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The Beauty Metaverse: Virtual Worlds Through Digital Innovation

By: David Frederick
Posted: July 6, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

It’s a brave new virtual world out there, and it’s changing by the moment. Even Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, in which humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents in a three-dimensional virtual world, didn’t envision where the Internet superhighway would lead. In the Beauty Metaverse, beauty brands are at the fringe of new unparalleled worlds of branded communities in which their products star. These new beauty worlds are created through innovation and energized through new digital technologies and platforms, consumer-generated content, and populated through consumer advocacy and digital word-of-mouth.

Fully immersive experiences, multi-sensory effects of HD video, photo-realism, special effects, sound and animation are the tools for creating these new beauty worlds. Communication between brands and consumers is also evolving from one-way messages to two-way conversations and digital experiences that turn consumers into a facet of the media through site comments, sharing of content, and Facebook updates to their network of “friends.” So let’s take a journey into this evolving Beauty Metaverse and get a glimpse of this new frontier.

Experiences to Connections

A 360-degree immersive experience, www.armanijeans.com provides users total control of a three-dimensional reality filmed with high-end cameras and special effects that rival the Matrix films. Consumers are invited to enter this Armani world, a world created by photo-realism, music and hyper–movement set in a warehouse where all the characters are dressed, of course, in Armani. Quite frankly, the experience, while engaging, left me feeling a little dizzy.

Fortunately, I was able to easily stop the action and navigate on my own to view the collection. But this is where their world fell short. By not creating more bridges to enable its visitors to become members of the community, fashion brand missed an opportunity to continue the dialog through e-mail, wireless communication and, most importantly, enable a connection to the retail experience.

From the warehouse scene created by Armani, one can venture to the catwalk show at www.johngalliano.com, which brings models and fashion through a black hole vortex right into the user’s laptop with stunning video effects that made me feel as though I was right there on the runway. While I wasn’t necessarily impressed with the fashion style, I was particularly impressed with the photo section and with the ability to stop the action and search within the catwalk photos and zoom up and down the photos in explicit detail. I loved the splash photo navigation effects, and I could not resist viewing the fragrance section. John Galliano captured the many faces of his “Galliano Girl” through photo-realistic effects playing in the background of the fragrance bottle through time-lapsed sequences into the boudoir of the Galliano Girl herself. Unfortunately, that’s where this experience ended as well, and the site did little to make visitors feel more then just a voyeur.