Video Vault: The Metaverse Meets Main Street

You’ve probably heard the term metaverse ad nauseum. And if you haven’t you will now that metaverse underwriter Facebook (ahem, Meta) has changed its corporate identity. As the newest tech-world buzzword, metaverse has become a runaway train in the gaming and VR worlds.

But though it’s been rendered almost meaningless through overuse, it does represent legitimate principles. And some of those apply to local commerce. Beyond digital domains like gaming, metaverses will overlay the physical world to enable AR devices to evoke relevant and geo-anchored content.

This was the topic of a panel we hosted at Localogy 2021 last month in L.A. (video below). Foursquare showed us how its location database can enable geo-relevant AR, while Epic Games wants its Unreal Engine to be the go-to platform for metaverse creation… starting with its hit game Fortnite.

The Metaverse Comes to Main Street: AR & Local  Commerce

AR’s central function is to augment the physical world. That means that geo-location will be a key ingredient in AR’s actualization as a local search and discovery tool. How will location intelligence, SMB marketing and other staples of local commerce play a role in fulfilling AR’s promise?

Rafaella Camera, Epic Games
Ankit Patel, Foursquare

The Metavearth

Stepping back, the term metaverse broadly refers to digital domains that host synchronous interaction between placeshifted participants. In other words, time is synced for real-time digital interactions between far-flung individuals. You could argue that’s what the internet is, and you’d be right.

The difference with the metaverses is that it’s “embodied” as Mark Zuckerberg says. That’s a fancy way of saying it happens in 3D. We can point to metaverse-like fiefdoms today as examples, including MMOs like Fornite, Roblox, and Minecraft. There are also more immersive VR experiences like Altspace.

But again, the metaverse has two tracks. In addition to fully immersive and game-like experiences, there will be a real-world metaverse (or “metavearth”) that unlocks geo-anchored digital twins that enliven physical objects. This track is actually more fitting to the Greek root “meta” which means beyond.

Use cases will include local search, navigation, and discovery. Rather than typing local search terms, the idea is to hold up your phone with Google Lens or Snap Scan to see geo-anchored annotations. That could include, education, entertainment, or business details that float above storefronts.

Epic Games Inches Closer to the Real-World Metaverse

The Next SEO?

But for all of the above to materialize, it will be all about data and devices to render content. The latter will include smartphones today and AR glasses tomorrow. As for the data piece, it will come together through myriad signals such as device sensors (IMU bundle) and location data.

And that’s where Foursquare comes in. Not only will it continue to be a valued part of the ecosystem for location-aware apps and location-based mobile advertising, but also local commerce’s next era of visual search. And it’s already gotten started given its Marsbot experiment to power “audio AR.”

To define that, audio AR whispers location-intelligent cues in your ear. It sidesteps the cost and style crimes of AR glasses while the hardware base is already established through AirPods. So Marsbot utilizes Foursquare’s Places database (105 million places) for an audio AR local discovery engine.

Back to visual AR, businesses can prepare by being “metaverse ready,” says Camera. This means having high-fidelity 3D models of your products, and other optimization to be present and prominent in the metavearth. If that sounds familiar, it’s broadly today’s SEO playbook, but more dimensional.

We’ll pause there and cue the full video. Stay tuned for more deep dives and video footage from Localogy 2021… 

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