The Metaverse – is it the future?
The Metaverse – is it the future?
What if you could build your own virtual reality? What if you could create an avatar that looked and acted exactly like you, in a world where nothing was impossible? It's not just the stuff of science fiction anymore - it's getting closer to reality every day.
First, let me explain what I mean by "metaverse" and how we got here. If you've read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (and if not, why haven't you?), or watchedReady Player One (and if not - again: why?), then you're familiar with this concept. The metaverse refers to an interconnected network of virtual realities that would allow users from around the world to engage in virtual experiences together as avatars created for them by AI algorithms based on their real-world data profiles.
If you read NealStephenson's Snow Crash, you've probably wondered what a metaverse would actually look like.
If you've readNeal Stephenson's Snow Crash, you know that the metaverse is a virtual universe. It is a fictional environment created by computer-mediated technology, where people can interact with each other and share ideas and information. The word "metaverse" was coined by Michael Heim in his 1987 book ElectricLanguage: A Philosophical Study of Word Processing (you can read an excerpt here). In that book, Heim uses the term to refer to "a networked system of texts" and explains it as follows:
"Metaverses are not just places where one text can be linked to another; they are also sites where texts may be transformed into other texts."
When we talk about a real-life metaverse, we're talking about virtual (and augmented) realities getting really good.
The metaverse is a concept that's been around since the 1980s. It's basically an online space where people can go to interact with each other and their avatars, or digital representations of themselves. The idea of the metaverse has been popularized by VR hobbyists for many years, but it was only recently that it got its ownWikipedia page!
The idea behind a real-life metaverse is that virtual and augmented realities get good enough that using them becomes more practical than using real life. Think about how much time you spend on your phone every day—and how many times per day you check social media or email on it? Now imagine being able to send messages to friends through Facebook Messenger while you're sitting at home in your sweatpants eating cookies (or whatever). This could be done through an app connected directly to your brain via some kind of neural interface—but even if not, being able to talk face-to-face with someone while they're halfway across the world would be pretty cool!
Who would be able to afford to interact in it?
A metaverse is a virtual world, like Second Life or World of Warcraft.
But what makes the metaverse different from other types of virtual spaces? Well, there are two big things that set it apart: its scale and its interactive nature. Instead of being limited to your computer screen, you can literally explore an entire digital world from wherever you are on Earth (or possibly even beyond). And unlike most video games or virtual worlds where you're only interacting with objects by pushing buttons and moving controls around on your controller— in the metaverse, all actions take place through natural human movements, using haptic devices like gloves or suits designed specifically for VR experiences.
So we wind up with artificial intelligences that can chat with us as well as pretty much any human being can.
As you might have guessed, I think that the Metaverse is on its way. It will likely emerge in three stages:
- Stage 1: A virtual world populated by AI’s that are capable of conversing with humans in real time and responding appropriately to questions, commands and emotions— and also able to model human behavior.
- Stage 2: A virtual world populated by AI’s capable of understanding language at a higher level than before, which means they can comprehend context and meaning better than before. For example, they might be able to interpret sarcasm or metaphors more accurately. They may even be able to adopt different personas based on who they are interacting with (think: Siri but much smarter).
- Stage 3: A virtual world populated entirely by artificial intelligences designed specifically for this purpose (like ASIMO), where their actions are not only controlled by humans but also driven by them as well—unlike today's chatbots which learn from users' habits over time but aren't actually engaging anyone else directly outside their programming parameters."
We also need AR and VR that can fool our senses into thinking that an avatar is really there.
With all the hype surrounding volumetric video and holographic displays, you may have heard the term "mixed reality" used a lot lately. Mixed reality is a broad term that refers to any device that can project 3D objects and characters into our physical space. This means you can interact with these digital objects as if they were real—you could pick up a virtual cup of coffee from an AR table or shake hands with a VR avatar sitting next to you on your couch.
The problem is that mixed reality tends to be very limited by today's technology: it allows us only to see simple 3D objects at certain angles and distances, which means we can't fool our senses into thinking that an avatar is really there. For this reason, most companies working towards creating the metaverse are focusing their efforts on building more advanced versions of AR/VR headsets that can fool our brains into believing what they're seeing is actually real without being too heavy or bulky (meaning they'll fit nicely inside Google Glasses).
What would virtual reality look like if it were really convincing?
If you look around a room and imagine yourself sitting in it, you'll notice that everything looks different from every angle. The lamp is on the left side of your desk, but when you turn around to look at it from behind your chair, it's on your right. The window is small when seen from across the room but huge when you're standing next to it.
It's not hard for us humans to understand why this happens—we've lived with these challenges all our lives—but computers have trouble handling them because they have no concept of depth perception or perspective like we do (yet). Computers only understand two dimensions: length and width. If they were able to render 3D environments with real-time interactivity, they would need an algorithm capable of transforming their flat 2D images into 3D ones in real time as users move around within those spaces.
Real-time 3D rendering is going to be a huge technology in the next decade.
Real-time 3D rendering is going to be a huge technology in the next decade. It’s already being used by many of the biggest video game companies, and soon it will be everywhere.
Real-time 3D rendering is a computationally intensive process that takes place on your computer or console as you are experiencing a virtual reality or playing a video game or watching a movie. When you are looking at an object in real life, there are millions of tiny cells in our eyes called photoreceptors that absorb light reflected off objects around us and send signals back to our brain where they construct an image we can perceive. Our brains do this very quickly without any effort on our part; we don’t even notice it happening because it happens so fast!
The same thing happens when we look at something in virtual reality: photons bounce off objects around us and enter our eyes through photoreceptors which transmit signals through neural pathways into our brains where they construct an image we can perceive (in this case called “the metaverse"). The difference between viewing something in real life vs viewing something within virtual reality requires many more computations for each frame because there are so many more pixels per pixel than with conventional displays (which use static images).
I think we're going to see virtual worlds get really well developed in the next decade, andI'm excited about it. But what do you think? Is there something exciting aboutVR that we're missing here? Share this and let us know!
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