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2022: The Year Digital Avatars Take Precedence Over Physical Forms

Ready Player One, the 2011 dystopian science fiction novel where a virtual reality game becomes the way of life, was set in the year 2045. In reality, our journey towards that acceptance starts next year. 2022, the year early adopters, influencers and brands officially normalise metaverses, avatars, skins, virtual experiences and a full-fledged digital life.

The Rise Of Metaverses - Meta, Microsoft, The Sandbox, Decentraland to Star Atlas are just the tip of the iceberg. The bonus match made in coded heaven (or hell depending upon which side of the debate you’re on) are Web3 applications that are slowly not only making blockchain technology a norm but proclaiming to be the solution of privacy encroachment, government regulated WWW comes with.

And just like the rise of thousands of cryptocurrency in the last two years, atleast a good hundred will emerge as metaverse dominators. On the internet earlier there was one all encompassing university where everyone had to study, now the Harvards, Oxfords and NUS’s of the world will be formed. Now there soon will be an exotic island metaverse, think Squid Game without the violence where only the top 1% can come on their virtual yachts and hangout in their million dollar cottages. To be fair, it will also be extensively used to solve operational glitches in real time in business, medicine and art. Anheuser-Busch InBev is already using metaverse applications to upgrade its operations by creating a detailed virtual model of their breweries and supply chain that concurrently syncs with the physical structures.

Apart from gamers who were already neck deep in virtual worlds, for the everyday people the move from the open internet and social media as we know it to these fancy closed metaverses is at least three years away. The real base though of the next decade's virtual skins and Jumanji lives begins in 2022 with a dozen virtual real estate corporations already in play.

The Hybrid Permanency - The first human coronavirus was found in the 1960s NOT 2019. Unfortunately Omicron won’t be the last and endemic will take a little more time. Also take into account the mass resignations in the US and now slowly spreading in the EU. After facing the crisis of a lifetime, people are actively desiring work-life balance and a bigger purpose than a Groundhog Day of robotic cubicles. You really can’t go back to the mechanical office grind especially after 18 months have proven - the quality and revenue doesn’t discriminate.

Does WFH work? Ford Motor informed 30,000 of its global employees this year that they can continue to work from home… indefinitely. Ford’s share price before the pandemic started in December 2019 was $9.3, their share price this December 2021 is literally more than twice at $20.8.

This 2022 a lot of corporates will try to get everyone compulsorily back in office, and in the process lose some of their best resources to competitors who understand the need of hybrid workplaces. Which as a direct result will keep giving a big boost to better residential, home decor, furniture and new tech gadget purchases. And it is not just about 9-5 jobs, so many categories are experimenting with AI run assistants from the other side of the planet, sometimes for the paucity of time and sometimes money. A surgeon to architect both are taking the help of robots and in future anyway won’t always be needed ON site.

The Cybersecurity Cyclone - Cryptocurrency scams and digital thefts will only become more aggressive in 2022 and with that especially for mid tier users cybersecurity will become a necessity. If you’re a Japanese startup with digital assets or a virtual individual art collector in Kenya, you both equally need specialists to protect yourselves from faceless threats that can effortlessly break and enter Prime Minister and President’s accounts. Gates, Bezos, Musk to Modi, most of the biggest names in the world had their social media handles hacked at least once since the pandemic began.

Easily expect the era of well funded digital security startups to keep coming at the speed last decade saw ecommerce growth. Digital insurance in a few years they will be akin to getting an annual health insurance. These firms will be expected to filter hacks, data thefts, leaks, NFT art verification and plausible scams by verifying crypto assets. [Side note: Cryptocurrency will never actually become a currency for the simple reason, when ten billionaires and gullible mobs control the financial market it shall perpetually be unstable for every single country in the world to predict, control or drive the economy BUT it is a good asset like modern gold especially for metaverses and nothing can change that].

NFT Brand Collabs Will Be The New Trend - When TikTok erupted from Gucci to UNDP, everyone went there to make 15 seconds of digestible content. No one wanted to be known as the baby boomer brand and that’s precisely what will overflow 2022 with - while only major global billion dollar firms were launching their limited editions through the pandemic, with the valuation surge 2021 saw, from big domestic brands, celebrities to humble startups next year will see a magnificent rise in those tokens, some for campaigns, some charity and some sheer old school FOMO.

Netflix Black Mirror skins, auctioning of vintage Ferrari’s and Apple virtualpods will soon be a reality. Of course there will be a lot of fake art created with valuable brand identity and the system needs to come together to find a way around it but for now, well, buyers just need to be wary of not buying those Prada sneakers for 5ETH if Prada itself doesn’t have an officially verified seller profile. By the end of next year there is also a big possibility of them trying to find an offline blend where NFT’s will be used as real world loyalty programs too.

The last decade saw two camps, one that wanted to make Earth better and the other who wanted to relocate to Mars. The coming one will see a third route of a virtual matrix-like world where cloud space will see a boom.

The tricky bit? Not allowing the wealth disparity spiral to impossibility once this new world starts taking shape. The magical bit? If strategically planned from day one, it can actually solve a lot of limited resource issues by getting most global work done with a headset, broadband and beverage of your choice.

Abhik Choudhury Global Brand Consultant


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