Extended reality technologies aren’t new, but the way that we interact with them has changed rapidly within the last several years. As businesses compete for supremacy in this space, the landscape of these new innovations has become confusing and uncertain for many. What is the Metaverse, where is it taking us next, and what are the key technologies driving its development?
Origins of the Metaverse
Before we get into the details, let’s first understand what we’re talking about. Recently, the concept of a Metaverse has been popularized by Facebook’s rebranding to Meta, but the story doesn’t start there. In fact, the story begins in 1992 with Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash. The story depicted a virtual reality world powered by a monopolistic corporation that sought control over the lives of the service’s users.
Social media has proven to be a great way for businesses to find new customers, drive sales, and build customer trust and loyalty. But Mark Zuckerberg’s focus on the Metaverse seeks to take us to the next stage of the internet that is dominated by virtual reality. Users can work and play in a virtual world and interact with the Internet in a far more immersive experience than ever before.
The Metaverse Is the Internet
Although Meta’s rebranding and focus on this technology suggests that a similarly dystopian future lies ahead of us, that doesn’t necessarily mean that virtual reality technology and the concept of the metaverse is inherently bad. How we use that technology determines its ethical consequences.
Unity’s Tony Parisi talks about various rules of the Metaverse that Meta and various other corporations seem to be ignoring in their struggle for dominance over this sector. These rules dictate that the Metaverse should be an open-source project built for everyone and that no one should control it. These rules are the way that the Internet itself operates, and it’s why Parisi insists that the Metaverse is the Internet.
Why Understanding Metaverse Technologies Is So Important
These ethical concerns are precisely why it’s important for business owners to understand the different technologies driving the Metaverse forward and what impact they may have on users, the environment, and our society. By understanding these technologies, businesses can find new ways to enrich our society with constructive uses of virtual reality connectivity that enrich our world and keep the digital economy booming.
In addition, understanding these technologies is important because as more advanced techniques are developed for use in Metaverse projects, the average cost of $48,000 for app design in the USA will undoubtedly go up. Business owners need to understand what they need to focus on when planning their next move.
Businesses also need to understand that as the landscape of the Metaverse evolves, the nature of content will change as well. Creating quality content marketing strategies with these immersive, virtual environments in mind is essential as the industry moves forward.
At its heart, the Metaverse is defined by its immersive experience for users, and this wouldn’t be possible without AR and VR. The Metaverse and VR are terms often used interchangeably, but there are some differences. The Metaverse is all about connected VR experiences. A single-player game in VR is not part of the Metaverse, but a shared meeting in VR is. In the future, the Metaverse may expand beyond VR to much more futuristic technologies.
Virtual fitting room technology is also taking off to help improve e-commerce experiences. By allowing shoppers to overcome the barriers of online shopping, they can choose the item that’s best for them without having to leave the comfort of their home. In the future, the Metaverse can improve on this technology by fully immersing you in a virtual representation of the store in VR.
However, the VR experience requires expensive equipment such as a virtual reality headset, which is not the most affordable option for most people. Against this background, it is augmented reality technology (AR) that can become the main driving force behind the development of the Metaverse. According to Statista, 83.96 percent of the world’s population owns a smartphone, which means potential access to AR capabilities.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Although extended reality takes the forefront of the Metaverse, artificial intelligence is an important technology working behind the scenes to make the magic happen. AI is most useful for data calculations and predictions, but it can also help improve algorithms that help with certain tasks like avatar creation, natural language processing and translation, and world generation. It can also improve the ways that we interact in VR, as AI can pay close attention to sensors that measure our bioelectrical and muscular patterns. AI can also help make experiences more inclusive by providing services like image recognition for visually impaired users.
To be a truly immersive platform, the Metaverse needs three-dimensional environments. There are hundreds of 3D modeling tools that will be foundational for businesses looking to create a Metaverse or VR-related product or service. Aside from building objects from scratch in programs like Blender, it’s now possible to reconstruct objects in 3D with sensors. In some cases, this can be accomplished by mobile devices with infrared depth scanners like the iPhone’s LiDAR sensor. This can help ‘digitize’ objects for use in virtual environments.
Digitizing objects can have a positive impact on manufacturing industries as well. 3D technology can improve the visibility of the supply chain for consumers, allowing them to see where a product comes from and how it’s processed.
Although fully digitizing a human body for a virtual environment in VR isn’t here yet, virtual avatars are the next best thing. Being able to properly create, animate, and utilize a virtual 3D avatar is very important in this stage of the Metaverse.
Popular in commercial spaces, edge computing enables faster transfer of data with fewer delays which is necessary for high-quality immersive experiences in virtual spaces.
When millions of people are having virtual experiences around the world, the cloud simply can’t handle all of the processing power necessary to maintain the system. Instead, distributed computing can bring that processing closer to each user, making the entire experience much more fluid.
The Metaverse is all about connecting virtual experiences, but networking with VR can use enormous amounts of data. 5G technology, which is one of the latest mobile trends, has been improving over recent years, providing the power necessary for real-time data transfers. More importantly, 5G will enable people to connect to these AR/VR experiences from anywhere, not just their homes.
Turning back to edge computing, more bandwidth through 5G means that it’s possible that VR rendering can be done on an edge device streamed to your headset, meaning that the size of VR headsets could shrink in the next several years to become more comfortable for users.
Although the Metaverse has its roots in criticism over the control corporations have over our personal lives, that doesn’t mean that connected virtual experiences are a bad thing. If we consider these technologies ethically and responsibly, we can find ways to genuinely help consumers while increasing the revenues of our businesses. These technologies aren’t meant to replace the real world, but rather to extend our reach across the Internet to share experiences in places where we couldn’t before. How the Metaverse evolves is up to us, so let’s build the future that we want to see.