In our last blog, we peered into the near future and outlined how flexibility would be our mantra for 2022. Today, we’re looking a little further ahead at some of the ways in which the Metaverse
might impact how travel operators (airlines and cruise lines) engage and interact with their passengers and guests.
The novel Ready Player One, published in 2011 and adapted to the big screen in 2018 (and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg) grossed $582 million worldwide at the box office and offered a vision of the year 2045, a dystopian future where humans escape the physical world in favor of a more agreeable virtual one: The Oasis. In the Oasis – a vast network of artificial worlds accessed via the internet using 3D eyewear and haptic accessories – people could travel to sandy beaches, far away planets, or even hang out right inside their favorite movie or video game. They could carefully curate their own avatars, selecting their preferred physical appearance, designing their own outfits, homes, and transport. People went to school and even worked full-time jobs inside the Oasis, rarely disconnecting from it at all.
In October 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company would rebrand itself as Meta, a reflection of its new focus on the Metaverse – which is touted as the next iteration of the internet, and which is eerily similar to the Oasis described in Ready Player One. In a founder’s letter published October 28th, Zuckerberg told the world about his vision:
“The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.
The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, META
Whether you think Zuckerberg is an iconic visionary or evil genius (opinions will vary), it’s safe to say if he’s bought into the Oasis… oops… the Metaverse as the internet’s future, then we need to take it seriously.
CNBC reports that the Metaverse – with billions of dollars already being poured into it – will be one of the world’s largest infrastructure projects and that a thriving job market will already exist within it by the end of this year. Companies from all sectors and around the world are already staking their claim within this new virtual ecosystem, seeking to leverage the rich brand engagement opportunities that it presents.
So what does all this mean for travel, and more specifically, the inflight entertainment industry?
“The Metaverse will ultimately mean three things for travel,” says Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of 311 Institute, a global futures thinktank and consultancy based in London. “Firstly, your travel entertainment could literally and virtually be anything you like so long as the content creators allow it. Secondly, it could augment the experiences at both your final destination as well as be used to augment your pre-travel destination previews including the existing trend of destination entertainment where cities (such as Dubai) create Hollywood-like films and content to entice you to visit. Thirdly it might make some travel redundant – after all why travel when you can experience the universe from your living room.”
And that’s only the beginning.
There are use cases happening already within the aviation industry. Boeing announced recently that it will build aircraft in the metaverse as part of a $15 billion digital revamp. From an entertainment perspective, Screen Daily published an article (just days after Zuckerberg’s rebranding announcement) that urges the film industry to prepare for a major shift in how they’ll need to target and engage audiences in this new era of the internet.
“The Metaverse is the next big frontier of the internet, and the framework is already being built. Producers at majors and independent studios should be asking questions of what the metaverse is, how they can get involved and what it could be before these become really pressing issues,” said John Canning, who recently stepped down as executive producer of new media and experiential at Digital Domain. “We need an entire suite of interchange standards and tools, protocols, formats, and services which enable persistent and ubiquitous virtual simulations,” he said. “It’s arguably the most important aspect of the entire metaverse project,” he added.
Interestingly, Digital Domain is a visual effects firm and production company co-founded by Avatar director James Cameron. It also created some of the virtual special effects for Ready, Player One.
At West Entertainment, we strongly believe that the allure of real-life adventure and authentic experience will always mean a thriving travel industry. But soon, we will have many new ways to engage with passengers, both onboard and day-to-day. Travel brands will have new ways to draw people into a world of their design, and possibly even meet customers in a world of their own imagination. There will be new ways to create loyalty and interaction, to inspire and excite, and to augment the experiences of the physical world.
“Content will be at the heart of the Metaverse,” explains Eric Silverstein, VP of Operations and Technology Solutions here at West Entertainment. “While the concept is still in its infancy and most current predictions are speculative at best, travel brands and content creators alike should already be thinking about how they plan to engage with their customers in virtual reality. Considering that the Metaverse will likely be filled with content that has been created by millions of different users (individuals, companies, institutions and even governments) it’s going to be an incredibly competitive space. We should all be thinking about how this is going to affect our content and engagement strategies now.”
As a key connector between travel operators, content producers and the trends that shape our industry, West Entertainment is following this topic carefully. We’re committed to supporting the integration of more immersive content into the travel environment and helping our customers and studio partners adapt and plan for the future.
Get in touch with us at Hello@westent.com!