News articles have been rife with the Struggles of Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, and his vision of a utopian future, where billions of people would inhabit this immersive virtual environment where you work, play in a hybrid augmented/virtual reality. In our view, it does not matter about the billions of dollars already spent. However, to make the Metaverse ubiquitous like the web is in our lives, it should become a collaborative environment where multiple vendors build this world together, combining their different strengths to make this vision a reality, and most importantly the metaverse should be useful.
The easiest way to describe the Metaverse would be to use key movies that have illustrated this theme. You have the Matrix series, Inception and even Tron, which have successfully demonstrated what a Metaverse could look like or feel like. But the problem is much deeper. Environments that have been created so far are run by either a single company, without a collaborative vision and the potential pitfalls are so much deeper than just a “Metaverse.”
Let us focus on our Humans first
With the dependency on Virtual Headsets, like the Meta Quest 2 and the Meta Quest Pro, you are limiting the scale of usage and controlling the type of users who could access this universe. Technology should not be a limiting factor; it should allow us to reap the benefits and leave the disadvantages. After all is it not easy to just go back to the web and dump the metaverse? Shouldn’t the usage be tailored to adapt to current user habits and behaviours rather than try to force new ones down their throat?
Ideally, we should try and create technology, and its dependent technologies to motivate us in a direction that could be ideal. It should allow us to meet new people in new environments that we otherwise could not meet in real life, have new interactions, encourage new ideas, and finally foster fundamental changes that benefit humanity. That is exactly what kind of technology we need right now.
Building a useful Metaverse
We understand that the metaverse is a steppingstone to something bigger and conceivably better. I think after all, we have a genuine understanding of what we want. The end goal is having the virtual world overlaid upon our physical world, where we can interact with our present reality with more information and services in a more interactive manner. It’s not about adding computer animations, and graphics onto our physical world, which serves no purpose and is ultimately just a gimmick. In fact, we need a way to present experiences, information, and services in a way that merges both the physical and digital world.
The Ideal Metaverse
To create an environment where hundred of millions of users spend their day to day lives, we need just two basic steps to make this a reality.
Consistency both in experience and expectations
The ability to marry the physical world in real-time to the real world.
So, let us focus on how we get there.
So, what do we mean by consistency? It is simple. It is a ‘shared stage’ of sorts where everyone is not only seeing the same thing, but they are also experiencing the same thing. And this is across devices and not dependent to one vendor, one operating system, one universe or one region.
Like how Google Maps recently and very cleverly I might add have launched augmented reality (as a new feature) allowing you to see the surroundings to match the actual environment to your destination. Now imagine this, being able to navigate across multiple levels. You reach the building, and Google Maps tells you that you need to go to the 32nd floor, but before that you need to check in to the reception, which requires some sort of identification to enter. This is a use case that is tailored for the real world, and hence adoption is going to be a lot easier because it makes our lives easier, taking care of mundane tasks.
Now let us take a step further. Instead of allowing you to physically check in to the reception, Google Maps could take care of this, submitting your ID via an automated system, and allowing you to use the NFC system on your phone to get through the boom gates, and all of this done in advance well before you even reach the location. It is like the usual GPS with a ton of added features and services that just make sense. If such a service was available, wouldn’t you use it?
Wearables that don't make you look like a robot
While we understand that it takes time and numerous iterations to improve this technology, AR is yet in a very nascent stage of its development. A ton of innovation is required to really build and manage the flow of information, and 5G is a step in the right direction. But the fundamentals are the same. We need to deliver this complex technology in a way that is socially acceptable.
We have evolved from the days of mainframes to computers, to PCs to laptops to smartphones to smart watches. The one thing that is constant is that technology and processing power has evolved, and the size has reduced. Creating wearables can make this new reality malleable, but to make it useable it must mimic real use cases, and most importantly real life.
Yes, we need to start somewhere so this trend continues, but a starting point of $1,500 for a Meta quest is prohibitive to making this Metaverse a reality. And the fundamental problem is if we are creating for the initial subset of users (i.e., people who have a disposable income of $1,500 to splurge on a bit of technology), we are limiting the future developments to cater to that user group. When you want to revolutionize something as fundamental as how we access technology, and if we are aiming for the Metaverse to replace or be an alternative to the web, it needs to be created for the masses. Let us face it, the current and future potential applications of the Metaverse should not be restricted to the gaming and entertainment industries.
Businesses across all domains need to not only start preparing for the Metaverse but have a larger voice in how this unique environment/world is created. It’s not about competitive edge anymore, it’s the fundamentals of how technology should be leveraged for humanity’s needs.
The ultimate immersive experience
This is exactly what the Metaverse is. Like Zuckerberg said:
The metaverse is the next frontier in connecting people, just like social networking was when we got started… Over time, I hope we are seen as a metaverse company, and I want to anchor our work and our identity on what we’re building towards.
Fine speech, but to do that, you need everyone working on board. I mean after all the Horizon World should ideally be using a combination of Unity and Unreal Engine to create a better more realistic world. If you want a virtual world that imitates our real world, you need the digital environment to have the right textures that makes it feel close to our physical reality, with a little bit of photorealism.
This collaborative experience can ideally be laid out in multiple stages:
Enablers lay the foundation of the core technology which the Metaverse runs on. They should ideally cover the basics like governance, security and privacy, and also facilitate the operation of the metaverse economy. This is where Web 3.0, Blockchain, AI, crypto currencies and NFTs would ideally be situated.
The infrastructure covers the hardware and software requirements for the Metaverse, but let’s go a bit deeper. To us, infrastructure is also the environments, the core world. Just like it is in our physical world.
Platforms & Tools
Platforms and Tools allow the creation and deployment of Metaverse experiences. This could be Web Browsers, Dapps, App Stores, Render Engines, AI services, etc. But more importantly this is where you try to build a coexistence of immersive technologies like AR, VR, Unity and Unreal Engine, sort of cooperating with a slight modification of experience, depending on the device used.
Content is the final piece. This is where developers, creators and even users are active. In an ideal metaverse, your users create the world and the environment which drives the overall Metaverse experience, either through a mimicry of the physical world, or an alternative world where your imagination is allowed to run wild.
Our Ideal Solution
It's simple. Democracy.
Allow the creation of an open source metaverse which allows organizations and people to borrow systems and applications to build a shared universe that is virtual and could be a bridge between the physical and the virtual world. This allows a proliferation of technology and applications, as people will end up building for their own preferred use cases, kind of how the web started and grew.
Why waste a lot of time for no reason and allow a single company to be burdened with such a huge responsibility? Share it, distribute it, and this is how we build a new web, which is not only useable for the bulk of users, but can evolve and grow in the future without limitations and hinderances.
If you had to build a metaverse, what would you imagine it to be?