In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, businesses are facing an ongoing challenge of enhancing their online presence to meet revenue targets. E-commerce is a primary retail channel, with $1 trillion recorded in 2022, is continuously driving brands to experiment with new digital solutions to stay ahead of the curve. The birth of blockchain technology in 2008 has sparked a true revolution, providing businesses with access to decentralized, immutable, and secure systems that completely transform the way they build and manage their online presence. One of the most exciting innovations to emerge from blockchain technology is the Metaverse, a virtual world where users can interact in a computer-generated environment; from day one, it has established itself as a strong driver behind virtual experience, Web3 and NFT-embodied avatars, all of which create a hook for Gen Z.
Among the latest advancements in this area is the creation of MetaSites, a modular 3D internet framework that leverages Metaverse, cloud, and AI technologies. MetaSites offer a compelling proposition to businesses, as they can help strengthen their brand’s value in a variety of ways. First and foremost, they can be used for brand awareness by creating branded virtual experiences, such as interactive product demos, brand-sponsored games, or virtual pop-up shops. This helps to foster customer engagement, as MetaSites provide businesses with a new way to showcase their products or services within virtual worlds, such as creating a virtual store where customers can try on and purchase virtual versions of their products. Finally, virtual test drive experience enables brands to undergo the trial-and-error stage on the virtual ground, before setting up an actual physical store. These features combined turn MetaSites into a cutting-edge solution for companies that empowers businesses to build and manage their virtual presence with ease and flexibility, allowing them to customize their virtual experiences to suit their brand and marketing objectives.
XLA, a community-driven organization of video game and entertainment industry professionals, has announced the launch of MetaSites, a modular 3D internet framework that leverages metaverse, cloud, and AI technologies. With an initial funding of $100 million, XLA MetaSites enables users to create unique content and transform virtual worlds. The platform’s high-fidelity graphics, instant access through a browser, OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 integration, and ability to semantically analyze text and generate 3D scenes in Unreal Engine 5 make it a versatile tool for creators. XLA believes that the future of the internet lies in 3D and aims to partner with creators and brands from all spheres and industries to build it together. MetaSites will be available for individual creators and enterprise clients through a revenue share model, giving users full control and management of their content. The closed beta is set for summer 2023, with full commercial release expected in Q4 2023.
To explore the benefits of MetaSites and how they can help businesses succeed in the digital world, I spoke with Alexey Savchenko, a Chief Product Officer at XLA. In this exclusive interview, Alexey shares insights into the advantages of Metasites, common misconceptions, and how businesses can get started with this cutting-edge technology.
- To begin with, can you explain what Metasites are and how they work?
>>> Hello everyone! Sure, I think the key here is to take things as simple as they are, not overburdening them with existing metaverse narratives. Metasites are 3D spaces developed with Unreal Engine, deployed online and interconnected between each other. They are exactly what they sound like – evolution of websites in 3-dimensional space. We function pretty much like the internet does: you can build or work with us to help building your own Metasites, which will look like a city, or a shop, or a fantasy land, or whatever you want it to be, and have users visit it for information, fun, communication, commercial activities, brand and IP exposure, etc. Framework we build allows us to develop and deploy Metasites quickly, scale it potentially infinitely and make sure they are in perpetual function, so it’s not time-limited events. Quite literally, it’s a 3D version of the internet, we are trying to reimagine considering all the new tech and changes going on in recent years.
- In what ways do MetaSites offer a competitive advantage over traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and how can businesses leverage this to drive sales and customer engagement?
>>> I wouldn’t really counter those two so much, by which I mean that nothing really stops small family businesses to build small 50 to 50 sqm 3D locations, connect it to Metasites framework and engage users into both digital and additional physical sales. Big part of our mission is actually to provide anyone with capability of using sophisticated technologies like Unreal Engine, AI and emerging online protocols in a very simple fashion, and lower down friction between businesses/creators and online cloud-based 3D ecosystem, to which people sometimes refer to as Metaverse. On the other hand, it’s also important to mention that we are seeing a lot of people moving into virtual spaces for business activities and there is a high chance, businesses can get additional audiences, with higher payment conversions in virtual space. New markets, more capabilities, more revenue, more possibilities for development.
- Can you discuss any potential risks or challenges associated with using MetaSites, and how businesses can mitigate these?
>>> I don’t really see any risk associated with launching a website in 3D — only benefits 🙂 On the challenges, we try to simplify development and operations as much as possible from our end, intending to provide creators and owners closer to the end of the year with a versatile SDK, that will allow us to build Metasites as easily as Wix does it for websites. What is important here, aside from usual practices in Metaverse, to try and build an online game or time-limited event, we are concentrating on building an internet service for everyone to use and as such it exists on the internet, we expect people to use it to different extent. Creators will probably build personal spaces. Small businesses most probably will build small shops and areas to advertise and represent their businesses. Intellectual property oriented businesses will build hubs for communities. Brands and enterprise clients will be looking to build massive portals, campuses, cities and space stations. Each of those endeavours is associated with a different amount of effort and support, but we are ready to help any of them from tech side, vendor recommendation, production, development and integration of cutting edge features.
- How do you see MetaSites integrating with other emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality?
>>> It’s a very good question, and like any tech enthusiasts, we are incredibly intrigued by capabilities and alignment of AI and LLM’s. Personally, I also think that there are too much singular utilisation around AI, which is much more than just a tool, it’s a phenomenon and next-level information based model with potentially unlimited social and humanitarian implementation. At Metasites, we simulate all individual NPC’s and character as a society with simulated 50-100 years of relationships. Characters have their lives in this simulation, they have families and professions, they can create news and inform you of your home if you made some friends among them. This creates a level of modality of conversation that builds more emotion, sincerity and interpersonal relationship, which in its turn opens almost uncharted horizons in creating synthetic media between human agents and AI. We are also trying to include into the SDK everything fun and interesting we see emerging on the market, like professional avatars, innovative way of use of blockchain and data management methods, creative tools between Metasites and existing social networks in all fields of the content. Everything is also in the cloud, so can be used with a variety of interfaces. We initially launch with PC and mobile, but intend to add VR later down the road.
- In your opinion, what industries or types of businesses stand to benefit the most from using MetaSites? Why?
>>> Once again, it’s very different ways for different businesses and individuals to benefit! Content creators can build 3D visualisations of their work, movie producers can deploy their content in networks of cinemas around the Metasites, small businesses can increase their agency and outreach, entertainment can maximise their singular events like festivals and performances, education businesses can present their archive elections and information for users in the form of video and text. In terms of communities, products in development can gradually build embassies of their products in 3D and crowdfund for further development, everyone can experiment with functionalities they might not be able to realise in their core products and of course, power of self-expression in photorealistic 3D, nothing has worked better yet. On the revenue side, we allow businesses to monetize through screen time revenue distribution in smart contracts, which is often largely covered for users by advertisements and loyalty programs by brands. There are also traditional ways to monetize digital item sales, events and referrals through portals between Metasites. Those are effectively hyperlinks, or in some instances, banners in traditional understandings.
- Can you share any insights into how MetaSites can be used for marketing and advertising purposes, beyond just building an online presence?
>>> The big thing here is the combination of personal agency through an avatar and your own personal Metasities (a.k.a your home you can freely modify) and 3D provides a larger immersion factor in communicating with different types of mediums. You can buy an object on the shelf in your house, other people will see it when visiting and you might discuss it as well. Goods and events can be advertised by AI agents or friends and you can gain an instant digital access, because these are cloud locations connected by instant portals. There are dozens of new ways to advertise, especially, through influencers and creators’ activities that are participants in long-term revenue share in those campaigns. It’s an upcoming age of virtual entrepreneurship largely incentivized by advertisement, brands, IP’s and enterprise.
- How do you see MetaSites transforming the e-commerce landscape, and what impact do you anticipate it having on the overall digital economy?
>>> Well, can you imagine Amazon and every “flat” marketplace all of a sudden becoming a vibrant, living city where you can visit any commercial enterprise and see objects you are buying as you see them in real life? Or, how cool it is to be able to communicate with a professional avatar of a creator or any celebrity after buying their products in their personal space? Is there a possibility to create an environment where every creator is entitled to fractional payout after any object re-sell in digital? Revenue share aimed to break gate-kept marketplaces and ensure an honest economy supporting creators and everyone who participates in value creation? I believe that we are on the brink of positive and disruptive changes in e-commerce, that is going to become more open, more liberal, more rewarding to people who create value.
- Can you discuss any ethical considerations or concerns related to the use of MetaSites, particularly in terms of data privacy and security?
>>> It’s once again pretty much the same level of problems the internet has. Once of the key pillars of Metastasis, we keep ownership of each of them at the person or business that built or runs it. In that sense, we build something we shall never own, something for everyone, but we intend to help in keeping this environment growing and provide multiple services for people who will be developing this phenomenon in ages to come. I think that Metasites will be eligible to the same legal restrictions and laws as current websites are, and will evolve its own stipulations in this respect. I mean, should someone be reported of being rude to an AI vendor at someone’s Metasites? I think they should, but maybe that’s just me who thinks that a relatable AI persona should be treated with the same level of respect as a living human being 🙂
- Finally, what advice do you have for businesses who are just starting to explore the potential of MetaSites and want to make the most of this technology?
>>> I would suggest not to overcomplicate it. We all did a horrible job by making Metaverse a horrible mambo-jumbo barely understood by anyone, with all that interoperability, open standards and complex tech issues. People who use the internet are not very much interested in TCP/IP and tiers of providers, guys. People mostly just want to use something cool for good stuff, and Metasites are essentially just 3D websites on steroids, interconnected, you can infinitely travel and do lots of fun while you are there. As a business or creator, you can try to get in touch with us so we can build you one, or we can just get you guidelines and tech requirements, you can download an Unreal Engine and build it yourself, we will deploy and operate it for you. Maybe, forever 🙂 In the near future, with SDK being out, you won’t even need this process, you will be able to get it, set it, and build the 3D space of your dreams in days and make sure everyone can engage with it.