, November 30, 2021

AI and blockchain to help create the Metaverse


  •   5 min reads
AI and blockchain to help create the Metaverse

As Microsoft joins Facebook, announcing plans to move into the Metaverse, AI and blockchain emerge as two key drivers of this new virtual world.

"Buy land, they aren't making it anymore," said Mark Twain.  Well, there are all sorts of reasons why that might change, such as virtual farms and cultured meat not so much creating land as freeing up land, or there is since, for that matter, but there is one place where land is infinite. And that place is virtual space aka, the Metaverse.

Facebook's plans to become a Metaverse company have been beamed all over the media but mow Microsoft has revealed its own Metaverse journey in the making. It is set to add Avatars to Microsoft Teams.

Sometimes scrubbing up for a Teams or Zoom call is so much hassle. So why bother? Send your avatar there.

"It seems like just one step, but that's the type of step I think people are ready to make," Jared Spataro, the head of Teams told the Financial Times.

But everything has a beginning, Microsoft began in a garage but the Metaverse is now appearing in software.

The idea is that these avatars or cartoon type representations of us won't just appear in Teams calls but in time visit virtual workspaces too.

"With 250m people around the world using Teams, the introduction of avatars will be the first real metaverse element to seem real," said Spataro.

But isn't this all a bit 2020? After-all we already use emojis to represent us and our thoughts, what is so special about this?

AI enters the story at this point.

Microsoft intends to use AI to help make the Avatar's lips and body movements reflect its real-self. The avatar becomes a digital twin, and over time as the technology advances, will become closer and closer to its real world sibling.

"Over the next decade, we'll see advancements in technologies that contribute to the Metaverse. Eye, facial and lip tracking will be a standard feature in immersive headsets so you can more accurately communicate to others through your digital avatar," Jeremy Dalton, author of Reality Check and who leads the XR team for PwC in the UK, told Techopian.

"The Metaverse brings together our online and offline lives in a persistent cross-platform interface providing access to everything seamlessly across virtual worlds and the internet. We are currently at the beginning stages of this migration to the Metaverse, and we will continue to see our physical and virtual lives come together in greater harmony," said Hrish Lotikar,  founder of SuperWorldapp.com

Blockchain will be a key tool in the Metaverse, too and for more than one reason. For one thing, cryptocurrencies are likely to emerge as the key medium of exchange.

For another thing, blockchain confers uniqueness on digital images. Using blockchain, we can verify that a particular avatar really is you. NFTs — non-fungible tokens — will become a vital component of the Metaverse too. Maybe in due course, we will be able to view art or visit a virtual location, in the knowledge it is unique.

Does the Metaverse have soul?

Another player in this space is the Chinese company SoulApp with an app targeted at younger generations to create a "social Metaverse." SOUL APP founder Zhang Lu told Techopian that "our long-term commitment is to reduce loneliness in society." She talked about creating a "soul'cial metaverse for young generations."

SoulApp says AI technology and algorithms "drive connections built around interests and hobbies."

The Metaverse gets ‘soul’ for generation Z in China
The Metaverse is taking off in China supported by an app called ‘Soul or Sold Wonderland’ but is this what generation Z needs?It’s happening; you might not like it, but a Metaverse social media platform now has 100 million users in China.

An open Metaverse?

While Microsoft plans to support its existing tools with the Metaverse— including plans for users to visit PowerPoint presentations in the digital cosmos, Facebook sees the Metaverse as a place for social media.

As a matter of interest, Meta matters
Zuckerberg’s vision behind Meta and the Metaverse is not as foolish or cynical as it seems; the Meta model is incredibly bold and could catapult the company to the top of the league table of the world’s biggest companies.

Wherever Facebook goes, a long queue of doubters is sure to follow. Facebook, (or should we say, Meta?) is surely the most unpopular popular platform of all time — indeed, there seems to be a direct correlation — the more popular it is, the more unpopular it is.

And as ever, the Meta move into the Metaverse is attracting critics.

The biggest doubt relates to control. Is Facebook/Meta attempting to create its own private Metaverse? See a parallel with the early days of online. In the early and mid-1990s, several products provided their service over a private network — this was in the era of dial-up when you dialled your modem into the number provided. The generic term back then was not the internet; it was the "information superhighway."

The internet is now the only online medium we consider, but it wasn't always certain it would be thus. Bill Gates himself was an early cynic. "Today's Internet is not the information highway I imagine, although you can think of it as the beginning of the highway," he wrote

He changed his mind soon enough and in 1996 wrote a memo to staff at Microsoft talking about the internet tidal wave.

The analogy with the information superhighway isn't precise — we will access the Metaverse via the internet; a more accurate comparison might be with the World Wide Web, using a common system of rules working across platforms versus distinct Metaverses each one unique to a company.

But what about the future of the Metaverse?

Jeremy Dalton said: "The hardware will become smaller, lighter and more fashionable, encouraging a greater number of adopters. We may even start integrating brain-computer interfaces, so turning on a light in your virtual home becomes merely a matter of thinking about it!."

So that's brain interfaces, then.

Hrish Lotikar told Techopian: "I believe that the future of the Metaverse should be about how can we enhance people's real lives and leverage these technologies like AR/VR, blockchain and AI to benefit the real world. So we have an opportunity to come together as a society to Build a Better World. That is our mission and our Why at SuperWorld."

Metaverse and the smell of virtual reality
A company that describes itself as a Metaverse startup claims it can introduce bio-aromatics or smell into virtual reality.

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