Since the dawn of civilization, humans have had only one world in which to live: the real one. But tech visionaries say we’ll soon have an alternative: a virtual world where our digital avatars and those of people in our communities and around the world come together to work, shop, take classes, pursue hobbies. , enjoy social gatherings and more.
Immersive video games and virtual concerts have given us a taste of this world. But visionaries say the Metaverse, as this world has been dubbed, will be much more engaging and robust, not only reflecting the real world in all of its three-dimensional complexity, but also expanding it to allow us to be and do what. previously could only be imagined. Walking on the moon in pajamas? Watching a baseball game from the pitcher’s mound? Frolic in a field of unicorns or be a unicorn yourself? In the metaverse, tech visionaries say, just about anything will be possible.
âThe metaverse is going to be the biggest computing platform revolution the world has seen – bigger than the mobile revolution, bigger than the web revolution,â said Marc Whitten, whose title is âSenior Vice President and General Manager of Creative “San Francisco-based Unity Software Inc.
Unity develops tools and services to enable users to create metaverse content. Other big tech companies are developing hardware and software products for the Metaverse, or their own virtual worlds, including Nvidia. Corp.
, Roblox Corp.
, Epic Games Inc., Microsoft Corp.
and Facebook Inc.
âAs well as being the next generation of the internet, the metaverse will also be the next chapter for us as a business,â Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a July earnings conference call with analysts. “In the years to come, I expect people to go from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company.”
Entering this vast new realm could mean using common devices like smartphones and computers. But tech makers say specialized glasses, similar but less bulky and more comfortable than virtual reality headsets currently on the market, will allow for greater immersion. We’ll also likely see a wider selection of haptic gear that allows users to feel virtual objects, as well as gear like omnidirectional treadmills that can simulate running, climbing, and other physical activities.
“The metaverse is going to be the greatest computing platform revolution the world has seen, bigger than the mobile revolution, bigger than the web revolution.“
For the metaverse to take off, however, we’ll need upgrades to existing computer systems and technology, say technical officials, including more raw computing power and better graphics as well as a universal framework that allows users to move seamlessly from one part of the metaverse to another. Programming tools simple enough to allow anyone to build their own virtual domains and experiences, and not just skilled developers, will also be essential, they say.
Concerns about privacy and security will also need to be taken into account. And then there’s the question of the potential pitfalls of the Metaverse, including the possibility that people find the virtual realm so compelling that they overlook their real needs.
âIt’s possible to prefer it to traditional life,â says Rachel Kowert, an Ontario and Canadian-based psychologist who has studied player mental health, of the metaverse, adding that the risks are higher for children. âTheir main learning about how to behave and engage with the world is through their peers and social interaction,â she says. âIt’s an essential part of how we learn to be people. “
But good or bad – or maybe both – the metaverse is likely to come.
Class travel anywhere, any time
Executives of tech companies helping to create the metaverse say it will be vast, with replicas of real-world locations – past, present and future – all rendered in realistic-looking 3D. It will be able to support an infinite number of users simultaneously, without the lag time that often frustrates multiplayer video game players.
For example, any number of students, from anywhere in the world, can come together for a class trip to ancient Rome, says Richard Kerris, director of Nvidia, who helps oversee a project. Metaverse infrastructure called Omniverse that will allow developers around the world to collaborate. in real time to create metaverse content creation software. Students could look around every nook and cranny of the Colosseum, with an artificial intelligence-powered virtual gladiator on hand to answer questions.
In the metaverse, tech gurus say, people will see and interact with each other in the form of avatars. But with the expected advancements in graphics, these would look a lot more realistic than the cartoonish avatars familiar to VR enthusiasts, according to Daren Tsui, managing director of Together Labs Inc., a social tech developer in Palo Alto. , in California. Avatars could also depict deceased people, including family and friends as well as historical figures, and, with the help of artificial intelligence, seemingly bring them back to life.
âThe avatar experience will be so real that you will hardly be able to tell the difference between a virtual meeting and a physical meeting,â Mr. Tsui said. “And the virtual experience will be better.”
Avatars, however, won’t be the only way people appear in the Metaverse. Tech managers say we’ll be able to watch real-world videos, including live footage from concerts and sporting events, for example. But rather than having to see the events from the limited perspective that the producers offer us, we will have the freedom to enjoy these events from any angle we choose. And with just the tap of a finger, we’ll be able to view information about the artists and athletes we’re watching, like their rank in the Billboard charts and how many points they’ve scored in a season.
We will also be able to mix virtual content with real-world videos and interact virtually, for example by bombarding football players with virtual tomatoes. (The players will not feel a thing.)
Virtual companions, weddings and tourism
The trade will take place in the metaverse, said John Egan, managing director of Paris-based forecasting firm L’Atelier BNP Paribas. Among other things, he predicts that users of the Metaverse will buy and sell virtual pets, from lifelike dogs and cats to dragons and other fantastic creatures. It also foresees a market for related services such as walking and pet grooming, as virtual companions could be programmed to require the same type of care as real-world animals.
Other potential business opportunities include virtual weddings and parties, with vendors setting up venues and charging rental or entrance fees, according to Egan. Likewise, private tour guides could take clients to virtual travel destinations. âThe potential is endless,â he says.
Metaverse entrepreneurs won’t accept cash, tech visionaries say, so transactions can involve credit cards and online payment services like PayPal.
But cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is likely to play a major role, according to Egan. In this way, for example, these virtual pets could have verified a “virtual DNA” similar to non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which certify ownership of digital art. As a result, he says, virtual animals could be “bred” for speed, which could allow virtual races and betting.
A “metaverse strategy” for companies
Real-world businesses will also be able to participate in the metaverse by offering virtual versions of their physical facilities, said Mr. Whitten of Unity. With existing online stores, customers can read product descriptions and make purchases. In the metaverse, customers could visit virtual outlets and try 3D and large-scale products before purchasing. A tall person can check if they can fit comfortably inside a camping tent, for example, before they buy it and have it shipped to their actual home.
Likewise, real estate agents could use the metaverse to allow people looking for new housing to virtually visit homes all over the world without leaving their own homes, according to Nvidia’s Kerris. They could roam the premises room by room and even scan their current furniture and upload it to homes to see what it would look like.
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âEvery Fortune 1000 company will have a metaverse strategy,â Mr. Whitten said.
Employers will also take advantage of the metaverse’s shared 3D environments to allow remote workers to collaborate in ways that are impossible with today’s video technology, according to technology visionaries. For example, architects and managers of construction companies, no matter where they are in real life, could virtually visit a construction site to monitor the construction of a new building, which, along with its surroundings, would be rendered in 3D. very realistic.
âThe Metaverse offers a huge leap forward for remote working,â Mr. Whitten said. âYou will be able to design and build things faster, safer and cheaper than today. “
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at [email protected]
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