The global Covid-19 pandemic produced a rapid shift to remote work, distance learning and virtual happy hours that entrenched tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams in a new normal. But these basic video conferencing platforms just scratch the surface of what’s possible when it comes to the future of virtual events and socializing.
People now recognize that 2D platforms are only optimized for small group video calls and we see an opportunity to create more immersive, engaging and customizable online events. We’re excited to back Inverse — a Chicago-based startup that uses 3D immersion and gamification to help organizations create interactive experiences that drive user engagement and create new monetization opportunities for businesses.
The Nuts & Bolts
Problem: The pandemic has changed how we work and stay connected, and spurred the mass adoption of new platforms facilitating virtual gatherings. A variety of events have transitioned to online formats, ranging from Super Bowl watch parties to the G20 summit.
Most of us are now comfortable with virtual interactions, but current virtual meetings and events can be lacking in several ways. Increasingly, people are growing tired of interacting through conventional video conferencing apps (see: Zoom fatigue). These apps struggle to create an engaging online environment for participants which leads to many people simply turning off their cameras and being distracted on call. Additionally, many platforms don’t provide organizers with the necessary tools to customize interactive spaces or effectively monetize and collect analytic data from events. Such interfaces limit what participants can do beyond video calls and sharing screens.
We see value in building immersive 3D platforms with gamification to create exciting online experiences that drive engagement among attendees, while offering more opportunities for brands and sponsors to monetize events without disrupting the flow of virtual interactions.
Solution: Inverse is creating a more engaging and interactive virtual events platform where anyone could easily build an online space for socializing and sharing information–from casual hangouts to company meetings, conferences, exhibitions and beyond. Rather than just watching a webinar or presentation statically, Inverse is using gaming technology to enable attendees to become avatars and explore fully customizable, immersive 3D environments.
Participants can join Inverse from a standard web browser and don’t need to download additional software. Once on the platform, users can create their own unique avatar that represents their personality and explore different online environments, challenge someone to a breakdance competition, or play the various built-in games, such as golf, together. Participants can drop in on a fireside chat with hundreds of other attendees, or invite another attendee into a private one-on-one conversation using voice, video or text chat. Users who want to take a break from socializing can also spend a relaxing time roasting virtual marshmallows by the campfire or fish in the outdoor pond.
Inverse can provide organizers with powerful opportunities for brand activation and valuable information as to their users’ interactions once in the platform. For conferences, exhibitors can purchase virtual booths featuring company slides, create custom company mascots, and remotely staff their booth to chat with visitors. Sponsors can also create custom-branded items such as drinks, masks, t-shirts and hats that attendees can wear and collect. Sponsors can also receive valuable insights as to what users interacted with most or clicked on in the environment.
Getting to know Inverse
Inverse was originally conceived as Gamerjibe in 2018 in Chicago by founder and CEO Joe Lee. Before starting Gamerjibe, Joe led product teams at Grubhub and Pivotal and consulted on innovative tech projects at Fortune 500 companies. He also led game and cryptocurrency projects while at Rose-Hulman, and led the development of a marketplace that connects technical volunteers with nonprofits. While there, he met Matt Wills and Tim Davis who eventually joined Joe to kickstart Gamerjibe.
In 2019, Joe met Daniel Valentino, a former UCLA professor and serial entrepreneur who pioneered the use of VR in medical imaging and was most recently the Global VP of Innovation and CTO at LANDAUER, which was acquired for $770 million by Fortive in 2017. Joe and Daniel, together with their co-founders, Matt Wills and Tim Davis, hosted their first virtual event in 2020, an immersive tech job fair which was sponsored by the U.S. Marines, and began hosting a variety of events in emerging markets like Esports and NFTs. They rebranded to Inverse in 2021 to emphasize their growing traction and focus on the metaverse.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual interactions on a global scale. Virtual events have been growing tremendously, with the market valued at over $94 billion in 2020. From 2021- 2028, the market is expected to grow at a rate above 23% every year.
As we contend with the ongoing impact of Covid-19 variants, many live events and social gatherings will continue to be held online. Many organizers are realizing that virtual events are more affordable and logistically simpler to run than in-person events, and understanding that immersive 3D environments are a more effective way of building their online community brand.
The future of Inverse
We believe that Inverse is on track to be a leader in the virtual events and metaverse space. Earlier this year they partnered with ETHDenver, one of the largest Ethereum conferences in the world. A few thousand visitors attend ETHDenver in person every year. However, once ETHDenver hosted its 2021 event on Inverse, the organization was able to host many more users than it could in the past. In the end, over 35,000 visitors attended the event– significantly higher than in previous years.
Looking ahead, Inverse is helping companies and people rethink how they interact online. We’re excited to support Inverse’s vision of immersive and inclusive interaction in the metaverse.
You can learn more about Inverse at: https://inverse.app
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