Make way for the next generation of living! Social gaming, shopping, education, work, entertainment – almost everything you do in real life seems to have a metaverse counterpart.
The metaverse is the sum of all virtual worlds powered by emerging technology, and their differences from each other can be as stark as night and day. Microsoft and Nvidia are building spaces to enhance work collaboration for organizations. Google and Apple are designing virtual reality headsets. Hyundai is exploring a metaverse with real robots and Meta’s Reality Labs division has spent up to $36 billion on what it calls "the next evolution in social connection."
So far, the metaverse as we know it is still in its infancy. What do we need to make this immersive virtual experience a reality?
Without 5G, rendering 3D graphics and transmitting real-time data will be difficult to achieve. Currently, poor Wifi signal is the bane of 3rd world countries like the Philippines, which lags behind average download speeds of up 216 Mbps in Singapore and 195 Mbps in Thailand.
To improve connectivity, companies like Amazon and Netflix are laying down more subsea cables, while Starlink is sending more internet satellites to Earth’s atmosphere. Also, since the metaverse relies heavily on cloud computing, more cloud infrastructure needs to be built.
Extended reality is an umbrella term for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. If you wear a virtual reality headset, everything you see around you is part of the virtual world. Meanwhile, augmented reality is what made Pokemon Go so popular: point your device at the right location, and virtual images are superimposed into your view of the real world through a special app. While mixed reality combines the two, the metaverse will be made up of all three realities — sensory data from the real world combined with immersive virtual characters and environments.
Of course, the metaverse won’t be complete with just visuals and sounds. Hand controllers and haptic suits let you feel the shape, weight, and force of virtual objects, while digital scent technology releases synthesized odors to let you smell. A newly-developed headset even lets you kiss in the metaverse!
On the software side, developers are working on real-time 3D rendering and video compression that is scalable for various devices.
No discussion of the metaverse is complete without holograms and high-tech headsets with body sensors. But this kind of technology comes with a huge price tag that only the rich can afford. To onboard more netizens to the metaverse, the race is on to create cheaper and less bulky AR and VR headsets. Other companies are taking another approach and building virtual worlds that can be accessed by anyone via smartphone and computer.
The internet of things is a future global network of smart devices connected not just to the internet but also with each other. These devices, such as smart cameras and sensors, will gather data from the real world and transmit them to virtual reality to create 3D digital replicas of real-life objects and places. Although having more smart digital devices increases cybersecurity risks and privacy concerns, expect these to be an integral part of the metaverse.
Blockchain technology is what enables metaverse users to maintain publicly verifiable records of who they are, what they own, and what they do. Smart contracts let you automate transactions and collect payments without a third party. NFTs let you prove ownership of digital files or assets, and decentralized storage lets you securely store and access data. Since copies of the data will be stored across multiple devices, even if many nodes and servers suddenly malfunction, your data won’t get wiped out in a single glitch.
For the metaverse to be globally accessible, tokens, assets, and avatars in one world have to be compatible and transferable from one world to the next. Eventually, you may have a single avatar that can travel freely through different virtual worlds.
All these advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing need more efficient energy sources to be sustainable. Recent developments include a breakthrough in nuclear fusion, as well as revolutionary chips that allow massive amounts of data to be stored without using much energy.
The metaverse has the potential to be the best social experience ever invented or the worst cyber threat to ever exist. As visionaries continue to shape the virtual playground of the future, it would be wise to familiarize ourselves with the technology involved: benefits, advantages, ethical uses, and all.
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