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Sorting through the different versions of the metaverse and the hardware they require

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

January 21, 2022    |     5-minute read (855 words)

The Metaverse refers to a highly immersive virtual world where people meet to socialize, work, shop or play. Users can access and have experiences in the metaverse using virtual and augmented reality headsets.

Awareness of the term peaked when Facebook in October 2021 rebranded as “Meta” and released a video in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “I believe the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet.

While Mark Zuckerberg estimates it will take five to 10 years for metaverse to become mainstream, venture capitalist Matthew Ball wrote in a 2020 essay that the internet wasn’t created for the metaverse experience and that it will take decades to build. He believes that many current technologies can’t operate at the level metaverse requires them to function. 

What can people do in the metaverse?

The metaverse is projected to dramatically change how we interact online, how brands advertise, how quickly crypto is adopted and many other things in our daily lives. Companies like Nike are beginning to strategize how to have their products shown in the metaverse, similar to how a Ferrari appeared in the Fortnite game. 

Here are some unique experiences of the metaverse as it stands today.

1. Playing games

Online games like The Sims by Electronic Arts and Second Life by Linden Lab use a metaverse-like shared virtual environment where people interact and participate in events using their digital avatars. The Sandbox and Decentraland metaverses let users purchase virtual land and use it to create their own worlds, but you need to purchase a piece of land first to place your content and monetize it.

2. Shopping

To shop in the metaverse, you set up a virtual wallet to hold digital currency, which can be used to buy metaverse cryptocurrency. With that metaverse cryptocurrency, you can purchase designer clothing, a virtual house or more in the virtual world.

3. Business communications

Microsoft believes that the metaverse can change the way we work and is building tools for VR meetings, virtual offices, and more. If you participate in a business meeting in a virtual environment with other colleagues represented by avatars, you are technically in the metaverse.  In what it described as a pathway to the metaverse, Microsoft recently acquired videogame giant Activision Blizzard for $75 billion.

4. Buying and selling real estate 

The plots of “land” on most digital platforms are represented by X and Y coordinates on a map that comprises the metaverse world. Each plot is turned into a nonfungible token (NFT) to sell either directly by the platform to a consumer, or by a secondary marketplace such as OpenSea. Once you buy a plot through an NFT, your sale is recorded on the platform’s blockchain, and you become the owner of that piece of land within the metaverse.

What are the business opportunities?

Several tech giants are working hard to make the metaverse a reality. For example, Intel will release a series of graphics processors in the first quarter of 2022 that will power the metaverse. Raja Koduri, who leads Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, said the computing power of today’s chips will need to improve 1000-fold to power the metaverse.

Other companies contributing to the metaverse include:

• Meta is investing in tech that lets you touch virtual objects in the digital world.
• Niantic provides tools to create avatars and advertising products.
• Tinder is creating a Single Town where singles can find a soul mate in the virtual world.
• Disney’s planned metaverse will enable interaction with your favorite characters.
• Warner Music has invested in several startups building tools/platforms in the metaverse.
• Developers are building games on Roblox and TakeTwo early-stage metaverses.

Technologies needed to access the metaverse

Several organizations are working together to build metaverse and achieve interoperability among its different offerings. Patrick Cozzi, CEO of 3D geospatial platform Cesium said his firm is one the biggest advocates of ensuring the metaverse stays interoperable so users can move among different metaverses with their data.

Anyone can access metaverse through the internet, VR headset or AR wearables, and a smartphone, gaming console or a computer. Hardware like industrial cameras, projection and tracking systems, and scanning sensors will be required for creating the environments for VR and AR platforms.

Realizing the metaverse’s grand vision will require breakthrough devices, controllers, and hardware support so individuals can see, touch and feel. Four equipment specifically designed to enter the metaverse are:

• Tactile gloves Haptic gloves enable users to feel tactile interactions, such as grasping objects, textured surfaces, and even the weight and softness of objects in the virtual world.

• VR headset – A VR helmet is one of the key devices to enter the metauniverse. Meta is working on Project Cambria, a next-generation VR headset for real-time face tracking and eye-tracking functions.

• Electronic tactile skin ReSkin – Meta’s AI department developed a tactile sensor called ReSkin, which is 2 to 3 mm thick, to experience tactile interaction in the virtual world.

• Wristband AR sensor – Meta launched a wristband AR sensor that can detect hand movements and convert them into commands to control different devices at run time.

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