What if the future of storytelling was in a 3D virtual world? That is the view of Disney chief executive Bob Chapek, who announced plans for a connected Disney metaverse.
The Hollywood giant is one of the latest global firms to join the conversation. And it might not be the last. Lately, the metaverse has been a hot topic among Silicon Valley moguls. Mark Zuckerberg made headlines first when Facebook rebranded as Meta. It wasn’t long until Microsoft rolled out its metaverse plans, too.
But what does the metaverse entail exactly? Simply put, this new tech concept aims at connecting the physical world with an all-digital universe. In that virtual space, people can share experiences and interact as avatars. The use of VR headsets and augmented reality might propel the metaverse to more immersive heights. And in the world of Disney, it would mean a new era of “storytelling without boundaries”.
On November 10th, Bob Chapek disclosed the company was setting plans to take the plunge into the realm of virtual reality. Backing his claim, he recalled the company’s long history of innovation. Indeed, Disney was always an early adopter of vanguard technologies. Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie laid the groundwork for the use of synchronised sound. Almost a century later, Pixar pioneered computer animation and forever changed cartoons.
Disney also made good use of technology to enhance its theme park experience. As early as the 1960s, Disney World introduced audio-animatronics. And Mickey Mouse’s home is now moving to develop autonomous, personality-driven robots. Known as Project Kiwi, a free-roaming prototype of Marvel character’s Groot might soon advance to a test stage. Yet, the where and when are still shrouded in mystery. And so are the company’s metaverse plans.
As of yet, Disney hasn’t disclosed any specific details about its metaverse plans. Therefore, the concept is in its early stages. Yet, Bob Chapek hinted the metaverse could be an extension of its Disney + streaming service. Featuring a cast of iconic characters, from classic princesses to Marvel and Star Wars heroes, the Disney metaverse would build a “three-dimensional canvas”.
Disney Reveals Metaverse Plans
The metaverse might also come to life in Disney World. In 2020, former head of digital for Disney Parks Tilak Mandadi voiced the idea of a theme park metaverse in a LinkedIn article. Through smartphones and digital access points, this connected park experience would unlock extra levels of personalization. It could take the route set up by the mobile game industry, which already showed that layering digital elements on top of reality could work seamlessly.
Massive hit Pokémon Go paved the way in 2016. And other games quickly followed suit. Modernizing the casino experience, online casinos went mobile with increasingly immersive games. The addition of 3D graphics amped up the design of mobile slots, while faster frame rates and curtailed in-game features improved their playability. And the mobile revolution means that gamblers can immerse themselves in their favourite virtual slots on any device at any time. Real-time mobile gambling also blurred the lines between physical and digital, from roulette to poker games run by live dealers.
But despite this technological progress, a full-fledged digital world remains decades away. And even prominent supporters of the metaverse know well that a Ready Player One type of universe is still too futuristic to be true. For the present, the metaverse is mostly confined to the realm of corporate meetings. That is indeed the purpose of Microsoft metaverse endeavours, Mesh for Microsoft Teams. Announced in the first quarter of 2022, the project intends to rejuvenate virtual business reunions with the help of customized avatars.
Beyond a corporate metaverse, the entertainment industry is pioneering new concepts as well. Game-makers such as Roblox and Epic are already working on their virtual worlds. In 2020, Fortnite held the first metaverse concerts. And the shows by Ariana Grande or Travis Scott brought in millions of tech-savvy music lovers. Blockchain-based gaming platforms are also having their say on the metaverse. World-building pioneers Decentraland or Sandbox already shook things up in the art world, showcasing digital art exhibitions and auctions.
With as revolutionary a potential as the internet, there is no wonder why the home of Mickey Mouse is actively planning its metaverse transformation. Yet, Disney enthusiasts might need to be patient before the Disney metaverse eventually comes to fruition.