Instead, it purchased digital real estate in Decentraland, a blockchain-based game that allows players to interact with each other through virtual avatars in a 3D virtual world and buy land within this virtual world, and even sell or rent it to other brands or individuals.
The virtual space Atom bought is now the company’s metaverse office, which it hopes to use to reach out to global clients and use as a place for ‘metaverse’ events and interactions too in the near future.
Yash Kulshreshtha, the national creative head of Mumbai-based firm, says those in their early 30s are already too old for today’s internet. He believes that much like how the older generation found the shift from newspapers to online articles drastic, the ‘90s generation is today content with what the present internet, or Web 2.0, already offers.
While the company has four virtual avatars to cater to this virtual space right now, Kulshreshtha says that one day, this facility could become just as valuable as the agency’s physical office – and in fact help the company expand its footprint beyond India. “The thing with the metaverse is that the young generation growing up today will find it completely natural,” he insists.
The ‘metaverse’, as of today, remains a vaguely defined and understood area of technology. While some, such as Meta (erstwhile Facebook), Nvidia, Microsoft and the likes have showcased virtual worlds with avatars that resemble the real person, items scaled to the real world, replication of actual areas, roads and much more, others have often used the ‘metaverse’ as a catch phrase given all the hype and attention around it.
In the distant future, the metaverse is supposed to be a single virtual world which runs parallel to our physical world, akin to worlds imagined in movies like Ready Player One.
Atom is just one among the many event management companies that are exploring this space.
In January 2022, Punjab-based events agency, Cryptic Entertainments, hosted what they claimed to be ‘India’s first metaverse concert’ on Ethereum-based 3D virtual platform, Somnium Space. About 30 individuals ‘attended’ the concert by 23-year-old Indian singer, Sparsh Dangwal. Since then, India has also seen its first ‘metaverse wedding’.
Such events show a rising trend of curiosity among individuals and organisers alike in terms of exploring a new technology. As Gautam Seth, co-founder and director of virtual event company Dreamcast Global, said, “Over the past year or so, there are many event companies in India that are trying to understand how the metaverse can apply to events. Some of the early movers are looking at ready metaverse platforms such as Decentraland and Spatial, and use their non-fungible token (NFT) avatars for their characters to design an event.”
Dinesh Dulhani, founder of Immersive Realities, a firm that develops immersive virtual experiences, adds a similar narrative. Over the past decade, Dulhani has offered virtual reality (VR)-based experiences in events that involve product showcases, or converted an audio-visual clip into a VR one. Today, Dulhani says that there is an increasing volume of attention in this space, for sure. “I have received enquiries and interest from the Singapore-based Publicis Group regarding hosting a metaverse event, and I have pitched such ideas to many of my clients as well,” he said.
Atom’s Kulshreshtha said that as of now, he has received queries from an Indian e-commerce platform regarding creating a metaverse platform, and has also pitched a metaverse concept to an FMCG brand regarding one of their promotional activities. Such plans, though, are still in early-stage conversations – showcasing the flipside of the ‘metaverse’ buzzword.
“Numerous brands are looking at a slightly toned-down solution, or more of a VR experience rather than the full-scale metaverse experience that platforms such as Decentraland provide. These brands typically want more control over what an attendee in their virtual event can do,” said Seth.
Alongside brands being conscious of what these experiences can bring to the table, Seth further said the technology is also a hindrance. “Today, the basic cardboard-like VR headsets are not good enough for metaverse events, because they are not really interactive. As an organizer, I cannot expect all individuals attending a metaverse event to have an Oculus Rift or similar VR headsets, along with a powerful computer, at home,” he added.
Dulhani, in fact, believes that even over the next couple of years, even as more companies express interest in ‘metaverse’ events, the experience will largely remain a non-VR one. “Back when Facebook acquired Oculus, everyone thought VR has arrived. But it still failed to get large-scale adoption from consumers, because of the issues with the headset. Over the past 4-5 years, VR has seen increasing adoption in enterprise use cases and gaming, but for it to become truly mainstream, the hardware has to evolve a lot,” he said.
To sum up, Kulshreshtha believes it is obviously a nascent phase for agencies and companies exploring the metaverse. “It may seem like a small augmentation of the virtual interaction experience that we have today, but for the generation that will follow us, interacting through a metaverse workplace will feel more natural. Such opportunities will let us advertise our products well beyond our present market, and take our agency global,” Kulshreshtha said.
“Look at Nike’s investment in RTFKT. If such big brands are making a push for NFTs and the metaverse, there’s definitely a big scope in the industry,” he added.