When most people hear the term ‘metaverse,’ they imagine an alternate reality where people wearing VR headsets get to immerse themselves and interact with each other. However, the construct of the metaverse is much deeper than VR headsets alone. There are 4.5 billion people with internet access in the world. They are part of the metaverse, although they do not know it themselves.

The metaverse is a digital reality made possible through the interaction of internet-capable devices. There are other unique features that make this reality possible. The metaverse is persistent, which means that when you log off, it does not stop existing. Other people can continue interacting with it. Contrast this to when you shut down your PC. The PC remains off until you switch it on again; however, you cannot shut down the metaverse.

In addition, the metaverse is continually growing its already infinite amounts of information. It is also increasingly interacting with the physical world. This is where virtual reality, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things have contributed greatly to the metaverse. But how exactly are these different technologies part of the metaverse?

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, IoT

The terms virtual reality and augmented reality can be easily confused to mean the same thing. However, they do not. When you put on a virtual reality headset such as the Playstation VR, you are immersed in a whole new world. The headset completely locks out your physical surroundings, and you feel as if you are in a totally different space. This makes it possible to watch a 360-degree video or play a game as if you are ‘actually inside the game.’ This is virtual reality.

Augmented reality adds to your physical environment. You can use augmented reality technology to overlay additions to your current environment. For instance, when Snapchat allows you to add filters to videos, that is a form of augmented reality. Enterprises such as IKEA have used augmented reality technology to allow users to see what a piece of furniture would look like in their house.

Another example of augmented reality in use is navigation apps that can help get through airports and malls as a consumer. These apps, built on Apple’s ArKit or Google’s ARCore, can trace where you are in a mall or campus and calculate the best route you should take to a chosen destination. The app draws arrows for the user to follow and is unbelievably accurate.

The Internet of Things can be best described as a system of internet-capable devices that can transfer data over a network with no human-to-human or human-computer intervention. For instance, a car could have sensors that alert a driver when tire pressure is low. You could also have transponders or monitors installed in humans or animals to track health indicators and send the data to relevant parties. The possibilities are limitless.

Gaming is Changing

The gaming world has always been at the forefront of immersing people in fictional digital environments. When Facebook purchased Oculus, the VR headset company was targeting gamers as the primary customers. Now Oculus is targeting a wider market, although gaming is still a part of where they are looking to expand.

Facebook has created a metaverse known as Facebook Horizon. The metaverse can be accessed using Oculus HR headsets sold by Facebook. The headsets also come with a pair of hand motion sensors. In this world, people get to create their own avatar, play games, hang out with friends, and even create their own games due to an inbuilt ‘game creation system.’

There are many more companies building out their own metaverses that people can immerse themselves into. It is hard to predict what the impact will be. Could these virtual reality worlds become more immersive than TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat?

New Forms of Real Estate

The realization that the gap between the physical and virtual world is continually disappearing has led to very sophisticated propositions. Developers Esteban Ordano and Ari Meilich founded a project called Decentraland. It is a project to build a virtual city where people can come in and purchase land and receive NFT tokens recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. The people can sell these lands or establish businesses on them using a virtual currency known as Mana.

The project was so appealing to investors that parcels of land on Decentralized traded for as much as $60,000 at the launch. The project is still being built out, but it creates opportunities for brands and advertisers. Imagine a big fashion brand buying land or leasing commercial space in a virtual world. People can see the brand as they walk in this virtual city; they can walk in, check out goods, be attended to, and make a purchase. How wild is that?

Decentralization of Control

One of the main talking points of the creators of Decentraland is the decentralized nature of the ownership and decision-making in their metaverse. The rules have already been established, and no big entity can come and change the by-laws. Compare this to Horizon, where to engage; you need to sign up through Facebook, already the biggest social media network in the world.

Concerns have emerged over the vast amounts of data that metaverse creators will be able to collect from users of the metaverse. VR systems can track your body movements at the rate of 90 times per second for accurate scene displays. They can record up to 18 types of body movements of the head and hands. These data points can be used to profile a user and target them with ads.

Another concern is what happens to the recordings made on the VR headsets. Anything you see and hear when in the VR metaverse is recorded on a rolling basis. Facebook has insisted that such recordings are not shared or used for anything just yet. How about the future? What happens when companies have recordings of live authentic conversations?

Fortunately, projects are emerging where people seek to build a decentralized metaverse where a single entity does not own and control everything. This has been proven possible by building on decentralized platforms such as the Ethereum blockchain. By allowing a community approach, there is reassurance that data will not be misused or be used to profit an entity.

Augmented Reality Trends

Although virtual reality often gets more attention because of the immersive nature of creations, augmented reality is predicted to have a bigger market by the middle of the current decade. One of the fast-growing markets in AR is shopping and retail. Fashion brands have built virtual stores and fitting rooms for clients.

Customers can walk into a store, pick an item they would like to try on, then head to the smart fitting room. Here, they get an interactive screen to see how they will look with the item on. They can pick variations of the item they want in terms of size, fit, and color on the screen. The system also suggests items the customer would be interested in using an artificial intelligence suggestion algorithm.

The thesis is that customers make the buying decision in the fitting room, and yet the seller is usually locked out at this point. The smart fitting technology allows the seller inside the room while also improving the customer’s experience.

Still, this form of AR raises concern about how much data about the person the store can collect in just one fitting experience. They can know the size, color preferences, and spending power. How much power and control are users willing to give up for better experiences? Are users even aware of the data being collected?

These questions will continue to abide as the metaverse continues to grow. It remains to be seen what kind of limits regulators across the world might decide to institute to prevent the creation of powerful corporations with a monopoly of information and financial muscle.

What Roles will NFTs Play in the Metaverse?

The metaverse will open huge opportunities for digital creatives. Artists, fashion designers, music makers, and game developers will have a stake in the assets being created in a metaverse. NFTs present the best way to track these digital assets and ensure creators get adequately remunerated for their work.

Creatives will no longer be forced to work for or only sell their creations to big brands who create games or big fashion labels who control the market. Instead, they can take their work directly to a market where anybody who seeks to use it must pay a royalty fee.

Take, for instance, what Digitalax is seeking to achieve. They have built an operating system basically for digital fashion. The company is enabling the creation of a supply chain for digital assets, including digital fashion. Artists can come in and build their assets and create NFTs for them. The company has also developed a 3D file format that is interoperable in multiple environments. These files are taken directly to the market, where gamers, game developers, and other users can integrate them into their varied activities. It is a decentralized ecosystem where different parties get what they want by leveraging NFTs technology.

Conclusion

Attaining a metaverse will be a culmination of many technologies and ideas coming together. It will be a factor of key industry stakeholders agreeing to decentralize previously centralized environments. Augmented reality, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, and Blockchain will play a significant part in facilitating communication and commerce in this new reality. No one can predict how we will use the internet a decade from now. All we know is that it will be vastly different from today.

Leave a Comment

Comments

No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.