A brave new universe

Television is a familiar concept for most of those reading this article. The word alludes to the technical ability to see something from a distance. To visually, typically with sound, take part in something that is beyond the immediate vicinity.  

But, by “television” we usually mean something much more than just technology. Telling a story, informing and perhaps educating by giving the viewer access to a different world or place than the one they are currently in is a creative process, whether it is investigative journalism or a western drama in a galaxy long ago and far, far away.  

At the same time, technology has played an important role throughout the history of storytelling. A lot has happened since the audience was enchanted around the warming light of the campfire and with the help of technological development, the stories have felt closer and increasingly real, not least thanks to the innovation during the last century that we call TV.  

What makes the television and video format so effective is the fact that it uses one of our most mentally taxing senses and thus does an effective job of conveying, touching, and creating a sense of presence. It is well known that a picture says more than a thousand words, which would mean that TV can deliver the entire content of the Bible in just under 30 seconds.   

Technology has gradually advanced the ability to convey quality images and sound on increasingly flatter screens, while the concept of TV itself has stayed more or less the same. With the help of the Internet, the last decade’s technological development has primarily developed distribution into more interactive platforms, which has given us new distribution models, the viewer better access and range, but also introduced some formats where the user’s interaction is integrated with the story.  

Our world is reshaped like never before by technological advances, and when this technological development is injected into a creative industry, something very special happens. An example of this is in the relatively young computer game industry, where technology and creativity have interacted since its inception four decades ago. In fact, the video gaming industry and the TV industry have a lot in common, creating entertainment by giving users access to a different world than the one they currently live in. The fact that Netflix has chosen to take on games and Disney’s decision to invest in the gaming industry is confirmation of this relationship.  

This very intersection has created a number of important concepts and advances in recent years. TV studios rendered in game engines as well as 3D-rendered backgrounds and scenes in productions such as Disney’s Star Wars series are a few examples.   

But the most transformative thought is something bigger than that. And which very recently has come into focus with several of the world’s technology and content giants.  

Technological development has now led us to a place where it is not enough to take part in another place or even another unreal world based on our place in the real world. The world is not enough. We need another one, or, in fact, another universe. A new universe created by technology, where we not only take part in another part of the world or a fictional one that someone has created, but we become part of it. And we call it, the Metaverse.  

Exactly what Metaverse is, how it should be used, and whether it is something good or bad, new or not, however, attracts differing opinions. A difference between VR and AR that has been established for decades is that Metaverse is more about the endless interconnected virtual world that is built on and made available via various technical concepts such as VR and AR.  

But this ambiguity is perhaps the reason why Metathe company previously known as Facebook but which so wholeheartedly believes in Metaverse that it has changed its name – has seen the market accept the new grand plans with some scepticism. 

Most of the big technology companies have, however, partly with their own nuances, joined up around this new universe and as a collective are backed up by increased financial power, so it is probably wise to think a little before rejecting the idea. Recently, industry giants, like Disney, have more or less explicitly started joining. That Disney sees new possibilities follows a simple logic.  

The question of what metaverse means for television leads to the philosophical question of whether it is still television if the viewer itself becomes part of the world in which the story takes place?  

TV or not, it is a highly relevant question of how you as a media and TV company, should relate to Metaverse. Given that the companies that have so far announced investments tend to be those with large technology budgets, it can feel daunting. But if this is now a new world where users will spend a lot of their time, and a world that trumps the traditional TV experience, the question is whether the choice is existential?  

It’s probably wise to start thinking about what it would mean for the content as well as what technology stack is needed to deliver your stories in Metaverse. When doing so, I recommend taking a good look at the gaming industry, which we have a lot to learn from as we tackle a future where creativity and technology are more intertwined than ever in the history of storytelling.

This blog post was first published in Swedish as a guest column on TV Nyheterna. 

by Johan Bolin

CTO of Agile Content