This informal CPD article The Future and the Metaverse was provided by Gamma Business Communications, a leading supplier of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in the UK, German, Spanish and Benelux business markets.
It feels like when it comes to big technology revolutions when you have everything else going on and especially everything that happened over the past couple of years, we wish we could just shout into the void ‘we'll deal with it tomorrow” We have proven it repeatedly. With things like networking in the cloud, we have heard that story before, people stood around and said, “we'll deal with it tomorrow" and then it came to bite them.
Obviously, there have been some extreme circumstances in recent times which has accelerated some things. That feeling of being bitten by a technology that you were not expecting to have to deal with, but it is something of a pattern. The Metaverse in all its different guise is the next one of these things which we cannot just say that we will deal with it tomorrow.
If we do, it is going to come and give us a nasty virtual shock. In the movie or the much better book, Ready Player One, there is a virtual synthetic future world that we will one day be living in, connected to suits with feedback gloves and reclining gaming chairs. Basically, plugged into a virtual world for much of our day - for work, play, education, and all the other things that we do with the internet. That is what we are all expecting to have arrived by now and we are all somewhat disappointed…... or maybe you're not disappointed whatsoever.
We had this idea that we were going to be doing a lot more already in these virtual spaces, and it feels like the cusp of 2021 into 2022 may be where we are beginning to see this stuff come to some fruition. None of it is particularly new. Let me give you this example. There is a video easily found by a search from the US shopping chain, Walmart, giving a sense of what shopping in the Metaverse might be like in the future.
We see a shopper/user travelling around a virtual experience, talking to a synthetic avatar who is guiding us. You would think this is quite recent. Actually, this video is from 2017 and then it got no further, there was no advancement whatsoever. Virtual worlds are not a new thing. Second life, The Sims, we've all played around with them and more recently, you're probably much more familiar with watching kids play Fortnite or Call of Duty. These are all ‘Metaverses’ and they ladder up into a broader train, which is maybe a more useful way of framing it – we are talking about Web 3.
Let’s take a quick tour through the history of the internet
First, we had the internet. The early days of technology used by governments, we had programs and we were connected through data that has been cables predominantly. The first real generation was the browser with websites, and we had servers and then more lately, over the past couple of decades, we have had bits of glass and plastic that we carry around with us since the mobile revolution began.
This new Metaverse revolution of technology is what is coming for us next. It is made up of four components. XR, a mixed reality. You will hear Augmented Reality, AR, you'll hear Virtual Reality, VR. We are going to go with a mix. XR. Mixed reality. This is the end of keyboards and mice, or glass and thumbs. Instead, moving entirely to virtual environments that predominantly we end up wearing in some way. AI is the logic that manages all of this taking in many more senses and making predicted judgements on how we will interact with the spaces and then the blockchain is the underpinning of many of these new services.
Particularly, as we think about the more centralised Metaverses. The tipping point has been the Augmented Reality and more virtual reality headsets. Think Oculus, now most recently named Meta Quest 2. There was a moment over Christmas 2021 where everyone thought that suddenly everyone had gone out and purchased one of these because the Oculus app was top of the iTunes app store and then it dwindled away very quickly after that.
So, we have these Metaverses, that are centralised and owned by the likes of Facebook, slash Meta. (You can see what they are going for there) and obviously Microsoft and others. There are also new decentralised worlds here as well. In particular, Decentraland, or Sandbox where you can buy virtual land and start staking claims of virtual goods. There are a couple of these emerging technologies where they are living on the blockchain, powered by smart contracts. There is no particular big, centralised owner of them. Whether you're going to go hang out in one of these or the other, it does present opportunity. In many ways, this has been our lives for the past couple of years.
Many people have started a new job or moved virtually in recent times. There are people who have taken up their first ‘proper’ job out of college or leaving university. Now, imagine you don't have 10, 15, 20 years of career history before you, where you worked in rooms with other people or dealing with the wonderful commute and being underneath somebody else's armpit on the Jubilee Line.
For some of the workforce, this their only known existence and asking people to come back into these office spaces and do life like this is actually, a very different thing. Whether or not we want it isn’t really the question. The reality is that the future is going to be a hybrid one, and we have to get used to it.