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In the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve witnessed a surge in the popularity and prevalence of new digital experiences in the nascent metaverse. There, consumers are transported to a virtual world that mimics real-life experiences using state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and more.
Beyond the hype and across industries, there is real opportunity and staying power for metaverse capabilities. In fact, Gartner recently named the metaverse one of the top five emerging trends and technologies. The 3D and immersive nature of technology form the basis of the metaverse and unlock new ways of working, communicating, learning, playing and living.
As network technology continues to expand, its speed and power will allow huge amounts of data to zip between cloud servers and devices, creating experiences like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Here are a few ways the metaverse will become part of our lives.
Gamifying our everyday lives
The metaverse represents the next generation of digital experiences. Users will be able to have unlimited interactions within a virtual community, from meetings with colleagues to owning land (digitally of course).
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While gaming has existed for decades, we’re just now getting a sense of the breadth of the metaverse and gamification. For example, games like 30 Helios (a narrative mobile AR adventure) use a type of 3D hologram to give users a new perspective on mobile entertainment. Here, your mobile device is the portal to the metaverse. Players move around an augmented version of their actual physical space (home, apartment, office) to hack “glitches” in their space; once the glitches are hacked, they unlock more narratives.
Enterprises are counting on the metaverse to take experiences far beyond gaming to a wide range of purposes. These will include simulated job training, sales and marketing functions for a variety of industries, and even things like airplane design, simulation and urban planning.
We could even see a world where information will be rendered to users in real time, utilizing AI algorithms. Take the process of renting or buying an apartment. A user could be walking down the streets of New York City and, through the use of glasses, be connected to a real estate application that shows them in real time (through AI) which buildings have apartments for rent and connects them to a broker right then and there.
A new kind of travel
Imagine what it would be like to travel the world without investing too much money or time, or even facing a fear of flying. In the metaverse, AR and VR can enable users to explore countries, cities and destinations they’ve always dreamed of visiting. As the metaverse continues to develop, users are experiencing more advanced multisensory experiences on the go — and so the idea of virtual tourism is expanding.
Virtual tourism means access for people of all backgrounds and abilities to almost any location, personalized guest experiences and unparalleled entertainment. Users would be able to experience immersive museum tours, taste wine from France and climb the highest mountains.
The city of Madrid recently launched a free, 360-degree virtual tour for curious tourists, allowing them to make informed decisions about what they want to see when they visit in person. This virtual tour includes roughly 40 of the Spanish city’s most popular tourist attractions, including museums, plazas, gardens, cathedrals and a variety of different cultural institutions.
The technology could eventually allow us to travel to landmarks of the past, like the Colosseum at the height of its glory or Pompeii before the volcanic eruption.
Like the virtual tour of Madrid, these types of metaverse platforms might also serve as a jumping-off point for travelers who might then plan to book an in-person trip based on their favorite metaverse experiences.
How the metaverse can build a future accessible to all
Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are areas in which the metaverse could make a significant impact in creating a more accessible future.
According to the CDC, an estimated 61 million people in the U.S. live with a disability. For many of these people, the metaverse can offer solutions to everyday challenges. For example, low-vision users can benefit from high-color contrast. Those with hearing issues could benefit from subtitles and captions in real time. People with cognitive challenges can benefit from the use of shapes, colors and images to help convey ideas. The legally blind could benefit from technology such as 3D-audio echolocation while exploring 3D worlds.
Trust, safety and privacy are issues that developers must keep top-of-mind as they code the digital path forward. In the metaverse, we essentially have a group of strangers coming together and interacting with each other in a variety of ways. It’s important to consider the magnitude of negative interactions, such as false information sharing. Designing environments and experiences where everyone will thrive is a major consideration for developers.
Ultimately, the metaverse enhances the physical world and the interactions that keep our human connections strong. While we’ve seen massive growth and expansion in the past few years, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible.
Frank Boulben is chief revenue officer of Verizon Consumer Group.
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