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3 Ways the Pandemic Is Influencing the Metaverse Boom

By Kristi Waterworth – Jan 3, 2022 at 8:30AM

Key Points

  • The pandemic took a lot from the average person, leaving them longing for an easier world.
  • In the metaverse, any number of worlds and mirror experiences to those in real life can exist.
  • Because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19, the metaverse is filling a lot of social gaps, creating a constant stream of new interest.

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Adoption of the metaverse was inevitable, but the pandemic sped the timeline up by years. Social, educational, and economic opportunities are abundant.

Many of us wish we could turn back the clock, reset the world to a simpler time, a time before the words "COVID-19" and "pandemic" were part of daily conversation. Wouldn't it be great if there was a world where touching a stranger might not mean risking a potentially life-threatening illness? People miss life the way it was before the coronavirus pandemic upended social life as we knew it.

It just so happens that we have that power, of a sort, and our need to escape a pandemic-burdened world is propelling us forward into a disease-free alternative reality. Of course, I mean that we're all headed into the metaverse to do almost anything imaginable, both exotic and routine.

The pandemic has had a huge influence on the metaverse real estate boom, although we may not fully realize it.

Artist rendering of a virtual concert, with a band and an audience.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. The pandemic made work a "will they or won't they" situation

Since the initial pandemic lockdowns in the U.S. during spring 2020, businesses have been largely on a "will they or won't they" level of commitment to bringing back physical work. Obviously, some companies aren't able to go without physical workers, but for those who have office workers and others who can work from home, the debate about when it's safe to return, and if people should return to work full-time at all, is still ongoing.

Business owners argue that being in one place keeps workers more productive and capable of spontaneous collaboration, but workers hold most of the cards with labor shortages abundant. They're still not sure they want to go back to communal spaces with people who may be sick with COVID-19.

The metaverse is a solid compromise that can remain consistent over the long term, no matter the COVID status of other workers. Case in point, eXp Realty has been holding virtual meetings in a metaverse space since 2016, complete with meeting rooms, places agents can wander, and plenty of areas for networking and mingling. If Realtors, some of the most social creatures on the planet, can find a way to bring real-world work into a virtual space, anybody can do it.

2. Kids are missing a lot of school due to COVID exposure

School is a hot-button topic, and while there are many thoughts on how it should or could be handled during this pandemic, the fact is that it's important to any discussion about the future of the metaverse.  Students have been sent home to quarantine repeatedly during 2021 alone due to potential exposure to COVID-19 from staff and other students. This kind of thing interrupts their learning and makes it difficult for kids to keep up with the goals set in their classrooms.

What if their schools went online? Not just online classes as flat, un-engaging discussion boards, but in a way that mimics real-world experience? Although Second Life, one of the earliest experiments in virtual worlds, struggled to attract educators and students in the early to mid-2000s, times were different and neither students nor teachers were the digital natives that they are now, 14 years since Second Life hit its peak user count.

But Roblox is giving it another go, having recently announced a $10 million fund to help support online learning development for anyone in the STEM space. Its goal is to reach 100 million K-12 students worldwide by 2030, but it is already running educational programs that have about 7 million kids enrolled, proving that metaverse school is absolutely possible.

3. Concerts are only cancelled in the real world

Online concerts and other social events have been making a hesitant comeback, but with the significant risk of last-minute cancellation. That's not the case for the impressive number moving to the metaverse, however. Before the pandemic, only 45% of people had been to a virtual event like a concert or experience, but since then, 87% have at least tried one out. For people who miss the sheer adrenaline rush of being in a packed amphitheater with people who share the same passion as them, virtual events are a fantastic bridge.

Not only do they save the person attending a risk of COVID exposure, but they also keep artists and event staff safe, too. No social distancing is required when there aren't any physical people involved, but you still get all the fun of a concert, performance, or near-to-real-life experience. Many people are struggling to find their feet in a world where simply attending an event and being in too close proximity to someone with COVID can land them in bed for two weeks, or worse. Virtual events eliminate all the risk and leave all the reward.

The metaverse was inevitable, but the pandemic helped

There is no doubt that the metaverse as a mirror to real life was inevitable, with friends and family constantly scattering to the winds as they chase better jobs, opportunities to own homes, and other goals. Social media is great for staying in touch, but it leaves a lot to be desired. A mirror world where things are as real as you want them to be was already the answer to that problem, but as long as it was safe and easy to travel, only a few people explored the metaverse as a social alternative.

It's easy to see how the pandemic pushed the metaverse along on its adoption timeline, much like it did for other settled, but growing, tech revolutions, like eCommerce. The entire world is looking at ways to use metaverse platforms to fulfill social needs that have been neglected at home, work, and school. This spells a huge opportunity for anyone who makes smart investments in these brave new worlds.

Kristi Waterworth has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Roblox Corporation and eXp World Holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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