A key element of Meta’s metaverse push is the use of digital avatars in more ways, as it seeks to turn these virtual representations into more common interaction tools, in all respects.
The main platform in this regard is virtual reality, with users interacting through their cartoon proxies within fully immersive spaces. But Meta also wants to allow non-VR users to engage in the same way, with the characters they choose to represent themselves becoming a more prominent extension of their personality and presence.
To do that, Meta needs to make its avatars more engaging and customizable, which it’s already doing with the implementation of 3D avatars on Facebook, Messenger, and stickers on Instagram.
And now, Meta is taking the next steps, and some users are now seeing avatar reactions as an option within Instagram Stories.
As you can see in this example, shared by user Pururaj Dutta, some users now see a new prompt to use ‘Emoji’ or ‘Avatar’ reactions in Stories. Tap the ‘Avatar’ option and you’ll be prompted to create your custom avatar character (if you haven’t already) before you’re presented with a variety of custom sticker responses, using your character.
It’s another way to get more users to create custom personas, which, again, is part of Meta’s broader push to make this more common and customary engagement behavior, with an eye toward these representations becoming tea how you represent yourself online.
Which would then have an expanded range of applications.
Interacting within virtual worlds, or the metaverse, is the main thrust, but the broader implementation of custom digital characters will also provide new opportunities for Meta to sell virtual items within its evolving spaces.
For example, Snapchat already has a range of company-sponsored items available for its Bitmoji avatar characters, allowing users to dress their avatars in adidas, Nike and other well-known brands.
It costs nothing, at this time, to outfit your character in these variations of digital clothing, but the eventual expansion of avatar usage will see increased demand for exclusive items and customizations, which platforms will be able to charge for, as people look to adopt variations. more exclusive and elusive that can give them a level of prestige within the virtual environment.
That’s already happening in existing metaverse-type spaces, with limited-edition skins in Fortnite and Roblox allowing users to showcase their experience and skill through earned or purchased clothing and avatar additions.
In fact, a virtual Gucci bag sold for $4,000 on Roblox last yearAnd it is this next-level push that platforms and brands are seeing as a huge opportunity, allowing them to not only promote real-world items through digital representations, but also create a whole new market of fully digital products.
That may seem like a strange concept to many. Why would people pay for a bag that can only be displayed in a digital world, you can’t even open it or put anything in it?
That may be true, but we’re already seeing an emerging market for such items, in the NFT boom, which has subsided a bit more recently, but it serves as an early sign of the next stage of digital commerce, where people will pay to own something that is not physical, but can be attached to your online personality.
Most NFT projects, however, are useless. The NFT market has been rapidly inundated by scammers looking to make a quick buck, rather than providing a new opportunity for artists to make money off of their work, with each scam and controversy further eroding trust in the space, which has converted many “investors”. ‘ far.
I say ‘investors’ because that’s how many NFT enthusiasts see themselves: suddenly all of the tech brothers and Gary Vee acolytes have become art critics who see future value in these unique works, which they think they will appreciate over time. .
But they won’t. The true value of NFTs, as a concept, lies in facilitating the purchase of virtual items that can then be linked to your identity, ideally with the ability to take your virtual items with you across VR realms and spaces, such as using his Roblox Character Skin for a work meeting via Zoom.
In this sense, NFTs have value as a framework, of some kind, for purchasing usable and viewable virtual items. Random profile pictures of monkeys don’t have that value, and Gary Vee’s hand-drawn pictures definitely won’t hold any unique interest beyond his legion of fans.
In essence, today’s NFT collectors are only right about one thing: they are early, entering from scratch in a trend that will become more significant over time. The problem is that the ‘investments’ they’re making now won’t have any real value in the next stage, which is why every NFT project is now trying to add value through benefits and community access, which they don’t It will be worth a lot in the future.
However, NFTs as an infrastructure to buy virtual clothes now have potential, and it is quite possible that owning a virtual Gucci bag that can be attached to your identity has real and measurable value as the use of these avatars and adoption. of virtual worlds expands.
But people won’t visit virtual art galleries or bid on the first edition of Bored Apes. Actually, perhaps Bored Apes has some value as a sign of the times, while Beeple’s works, for example, also have a cultural value that might make them retain some meaning. But the vast majority of profile picture NFT projects will be a fad, a marker of the next stage, but not, in and of themselves, a valuable artifact for the next generation.
But no one wants to miss the boat. Many investors wrote off Facebook early on and missed out on buying, as did Twitter and many other significant technological changes. That’s why people are jumping into NFTs, hoping to hold on to the next stage, and while they’re early in this regard, it’s probably too early to go all out.
But the next level is coming, and digital products will be a thing. Meta seeks to find more ways to drive this change. And eventually, that will work out, one way or another.