AR and VR are believed to be a very important part of our lives in the near future. The value they offer is mind-blowing: creating alternate realities, having completely new immersive experiences in different virtual spaces, owning and trading things that actually don’t exist in real life as if we are in a science fiction movie or a very realistic video game. As you can imagine, these offerings of AR and VR will not be limited only to gaming, communication, or shopping. Today, the world is talking about a new concept that includes AR, VR, NFTs, and Web 3.0: the metaverse. But what exactly is it, and more importantly why should we care?
The Next Big Thing?
The idea was first coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel. In the book, the term refers to the convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space.
The metaverse consists of future-forward social hubs with connected apps where avatars can meet. A VR and AR-ready ecosystem bringing people into some sort of a virtual universe. Some futurists define the metaverse as Web 3.0. Web 1.0 connected people with information, Web 2.0 connected people with people, and finally Web 3.0 will connect people with information, people, information, places, and things all at the same time.
The term intrigues many silicon valley companies and tech giants. Their work on this subject is going on in full gear. Facebook is one of the companies investing heavily in the metaverse. The CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that they will be positioning the company as a metaverse company in the future rather than being a social media platform. He explained the metaverse as:
“You can kind of think about [the metaverse] as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness.”
We Are All In This Together
One crucial thing to acknowledge is that metaverse cannot fully operate without its building blocks being developed enough to be implemented in an interoperable environment. By the building blocks, we mean cryptocurrencies, internet infrastructure, blockchain infrastructure, virtual reality headsets, and complementary hardware (computers and smartphones). Not only tech companies but also artists, designers, architects, bankers, marketing people, and many other professionals should be ready for such a conversion if they want the metaverse to achieve what was intended for it. It is not something one company could build or govern alone, rather, it’s a collaborative movement that must take developers and creator communities into consideration to be successful. So what exactly the tech community is doing at the moment for the upcoming metaverse trend?
Facebook is one of the tech giants clearly stating their mission to become a metaverse company in the near future. Acquisition of Oculus to put more sophisticated effort on AR and VR technology and launching Horizon, a virtual-reality community that’s invite-only, signals that Facebook is ready to play big on the metaverse.
On August 17, the company unveiled what it calls “Horizon Workrooms” on the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset. The app, allows workers to create an avatar, collaborate with others on a whiteboard, stream what’s on their laptop, take notes and interact with co-workers who video conference into the virtual room — all while sitting at their real-life workspace.
In a recent meeting held among Facebook employees, Zuckerberg announced some groundbreaking goals that attracted all the attention of the tech world and most probably catalyzed the development of the metaverse as Facebook set some high standards about the things they plan to achieve. Zuckerberg expects someday it will be the metaverse we’ll be referring to when we want to just meet a friend or get together with our family, not the “small glowing rectangles” we use to log in to social media. The idea is to create a space similar to the internet, but one that users (via digital avatars) can walk around inside of and where they can interact with one another in real-time. In theory, you could, for example, sit around a virtual meeting table with colleagues from around the world — instead of staring at their 2D faces on Zoom — and then walk over to a virtual Starbucks to meet up with your mom, who lives across the country.
Microsoft Mesh, a new mixed-reality platform powered by Azure, allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences on different devices such as Hololens 2, VR headsets, mobile phones, tablets, PCs, or using any Mesh enabled app.
“This has been the dream for mixed reality, the idea from the very beginning,” said Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman. “You can actually feel like you’re in the same place with someone sharing content or you can teleport from different mixed reality devices and be present with people even when you’re not physically together.”
Microsoft Mesh will also enable geographically distributed teams to have more collaborative meetings, conduct virtual design sessions, assist others, learn together and host virtual social meetups. People will initially be able to express themselves as avatars in these shared virtual experiences and over time use holoportation to project themselves as their most lifelike, photorealistic selves, the company said.
What’s interesting about Microsoft’s conception of the metaverse is that it is very much modeled on the real world. It wants to provide a platform to digitally map and monitor everything in a real-world business environment — warehouses, factories, retail stores, and so on. Interestingly, there are no avatars in Microsoft’s metaverse. That may be due to their goal of creating an enterprise metaverse in which the workflows, production lines, and metrics are monitored in 3D.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft published a Linkedin post in which he explains what is the metaverse and what to expect from it. He gives the example of their partner Anheuser-Busch InBev: “One of my favorite examples is how Anheuser-Busch InBev has used our metaverse stack to track every bottle, from the wheat field through the manufacturing and distribution processes. They’ve created a complete digital twin of their breweries and supply chain.”
Nvidia’s metaverse, as they call it the Nvidia Omniverse, is a platform for connecting 3D worlds into a shared virtual universe. Omniverse is in use across a growing number of industries for projects such as design collaboration and creating “digital twins,” simulations of real-world buildings and factories. Complex visual design and engineering workflows are transformed as users and teams connect major design tools, assets, and projects for collaborative iteration in a shared virtual space simulated in real-time.
“I’m fairly sure at this point that Omniverse or the Metaverse is going to be a new economy that is larger than our current economy.”Jensen Huang, the CEO of Nvidia
Many prestigious companies from industries such as architecture, engineering, construction, media and entertainment, manufacturing, supercomputing, and game development take advantage of the Omniverse for their workflows, including big names like BMW, Volvo, Lockheed Martin, Ericsson, and Bentley Systems. For example, mega car manufacturer BMW started to use the Nvidia Omniverse and now they’re able to simulate their entire factory in simulation. Teams from different locations can collaborate on designing the factory using various apps on the Omniverse. This digitalization is revolutionizing the BMW planning process. The AI and software that run the virtual factory are the same as what will run the physical one. In other words, the virtual and physical factories and their robots will operate simultaneously. They’re twins.
In the Omniverse, engineers can test a new line design, check ergonomics for workers and do efficiency tests without the necessity of physically being in the factory. The Omniverse-enabled factory can connect to ERP systems, simulating all 31 BMW factories’ throughput which helps them in reducing planning times, improve flexibility and precision, and create 30% more efficient planning processes. Another advantage is that data is available immediately and any changes can be made in the planning stage itself, which saves the company time and money.
From the day Nvidia launched the Omniverse in late 2020, there’s been a huge interest, and the good news is there’s more to expect according to Rev Lebaredian, VP of Simulation Technology:
“Next, add interactivity and the ability to collaborate. Better screens, head-mounted displays like the Oculus Quest, and mixed-reality devices like Microsoft’s Hololens are all steps toward fuller immersion.”
On April 13th, Epic Games announced that they’ve raised 1B US dollars for their long-term metaverse plans, with 200M dollars being invested by Sony. Sony clearly stated that they want to be the pioneers of the entertainment and music industries embedded in the metaverse. Fortnite and Epic Games have been in the center of the metaverse discussion many times. Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, has been an advocate of the metaverse in recent years and it is known that Fortnite is an early stage of the metaverse that the developers anticipate to build. With worlds like Minecraft and Fortnite, we’ve already seen the beginning phases of the metaverse. Future worlds will be photorealistic and inhabited by avatars and AI beings.
While Nvidia approached the matter from a solution partner for industries and enterprise usage, Epic Games has an attitude of building the metaverse as a more interconnected, interoperable shared alternative virtual universe that is not only for individuals and their avatars but also for the companies. Sweeney said, “I think there will be a linear evolution. It’s not going to be a massive sudden disruption. It’s going to be a meeting place for individuals and creators of all sizes, including brands. Every company will be there at some point. If you are a car manufacturer, your brand presence in the metaverse isn’t going to be a bunch of ads for your cars. It’s going to be a place where you can actually drive the cars around and feel the experience of it. You can use a Corvette in the game. We have an opportunity for much more interesting interactions.”
Fortnite had proven that it is going to be more than a game where avatars run to gather weaponry or collect food. In the last two years, Fortnite hosted 2 major concerts by Marshmello and Travis Scott with the participation of 10.7 million users going online simultaneously. And the latest event held in the game “March Through Time” was Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic speech from the huge human rights gathering in 1963. As you can see, the metaverse will be the next big thing in social gatherings and events.
Roblox Company’s aim is to create a virtual universe in which the users can actually do anything they can dream of. Roblox’s Chief Product Officer Manuel Bronstein says “While shared experiences in the Metaverse today are about doing fun things together, in the future they will be about literally anything people can do together in real life: learn together, play together, or work together.” Roblox, in other words, wants to replace the workplace and the classroom, the pub, and the tennis club by combining them all into one.
In terms of planting the seeds to improve this idealized social metaverse, Roblox had some remarkable in-game events supporting the releases of Hollywood blockbusters Ready Player One, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. In previous discussions, we have mentioned that visionaries of the metaverse expect it to be a place not only for individuals but also for companies and brands. Integrating themselves into this new realm and parallel to this claim, Gucci and Roblox collaborated to create the Gucci Garden in Roblox, marking the 100th year anniversary of the global fashion giant. Similar to the physical space, the Gucci Garden experience on Roblox is divided into themed rooms, where visitors can immerse themselves into Alessandro Michele’s (creative director of Gucci) creative vision and his multifarious inspirations, and share the captivating experience of the exhibition with their friends.
The Metaverse Is The Future
Soon we will see which companies will be the key players in the metaverse, but until that time we know one thing for sure and that is the metaverse is here to stay. It will be our new way of shopping, meeting with friends, doing business and so much more. If you want to digitize your products and make them metaverse-ready for this upcoming wave, ART Labs is here for you. Our no-code/no-developer solution can bring your products to life and enable your customers to experience them before purchasing. You can contact our professional team to learn more about our solutions and successful use cases.