European Metaverse visionaries come to Cannes NEXT

– CANNES 2023: A panel of panelists explored long-term thinking, the convergence of physical and virtual worlds, and the transformative power of generative AI

A moment during the panel

The concept of the metaverse has sparked a great deal of curiosity and debate among industry professionals, generating excitement and skepticism in equal measure. At Cannes NEXTpart of Marché du filmDuring a panel discussion, European Metaversum visionaries highlighted the potential of this new technology to reshape the entertainment landscape.

Sophie HvitvedFuturologist and Senior Advisor am Copenhagen Institute for Futures StudiesSet the tone for the panel by emphasizing the importance of long-term thinking. She highlighted the tendency of various industries, including media and film, to focus on short-term returns rather than imagining future possibilities. Hvitved challenged the audience to look beyond the present and consider the transformative potential of Generative AI, which has already shown explosive changes. She emphasized the need to explore the metaverse with a serious and ambitious mindset and recognized its ability to revolutionize storytelling, communication and media interaction.

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Mike RosendahlCEO of ZOAN, underscored the continued interest and investment in the metaverse by major brands. He acknowledged the initial hype surrounding the concept and its subsequent decline, but emphasized that the metaverse is far from dead. Rosendahl highlighted the growing popularity of gaming experiences among younger generations and the increasing demand for immersive entertainment. Discussing ZOAN’s work with global brands such as Nike and Meta, he showed a clear interest in building Metaverse experiences and preparing for the future. Rosendahl also touched on virtual entertainment, historical modeling, and the creation of dynamic virtual worlds, demonstrating the variety of possibilities within the metaverse.

Julie Sislerovawho works in New Business Development at Brainz Immersive, presented the concept of mixed reality as a logical next step for immersive experiences. She addressed the power of virtual reality (VR) to transport users to new worlds, but emphasized the potential of merging physical and digital elements. Šislerová presented a mixed reality game called TrekCraft, which transforms the real environment into a virtual racetrack. This demonstration illustrated the possibilities of merging physical and digital objects and provided an immersive experience beyond the limitations of VR headsets. She emphasized the importance of connecting physical and digital worlds in the metaverse and saw it as a significant evolution in storytelling and user engagement.

Anssi Komulainenproject leader am Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, delved into the key aspects of immersiveness and persistence within the metaverse. He explained that while traditional Metaverse experiences involve immersion in virtual worlds for short periods of time, the future lies in persistent worlds that continue to evolve even when users are not actively engaged. Komulainen highlighted gaming as an example of persistent Metaverse experiences that immerse users in a continuous and dynamic environment. This perspective emphasized the potential of the metaverse to provide enduring, immersive experiences beyond isolated moments, thereby contributing to a more democratic and inclusive form of entertainment.

During the panel discussion, moderator AC Coppens drew attention to the upcoming launch of XR glasses, which are expected to drive the accessibility and quality of Metaverse experiences. The panelists agreed that while the first version of the XR glasses will not bring about a revolution, it will undoubtedly improve the level of content and storytelling possibilities. Coppens and the participants emphasized the fact that the metaverse is not a single company or technology, but rather a collaborative effort involving multiple stakeholders, including artists, developers, policymakers and users. They emphasized the importance of fostering an open and inclusive ecosystem that encourages innovation, creativity and diverse perspectives.

Building on this idea, Hvitved proposed the concept of a “metaverse sandbox” where developers can experiment, collaborate, and iterate on ideas. This sandbox environment would provide a space for artists, developers, and users to create and shape the future of the metaverse together. Panellists expressed optimism about the potential of such an approach and envisioned a metaverse evolving organically based on collective contributions and experimentation.

Komulainen raised the need for ethical considerations and responsible design principles in the development of the metaverse. He raised concerns about possible negative effects such as addiction, privacy violations and inequality. The panellists agreed that a proactive approach is needed to address these challenges and ensure that the metaverse benefits society as a whole.

The discussion also touched on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the metaverse. Hvitved mentioned the transformative power of Generative AI in creating dynamic and personalized experiences for users. She noted that AI algorithms can analyze user data and preferences to generate content tailored to individual interests, enabling more immersive and engaging experiences.

Rosendahl expanded on this idea by discussing the potential of AI-controlled virtual characters or avatars within the metaverse. He described how AI algorithms could allow virtual characters to interact with users and respond intelligently, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. This level of interactivity would enhance storytelling and create deeper connections between users and virtual experiences.

Finally, the panelists also explored the economics of the metaverse. They recognized the potential for new business models and revenue streams such as virtual real estate, digital goods and virtual events. However, they warned against a purely for-profit approach and stressed the importance of maintaining a balance between commercial interests and the integrity of the Metaverse experience.

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