Follow these 15 people if you want to understand the metaverse
If you don’t really understand what the metaverse is, no need to feel bad. It is still taking shape and very few agree on what it really is.
Most do agree on its immersive nature. But the metaverse is also much more than everything VR/AR/MR/XR. It’s also about empowering users through community, creator economy opportunities, smart contracts (NFTs) and, possibly at one point, a merge with the Web3 paradigm which will allow these users (instead of the Big Tech giants) to control their own data. It’s also about interoperability (between the metaverse platforms) and continuity of data.
However it will turn out, we’re probably still looking at many years ahead of us before it will fully evolve into something that will radically change how we live and work. If only because its underlying technologies like VR, AI, 5G and (probably) blockchain still need to mature quite a lot.
But whenever something that has great potential is still morphing, it’s also very wise to keep an eye on it. And what better way to accomplish that, than by following those people that are permanently analyzing or even building it? (The answer is none, Karen. It’s none.)
So here goes! A fabulous list of 15 speakers, authors, analysts, technologists and/or business people that are practically obsessed with the metaverse so you don’t need to be:
Jaron Lanier is pretty much the father of VR. He has been on the cusp of technological innovation from its infancy to the present. A pioneer in virtual reality (a term he coined), Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products, and led teams originating VR applications for medicine, design, and numerous other fields. He is currently the “octopus” (which stands for Office of the Chief Technology Officer Prime Unifying Scientist) at Microsoft. He was a founder or principal of startups that were acquired by Google, Adobe, Oracle, and Pfizer.
In his book “Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality” (2017), Lanier reflects on his upbringing in 1960s New Mexico, his lifelong relationship with technology, and his path to Silicon Valley. Part personal memoir and part rumination on virtual reality, Lanier highlights VR's versatility both in historical context and projects its functions into the future.
Cathy Hackl is a globally recognized metaverse and Web3 strategist and tech futurist with deep expertise working in metaverse-related fields with companies like HTC VIVE, Magic Leap, and Amazon Web Services. She’s the Chief Metaverse Officer & Co-founder of Journey, where she leads Journey's Metaverse Studio working with the world's top brands on metaverse and web3 strategies, NFTs, gaming, virtual fashion, and how to extend their brands into virtual worlds.
Hackl was recently featured in 60 Minutes+, WSJ, TIME, and WIRED's coverage of the metaverse and is a contributor to Forbes. Hackl has been dubbed the Godmother of the Metaverse and is one of the top tech voices on LinkedIn. She's also the host of Adweek's Metaverse Marketing podcast.
Charlie Fink writes the weekly Forbes column “This Week in XR” and its companion podcast. He is the author of “Remote Collaboration, Virtual Conferences and the Future of Work” (2020), and the critically acclaimed AR-enabled books “Charlie Fink’s Metaverse” (2017), and “Convergence, How The World Will Be Painted With Data” (2019). He teaches XR at Chapman University Film School in Orange, CA.
Fink’s forty year career at the convergence of popular culture and technology began at Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1987 where he famously came up with the idea for “The Lion King” and became the company’s youngest Vice-President. Fink’s work in technology began in 1992 when he joined Tim Disney’s pioneering location-based VR company, Virtual World Entertainment, as its COO. He was AOL Studios’ Senior Vice President & Chief Creative Officer (1995-1999) and President of American Greetings Interactive and Blue Mountain (2000-2004).
Matthew Ball is the CEO of Epyllion, a holding company which makes angel investments, provides advisory services, and produces television, films, and video games. He was previously the Head of Strategy for Amazon Studios, and an executive at The Chernin Group’s Otter Media and Accenture. Ball is also a Venture Partner at Makers Fund, Senior Advisor to KKR, Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company, and sits on the board of numerous start-ups.
His first book, “The Metaverse and How it Will Revolutionize Everything”, was published in July 2022 and became an instant national and international bestseller. Ball is also an occasional contributor to The Economist, holds bylines at Bloomberg, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and wrote the August 8, 2022 cover story for Time Magazine.
Kent Bye is an American podcaster and experiential journalist, known for his work in virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Since May 2014, Kent Bye has conducted over 1200 Voices of VR podcast interviews featuring the pioneering artists, storytellers, and technologists driving the resurgence of virtual & augmented reality.
He’s a philosopher, oral historian, & experiential journalist helping to define the patterns of immersive storytelling, experiential design, & the ultimate potential of XR.
David Baszucki is an American entrepreneur, engineer, and inventor. He is best known as the founder of ‘Roblox,’ an online game-creation platform that allows users to design their own games and play different kinds of games created by others. Earlier, he was also the CEO of ‘Knowledge Revolution.’
Baszucki had worked for around 2 years on the platform, which was eventually released in 2006. Through the platform, he has helped millions of upcoming game developers learn the basics of their domain and work on their talents. He has been honored with multiple awards, such as the `San Mateo Visionary Hero Award,’ as his platform contributes to education and encourages kids to code. He has also led the angel investment firm ‘Baszucki and Associates’ from 2003 to 2004.
John Buzzell is co-author (together with Cathly Hackl) of “The Augmented Workforce” and a leader in the digital industry, with more than 25 years' experience in applying emerging technology for media and marketing. At Epic Games, he leads Unreal Engine enterprise licensing in the Americas, with a focus on uses in advertising and marketing. He’s put innovation to work for WarnerMedia, National Geographic, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Porsche, Cartoon Network, the NBA, PGA, Aflac, Discovery and more.
He also founded the global VR/AR Association’s Marketing and Advertising Committee. Epic Games' Unreal Engine technology brings high-quality games to PC, console, mobile, AR and VR platforms. Creators also use Unreal for photorealistic visualization, interactive product design, film, virtual production, mixed reality TV broadcast and animated entertainment.
Lindsey McInerney has been named one of 'The 30 Most Influential People in the Metaverse,' as well as one of 'The Most Prominent Digital Futurists to Watch Out For in 2022,' alongside Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. An early internet nerd and tech futurist, Lindsey is consumed by the emergence of the metaverse, and excited about the ways crypto, blockchain, gaming, NFTs, and XR will change our current digital and physical landscape.
As the former Global Head of Technology and Innovation at AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, she launched Stella Artois into the metaverse in an explosive partnership with ZED RUN, a crypto horse racing game. One of the first major brand executions in the space, the Cannes Lion award-nominated campaign put Stella Artois on the map as the first beer brand and FMCG company in the metaverse and was well received by traditional and crypto media alike.
Nonny de la Peña
As the CEO of Emblematic Group, Nonny de la Peña uses cutting-edge technologies to tell stories — both fictional and news-based — that create intense, empathic engagement on the part of viewers. She has been called “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” (Yes, Cathy Hackl is also called a Godmother (of the metaverse). You remembered that correctly. But VR and the metaverse are not 100% the same. So I’m assuming there won’t be a battle about that any time soon.) by Engadget, while Fast Company named her “One of the People Who Made the World More Creative” for her pioneering work in immersive journalism.
A former correspondent for Newsweek, de la Peña has more than 20 years of award-winning experience in print, film and TV. Her virtual-reality work has been featured by the BBC, Mashable, Vice, Wired and many others, and been screened around the globe at museums and gaming conventions. De la Peña is an Annenberg Fellow at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
A distinguished expert on virtual technologies, Jeremy Dalton is forging his success as the Head of Metaverse Technologies for PwC. Formerly working as Innovation Manager and VR/AR Specialist for PwC, Jeremy explores the exciting new possibilities of emerging virtual technologies.
Currently a member of the Board of Immerse UK, Jeremy is on a mission to support the growth of Metaverse technologies in business. Formerly recognized in the likes of The Economist and The Financial Times, Jeremy has recently authored the book Reality Check, detailing how immersive technology can transform business.
A talented game UX strategist, Celia Hodent is widely known for her former role as the Director of User Experience for Epic Games, the creators of the illustrious Fortnite game. Also the Founder and Chair of the Game UX Summit, the former Product Developer for Vtech, the former Playtest Project Manager for Ubisoft and a UX Lead for LucasArts, Celia is a leading expert on user experience, playful learning, gamification and the Metaverse. She uses her knowledge of cognitive science and psychology to improve products, systems, services, and video games.
She’s the bestselling author of The Gamer’s Brain, The Psychology of Video Games, What UX Is Really About and Game Usability. In her book “The psychology of the video games”, Celia provides not only insights into the psychological processes involved in all types of games but also shares the techniques to make video games more fun and meaningful for players. As a speaker, Celia is booked to share the prospects of emerging technology and the Metaverse.
Prolific tech entrepreneur Philip Rosedale is revered as the Co-Founder of High Fidelity and the Inventor of Second Life. An early pioneer in the virtual world, Philip invented the concept of Second Life, a revolutionary open-ended, internet-connected virtual world that has over 1 million active users with an annual spend of $1 billion.
Also pioneering developments in new virtual world platforms for VR headsets, Philip is an expert on the emerging capabilities of mobile and VR devices. When booked as a metaverse speaker, Philip explores the exciting prospects of a new virtual world and simulated reality.
Theo is a leading tech futurist and author and public speaker on the convergence of many emerging trends towards the metaverse and Web3. He is the CEO and co-founder of Metanomic, a complete web3 economic and AI analytics platform for game developers, metaverse builders and the creator economy. He has also mentored for a number of startup accelerators including HTC ViveX VR incubator, BRINC's Web3 and Metaverse accelerator and Alchemist, one of Silicon Valley's Top 10.
Priestley has published more than 250 articles on topics including Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Fintech and Blockchain, Smart Cities, Web3, Metaverse, Marketing, Digital Transformation, and Virtual Reality, for Forbes, the European, WIRED, Huffington Post and Business2Community. He has also contributed to VentureBeat, GigaOM, The Times Raconteur, and has been interviewed for BBC Radio and UK national television news on technology trends.
Aaron Frank is a writer and speaker and one of the earliest hires at Singularity University. Aaron is focused on the intersection of emerging technologies and accelerating change and is fascinated by the impact that both will have on business, society, and culture.
He has a background in executive education, business development, research & analysis, writing, and advisory work. And holds deep knowledge of the augmented and virtual reality technology landscape with a focus on the development of virtual environments (often now being referred to as 'the metaverse'). Aaron built VR applications and managed teams building virtual worlds for remote and online learning at Singularity University. As a writer, his articles have appeared online in Vice's Motherboard, Wired UK, Venturebeat, and Forbes.
Avery Akkineni serves as the President of Vayner NFT leading the company’s mission to build long-term strategic NFT projects for the world’s leading intellectual property owners serving brands, celebrities, athletes and associations looking to incentivize and reward brand advocacy and customer loyalty.
Akkineni previously led VaynerMedia’s expansion into APAC, growing a team from 0-150+, opening offices in Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Sydney, and was awarded SEA Independent Agency of the Year, within 2 years. Prior to joining Vayner, she spent six years working at Google, in both Silicon Valley and New York City.
Akkineni is on a mission to drive meaningful cultural relevance to unlock the potential of one of the biggest technology shifts of our time, the Metaverse.