Today, when we think about the Metaverse it is very easy to associate it to a Virtual Reality (VR) space where we meet, collaborate and interact with others. When doing those meetings via 2D client (for example Mesh for Teams on a Desktop computer without a headset) we will be attending the meeting or workshop in a kind of playing a modern game environment (except that people, goals and objectives are real ). And this is the way we get started in the Metaverse – joining virtual worlds, collaborating, shopping, visiting places and learning. It is technically easier and less expensive – and there is already a long history of virtual environments.
But for the Metaverse VR is but one step forward on a journey. The more the technology (devices and software) advances & becomes more affordable and the more people start realizing benefits from the Metaverse we can see that the real Metaverse will be using Extended Reality (XR) – or Augmented Reality (AR) or Mixed Reality (MR) where the physical real world is being extended (augmented / enhanced / interlaced / overlayed ) with digital information.
We can already experience this with first generation Metaverse devices such as HoloLens’s. In fact, the early version of the Industrial Metaverse already exists and is being used actively in manufacturing, process industry and in the maintenance.
During Microsoft Build 2022 we saw the video about Kawasaki manufacturing factory, where Digital Twins and Industrial Metaverse was heavily used.
And looking at what kind of scenarios Microsoft is planning for AI / Metaverse for their fiscal year 2023 it is easy to see that many of those can benefit from Extended Reality as well.
For example Worker Safety can involve Extended / Mixed Reality device that keeps workers up to date about environments and what will be needed or worn to accomplish next steps in the work. Shelf Analytics in Retail can be highlighted to the person inspecting shop and they can start already planning what should be done next to improve sales. Automated supply chain and assembly can help monitoring persons by bringing in information into Extended Reality when they walk at the assembly line.
Looking at these brief examples on Industrial Metaverse lets us see more of the path where we are heading towards to: Extended Reality world that is filled with digital twins, information and we can use this overlayed information to better navigate through the town, to see details of shops and buildings, attend tours with physical people guides and of course – collaborate with others without having to shut down the real world around us behind the immersive headset.
There are technical obstacles at this point. Lightweight glasses don’t have much battery life and larger headsets are too clumsy and non-attractive so they would be wore outside. And the other one is the content that will be available in the XR Metaverse. Those are just technical obstacles, that will be resolved when time passes. But for those thinking about how the Metaversed world will be – keep on reading.
The Metaverse is persistent and spatial
The Metaverse is persistent and spatial and this is one reason why Extended Reality makes so much sense. Depending on our location we are seeing content relevant to that place, we can leave messages to our friends into a specific area and interact with content there. It could be avatars, shopping, objects or information.
All this can be used for helping us to get to our destination (think Maps and navigators) by overlaying information to our XR device, get more information (what’s that statue and its history), meeting people in the specific place (some arrive there virtually, but we can interact with them) and so on. There will be use cases for Virtual Worlds and headsets as well, but for the Metaverse to really be a big player in our day and work it needs to be XR.
Meetings in the Metaversed environment
Meetings in the Metaversed environment will be joining both virtual and physical worlds when Extended Reality is used. Think about a meeting room where attendees are wearing XR glasses (or headsets like Microsoft HoloLens – but lighter- today). This would allow people to have conversation together in the room, but also see holographic and holoported people in the physical space.
3D virtual spaces is just the first step, when we think about the future of meetings – where we can bring in people, content and data to the meeting room that spans both physical and digital worlds. This is what I am looking forward big time – getting to the next level of Hybrid Meetings where people in the Digital and Physical Spaces can collaborate and interact in the same space very nearly like they were in the same physical room.
Walking and other activities
Walking and other activities will be enhanced with the digital world content and data. Since the Metaverse is spatial and persistent, we will be able to meet others on the street – who are not physically there. Seeing avatars flying and moving on physical world streets, getting data on next public transportation schedules, seeing restaurants ads about what’s today’s special menu and so on. This will require of course quite a lot of control how and what we want to see, but in that world we can interact with physical world objects and people as well as those residing in the digital world.
This feels quite a future sci-fi today, but we are already on the path towards this. Think Extended Reality apps in mobile phones (games mostly today) but also Google or Apple Maps kind of spatial applications that can help you get to the destination. First we may see this via mobile devices and once Extended Reality glasses become more useful (the tech obstacle) it starts to gain momentum. In this world we might be connecting enterprise and business solutions to games very easily.
It would be great to have such lightweight glasses already today when you are driving a car or bicycle – or even running or walking around. I have gotten used to my car having HUD so putting that HUD to glasses would be very natural – especially when combined with hand gestures and audio for controlling it. I would welcome the “extra screen” that is overlayed to me when walking, bicycling or even driving a car. Of course Do-Not-Disturb and notification settings needs to be tuned to suit each activity separately. AI could determine your activity automatically by analyzing your view. This is all about tech making life easier, not more complicated (like it will be very likely in the beginning for majority of people..).
Visiting sights and roaming the city
Visiting sights and roaming the city with virtual guides – as well as opportunities to use services nearby. Perhaps you need a ride, or you are going to be warned about change in the weather. Or about not going to that particular area during that time. And of course – combine with meeting digital people on the sight. Perhaps your guide is not a bot but a real person you can buy the tour service – or join a predefined tour.
Meeting people in the physical world
Meeting people in the physical world will be easier if we get the contact details directly. What was that person’s name again? Hey – how can I contact you later? I am at Starbucks – where are you now so we could meet? Of course combined with privacy and approvals for releasing information will be needed.
Shopping can be easier in the Metaversed shop. Seeing information about food origins, freshness or perhaps about guarantee period of that appliance. How about thinking how the new furniture fits your house? What about seeing if home delivery is possible? Or just storing the device to your list so you can check how your place when you are at the house?
Learning and training
Learning and training can be instructor lead – but you can stay in your room at home. Instead you can see the instructor there at your place – or you can opt to learn in the fully virtual environment. Teaching people in the front of the classroom can include participants from both physical and virtual world.
Learning and training can also benefit from full Virtual Reality space because it literally has no limits. But when we introduce physical objects, machines or people there then XR is much more useful. Extended Reality is already used in various learning scenarios all over the world – from airplane engines, to first aid / resuscitation to medical education. Read more how Metaverse is revolutionizing education and learning.
Future is in the Extended Reality
These are just some visions how the Future of Metaverse will look like. First we start with more virtual worlds, but the future is in the Extended Reality. Many of these scenarios could already be accomplished using current day devices – but since devices are not thin and lightweight these won’t be seen yet. If you have a HoloLens, you can already try out how Extended Reality meetings work with HoloLens 2 and Mesh application. And it doesn’t stop there as there are plenty of Extended Reality HoloLens solutions people can use. The furthest where this is used, is the Industrial Metaverse in various areas. Already today.
You can try out Extended Reality meetings and applications. Today.
At Sulava, we are the leading partner in the Metaverse, and we have expertise and ideas on how to deploy these products in your company. So, why don’t we set up a meeting together? Get to know our metaverse solutions and contact us now!