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New Zealand Optics: The Virtual Frontier - it's time to make the leap

New Zealand Optics features The Optical Metaverse by Charlene Nichols.
New Zealand Optics

The metaverse has everyone buzzing, apparently changing life as we know it. But to anyone like me, it’s an esoteric concept – I have a hard enough time operating my multitude of TV remotes! But I recently put on my brave-girl shoes and took a virtual trip into The Optical Metaverse with founder Charlene Nichols. It was a mind-bending and sometimes confusing ride but what I discovered contains oodles of potential for optometrists, optical dispensers and the industry at large. The metaverse for the metaverse-averse The metaverse is an online platform you could liken to a video game you don’t just play but become part of by building your own avatar/character, connecting with a wide range of people and participating in a whole bunch of things you may not be able (or want!) to do in real life – like fly or bungee jump. You access it all using a virtual headset/glasses or through your web browser.

Charlene Nichols of The Optical Metaverse & Omniverse City.
Charlene Nichols - Founder of The Optical Metaverse

Charlene Nichols, founder of the Optical Metaverse Nichols’ version is ‘The Optical Metaverse’, a place she proudly boasts contains the “first ever optical shop in the metaverse” where patients can virtually try on glasses and create a wish list. “You can then send this wishlist to your favourite dispensing optician,” she said. Inside the Optical Metaverse In conjunction with The Optical Metaverse, Nichols and her team run virtual trade shows, including this month’s Optical Metaverse Fashion Show. Apart from the visitor’s ability to ‘teleport’ into The Optical Metaverse, the show offers an educational component, with streamed sessions covering cutting-edge technology and fashion topics which re-imagine the future of optometry businesses; you can re-watch these at any time. It has shopping and networking functionalities, with the ability to visit interactive booths where brands can ‘go live’ so you can sit down at their table and talk to the people behind them. You can also enjoy what Nichols terms “the universe’s first ‘phygital’ (a physical and digital experience) eyewear fashion show,” with models walking the runway. One advantage of this show – especially for independents with tight purse strings – is it’s free to attend, unless you’re keen to pay to exhibit, advertise or sponsor events such as virtual scavenger hunts. If, like me, you find the tech aspect overwhelming, Nichols is quick to address this. “It’s always my pleasure to guide people through because I know how intimidating it can be. So we just take it one step at a time and it’s really very intuitive. We have online tutorials on our YouTube channel and we record the walkthrough on the first day. All participants also receive a concierge event-support lead who will check in with them before the event to make sure they have everything they need.” Why go virtual? Rather than use existing tools, Nichols said she purposefully built the platform with her own team “so we could use our legacy knowledge of what dispensing opticians need, which is (different to) what the patient needs.” She recruited the skills of US-based primary care and low-vision optometrist Irina Yakubin early in the process. “She's been a tremendous addition to our team and shared a lot about patient education, something she’s really passionate about. We also tried some experimental event formats, like the Performance Vision Summit. It was a mini show focused on performance vision and gaming. We brought in e-sports players and others from the gaming industry and it was one of the best shows we've done because it was so connective.” Although she geared her shows and the subsequent Optical Metaverse to eyecare professionals, specifically independents, audience feedback persuaded Nichols to expand it to everyone, including the bigger brands. “We're opening up the platform to anyone who’s interested in vision and eyecare. I’ve been rocked by the number of people I thought would love this because of The Optical Metaverse or the virtual try-on but who really want to find out about all things eyes!”

To learn more about the exhibitor experience or to continue reading on, please visit the New Zealand Optics webpage here.


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