Let Gaurav take you on an immersive journey of what the future holds for us with the perfect culmination of the user experience metaverse has to offer -
I am here to talk about tomorrow – literally let’s talk about Oct 31st but say years into the future. So Oct 31, 2050, a Friday is where we all are hypothetically. Allow me to paint a picture for all of you as to how the day and the weekend ahead could look like.
You wake up on this fine Friday morning and prepare for a meeting with a potential US account your team is trying to land. But instead of walking into the conference room of your physical office, your digital avatar walks into a virtual conference room along with digital, life-size 3D avatars of your US teammates and the team from the client's side. You all sit together in this virtual world and have a very productive work meeting to start off your Friday morning.
Then later in the day you decide to take your team for a celebratory lunch for landing the client you met earlier in the day. You and your teammates go to a nice restaurant to enjoy a sumptuous lunch together.
Do you think you have stepped out of your home yet? Well no, as for the lunch your digital avatars sat next to each other in a virtual restaurant!
Then Friday evening is the time for you to attend an EDM concert with your friends. Hope you don’t feel anxious in large crowd gatherings but even if you do, you are in a safe place as you indulge in a shared experience with the avatars of all the attendees by going elbow to elbow in a virtual concert venue.
In between the stage sessions, your avatar goes on to buy a limited edition t-shirt from one of the virtual shops in the concert arena and while being at it, further gets an arm tattooed with the band’s symbol.
That brings an end to an eventful Friday for you in the realms of the metaverse but hold on to your seat as the fun is only beginning for the rest of the weekend.
When you wake up on Saturday morning you have your limited edition t-shirt bought using Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) last evening at the concert, delivered to your home in the physical version. Something to get you excited and prepped for the action packed day that’s in store for you.
So this Saturday was ear-marked for you to decide on your long awaited holiday with your travel partner who’s working out of London currently. If you have to make travel plans, what do you normally prefer? Scanning through several travel websites, going through travel vlogs, calling a travel agent to present the best deals to you or a mix of all of these? But remember we are talking about tomorrow in the metaverse world where you don’t need to do any of that. Your digital avatars will just come online in this immersive world and start exploring! You both will be able to jump onto any location through a highly realistic first-person experience which would be like being at that particular location in the first place.
It leads you both to start your search over a cup of coffee in a nice little café in Paris, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. While you stroll through one of the most beautiful pedestrian streets of Paris, you both realize that you guys actually enjoy adrenaline arousing activities more and that takes you to the adventure capital of the world – Queenstown. It takes you through an exploratory tour of activities like skydiving over the Southern Alps to paragliding across the Coronet Peak to jet skiing like 007 through the town. So it ends up giving a strong proposition for your holiday destination but before you have your decision made you don’t want to miss out on experiencing being in nature’s lap coupled with your proclivity for an extremely adventurous trip. This takes you both to glamping in Iceland where you get to immerse in the beauty of aurora borealis while sitting under your geo dome. Well isn’t that the perfect culmination of adventure & romance for you?
While you both were enjoying all these “virtual” locations, the immersive experience was also overlaid with reviews from fellow travellers and the best aggregated deals for all your booking packages. Though each of the option presented a compelling proposition of its own, you end up selecting one by making all the travel & stay bookings within the same immersive session.
After an adrenaline pumping, globe-trotting last couple of days, don’t think you would be in any mood to slow down on this ride. But let me show you how you (and your digital avatar) could have an unwinding, relaxing Sunday. Imagine yourself being taken to a book store with an enticing display of eye-catching new covers from various genres you are interested in. You literally walk up to a shelf of books configured per your taste and pick up a book that appeals to you the most. You can turn the pages while feeling the paper quality and taking in the scent of the paper which we miss in the 2D formats available online today. Once you like the book, you use NFTs to complete the purchase and continue reading.
After you have quenched your scholarly thirst, it is time for some soothing music to declutter your mind and get you energized for the week ahead. You augment your physical space with labels of artists you like the most and get to see some of the new releases from them. Immerse yourself in the setup basis the genre you have selected and slowly transcend away in the realms of the metaverse to end your week.
Monday morning, you start the work schedule as you continue to operate within the different worlds created in the metaverse. But yeah, this morning when your digital avatar logs in to work, will there be any change that your colleagues will notice? Well yes, as you would have this nice looking tattoo on your arm from Friday's concert to share stories about.
After being on this overwhelming ride into tomorrow’s world with me, many of you must have been amazed by the potential metaverse holds and the impact it can create on our world in the future. But what if I were to tell you that every aspect of the picture I just painted is very much possible today (well almost everything)!
We have already seen artists like Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Lil Nas X perform virtual music concerts for millions of fans worldwide on certain gaming platforms. These festivals are examples of how a virtual world could cross over the physical boundaries we have for humans to come together and immerse in an experience, especially in the context of the new normal.
We have platforms that are developing virtual avatars and personalities for enabling, especially Gen Z, to lead their lives online. NFTs on the other hand are mainstream on various platforms allowing digital avatars to collect and trade digital items & collectibles.
That brings me to explaining the metaverse in depth.
If you google the word metaverse, the most common definition you will find is that it’s a digital universe made up of live, persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces that seamlessly blend into our physical reality.
Having trouble visualizing it? Let me draw a parallel to make it easier.
For the creation and sustenance of human life in our universe, if we were to list down critical elements there would be 10 of them at a very basic level which exist to bring us where we all are. What I will do is touch upon those 10 elements for the metaverse and how this parallel universe is coming to life. Some of you may find this analogy simplistic as I am not going into the theory of cosmic origins but the idea is to help all of us visualize how the metaverse will take the shape of a parallel universe which will exist along with our physical world.
As leading explanations go, Big Bang has been the defining incident in the creation of our universe. If I were to look at the metaverse, I would say the current pandemic has played that role to make a sci-fi concept coined by Neal Stephenson back in 1992, real in 2020. As we all are recovering from this pandemic the need for digital content to satisfy the consumer passion points for the sensory perceptions has become real and it’s here to stay.
After the Big Bang, the second element which comes into play is the group of galaxies which bind several objects together. With metaverse taking shape gradually, the need for our cultural, commercial, and creative worlds to co-exist and succeed digitally has only become paramount. In this context, Massive Interactive Live Events (MILEs) present the ability to gather massive audiences without having to worry about physical space or location limitations and represent an early form of how things will shape up.
In that order the third element which comes is Earth or the surface of the world we live in. In the metaverse realm, blockchain plays that critical role of the globe with each virtual world representing an individual continent or mass of land separated by oceans. An example of this today would be Decentraland, which is built on ethereum blockchain and is the virtual world for all digital parcels of land.
While we are at the surface of the world, let’s also look at the atmosphere and the environment around us. That would bring in the fourth element in the mix, which is Web 3.0. Ultimately, the metaverse is a representation of the full functionalities of Web3, the forthcoming third generation of internet services that will leverage machine learning and decentralization to provide more immersive, connected, and open web-based experiences.
What would power the digital realm of metaverse is infrastructure – both visible and invisible. Advent of 5G connectivity will not only provide high bandwidth and low latency access to the internet, it will also enable last mile edge computing on these 5G devices. The seamlessness and richness of responses from these 5G devices will be as though you are connected to a powerful graphics and AI workstation on the cloud. This represents the fifth element in our list of 10 and this is equivalent to how the sources of energy in the form of stars, like our sun, power up the physical galaxies around us.
As you would have noticed that in the first half of my list, I have stayed macro and looked at how the larger elements of this parallel universe are shaping up. In the next 5 items that I will be covering, I will go into the micro aspects and bring out the individualistic elements to the fore.
The central theme is the evolution of digital avatars which acts as the cornerstone of user generated worlds in the metaverse. These meta humans (as I like to call them) are virtual representations of human beings and their personalities, and would become the sixth element in our mix today. The world will eventually have a virtual population consisting of avatars, just like we have a physical human race. Our Gen Z already considers these avatars as an extension of themselves. In the metaverse, the personality of these virtual avatars will be complete with its own set of habits, brand preferences, digital and physical goods in possession.
We cannot talk about humans without talking about elements which make us human. In the metaverse, the brain of metahumans will be represented by an advanced state of AI and ML technologies that we are approaching today. This seventh element would lead to an exponential convergence of all technologies that this era would stand for and thereby bring meaning to the metahuman existence in this realm.
Humans are incomplete without their sensory experience of the environment and this power for the metahumans is brought by the eighth element in our list today – the wearables. AR glasses & MR headsets of today are building towards providing a truly immersive & personalized experience tomorrow when they also become a force of reckoning for everyone to take note of. Whatever shape the wearables take in the future, they will act as the eyes, ears and other sensory organs of our digital avatars.
And staying close to metahumans, non fungible tokens (NFTs) would be the ninth element in the mix which are the digital items these digital avatars would end up owning. NFTs offer a direct relationship between a brand or IP owner and consumer that can serve as a ‘passport’ to additional physical and digital benefits arising from the virtual goods. Users can store their digital items and travel between virtual worlds, taking their items with them wherever they go. If the virtual world in which an avatar purchased an item changes or ceases to exist, the ownership remains intact and infact these digital items can still be traded in newer virtual marketplaces. This would represent true ownership in the digital realm of metaverse.
NFTs also bring us to the last element on our list which is the layer of 3D & AR tools empowering an individual’s browsing, gaming, shopping, entertainment, and all other virtual experiences while bringing them to their physical spaces. These 3D/AR tools also have the power of building the next layer of contextuality by understanding our habits, preferences and past purchases as facilitated by our digital versions. They could seamlessly plug in shareability of social media platforms and deliver the best of what metaverse has to offer. This would act similar to the nature of our world which provides meaning to all existence.
As we all would have understood today that as metaverse takes up the shape it’s meant to, it will bring along various technological advancements along with it. Augmented reality for one could turn out to be the single most powerful tool for phygital engagement of retail brands uplifting sales conversion multi-folds. Mass scale adoption of digital avatars on the other hand presents a perfect breaking point to bring forth real-time volumetric capture in the virtual world which has been missing till date. The workplace meeting or the music concert scenario we visualized today will need this for us to have meaningful human interactions in the virtual worlds. This presents opportunity to surpass limitations and physical boundaries with doors for creativity and innovation opening.
Well to end, the pandemic acting as the Big Bang has definitely given an irreversible surge to the metaverse by bringing everyone’s interest to the technology. Lack of human interactions & isolation may have triggered the advent of this technology but the need for living interactive lives in safer environments is here to stay!