Metaverse is a term that was introduced by Stevenson in his novel, Snow Crash, in 1982. It’s a fusion of two words. i.e., “META” (Beyond) and “VERSE” (Universe). It is a virtual-reality space in which people can interact with a computer-generated environment beyond the limitations of the real world along with other people. We all are familiar with another term, “Multiverse,” from Marvel Comics, which means parallel universes. Well, Metaverse promises the possibility of a Multiverse (many parallel universes) within it, and our imagination is the only limit to the possibilities within Metaverse.
Layers and Technologies of Metaverse
Metaverse is a combination of multiple technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), Neural Graphics, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), 5G, and Blockchain, which make multiple layers that help each other to create an immersive spectrum.
The infrastructure layer is the base layer of Metaverse, which is enabled by technologies such as 5G, Networking, Cloud, and Graphic Processing Unit (GPU).
Networking: It is the nervous system for Metaverse where 5G with low latency and reliable connection facilitates a seamless experience for the users. 5G reduces the latency by 10 times and can provide 5 milliseconds of latency which avoids motion sickness. It provides mobility support with consistent coverage.
Graphics Processing Unit: The GPU enhances the graphics quality of Metaverse to provide an immersive experience, eliminating lags and frame drops. Building 3D space for Metaverse involves high-level of detailing in visual effects and motion graphics. So, the leading GPU manufacturer, NVIDIA, aims to use neural graphics to create realistic 3D objects in the development process. Neural graphics is a new technology, which combines the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and graphics together to power the Metaverse.
Also, NVIDIA introduced Omniverse Avatar Cloud Engine (ACE) in August at SIGGRAPH 2022. It is a collection of cloud-based AI models and services for Metaverse developers to build and customize interactive & realistic avatars with facial animation and emotion control.
- Human Interface
The technology chain flows from infrastructure to the Human Interface layer in Metaverse. It is the combination of hardware containing Head-Mounted Devices (HMDs), controllers, and haptic devices to allow us to enter and interact with the virtual world.
Head-Mounted Display: The HMD is the hardware through which we experience Metaverse. It includes a pair of optical lens stands worn close to our eyes to show us the virtual world. These devices have 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) movement, with three for positional axes (elevating, strafing, and surging) and three for rotational axes (rolling, pitching, and yawing). The HMD is paired with the controllers, which act as a virtual hand. Due to technology advancements, haptic gloves can also be paired to the HMD, replacing the controllers. There is rapid advancement in HMD technology and now some HMDs have human eye resolution with eye and hand tracking. One such device is Varjo VR-3, which provides both immersive and ease of interaction in the VR world.
Haptic Devices: The Haptic glove is the device paired with the HMD to experience realistic interactions with the 3D objects in the virtual world. It facilitates the user to feel the 3D objects in their environment. It captures even the small movements in the fingers and transfers these to the virtual hands to give a realistic feeling. In the year 2021, Meta’s Reality lab released a prototype of a haptic glove to bring touch to the virtual world. Their goal was to solve the challenge of touching the objects in the Metaverse. It is designed to provide the sensations of textures, pressure, and vibrations. They also demonstrated a virtual handshake between two players in the virtual world.
Both centralized and decentralized Metaverse exists. The key difference between the two is in the creation, control, and governance. Roblox and Fortnite are the examples of centralized Metaverse while Decentraland and Sandbox are the decentralized Metaverses. Decentralization gives more control to the community, which gives them the freedom to create on their own.
Blockchain and Cryptocurrency: The technology of Blockchain provides digital proof of ownership of lands, avatars, digital arts, etc., Unlike VR apps, in Metaverse, the users have complete ownership of their creativity and assets which are protected by the Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). As an example, : Decentraland is a Metaverse platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. The people in Decentraland can buy and sell virtual real estate within this world. It uses MANA as the cryptocurrency and LAND as a non-fungible token. It regulates the digital economy in Metaverse, and it is highly secured.
- Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) refers to the 3D space and computer-generated elements. The users can interact with these elements by using the Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), controllers, haptic gloves, and digital sensors. The design and development of virtual worlds in Metaverse is digital content development. It's a software built by using game engines or graphical middleware like Unity and Unreal. Knowledge in programing languages like C# and C++ is essential for the development using these game engines.
The content development in VR includes the creation of avatars, environments, interactions, connectivity, user interface building, analytics, and enhancements.
- Artificial Intelligence
Metaverse enhances visual and auditory senses for a human to provide an immersive experience. To achieve this, Artificial Intelligence (AI) acts as a bridge between the real and virtual space with Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing (NLP) or speech recognition. Natural Language Processing includes powerful, and widely used, consumer-facing applications of AI. For example, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, will also be in Metaverse to interact with non-playing characters and other utilities. AI is used to create the Avatars using AI engines, which use 2D image scans to generate digital avatars with accuracy to match the real person. AI is applied to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to make them smarter.
- Creator Economy
It is a combination of design tools and applications used by the designers and developers to produce digital assets for the virtual world. The purpose of these applications is to enable users to create content by using high-level frameworks. For example, a few years back, only a few Youtubers got millions of views for their content worldwide. Now, millions of people are able to make videos on a wide range of subjects, irrespective of the audience size. In Metaverse, the creator economy creates an ecosystem for the users to create their own content and protect them with NFTs. The Sandbox’s Game Maker is a tool that provides a platform for users to create their own games without coding skills. It has visual scripting tools that help the creators to contribute to the Metaverse.
This is the topmost layer of the Metaverse, where people can experience games, social networks, sports, banking, shopping, concerts, and tourism.
All the earlier mentioned technologies blend to provide multiple experiences in Metaverse.
Transformation of Current Mobile Apps to Metaverse Apps
Let’s review a few use cases of how our mobile apps which are connected to the internet will transform into Metaverse apps with no screen limitations.
Social Media Apps
According to Statista, 58.4% of the world’s population is on social media, where they create content and interact with known and unknown people. So, if a person/brand wishes to use this platform in Metaverse, they can directly interact with each other by using their avatar (a digital human who interacts with digital assets) making the interaction more real without their physical presence.
According to the report from cloudwards, online shopping is expected to reach $5.5 trillion in sales at the end of 2022. In Metaverse, people can shop by rolling the trolley in the virtual world and picking up the items that they need from the aisles of the virtual stores. This will give the customers the in-store experience and help the brands to showcase their products in three dimensions. The Metaverse shopping experience will also allow the brands to eliminate the inventory space in their stores. It will also facilitate the customers to try on the apparel and accessories before making the decision on buying them. In Metaverse, users are not restricted to shopping in just one shop like a standalone VR shopping app. They have the freedom to walk into any store of their choice. H&M opened its first store in Metaverse 2022. Now, H&M will offer its customers a 3D shopping experience in its virtual store in Metaverse. The E-Commerce platform will work in two ways, where people will shop for physical goods for real-world needs as well as virtual goods for their avatar in Metaverse. Virtual goods come with NFTs (Nonfungible Tokens) which are 100% unique with certified ownership. “Nikeland” in Roblox sold 600 pairs of NFT sneakers in only six minutes for 3.1 million USD.
JPMorgan Lounge: Virtual Tour Of JP Morgan’s Onyx Lounge In Decentraland
Food Ordering Apps
Ordering food is not going to be just swiping through the thumbnails of our favorite restaurants and scrolling through the menu to order. In future, food ordering will be much more interesting, where we enter a virtual restaurant and visually explore the displayed dishes to order. The virtual restaurants can also organize fun activities for their customers while they wait for the food to get delivered. Wendy's launched a virtual reality hub where people can visit the burger stand, using an Oculus. KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell have all filed patents to ensure ownership and control of their brand and assets in Metaverse.
Wendy’s Metaverse: Wendy's Horizon Worlds - Preview - YouTube
Fantasy Sporting Apps
Fantasy sports is strategy-based online games where you can create a virtual team of real players, playing in live matches worldwide. Apps like Dream11 and my11Circle attracts sports lovers to set up their own team by picking their favorite players and compete with other participants through contests at the time of any live sports leagues such as Indian Premiere League (IPL), UEFA Champions League, etc. So, in Metaverse, the same concept will be in a 3D world, where people choose their teams by looking at their players as avatars standing before them. It can provide a theatrical experience to the participants of the contest to watch the live match together in a shared environment and experience all the thrilling moments of the game. It is going to be a competitive environment where the live streaming of the match can be viewed along with the fantasy leader board in the same space.
In Metaverse, we can virtually travel to faraway places without any visa. This creates a visual aid for the users to pick the right place to visit in the real world. If we still wish to be on a virtual tour interacting with the people over there, then it’s still possible.
This real estate industry is no stranger to the world of Virtual Reality. IKEA created a high-definition, interactive showroom that uses the immersive power of Virtual Reality to offer an innovative 3D product experience. This technology is already widely in use in applications like 3D home tours and architectural visualizations. Metaverse can use the designer’s time more profitably to test a greater number of ideas in the virtual environment. The clients can experience the proposed designs before the actual construction and provide feedback. Buying digital land and constructing virtual homes is expected to be the most exciting part of Metaverse. The price of a small piece of land in Decentraland or the Sandbox was earlier under $1,000. Today it’s increased to $13,000. The virtual land is bought by using Ethereum. To buy land in Sandbox, one needs to use SAND (Currency for Sandbox) and MANA in Decentraland (Currency for Decentraland). In Decentraland, the plots of land can be sold as NFTs, which are unique and cannot be duplicated.
Training and Learning Apps
Metaverse enables training people faster and more efficiently, especially in technical areas like aircraft maintenance, operating heavy machinery, medical devices, etc. where providing hands-on training in the real world is expensive and risky. The scenario-based safety trainings can be simulated in Metaverse to reduce risk of life.
Games in Metaverse are already in place. Apps like Roblox (55.1 million active users daily) and Fornite (4 million concurrent players at any time) started creating the game platform in Metaverse. In Metaverse, games can be played without ‘swipe’ and ‘tap’ actions. The players can actually collaborate with their teammates in Metaverse and get a feel of real-life interaction while playing. Playing indoor games like chess, pool, snooker, and other sorts of board games will be more fun than on mobile.
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, or entertainment.
The goal for the brands to bring in all these apps and games into Metaverse is to find new ways to engage users, exhibit and sell their products, introduce innovative forms of advertising, team collaboration, efficient training outcomes, and entertainment. 3D Avatar will be the brand ambassador for the brands in the Metaverse.
The future of the internet is Metaverse, and all tech giants are already into this space to make the platform. Brands are busy setting up their apps. Apple is currently working on headsets that could replace our smartphones as the interface into the Metaverse of the future. The future Metaverse would be something very similar to our real world in many aspects, and even replace some real-world activities.
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