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The Metaverse—What It Is and How It Can Present Real Solutions

PTVC 179 | The Metaverse


The Metaverse is an open-sourced blockchain existing alongside our world. It's a big deal previously only for game developers, designers, industry insiders, and visionaries—and now it's available to anyone. In this episode, Learn What is Metaverse and How it is no longer a concept reserved for science fiction enthusiasts or the games market.


ARSOME Technology designs custom software, AR/VR/XR, and the Metaverse with a human touch and expert programming for the best companies and organizations. Founded by a student and his professor in 2016, ARSOME Technology exceeds expectations, inspires the uninventive, and tirelessly outperforms for clients and partners.


ARSOME Technology has emerged as a leader in augmented, virtual, and mixed reality product development.


Learn More About ARSOME


The Metaverse—What It Is and How It Can Present Real Solutions

In this episode, we have Ben Williams, the Cofounder and CEO of ARSOME. They develop, partner, and invest in software products, including education and the metaverse. Thank you for coming to the show. How are you?


It is a pleasure to be. It is great. It is one of the warmest days of the month here in Connecticut.


This is an interesting time to be in the metaverse space. Talk to us about your journey. How did you get to where you are?


The metaverse is throwing around a little too much. I hope now we can define and elaborate what it is and how people can benefit from it. Back in 2014, when I was an undergraduate student at NYU. I’m working on various software projects. I linked up with an undergrad professor and we decided to start experimenting with augmented and virtual reality technology.


At the time, it was important for education. It was not used for the metaverse, for putting groups or large parties in the same room to explore. There was for specific actions. For instance, working with an insurance company to help claim adjusters and identify vehicle damage. Something as simple as that, but as in any industry, there is evolution.


Over the years from 2015, 2017, and 2018, we started looking deeper into how this technology can benefit users. What we saw is it is a medium to better present information, solutions, communication, and information. As we learn and move forward, technology is a medium for us to do something better with it. That is how we move forward as a company is using it as infrastructure and building around it.

It'd be more expensive in the long run for brands not to experiment with the Metaverse.

We talk about the metaverse and precursor to that virtual reality, augmented reality, and these other methods. 2014 was early. You could probably claim to be one of the first technology enthusiasts and companies in the space. Why did it not take off? There was a lot of excitement at that point. I remember personally at that time I was running my company.


I had many friends who started companies in the space and they did not survive. I even know of many venture funds that started with the sole focus of virtual reality is going to be the next big thing and nothing happened. Walk us through what was going on at the time when this became public awareness that we can wear these headsets, we can experience things, and why did it not take off in a way many people were hoping it would take off at that point? Why are we still here in 2022?


Back in the day 2014, and 2015, the first question any customer would ask was what is augmented and virtual reality? Now there is a little bit more of an awareness, but we still get those questions now. I'm not completely confident that the industry has broken through. The reason for that is I think there are a few barriers of entry.


The first is developing the software is difficult. You need a little bit more expertise than your traditional full-stack developer. You need to find expertise that is able to develop these modules or these programs, these applications, number one. Number two is the cost. The infrastructure to put a training program in one of these insurance companies is pretty significant, and it has to be a multi-year engagement with controlled pilots, new iterations, metrics, and success metrics. If they do not understand the technology fully and completely, it is going to be difficult to get them on the hook for a multi-year engagement.


A lot of times, what we have to do is start with a pilot, as most companies do, to gain trust and confidence. As you know, within some of these larger companies, it could take years to get a successful pilot and a multi-year engagement.


The third real interesting aspect of the industry when we look at direct-to-consumer, students, youth, and families exploring and using this technology at home, we have to look at the cost of these headsets, not only the headsets, but effective headsets. Oculus, these headsets that put you in an immersive world, unlike a $2 cardboard headset. We have to provide the cost barriers, a little lower to increase adoption.


The Metaverse


All in all, you need significant software expertise to develop the experiences which are hard to come by. Number two, the purchasing and the sales cycles of these corporations, if that is who you are targeting. In our case, that is who we target is multi-year and usually includes your proposal niche primarily because they do not quite understand yet how the technology can help them, which is okay. The third is dropping the cost of hardware, whether that be virtual reality headsets for youth or other hardware, for instance, driving simulators or heavy machinery simulators. Bringing these simulators and these hardware aspects down the cost will make things a little bit more easier for adoption.


Staffing a company in such an emerging industry comes with challenges because not only are you trying to identify who your customer is. You are trying to identify within that customer base, do you have the right people? Is there organizational commitment? Often I found that the company has an innovation department was appointed an agency and they need to do experimental things. Unfortunately, it comes out to be nothing more than a cute case study that sits somewhere in a press release. It does not become central to the organizations' efforts.


How have you seen companies approach their programs and initiatives around VR and Web3 overall as time has evolved? Is it still something they experiment with, hence a multi-year process? Are you seeing companies now commit and say at the central core, “This is our strategy, we need to now figure out how to solve this medium of platform interaction beyond the web and mobile, and we now have the metaverse and whatever that entails?”


We are in the last several, we have noticed that most of these corporations or even government agencies have this unique division where their job is to assess innovative technology and ultimately implement it right with a correct division. You are spot on there. I think the companies and corporations are there, but like with any software, especially software that has a hardware component, perhaps there are some security aspects with the data. Most corporations will start with a pilot.


They want to test success and the user experience. They want to see if their employees are learning better than they did with other traditional means first before exploring on. This is for the industry of metaverse like people like me. It is our job. Not necessarily to convince them, but to educate them, provide options and recommendations, and guide them along the process of how they can benefit in this new world slow and steady. Strategizing with a pilot and enforcing slow and steady is key for targeting the corporations for Web3 in the metaverse.


There is a lot of excitement building around the concept of metaverse, especially when we think about the real estate angle. Part of that comes from the social proof that seems to exist. A signal is coming out now. I will give you two examples. Number one, you have got Facebook was running to Metta when they are putting $10 billion-plus behind the building out of this ecosystem. You have to pay attention.

You can build, build, build, but if you don't have an engagement strategy, then there's going to be a mistake.

Secondly, when you look at these metaverse platforms, and we are talking about platforms like Somnium, Cryptovoxels, Axie Infinity, Sandbox, and Decentraland. To some of our readers, it might sound like made-up words. These are the names of various online platforms where people can go and browse through. It is a 3D world that you can interface with. The social proof, because you are seeing large brands come in, they are buying plots of land, and they are hosting experiences. Not only that, but you have got brands also selling digital virtual items, which we call NFTs.


The question here is, are we seeing brands embrace this as a core part of their strategy? Are they putting an experimental innovation budget into this platform? Before you address that, I ran an advertising company before. It was a big exit, $718 million. We started out by getting some of the world's largest brands to advertise. It was easy to get a $10,000 trial budget or even a $50,000 trial budget to create some beautiful ad experiences.


That $50,000 ad budget into a multimillion-dollar campaign was a completely different step and sometimes a completely different set of ecosystem stakeholders. What are we seeing here? Why are these big brands in the worlds coming in? You got Walmart releasing demos of what their experiences are going to look like. You got Atari, Nike and Adidas competing, and Gucci. Name a brand, and I can guarantee you that having a brainstorming session about this, but what is going on. Is this experimental or is this a central shift strategy?


It is most experimental. To sum it up, I would say it would be more expensive in the long run for these brands not to experiment. What do they have to lose? When we talk about these decentralized locations or the infrastructure in which you can build buildings and host experiences. The brands are most flocking to that.


What I want everyone to keep in mind and take a step back is you have to somehow have a strategy to drive traffic to these virtual worlds. That is going to be the most important aspect you can build, but if you do not have that strong community, audience, gamification, reward system, or some engagement strategy to drive them to those experiences, there is going to be a mistake. If we take a step back and your experience for the advertising firm and getting that trial budget of $10,000 to $50,000, that is similar to my experience of doing a pilot. That makes sure everybody is on point and confident before we move forward.


One of the tricks I have learned is to bridge that gap and to get that hopefully multimillion-dollar next step is to put some a trigger or a contingency in these proposals. Saying that if stakeholders are happy and if the success metrics are checked off, we are going to move forward with a more engaged and more complex system. That could be 8 to 10 times the price of the pilot, something like that. For those who are reading and trying to get a branch to that next step, perhaps implementing a contingency or trigger will help you bridge that.


PTVC 179 | The Metaverse


What are some of the metrics and KPIs brands are looking at as they decide whether they should double down beyond running pilots and make the central shift in strategy about the metaverse?


I will break it down into education and retail. Those are two of the areas I have some experience with. In education, we are going to look at employees and students. Employees were specifically looking to see. Are they learning and retaining information more efficiently and effectively than traditional methods? It is as simple as that. Most of the insurance companies here in Connecticut, a lot of their training is PowerPoint. We have to find a way to bring that information to life in a more experiential way.


The other aspect about the employees is that a lot of it is experiential learning. They are expected to go to crash sites and expected to go to houses that have trees in their roofs to understand the assessment. If we can simulate that experience in virtual reality and determine, is this more of an effective learning simulation than taking somebody and driving them to a car accident? That is what they are looking for. They want to make sure that this technology will replace existing learning infrastructure. That is for employees.


Now we are looking at students. It is a little different. One of the areas that have been indirect, and if we look at augmented and virtual reality as a medium, we are seeing social-emotional learning, which is this huge umbrella of understanding information, presenting information, and retaining information. We are seeing how that can be used for all different subjects, animal, wildlife, health literacy, financial literacy, and geometry.


We are seeing that students are much more effective learners at home with the use of this technology than traditional means. What is traditional mean? A lot of times, it is textbooks. We are looking in the education sector specifically, does this technology validate the learning outcomes more effectively than traditional practices? That is education.


In retail, you have a lot going on there because you have direct benefits and you have indirect benefits. The direct benefits could be purchases. As simple as that. The indirect benefits could be community engagement, retention, social media, connectivity, and sharing. When brands are looking toward the metaverse, they are looking for a combination.


They are not looking at the education sector to see if it is a better and more effective medium for some of your purchases than the in-store experience. They are looking for a more rounded approach to keeping their community, and they are seeing that in this metaverse world, with the pairing of the NFTs, as you said, the digital assets, they can take this community, build this community, and translate into the physical world. That is what they want to get after. They want people to go to their shows, go to their experiences, walk into their stores, and buy their products.


When we look at what both industries, education, and retail, are targeting in the use of AR/VR, it is both different, but at that point, several years later, we are now finally able to understand that every industry, each industry could use this technology differently. That is okay, and it has taken some time for us to get there. Finally, we are starting to understand. The industry is starting to understand that it is not a one-shoe-fits-all. Everybody has a unique purpose for this tech.


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About Zain Jaffer:
Zain Jaffer is an accomplished executive, investor, and entrepreneur. He started his first company at the age of 14 and later moved to the US as an immigrant to found Vungle, after securing $25M from tech giants including Google & AOL in 2011. Vungle recently sold for $780m.
His achievements have garnered international recognition and acclaim; he is the recipient of prestigious awards such as "Forbes 30 Under 30", "Inc. Magazine's 35 Under 35," and the "SF Business Times Tech & Innovation Award." He is regularly featured in major business & tech publications such as The Wall Street Journal, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch.


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