Despite having been created in 1992, by author Neal Stephenson in the book Snow Crash ( Snow Crash , in Brazil), the term metaverse only started to enter the vocabulary of Brazilians last year.
According to Google Trends, a tool that shows people’s interest in the search engine, the concept had very low search volumes until September 2021. Everything changed in October, with the announcement that, until then, Facebook, the company that owned the eponymous social network , would be called Meta , precisely to refer to the metaverse.
In November, curiosity about the subject reached its peak, with research related to questions such as “ metaverse what is ”, “ what is the metaverse ”, “ facebook metaverse ” and “ metaverse meaning ”.
With the sudden increase in searches, the market for solutions for this virtual reality has come to a boil. According to Bloomberg estimates , the expectation is that funds that trade investments related to the metaverse could reach US$ 80 billion (about R$ 372 billion at the current price) by 2024.
And one of the initiatives that most attract attention in this sense is the virtual characters of real celebrities in the metaverse.
Digital influencer or digital influencer?
One of the cases that had the most repercussions in recent weeks is that of influencer Lucas Rangel. With 10.6 million YouTube subscribers and over 19 million Instagram followers , he is one of the top personalities on the Brazilian internet.
In March, Rangel announced “Luks”, a virtual character in the metaverse who has physical characteristics very similar to those of the influencer. At the time, he revealed that he spent R$240,000 to create Luks , which is one of the first projects by LR Tech, the technology arm of LR Contents, a company commanded by Rangel.
Rangel talked to TecMundo about the project and explained why he decided to bet on the project. He says he realized that the metaverse is a global trend and that because he felt that the concept represents a major “turn of the key”, he decided to invest (a lot of) money in it.
A post shared by LUCAS RANGEL (@lucasranngel)“He [Luks] will be able to do everything an influencer does and more, since the metaverse is an online universe and online anything is possible. So the most exciting thing about Luks is his ability to do anything”, comments Rangel.Rangel says that the character, who already has more than 250,000 followers on Instagram, was born out of a natural process of technological revolution. To remember how things change, he cites having started his work as an influencer on Vine, a platform that no longer exists , whose audience was absorbed by TikTok.“ The internet and society will go through these transformations. And all that we are doing, in relation to the metaverse, is just the beginning ”, guarantees the influencer.
The metaverse already exists
Asked about the risks of investing in a solution that still does not reach the general public, Rangel justifies that the act of being a pioneer can precisely help make the commercial movement profitable.“I always say that ‘whoever comes first, drinks the clean water’. The idea of having arrived first is that we can help in the creation of the concept, help to popularize and consequently be steps ahead of those who arrive later”, he said.”Whoever arrives first, drinks the clean water”.Rangel argues that the universe of influencers is already a big deal and remembers Lil Miquela. She is a 19-year-old virtual character who lives in Los Angeles, has more than 3 million followers on Instagram and talks about fashion, lifestyle and defends political agendas such as rights for the LGBTQIA+ community .
Miquela, who is of Brazilian descent, has starred in campaigns for major designer brands, attends big parties and even has a boyfriend. In an interview with Estadão , in 2019, she explained that she had memories implanted and that she listens to carioca funk, samba and bossa-nova.“I believe that beauty comes from difference. I am not in favor of substituting anything (or being) for anything else. I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned from the humans in my life. They give me space to be different. So I love doing the same for them,” the influencer replied via email about whether digital characters will replace real influencers.Like Miquela, Rangel says that Luks is already seen as a real person by his fans. He claims that Luks already has a captive audience that interacts, messaging directly to the virtual character asking what he’s up to .
Finally, the young man says that Luks will make his first advertising campaign soon and that other contracts are already being negotiated with brands. In addition, to further foster the sector of influencers in the metaverse, Rangel says that his brother should do “collabs” with Rayane, the digital character of the influencer Isaías, for example.
Presenter and digital influencer Nyvi Estephan is another personality who has entered this market. Speaking to TecMundo , she responds that Nalla, her “sister” in the metaverse, came about after she thought about the myriad of possibilities that technology offers.“I see all things that are inaccessible to the real world, but infinite in the virtual world. The pandemic has accelerated tech connections and taken a step back from physical connections. It made travel and distance more complex, whereas in the metaverse teleportation takes place in the blink of an eye,” says Estephan.The influencer says that Nalla has grown a lot as a character and that although many people still “turn up their noses”, her followers “are loving” the character. According to her, her audience, which is mostly made up of video game players , is already used to role-playing in role-playing games (RPGs) and avatar customization and that’s why they understand what it’s like to have a virtual life.
The young woman says she believes that Nalla has great potential to grow alone, but that because she has the same surname Estephan, the image of the two will always be linked. “The idea is that we make this noise together. I with her and she with me”.
Setbacks of a female influencer
If, on the one hand, Nyvi Estephan is very excited about the new venture, on the other hand, she is also concerned. She argues that virtual characters, such as Lu do Magalu , can achieve great stardom, but admits that in the case of the metaverse there are still limitations .“I don’t think it will be anytime soon [that virtual characters will reach the same popularity as real influencers], as it’s still an expensive technology to produce. So I think it’s going to be a while before we have a lot of virtual influencers,” he said.Another point mentioned is the character’s own gender condition. Even if it doesn’t exist in our concrete world, Nalla’s image must suffer from misuse, which in a way makes her and Nyvi victims of a kind of virtual harassment and machismo .
“I made all her image and property records, precisely to avoid the possibility of people trying to misuse her. In addition to her having my features, which, under the law, is another layer of protection so that her image is not used without my permission. My lawyers are ready so that she never suffers anything like I did”, concludes the influencer.
The new metaverse market seemed exciting even to established personalities with large television audiences. This is the case of Satiko , the avatar of presenter Sabrina Sato that was developed by the company Biobots.In an interview with Forbes , the famous explained that her virtual character has a different profile than hers. Satiko’s “mission”, in this case, is to reach new audiences for the presenter. “Satiko will help me create totally new experiences, for example, she plays sports that I don’t, she will be in places where I can’t be. She will have a much freer, looser personality,” Sabrina said.Another well-known figure to the public who gained a digital colleague was presenter Amaury Jr. Known as one of the leading gossip columnists on Brazilian television, he entered the metaverse with AJ, a 38-year-old avatar who is also a presenter and reporter.
AJ, which was developed by Meta Bots, was defined as a “child of technology”. “With his master Amaury Jr., he will have interactions during his schedules, but AJ has a life of his own and promises to shake the metaverse universe and reality”, reveals his description.Another interesting initiative was kicked off by Flávio Tavares and his partners. He is CEO of Upper, a company that promotes investments in education, and founder of Escola do Metaverso. Self-titled as the “first school of the metaverse in Brazil”, the entity aims to understand and stimulate debates on all the possibilities brought by the new concept.“We had been studying the subject for some time and we decided to formalize a school in December 2021, shortly after the announcement that Facebook would change its name to Meta. We launched an event and had over 4,000 people registered organically. There, we realized that there was a need to expand knowledge on the subject”, says Flávio to TecMundo .Flávio Tavares, founder of Escola do Metaverso.Tavares reveals that almost R$ 1 million was invested in the creation, dissemination, marketing and sales of Escola do Metaverso. The institution offers courses on the market and tools used by technology, and for this purpose it sought out Brazilian professionals and academics who were already working on the concept.The founder of the school says that another purpose of the group is precisely to democratize the metaverse through conversations and the promotion of several of the ideas that are emerging.“We believe that one of the ways to popularize the concept is through education. The school comes with this intention, to be able to create a movement to debate the metaverse. That’s why we don’t just offer courses, but we have three events scheduled, we’re going to launch a book about it, we intend to create an investment fund for startups that invest in the market and much more”, cites Tavares.
Is it possible to make money from the metaverse?
The metaverse is still in its infancy as a technology , but it is believed to have a lot of potential. Furthermore, as influencers and investors show, there is already an entire economy revolving around these digital products and services.“The market is very promising and the trend is for more and more opinion makers to develop their own ‘digital influencer’ or ‘avatar’ in the metaverse, for example. In the specific case of Lucas Rangel, it is possible to imagine that he will indeed have a return on investment”, guarantees Gian Montebro, investment advisor at iHUB Investimentos, to TecMundo .In addition to characters formed by bytes, he recalls that the new virtual reality has come to join another sector that is already increasingly established. The so-called cryptoassets, which are digital assets (goods that generate some kind of value), such as bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, moved more than US$ 6 billion (R$ 28 billion) in Brazil alone in 2021.And one of the “fads” these days is non-fungible tokens (NFTs) . Montebro cites basketball player Stephen Curry as an example, who released a collection of NFTs over each of his nearly 3,000 NBA 3-pointers. One of the stickers was sold for US$ 2,800 (R$ 13,000), with all the proceeds from the tokens going to charities.“One way to invest in this universe is to buy, for example, shares in companies that are directly or indirectly linked to the metaverse. Another way is to make the same movement in crypto [currencies], some currencies linked to games, have already had a strong appreciation and the trend is that, with the increase of users in the metaverse, this is just the beginning”, defends Montebro.
But is the metaverse a fad?
Despite pointing out how promising the metaverse and other cryptocurrencies are, Montebro suggests caution with the matter. He states that there is a risk of investing in these solutions because it is still too early to know what the future of the enterprise is. In addition, he points out that just like any investment, there is a risk that things will go wrong and people will lose money. However, he makes a point of remembering the other side of the equation.“Any and every innovative technology, when gaining mainstream media, makes us think that it has been working for a long time by large companies, especially in the case of Facebook. When we see a ‘monster’ from the tech world and so many other big companies going in the same direction and investing lots of money, it makes me think that this risk was much greater than it is today”, defends the advisor.Arthur Igreja, who specializes in Technology, Innovation and Trends, told TecMundo that the usefulness of virtual characters in the metaverse is still embryonic and that, in fact, many personalities are creating their avatars to “demarcate space”. He makes a comparison with medium and small companies that invested money in the creation of websites in the 90’s without really knowing what the pages were for.“The most emblematic case in my view is that of Snoop Dogg [who has plans to become one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the metaverse]. When it comes to the characters themselves, this impacts more on the relationship with fans and brand representation — as this character may be using a product or running a marketing campaign. It’s not very different from the real world when we talk about an influencer or celebrity”, points out Church.Skepticism about all these new concepts involving a new phase of world virtualization is quite necessary. But what the specialist remembers is that it is not possible to say that everything is a “fad”, since the solutions are still taking shape and people are learning what they are for.“It’s too early to make that claim [that the metaverse is fleeting]. It’s still not a flop. It is still not possible to say even if it is a bubble or nail that everything will work out, according to the vision that some are anticipating”, concludes Igreja.