While the metaverse concept keeps attracting big players, let’s take a quick look at the emerging 2022 development trends
As businesses rush to formulate new strategies for a transition from the known territory of web-based marketing to the yet uncharted terrain of the metaverse, a host of issues still needs to be addressed. The concept of the metaverse has just emerged from the nascent stage to the next level of actual implementation – and developers are already hooked to the idea.
According to JPMorgan’s recent extensive report on business opportunities in the metaverse:
“The success of building and scaling in the metaverse is dependent on having a robust and flexible financial ecosystem that will allow users to seamlessly connect between the physical and virtual worlds.”
Since it is has become obvious that the metaverse is going to be the next frontier to target, Big Tech companies are plunging into metaverse projects like never before. Metaverse property prices rose by 700% in 2021 alone. And this trend is going to continue – perhaps at an even higher rate – in 2022 as well. This year we can expect to see more companies investing in the developing side of the metaverse–hardware as well software. They would be focussing on innovations aimed at more efficient digital collaboration.
Technologies to watch for
The three major technologies that will prove crucial in refining future metaverse development activities are:
- Virtual presence:Virtual reality is going to the primary medium for delivering the metaverse ecosystem – an alternate digital environment – where the aim would be to provide enhanced user experience to navigate interactive 3D interfaces. Experts hope this virtual sense of presence would be the trump card in attracting and retaining users. So this is where most of the innovative flourish is expected.
- Enhanced human experience: The metaverse must not be perceived as a distinctly separate realm that is in competition with, or a replacement of, physical reality. For leveraging it most efficiently, it would have to be a collaborative improvement of the everyday human experience. That is the only way to take it beyond just another novelty to be showcased, but not to be used. Developers are largely banking on Augmented Reality (AR) to achieve this seamless amalgamation.
- Brain-computer interfaces: This might actually be the proverbial “last frontier” in the metaverse domain – and not something that is going to happen soon. Butbrain-computer interface (BCI)is a possibility which researchers are already exploring. While current immersivetechnologies work throughdisplay screens and interactive control systems, a BCIcould establish a direct communication channel between the user and the application – leading to a thought-controlled immersive environment.This might involve implanting bionic chips in the brain.Neural interfaces are also being considered.
Who is doing what
Let us now take a quick look at what the leading companies in metaverse development are working on right now:
- Google: The companyviews the metaverse as “evolving computing in an immersive way with augmented reality” – as described by CEO Sundar Pichai. They have an extensive R&D dossier both in Augmented and Virtual Reality solutions. They have launched serious and practical AR/VR hardware products like the Google Glass, Google Cardboard and Google Daydream. After combining their separate AR and VR departmentsinto a new Google Labs verticalin November 2021, Google is now looking at AR operating systems and augmented avatars “for great immersive computing and…helpful, delightful user experiences.”
- Meta:Formerly Facebook and now the umbrella entity for the entire Zuckerberg empire, Meta tried hard to be the flagbearer of themetaverse. With VR hardware like Oculus and Quest 2under its belt, Meta already had exposure to real-time 3D virtual worlds.Now it is reportedly developing a supercomputer with quintillions of operations per second – only to power the Metaverse. They announced new tools like the Presence Platform that allows mixed reality experiences on Quest 2. Through Project Cambria, Meta is supposed to launch another device that will have sensors to capture facial expressions. To make entertainment a part of the metaverse, they have released the Horizon Worlds – a platform for virtual comedy shows and movie nights in Facebook. They are also collaborating with the European Union to leverage the metaverse for create more jobs in Europe.
- Microsoft: The tech giant is releasing its Mesh for Teams software for the metaverse in 2022. It would be supported by a suit of metaverse apps for the Mesh platform. It is a work-from-home offshoot that offers a virtual avatar to be your digital identity for a virtual office experience. This avatar can be used to explore virtual areas and digital spaces. A new Qualcomm AR chipset for metaverse is on the anvil, too.They are also updating AltspaceVR for ensuring a safer metaverse environment, and developingnew features for Xbox games.
- Apple: The company is reportedly creating a Head-Mounted System (HMD) virtual meetings application. Powered by a high-end chip, and possibly equipped with high-resolution displays, the solution will allow physical hand and arm movements to interact in virtual meetings – thus combining both AR and VR features ina single device. Industry observers predict, like always, the Apple release will be a surprise announcement.
- NVIDIA: They have distributed free copies of a programme called Omniverse – aimed at developing metaverse-ready assets. The company is supporting artists and content creators to build virtual worlds and products. They are also looking to create personalized avatars.
- Epic Games: They already haveFortnite in their line-up, which isone of the most developed metaverse platforms. It started as just a game,but is now a vast social platform and virtual world with over 350 million players. In 2021 they announced a one-million-dollar investment for metaverse development in Web 3.0. Their aim is to expand Fortnite as a platform,and also to createmore accessible and professional 3D, AR and VR content critical for improving themetaverse experience.
- Tencent: One of the world’s largest video game vendors and owner ofthe Chinese social networking platforms – WeChat and Tencent QQ. They plan to pioneer gamification in the metaverse by leverage its niche industryexperience.Rather than VR hardware, they are focusing on software solutions for metaverse gaming.
- Amazon: This giant has recently recruited is a senior product manager for developing metaverse technology. Reportedly, the product manager needs to own the delivery of Cloud-based metaverse services in the gaming tech division. Observers are intently watching for the company’s next metaverse move.
- Decentraland:One of the foremost metaverse platform for content producers and enterprises,Decentraland is focussing on helping users to create, as well as monetize,metaverse apps and content.
- Roblox:Roblox Corporation is building a creator economy metaverse in an open gaming platform that allows players to create their own digital and interactive worlds. It aims to offer virtual worlds where players can efficiently and freely interact with each other.
- Unity Software: They offer a real-time 3D software development platform with access through augmented reality or extended reality. It will continue to expand its array of advanced tools such as 3D, 2D, virtual reality, and augmented reality to develop Metaverse technology.
- Snapchat: Ithas announced the launch of a new avatar lens that provides a preview of how a user will look in the metaverse. The avatar filter leverages AR,via whichthe avatars can change clothes and faces as per mood. Theyhavealso launched 3D Bimojis that represent virtual humans.