HomeInterviewsMoving into the metaverse | Interview with Herman Narula, Co-Founder and CEO...

Moving into the metaverse | Interview with Herman Narula, Co-Founder and CEO Improbable

How far have you gone in exploring the captivating world of the metaverse? This exciting virtual reality is quickly becoming the go-to destination for gamers, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts alike. From virtual shopping malls to virtual concerts, a metaverse is a place where anything is possible. As we move into 2023, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand how the metaverse works and why it’s becoming so popular. 

Improbable is a British metaverse technology company which develops breakthrough technologies and powers rich virtual worlds for over 60 global games companies, the Web3 and entertainment sectors as well as defence and national security institutions.   

They created a technology that allows spontaneous social interactions within virtual worlds, where 15,000+ people can talk to each other in high-fidelity, lag-free environments. Founded in 2012, the company has been at the forefront of this new era of tech. 

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Herman Narula, Co-founder and CEO. In this interview, Herman shares his insights on what initially prompted him to create a metaverse company and the impact he is trying to achieve with his different projects. Moreover, we talked about the concept of enriching human life in virtual “worlds of ideas” introduced in his new book Virtual Society, the most important criteria for creating true immersion and meaning in the virtual metaverse experience, the top industries currently undergoing a metaverse-led transformation and we tackled the importance of blockchains and Web3 in the Metaverse.

What inspired you to create a metaverse company and what impact you are trying to achieve with your different projects in Improbable today?

My co-founder Rob Whitehead and I loved multiplayer games – but we felt they lacked meaning and connection to our real lives. Improbable, founded in 2012, originated from our joint desire to build richer, larger, more engaging and more fulfilling virtual worlds. Our company spent the next decade investing in technology to make this vision a reality and we became experts in solving multiplayer gaming challenges. 

This gave us the foundation for what we do today: we build, operate and service virtual worlds of unprecedented size and usefulness for web3 companies and are in advanced talks to do this with traditional brands in the sports, music and arts sectors. At the core of this is unique technology that allows us to bring up to 30,000 people together in high-density, accessible virtual environments where they can interact with each other in a meaningful way. Alongside our metaverse services, in April this year we launched M² (MSquared), aimed at building a network of interoperable Web3 metaverses powered by our Morpheus technology.

As for impact, our goal is to create metaverse experiences where people have real input, ownership and enjoyment and where brands can engage with their communities in ways that aren’t possible in the real world. Imagine having a football fan in India, on a 3G phone, taking their first ever trip to Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, with thousands of people interacting, cheering and being together. These are the really interesting experiences we want to unlock.

Your new book, Virtual Society, which launched in 2022, introduces the concept of enriching human life in virtual “worlds of ideas”. Can you explain that idea? 

My goal with Virtual Society is to provide a theoretical framework for the metaverse, explain its utility and how it creates value, and show how it can transform our society. Readers should expect a different perspective on the metaverse – one that uses history and psychology to explain the importance of virtual realities in our lives, and which pinpoints the technological challenges currently being tackled to make the metaverse genuinely useful and fulfilling.

The ‘worlds of ideas’ concept centres on how people create abstract, shared realities in their minds to explore ideas, plan decisions and create common purpose. The use of fables by parents to instil moral values in their children is a common example. As a species, we have always done this, and it is crucial to our capacity for abstract thought. I see the metaverse as a virtual version of these realities and the next stage in our culture.

What are the most important criteria for creating true immersion and meaning in the virtual metaverse experience? 

For a virtual world to have the potential for meaning it has to have consequentiality – that your being there matters. Immersion is simply how real you think the world is, which is not enough to make it feel consequential. For that you need three things: presence, autonomy and a connection to the real world. 

Presence is about how real the world thinks you are – it’s about being able to interact with people and the environment in a substantial way. Autonomy is about being able to chart your own course in that world, with your actions and choices having an impact. 

Lastly, consequentiality in virtual worlds – and by extension the potential for meaning – requires a significant link to the real world. For instance, virtual jobs should translate into financial value in the real world. And digital goods and experiences, including memorabilia, reputation and relationships should carry their significance over into the physical world. 

The virtual worlds that incorporate these elements are the ones that will feel as real and meaningful as the physical world.

What are the top industries currently undergoing a metaverse-led transformation? 

Sports, entertainment and fashion brands are always seeking new ways to directly engage with their large, dedicated communities and create new revenue streams. These industries have started experimenting with the metaverse, because they see the potential to enhance fan engagement through exciting virtual experiences.

On a practical level, the metaverse widens a brand’s reach through removing physical barriers. With a virtual experience, a brand, band or team can bring together thousands of fans from all around the world, without anyone having to spend time and money travelling to one of the usual real-world venues in a big city. In addition, runway shows, gigs and massive-scale live events in the metaverse can allow fans to do things they couldn’t at physical events, such as directly and spontaneously interacting with stars in real time.

How important are blockchains and Web3 in the Metaverse? 

Web3, and specifically blockchain technologies, are essential to the economic aspect of the metaverse because they enable value creation and the transfer of value. Blockchain-based solutions can be used to securitise digital assets and guarantee the unique properties and ownership of a digital good. This is all central to creating a fully functional virtual economy where people can create, sell and exchange virtual assets. 

Where does the metaverse create the most value, and how do you see it changing our lives in the next 5-10 years?

One of the major threads running through Virtual Society is how the metaverse is more than just a vehicle for entertainment – it’s the emergence of a new economy and part of the next evolution of our culture. That sounds like a bold claim, but when you break it down, it’s about how the metaverse creates value by being a tangible part of our lives. 

This represents a significant change in our cultural norms. If our actions in the virtual world have real and meaningful connections to the real one, then we will need to adapt to and accept the concept of having a virtual aspect to our lives, by discovering new ways to work and socialise.

It paves the way for users to lead more fulfilling lives by providing useful experiences for others or by creating and selling digital assets. These things generate actual value, thereby making them inherently motivating. 

What is your advice for entrepreneurs who work with distributive technologies?

Be interested in solving problems for your customers, not in what your competitors are doing. It’s especially true in a market as nascent as Web3, where people are still figuring out the fundamentals. 

While the current crypto winter is challenging and testing many projects, the goal should be to continue to thrive as much as possible and not to lose sight of the importance of building and improving the Web3 ecosystem in the long run. Right now, it’s risky to pursue short-term gains. The infrastructure we build today will only increase in value as the industry develops.

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Elena Dimoska
Elena Dimoska
Elena is a communications & marketing enthusiast with an extensive background in successfully running various projects within internationally recognised startups and IT companies. Her passion lies in combining creativity and soft skills with technology to enable business and sustainability advancements. Digital Marketer at TrueNode, a Berlin-based product development company.

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