Angus Stevens, chair of AMAC, thinks Australian organisations are well-positioned to capitalise on metaverse possibilities, but are missing out on its potential by confusing future states of the metaverse with current opportunities.
Marketing Mag speaks to Stevens about the launch of AMAC, his own projects in the space and the opportunities leaders should be keeping in mind.
“The biggest single upside is knowledge retention. That, to me, is the biggest thing that the metaverse offers. It allows people to remember stuff that they otherwise would not,” he says.
Virtual opportunities presented by the metaverse
Stevens says we should stop focusing exclusively on innovative content forms when thinking of the metaverse, since the ways people engage with it are also important. He points out that most people hear the term ‘metaverse’ and think of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) headsets and avatars, but the technology is far more accessible than that. Desktop and mobile devices facilitate detailed exploration of virtual models, even on a traditional screen.
He points to IKEA and Nike as major brands that publicly showcase virtual products, but celebrates its use for highly technical products that can be disassembled and examined in ways that aren’t possible in a physical reality, citing internal air-conditioning parts as an example.
But beyond passive consumer interaction with virtual products, Stevens sees business-to-business (B2B) interactions as more fruitful marketing avenues for metaverse investment, as experiences and environments can be tailored to enhance client relationships.
“The big opportunity right now is around educating brands, and educating people through those brands, in an experience whereby it’s a really cool way of learning about the product,” he says.
“So, you can transport someone into a totally different environment, or you can use AR to make a 3D visualisation of your product, or of your brand identity, and then engage with folks that way.”
An advisory council for the metaverse
On the value of AMAC, Stevens has plenty to say: “There are a lot of folks in Australia who are working within this space in different ways, and yet the energy hasn’t been harnessed within the lens of a uniquely Australian perspective.”
He believes many enterprises, academic institutions and government bodies creating virtual and mixed realities need practical assistance from an Australian body without commercial interest.
“The whole point of AMAC is to advocate, educate and advise,” he says.
“We’re about actually being in the industry right now and being able to show tangible ways of being able to use [the metaverse] right now. But, also to point out the difference between a future state and an immediate state, and to allow people to have that knowledge, so that they can make the right decisions about what they want their business to do.”
Confusion around existing opportunities of virtual and mixed realities has created metaverse hesitancy in the Australian market, but Stevens says Australian brands shouldn’t wait.
“There’s a pathway to the metaverse that companies can begin now. [Just like] social media had early adopters that reaped the rewards of it and those who didn’t, the metaverse is the same,” he says.
Stevens’ own virtual and mixed realities
In 2015 Stevens co-founded Start Beyond, a company that specialises in VR and AR products, and he has been CEO for the past two years.
Among other endeavours, Start Beyond develops bespoke, high-end marketing campaigns and educational courses that exist within the platform it has created: Oncio. A recent educational project that Stevens is proud to have delivered is Start Beyond’s work with St John Ambulance, an accredited VR course that simulates medical emergencies.
“It was rolled out in Victoria and then off the back of the success of that, it’s now being rolled out nationally. And that’s a program that allows people to get certified first aid training through our platform,” says Stevens.
Other noteworthy projects have included VR-based therapy simulations, climate change resilience training for farmers and de-escalation practice for aged care staff.
Content development for all programs is guided by subject matter experts, and Stevens encourages organisations to embrace the current state of the metaverse so that more projects with such social benefit can be brought into practice.
Images attributed to Start Beyond and Angus Stevens.