More to life than virtual headsets and legless torsos

Why the metaverse is so misunderstood in 2024

“In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the metaverse” — Snow Crash, 1992

In the realm of science fiction, dystopian futures have often depicted the metaverse as a double-edged sword – a virtual utopia where humanity seeks refuge from the harsh realities of the physical world, yet one that harbours the potential for chaos and inequality. Back in 2023, the metaverse remains an unclaimed space; an unfinished, and unowned, product offering a world of opportunity. What if there is more to the metaverse than virtual headsets and legless avatars? We invite you to step into the future, and explore how the boundaries between the physical and digital may blur, elevate and better connect the more mundane aspects of our daily lives.

The first thing we need to do is start talking about the metaverse in plain English. The metaverse has become an esoteric term that is alienating and ostracising to the very people who could benefit from understanding how it could work for them. Although there are experiences within the metaverse right now, they rarely exist beyond the gimmicky and are often reliant on expensive hardware for delivery.

Currently, the metaverse is really a concept. It represents a future experience that seamlessly blends the digital and the physical into a mixed reality. Building on AR and VR technologies, and existing within the democratised Web 3.0 framework, the true potential of the metaverse has yet to be seen. Its also worth noting that, despite changing his company name from Facebook to Meta, Mark Zuckerberg’s company do not own the space. Although investment from large tech firms drives growth in the space, the nature of web 3.0 means ownership is decentralised and sits with the end user.

Our approach

Interest in the metaverse is growing exponentially, so it would be prudent for Else to think about what this means for us, and more importantly, our clients. But Else is not for just jumping on a bandwagon. We want to understand why people are jumping on it. Where is the bandwagon going? Is the bandwagon secure enough to go the distance?

Our approach to this topic saw us start with building our own understanding, which we did by researching what others were saying, doing, hypothesising and prototyping over a number of weeks. We digested and consolidated our thoughts and learnings and decided the next step was to break the metaverse down to its simplest form to make it more tangible. In this case we thought that tangibility could be best demonstrated in the everyday by finding ways it could be used to solve problems we still face in our everyday lives. Problems we hope that tech advances can solve. What would life be like without these problems and how might this be made possible in the metaverse?

Along the way we found countless use cases of how teaching, science, entertainment could be improved in the metaverse. In education it allows for immersive experiences that can create up close and personal encounters with learning subjects. Perhaps observing dodos in their original habitat and conversing with Einstein on the theory of relativity. In science, we can simulate and trial medical procedures. Whilst all of this makes for groundbreaking reading, the majority of us are not teachers, scientists nor entertainers. But we are consumers, patients, travellers. We are people in relationships, people that work, people that are time poor, constantly making decisions and surely the metaverse becomes more intelligible once we simplify it to meet those everyday needs in line with ourselves and our priorities.

What we discovered

When we set sail on our journey of discovery, we didn’t know where it would lead. We immersed ourselves in countless research papers, expert talks, exploration of new and future technologies. What we found when we discussed and unpacked our learnings were emerging themes of best use cases for the metaverse:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Environment
  3. Society
  4. Economy

Mundane moments

We soon established that what linked a lot of the themes was that they were areas where the metaverse had the best use cases for merging real world and digital experiences.

The themes allowed our thinking to diverge and consider how we could apply metaverse capabilities to some of the micro, more mundane moments instead of thinking about it in such a macro, groundbreaking way. As a start, we devised some user journeys to some specific areas within the themes and ended up with some interesting ways it could be used.


Take the supermarket shop, the eternal bane of figuring out what to eat for dinner, forgetting to order items, list writing, waiting in for deliveries, making use of offers…how might the metaverse serve these universal and unavoidable needs?

You merely start the experience by giving instructions such as: “buy one week’s worth of dinners for a family of 4: 1 is vegetarian and 2 children are fussy eaters”, “replenish bathroom supplies” or allowing even more of the leg work to be done: “I have a budget of £125, I want it delivered on this day, between these hours.” The AI shops at different supermarkets, stocks your shelves in your supermarket with the items from your list, offering choices from different supermarkets, all relevant offers and discounts from each supermarket, all in one place, within your budget. AR will allow you more detailed access to information such as recyclability and a product’s carbon footprint. Once you’ve finalised your trolley, you say “purchase” and you can trust it to check out for you from your digital wallet and have it delivered to your door.


Although the metaverse opens up the possibility to travel anywhere from your own home, there are still plenty of ways that digital could enhance our physical experience of travel. On a local scale, what if you could kill time waiting for that delayed train by playing a collective game with those around you instead of burying yourself in your phone? Or you could finish that episode of Westworld from last night on the train, but get travel alerts overlaid so you know that your usual route to work won’t be the quickest.

When it comes to your big holiday for the year, you won’t be going there via a headset, but on a plane. That doesn’t mean the metaverse can’t enhance your experience. From visiting your accommodation digitally during the booking process, so you know the sunset hits right, to using augmented reality to help you decide what to pack. Digital way-finding through the airport would streamline your journey, whilst digital tracking systems remove the need for passport control. And when you’re in your seat and flying, how about one of those collective games? Maybe you’d rather spend that time booking activities for when you land instead, your meta personal assistant can take care of this.

‘That view’ will never look the same on an instagram story as it does in real life. So instead of living through your phone screen, what if the metaverse let you share your experiences in real time? Perhaps your meta-glasses can call your best friend, and let them see what you can see, seamlessly, as if they were there with you. Instead of you taking a photo, and them staring at a small screen trying to recreate the magic. The same technology could be used to let you relive the moment again, years later, when you want to go back and remember exactly how it felt seeing it the first time.


One of the ways the metaverse could enhance our daily lives is by eradicating the need for interventions in a number of tasks. Take the management of diabetes for example. Managing type 1 diabetes is a constant task, requiring someone to regularly monitor their blood sugar and check their food intake. Its plausible that the metaverse could augment this daily task, offering real-time access to nutrition data. This means an individual with type 1 diabetes could walk into any cafe to buy breakfast and see relevant information for them, carbs or sugar, digitally overlaid to items to help them choose. A further build on this could see a digital twin of the individual eat the food to show how it would impact their glucose levels and indicate if insulin would be required. Overlaying optimal insulin injection sites on the individual takes this a step further again.

Managing your physical health has a home in the metaverse too. Yes, you could do an immersive workout in your living room using Meta’s Quest VR headset, but what if you could test yourself against Usain Bolt on your 10km loop through the local park instead. By augmenting the ‘real’ world with digital data during your run, you don’t need to look at your smartwatch or phone to check your pace, or listen to navigation through a headset. Instead you’re free to look around, enjoy where you are, and focus on your form.

We all need a bit of motivation to stay on track with a workout sometimes – but what if your coach or friend isn’t nearby and can’t join you for a session? Using metaverse technology you could workout together, as if in the same space, but digitally. You could see all the vital stats – heart rate, exercises and time elapsed – in real time as you worked out to keep you on track and motivated. Instead of living through your screen or a headset, we see the metaverse making the ‘real’ world more engaging.


Instead of having to remember to water plants or having to download an app with specific care instructions, the metaverse is a world where plants ‘talk’ and inform you their overall health and when and how much they need watering.

Relationships and togetherness can be enhanced: from leaving your loved ones little digital notes, to keeping track of chores without disrupting each other. Small gestures and more awkward moments become avoidable.

So what is possible now? Imagination. But very soon, the catalyst technology will land and suddenly we’ll take the magic leap forwards that we’re waiting for. We saw it happen with apps; as soon as the technology was available, we took ownership of it and now there’s an app for everything. But for now, start thinking about the blended world, not the dystopian one, and how that future might look. Explore and build because that future will be here before you know it.

Learn more about R&D


Exploring how AI can improve lives and working practices


Designing use-cases for the decentralised web


Exploring how data augmentation can help improve physical experiences