Recently a new technology buzzword has been making the rounds…Metaverse. What is the Metaverse? According to Wikipedia:
The metaverse (a portmanteau of “meta-” and “universe”) is a hypothesized iteration of the Internet, supporting persistent online 3-D virtual environments through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets.
If we listen to Wikipedia, it is just the next version of the Internet. If we listen to Facebook, I mean Meta (they changed their name to reflect their desire to define the Metaverse), it is the next version of social engagement. If we listen to Microsoft, it is about increasing productivity/collaboration. We don’t yet know what Apple thinks because they are just getting into the AR\VR world with their mobile devices and are rumored to have glasses coming soon. So, they too will have their definition of what the Metaverse will be.
These may be too narrow a view to take when describing the Metaverse. Some may say that the Metaverse is the next iteration of or a descendant of Spatial Computing, a descendant of Ubiquitous Computing. A new name for old paradigms, if you will. Perhaps with some new technology playing its part. AR/VR is now becoming more prevalent, and as the technologies advance, the goals of the Metaverse become more viable.
Metaverse the IoT of Today
Back in the day, IoT was the buzzword de jure. There was a particular hype around IoT. Everyone started to IoT enable their devices not know precisely what that meant. It turns out that IoT is just the collection and analysis of telemetry data to make actionable decisions. Now I know this simplifies the term, but the point I am trying to make is that devices have been spewing telemetry for years, and organizations have been analyzing that data. Technologies like Cloud computing and networking advances made collecting and analyzing data more accessible. By labeling these actions, IoT allowed for a common vocabulary to emerge and for standards to be established.
Is the same thing happening for the Metaverse? A lot of technologies that make up the current definition of the Metaverse have been around for years. Augment reality, and virtual reality devices have been around for decades. Recently technology has advanced, improving the quality of those experiences. Infrastructure improvements and cloud computing are bringing speed and power to generating the Metaverse. Advances in technologies such as Digital Twins and Mesh clouds will only help advance Metaverse.
It is time to start to standardize the concepts that will play into the Metaverse. Hopefully, out of all this, a single standard will emerge. Let’s learn the lesson of the Web and reach a standard that all can embrace. We don’t need competing standards to slow the progress of the Metaverse. At the same time, the Metaverse should be accessible to all who wish to participate. To that end, those with disabilities should participate just as much a someone from poor rural areas. Security and privacy also need to be considered to ensure a safe experience for all. One thing for sure is that wherever we land on the definition, there are practical applications that will benefit from the technological advances.
Many applications will benefit from the advancement of the Metaverse. They span across many sectors:
- Social Engagement
- Many more…
The Metaverse will change how people interact with each other and could potentially change how healthcare is delivered to people in rural areas and how school kids will learn. Building this future is the challenge that lies ahead.
So, where do we begin to build out the future? As with the advice on where to start for IoT, start small, start with what you have. Many organizations have the building blocks in place or get where the building blocks will be to start making an impact on the Metaverse. A big part of the Metaverse (in my opinion) will be the Digital Twin. A digital representation of the real world. That sounds Metaverse’y to me. Start gathering the data required to build your Twin. Start building the AI/ML models that will enhance the data you collect. Then start small, make a mobile application that overlays intelligent data onto the real world. Maybe it is the health of a machine on the factory floor, or perhaps the results of an MRI overlaid on a patient getting ready for surgery.
It will be a while before head-mounted AR/VR displays are affordable and mainstream. In the meantime, we can start to build experiences with an eye on making them better as the technology catches up. We should build practical applications but at the same time not forget to create fun and engaging experiences. Learn the lessons that need learning along the way. Welcome to the Metaverse!