According to a Forbes article, the D2A market comprises 3.5 billion users globally, which equates to a ginormous revenue stream.

Personal avatars aren’t just used for gaming, but also have a large impact on the fashion industry. companies like The Fabricant are digital-only fashion houses, where users can create and explore new designs for their avatars. As much of the current metaverse users are eco-conscious, a digital fashion house reduces emissions and waste in developing new clothes. These fashion companies have also had to develop new technology to create virtual fashion processes that mimic real-life ones, like knitting or sewing. This allows the user to feel more familiar with the technology, and get a more satisfying experience. 

Companies selling and developing personal avatars are at the forefront of the rising metaverse Already their market is significantly growing and will continue to swell as the technology advances. It won’t be too long before everyone has their own digital identity, and a place in the new metaverse to call home.

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry

Kenna Castleberry is the Science Communicator at JILA (formerly known as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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