Is Web3 And The Metaverse The Revolution Preventative Health Needs?
A Emerging Trend, But Will It Have A Lasting Impact?
We look into the dynamics that brought these technologies into the industry.
Whether play-to-earn will be a success
Will the metaverse come to dominate the industry
What companies are leading the way
Since Peloton gave us a stark reminder that connected fitness isn’t going to be the turning point for widespread inactivity, the focus has shifted to web3 and the metaverse as the next great white hope.
Questions of mass adoption of web3 and the metaverse are being asked across the economy with companies vying to be the next Google, Facebook or Amazon.
But the reality is that the metaverse and web3 are two different concepts.
The metaverse is arguably already here. The VR and AR solutions that are increasing in adoption have completely blurred the lines between the physical and digital worlds. Others have noted that the time we spend on our phones (mainly on social media) is an indication that we already live in a metaverse where our digital lives matter equally to our physical lives.
Meanwhile, web3 looks to blockchain-based networks, economics and applications that enhance our autonomy and capacity to act freely online.
So what does this mean for health & fitness?
Blockchain-based services are already dividing opinion. There are calls from some saying tokens, including NFTs, are elaborate Ponzi schemes and prone to malicious hacks and theft. With the technology in its infancy, it is struggling to mitigate these issues and it is putting the broader consumer market off investing heavily into this technology that allows it to scale.
Just as every physical health space now requires an app or digital presence to sustain relevance and growth in a decade from now every brand will need a metaverse presence to maintain relevance and growth. What this metaverse will look like and its key components are still yet to be decided. Here are some of the core concepts
VR & AR
I really like these concepts as novel and exciting solutions for more immersive health experiences. The opportunities are so deep from a HIIT workout in another world to sitting down with an AI therapist. Combined with biometric data and other wearables health is becoming more integrated into our day to day lives. The bionic human is slowly emerging. Just wait until Elon Musk gets his brain implants right….
The metaverse is meant to be a more immersive online experience that will rely heavily on VR, AR and other wearables. Non-fungible tokens act as the information layer to these technologies making their value and utility potential almost infinite.
NFTs can be utilised by brands to capture and reward consumers more directly. Virtual collectables are more valuable in an increasingly virtual world. They help strengthen communities through ownership and closer relationships with brands.
There isn’t a great deal that health & fitness brands can offer with NFTs today that they can’t already offer. Their marketing value remains higher than their existing utility value. Watch for innovations in what NFTs can be used for, their social utility will perhaps be their greatest strength.
Getting paid to be active does sound good to be true. It has also been tried before, with studies concluding that payment as an incentive to activity is not a long term driver of positive health outcomes. Though, challenges and gamification have shown a positive correlation in increasing activity and building habits.
The buy-in price means it is not currently a highly accessible service, largely appealing to the already active. Having to buy tokens and hold them in your wallet to access rewards means you could be holding a lot of money in an asset that could lose significant value.
It is a challenging business model for these organisations to get right at scale. Most services are structured to divide the available tokens between the number of participants or on a fixed per-person cap. Even if you do have the time to be highly active to compete for more tokens, there is no guarantee of meaningful earnings.
One component of web3 that has the greatest potential is the new governance dynamics. While tokens themselves from a currency standpoint remain volatile, their allocation to communities presents an opportunity for shared ownership. Community has been an important part of preventative health solutions and empowering a community with shared ownership presents a significant opportunity. With tokenised ownership members have a vested interest in the success of the organisation and community.
Are Brands Missing The Trick?
In the pursuit of novel and exciting solutions, there remains a lack of investment in the behavioural dynamics and shared spaces that create a lasting impact on consumers’ health.
Novelty is exciting but wears off quickly. A business built around a single device or concept that is one dimensional with its health solution could quickly find itself struggling to maintain customers. This frustrating cycle is all too common in the sector and it is the reason for bad business practices that damages consumer trust.
Incumbents from the metaverse and web3 world need to look at the bigger problems that their idea is looking to solve. Partnering with successful organisations that understand consumer health is a vital partnership to technological innovation.
The reality is that the metaverse is no more significant than the best apps we already have on our phones like Strava, Whoop, or Calm.
The health sector needed a technological revolution and it is now picking up steam. As with every revolution existing power structures fight to retain their influence in the face of the inevitable. Those who are smart quickly seek to integrate the technology that will retain and expand their position in the market. Incumbents have the technological capability but lack the experience to know what works.
It is easy to call out web3 and metaverse brands for simply replicating the existing business models of the brands that have succeeded before. The reality is that the greater diversity of options the consumer has to manage their health the better.
So is web3 and metaverse just a passing trend for health & fitness?
It’s too early to tell, but in its current dynamic it likely will be, not holding a significant position in the great halls of industry innovation. That doesn’t mean it is not here to stay if it continues to evolve.
Organisations in the space do have plenty of opportunities to develop their business models with ambitions of more effective behaviour change, community dynamics and holistic health practices that have the potential to make it the innovation many believe it could be.
I think it also depends on what major innovations and societal influences move their way into the mainstream. Metaverse is the ‘big thing’ today only because there isn’t anything bigger. Miracle weight loss drugs, longevity research and brain implants are just a few of the solutions simmering in research labs around the world and could make a big splash in the consumer market, making metaverse (in the context of health) old news.
What do you think?
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