Rise of the Metaverse
Metaverse is a network of persistent interconnected and immersive spaces where people play, work, trade and socialize
Meet the latest buzzword in Technology — Metaverse. By now, everyone might have heard of this term. There is a huge momentum in the industry, and this started with Facebook changing its name to Meta and its focus on Metaverse. There are heavy investments happening in Tech World on Metaverse, NFT’s and Blockchain in general.
Gartner expects that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the Metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media and/or entertainment
What exactly is Metaverse?
Search for Metaverse in internet and you will see multiple definitions . “Beyond Universe”, “Next Internet” and Wikipedia definition of “network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection”. The closet that I think Metaverse is “network of persistent interconnected and immersive spaces where people play, work, trade and socialize”. Immersive spaces can be created by extending virtual spaces to physical worlds and vice-versa.
Being in AR/VR and Blockchain space for more than 6 years, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the current state of this technology how this space may evolve over coming years and its impact on our work and businesses around.
Following are the factors that I think are accelerating this space
- Emerge of Gen Z and their interest towards Immersive media consumption
- Rise of NFTs and Digital Ownership
- Shift to hybrid work environment and remote collaboration
- Consumerization of VR Headsets
- Expectations on Seamless Customer and Employee Experiences
- High operation costs around collaboration with remote teams, partners and customers
What constitutes metaverse and does this concept exists already?
Metaverse is nascent though there were early glimpses of this concept decade back from second life. Metaverse ecosystem is currently evolving with established and new entrants storming this arena with different use cases, business models across different layers. The current focus is on creating the necessary infrastructure, regulations, platforms, and content.
While some of the building blocks are already available, there is a need to upgrade existing infrastructure and components of other layers to support interoperable and seamless experiences.
With emergence of 5G, IoT, Cloud, Hardware (VR/AR/MR headsets and haptic devices to create sensory experiences), Infrastructure is evolving to support different use cases of metaverse. For better immersive experiences, latency should be very low below human perceptible limit to interact in virtual worlds seamlessly.
While the current cloud distribution can deliver network latency of less than 100ms, networks need to meet a 20ms threshold to avoid the user feeling sickness. Only 24 out of 184 countries meet this criterion over wired connections, and only in China it is possible to achieve it wirelessly, according to a recent study
With 5G (promising down to 1 ms last mile latency) and future 6G, Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) is expected to boost metaverse user experience by providing standard and universal edge offloading services one-hop away from the cellular-connected user devices ( Reference)
Blockchain & NFT’s
“Blockchains and NFT’s has the potential to power next generation digital economy and can provide the necessary foundations for Identity management, Digital Ownership in Metaverse”
To embrace Metaverse in its true vision and reach its potential, it cannot be owned by a single entity. We might see evolution of multiple virtual environments in coming years. Users should be able to move their digital assets, identities and transactions seamlessly across these environments. Blockchain has the potential to play a key role to ensure interoperability, digital ownership and verification, Payments & Identity management. NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) are quickly evolving as alternate approach for digital asset ownership.
Blockchain scalability and performance, Fraud detection systems for NFT’s are critical challenges to be solved for adoption.
“Platforms are essential for faster adoption and matured app ecosystem”
Platforms provides necessary tools and interfaces for developers to build immersive experiences. Some of the larger companies trying to create platforms and associated ecosystem are
- Launched Suite of products for people to connect and interact on VR Headsets- Workrooms, Homes, Venues.
- Spark AR Studio — Create AR experiences across Facebook family of apps and devices
- Presence Platform — Suite of machine perception and AI capabilities — including Passthrough, Spatial Anchors, and Scene Understanding — that will let developers build more realistic mixed reality, interaction, and voice experiences that seamlessly blend virtual content with a user’s physical world
Primarily focused on enterprise ecosystem and is creating metaverse stack with a suite of products (Mesh, Azure Remote Rendering, Spatial Anchors, Dynamics 365 Remote Assist) that will improve worker experience, productivity and collaboration
Companies such as Nvidia , Decentraland, Roblox and many startups are enhancing their platforms to Metaverse
Avatars and Identity
Avatars are digital representation of ourselves and form the most logical components of Metaverse. In future, we may buy avatars using crypto or fiat currencies and customize with necessary accessories. Platforms such as Blender, Unity, Unreal are providing the necessary tools to create avatars and collaborate in virtual world.
Photorealistic Avatars (Avatar that look exactly like us than a comic symbol) , Integration with both centralized and decentralized Identity management system and seamless movement of avatars and user data across different virtual worlds are important to embrace potential of metaverse
Artificial Intelligence and XR Analytics
XR headsets and Metaverse platforms can provide additional sensors and metrics to track Eye movement, Hand and body Movements in 3D spaces. These additional metrics can augment existing analytics and provide more contextual information for third party service provides, brands and advertisers. With third party cookies phasing out, there is a need to create more robust platforms to connect first party sources across disparate datasets. We are seeing evolving of spatial analytics platform such as Cognitive3D , Vadr
Generative AI can be used to create simulations from physical environments and can scale up content creation at low cost.
There are other areas such as Digital Twins, Discovery engines, Apps that are critical for Metaverse
What is the future of Metaverse and how is it going to impact businesses?
“Low cost and safe headsets, Disruptive business models, Content, Interoperability and Security will drive the adoption of Metaverse”
Metaverse is the next evolution where people will collaborate and participate in virtual environments. For instance, Decentraland currently allow users to buy and lease plots in virtual environment. People can teleport to any location and experience live events. We will see emerge of virtual cinema halls, schools, companies in virtual worlds
While Metaverse is going to impact every industry, I see early adoptions of this technology in Real estate, Gaming and Entertainment.
Challenges for Adoption
- Maturity of VR/AR/MR headsets — Cost of Oculus Quest2 has drastically reduced. But the cost of HoloLens, VR cameras are on higher side. There are also hearth concerns associated with headsets such as Nausea, challenges for individuals with vision problems. This Market needs stabilization for wider adoption
- Privacy — Deepfakes, hacked avatars, Brand Safety and manipulated objects are some of the types of malicious behavior marketers will have to stay on top of
- Regulations — Existing Legal frameworks needs to be adapted to virtual worlds to address digital Justice
- Interoperability — Currently all platforms are siloed. This restricts the much larger vision of meta verse.
- Scalability — New tools and platforms to be created to seamless migrate content to virtual worlds. Tools to be created to create Synthetic Environments Simulating real world.
While the opportunity is huge, Metaverse has to overcome these challenges for wider adoption.
Nadella Embraces the Metaverse and Support for Remote Work in Ignite Talk Connect 2021: Our vision for the metaverse NVIDIA Brings Millions More into the Metaverse With Expanded Omniverse Platform
While Metaverse may throw opportunities for every business, there is a tremendous hype around this technology at the moment with huge investments from large players and investors. Organizations has to watch out this space , evaluate and identify right use cases for their customers ,analyze ROI and take next steps.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.