In recent months, the metaverse has become an increasingly popular buzzword. Companies are building metaverse platforms and exploring unique ways of engaging consumers within these new digital landscapes. Influencer marketing likely will remain an important tactic to grow engagement within the metaverse.
An important precursor to full immersion in this space is the gradual rise of virtual influencers–lifelike personas that CGI artists, digital agencies (and sometimes even artificial intelligence) create and manage. The most well-known example is Li’l Miquela, though there are several others.
Some brands are embracing virtual influencers. They can command as strong a following as actual human influencers, while presenting much lower risk and expense. After all, virtual influencers do not need to be flown across the country, put in hotels, fed meals or given per diems.
However, brands and agencies still must be cautious. They should understand legal issues that arise during both human-driven and virtual influencer campaigns in the metaverse.
In addition to sponsored posts, virtual influencers frequently create organic social content for themselves. As such, some have established more risqué personas than others. As with human influencers, companies considering working with virtual influencers should carefully vet their prior social media activity. In addition, companies should check the virtual influencer’s previous endorsements, ensuring there is no image-tarnishing material.
In addition, while it is easier to manage a virtual influencer’s behavior than a human’s, it is still a good idea to include a morals clause within contracts for virtual influencers. This allows the company to terminate if the virtual influencer engages in unexpected behavior that might cause reputation damage.
As brands venture deeper into the metaverse, the prevalence of virtual influencers likely will increase. Some brands may create dedicated virtual influencers. When considering this strategy, communication professionals must consider how virtual influencers will organically accumulate sufficient followers to meaningfully benefit the brand.
Certain companies purport to sell ‘followers’ to social media accounts. However, be warned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and multiple state regulators have shuttered much of this activity in recent years.
For example, in a high-profile case against Devumi, LLC, regulators stopped the company from creating thousands of fake accounts and selling them to influencers. The influencers used them to fraudulently inflate their followers, view counts and other engagement metrics.
The driving force behind all influencer marketing regulation is the principle that influencers must disclose when they have a material connection with brands they promote. For instance, influencers are required to disclose this information through clear and understandable disclosures–such as #ad or #sponsored. Effective disclosures will continue to be a defining requirement for influencers, human or virtual, who create content on behalf of brands within metaverse platforms.
Brands also must consider transparency with respect to disclosing that the influencer is not a real person. For years, Li’l Miquela posted as a real person.
Today, it is common for virtual influencers to prominently identify themselves as being robots or otherwise artificial creations. The FTC has not issued guidance on this issue, but it seems a good bet that regulators would expect virtual influencers to disclose that they are not real people. Such information could sway consumers’ perceptions or conclusions about the influencer’s endorsements.
Since a robot cannot taste, how reliable is its opinion about the taste of Brand X’s new snack product? Wouldn’t such a post be deceptive? For this reason, it is recommended that virtual influencers disclose not only their material connection with a brand, but also that they are not real people.
Until new influencer marketing regulations emerge that focus specifically on the metaverse, brands must continue to be cognizant of and apply present-day marketing regulations to the metaverse.
In 2021, three otherwise unassuming letters would upend the worlds of cryptocurrency, technology, art, and pop culture all at once. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, were propelled into the mainstream after an unprecedented $69.4 million sale at the historic art auction house Christie‘s in New York City.
The sale of digital artist Beeple‘s Everydays at Christie’s for $69.4 million marked the beginning of a seemingly unstoppable NFT wave, where everyone from digital artists to mainstream celebrities like Paris Hilton, Mark Cuban, Steve Aoki and many others began creating, selling, and collecting NFTs via cryptocurrency on the Blockchain.
While NFTs initially focused on the importance of ownership of digital assets, they soon also became part of a social movement where groups of creators and collectors began communities based on buying and selling NFTs. Some early examples of these groups include CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, but many more have since risen in popularity as the world of NFTs continues to expand and propels new digital artists, like 17-year-old Diana Sinclaire, to international fame.
Will the rise of the metaverse see a move to not only wearing VR goggles, but full body suits to feel the wind, fresh water and even to act as the protagonist in our favourite movie?
Time will tell. But the sense of reality companies eventually develop, and how people react, will be key for companies, fund managers and investors to capitalise on what has been called the next big disruption – the metaverse.
In the keynote address at Citywire Montreux 2022, researcher and broadcaster Stephanie Hare delved into the tricky questions that surround the great push towards virtual, augmented or mixed realities.
The military’s version of a metaverse doesn’t quite align with Mark Zuckerberg and Meta’s vision for a virtual world for us to inhabit.
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Credit: Red 6
Using augmented reality (AR), two fighter pilots completed a high-altitude drill a few thousand feet high over the desert of California on May 10th. Flying a pair of Berkut 540 jets and donning custom AR headsets, the pilots were shown virtual refueling aircraft in the sky, allowing one of the pilots to practice a refueling maneuver with the virtual aircraft.
The augmented and virtual reality (VR) technology, head-mounted displays and artificial intelligence (AI) powered environments being developed by Red 6 allow pilots to take part in virtual dog fights against enemy aircraft and more while pulling several G’s. Red 6 is developing a platform that will allow them to display various scenarios in AR and VR, while using lower latency and higher reliability hardware than consumer-grade AR and VR headsets.
“We can fly against whatever threat we want. And that threat could be controlled either by an individual remotely or by artificial intelligence. What we’re building is really a military metaverse. It’s like a multiplayer video game in the sky,” says Daniel Robinson, founder and CEO of Red 6.
AR and VR have become staples of military training of late in projects like Project Avenger and Project BlueShark. Now, the military is setting its sights on integrating various technologies to create more interconnected virtual systems, and recently held a high-level conference in a virtual environment attended by more than 250 people from across the world.
“It is an extremely complex type of simulation, especially given the fidelity that the military demands. You can either have live players who are participating in the simulation or [characters] can be AI-enabled, which is often what the military does,” said Caitlin Dohrman, general manager of the defense division of Improbable, a company that develops virtual world technologies.