Telecoms operators from AT&T to Verizon hope to make money from 5G by carrying new mixed-reality experiences over their networks–but first the Metaverse needs to be built.
“Interoperability is key,” said Accenture Global 5G and Networks Lead Jefferson Wang. “Today we have HTML making it simple to go into any website. In tomorrow’s world with a reconstituted internet we need to move just seamlessly in 3D virtual worlds. Then we need to think through the monetization of this.”
Mobile carriers want a slice of the Metaverse economy, estimated to be worth $8 Trillion by 2030 by Morgan Stanley.
Almost every major stand at MWC2023 in Barcelona features some version of the metaverse whether that’s a digital twin or volumetric capture studio. With the advance of generative AI there’s now the ability to create video and graphics at scale to support the build of virtual worlds.
“To build people-centric, open and interoperable Metaverse – we need standards,” said Nicole Lazarro, CEO of mobile games developer XEODesign, in a keynote session on the Metaverse. “We need Generative AI and User Generated Content to build worlds and we need economies that reward longer session interaction.”
Her focus is on designing the interface and navigation tools for the 3D internet.
“There are no window or icons, no mice or pointers in the Metaverse. If you want to feel like Neo in The Matrix we need to have a different model. Instead of windows we want worlds to explore. Instead of clicking on a button we want hand and voice interaction. We want avatars to represent us and social collaborative experiences to tie it all together.”
She pointed to MPEG as developing one useful framework. “In future MPEG standards there will be a layer for volumetric video, a layer for holographic media. In future, a layer for game mechanics, player sentiments, haptics.”
Consumers and businesses will increasingly interface with the internet via human-like AI-driven avatars believes Icon.iq CEO Lauren Kunze.
She derided both AI and the Metaverse as overhyped, costly and facing technical hurdles to mainstream adoption. A key difference, she said, is that people actually want AI.
“Apart from hardcore gamers, people don’t want to live a significant chunk of their lives online with or without a headset strapped to their face,” she said. “Meta built [the metaverse] but they didn’t come. Blockchain-based virtual worlds remain a no-man’s land with fewer than a thousand daily active users despite billion dollar valuations.”
Kunze said, “For decades tech leaders have been trying to shove conversational assistants down our throats and Trojan Horse them into products that no one really wanted. In the case of voice assistants not very many people use them regularly outside of select hands free scenarios.”
This has now changed, she argued. In addition to the advances in natural language understanding there is what she called a clear consumer mandate to apply AI.
“Large language models represent a shift as big as the internet itself or the industrial revolution,” she claimed and will be most powerful when combined with conversational 3D avatars, like Kuki AI. (pronounced Cookie) which Iconiq has developed.
Her firm has trained a neural net to drive realtime animation based on interaction with a human being.
“I predict an explosion in AI characters for all kinds of use cases from virtual brand ambassadors to virtual tutors to [conversing with] historical figures.”
She said she expected text to remain the dominant internet interface for some and that voice “will have its place” but a “human-like AI embodiment of the internet is inevitable once we cross the uncanny valley and we transition from 2D to a more immersive 3D world.”
The ability to freely exchange virtual goods, identities and financial tokens across the next-gen internet is something that is being built in beta at The Sandbox. This is a decentralized community-driven proto-Metaverse for anyone to buy virtual land, build experiences, attract communities and make money from it all on the blockchain.
“The Metaverse will be user generated,” said The Sandbox Co-Founder & COO, Sebastien Borget in a keynote. “Ninety-nine per cent of the Metaverse will be built by users. It is the only way we can scale content massively. But we still want it to be a place that connects people to the physical world. It’s why we bring in brands and sports and gaming or music remixed in The Sandbox.
Experiences on The Sandbox are accessed via an avatar allowing Borget to claim, “We can choose our identity for the first time in history. You can be a man, woman or a non-human creature and connect with others just the same.”
He acknowledged that this was all early days experimentation and urged brands to think first about how to make their virtual space engaging to grow audiences.
“If you just think about revenue it might be too early. Rethink that strategy. First grow your community and later sell them content.”
There are instances of social hubs, dance clubs, virtual concerts, real estate architecture and interior design, tourism museums, and art shows, education, work and games on The Sandbox. Virtual fashion designers are making money on its space.
“This is a new form of entertainment and business where any kind of industry vertical will be represented. It is still in the making. We don’t want the audience to be passive but to engage.
Also at MWC2023, Marcus Ko, CVO & President of Korean company Dimple, said he was building a 3D mobile metaverse.
“We want to bring metaverse and Web3 to mainstream mass adoption. No one company can do it,” he said.