Being a dimension where people can socialise and transact, the metaverse offers individuals and businesses almost limitless possibilities in virtual parallel universes. The freedoms associated with the metaverse challenges its makers to ensure that it is a safe, secure, and inclusive space for all.

These are the key takeaways from Infosys recent ‘AfterNext’ virtual event by cross-sector experts from Unilever, ANZ Bank and Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, which was hosted in partnership with Trans-Tasman Business Circle.

In his opening remarks, Infosys executive vice president and region head for Australia and New Zealand, Andrew Growth said, “The metaverse is already starting to create a network effect as the physical and the digital worlds continue to merge, and represents a nascent potential for brands and users to connect in completely new ways, whether it’s augmented or virtual reality, whether it’s mirrored virtual worlds or life logging. There is a lot to explore.”

The metaverse represents an immense branding opportunity for businesses. Consumers value brands that engage in their world and brands need to head to where consumers are.

When consumers are interacting within the metaverse, ensuring that brands are there in these communities that they’re creating is one way to create brand loyalty, according to Unliver Australia and New Zealand media and digital hub director, Sarah Sorrenson.

“Creating virtual experiences that translate into the real world offers an opportunity for companies to create value in both the real and virtual worlds.”

For financial institutions, offering customers a secure means of transacting over the metaverse could possibly be a means of growing trust. ANZ has launched A$DC, a stablecoin pegged to the Australian dollar. Holders of A$DC can seamlessly trade in cryptocurrencies without costly conversion rates.

The tokenisation of assets may also open more avenues for investments.

“The other interesting thing about the token economy is the ability to tokenize and fractionalise properties and sell them. People can also buy parts of different properties. This fractionalisation opportunity with non-fungible tokens opens up a whole other world for investors,” ANZ banking services portfolio lead, Nigel Dobson said.

With the freedom and experience opportunities offered by the metaverse, there is also the potential for harm to be inflicted on vulnerable users.

“We cannot hurtle towards the metaverse without thinking how we keep people safe virtually, or in the real world. The metaverse is where our worlds really converge, and any harm experienced can feel especially real,” Australian eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant said.

“Whenever there are humans in the frame, there is going to be misbehaviour, malfeasance, and creative ways to misuse technology. It’s just the way that it is, and we need the purveyors and the architects of the metaverse of the future to be minimising that threat by building in safety protections.”

The general consensus among panelists was that the metaverse is worth exploring and provides opportunities to connect with consumers and employees in new and more engaging ways.