- Technology commentator Matthew Ball says that, like the internet today, the metaverse will be ubiquitous and omnipresent, sitting in the background of most of our day-to-day experiences.
- Ball predicts the metaverse will not be a substitute for the internet, nor does it have to involve the total immersion of a VR headset.
- Practical examples of how the metaverse is already impacting our daily lives include GPS, medicine, retail shopping, communication, and education.
The metaverse, like the internet, will be ubiquitous and omnipresent. But just as we’re often unaware of being online, the metaverse will sit in the background of most day-to-day experiences.
So says technology commentator Matthew Ball in an interview with New York Magazine’s Benjamin Hart. Ball predicts that the metaverse will not be a substitute for the internet, nor does it have to involve the total immersion of a VR headset as the likes of Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg would have you believe.
In fact, there are practical examples all around us currently that show how the metaverse will assist our daily lives, even if we’re not conscious of it.
For example, few people can imagine driving a car without a GPS navigation system. It makes the whole experience of getting from A to B just a little easier.
“We don’t drive GPS instead of a car — we drive a car with GPS,” Ball explains to Hart. “We evaluate it based on whether we get there better, faster, easier, cheaper. And so for some people, [the metaverse] will be like that, a technology they use when [performing other activities]. For other people, it will surround them.”
Ball neglects to mention that GPS also gamifies the driving experience — a characteristic that the metaverse will surely amplify.
He does, however, note that Johns Hopkins University is now deploying XR (extended reality) devices to perform live-patient surgery.
“The physician who performed that surgery described it as like driving a car with GPS for the first time,” Ball says. “I love that example, because he’s talking about these technologies as a complement, not a substitute, and as part of real life as opposed to purely synthetic life.”
He continues: “When you walk into a hospital or a secure facility, you’re on the internet — your badge is validated over IP. When you check out at the grocery store, you’re accessing the internet for your transaction. Even when you’re crossing the street and you’re using a crosswalk button, it’s transmitting information through the internet.
“The metaverse is likely to be the same. Some of us will use it constantly for work and for socializing, and will do so with multiple different devices. For other people, it will be more occasional.”
However, the next-gen internet will be more than just another layer of always-on digital “censorship.”
It is about making the entire world legible to software in real time, “actually replicating existence in simulation software,” Ball notes. “There’s no way to do that without extraordinary data capture. And that’s bringing about all of these intensified questions of the role and extent of computer vision and about self-custody of data, national custody of data.”
Amazon Go retail stores are another example of an everyday metaverse use case.
“These are the convenience stores that you walk into and never check out of. What happens is there’s a network of cameras in the ceiling, and they produce a virtual simulation, dimensionalizing you in a digital twin of the grocery store, with full awareness of all of the products on the shelves. One of the ways in which they ensure that you are you is through gait analysis. And so if two individuals of similar shape and size duck behind one another to pick up an item, they’re tracked afterward through analysis of motion and movement.”
Ball seems to think this is beneficial to our grocery shopping, but I for one simply detest automated check-outs, which take longer, involve huge frustration when the machine doesn’t recognize a barcode, and crucially involve zero human interaction.
Communication is another example Ball uses. In particular, Google’s telepresence — Project Starline.
“We all find Zoom fatiguing, tiresome, alienating. And in holography, we see remarkable improvements in connection — 50% increases in nonverbal forms of communication: brow movements, head nods, hand gestures. Thirty percent increases in eye contact, 20% increases in memory recall.”
Similarly, Ball says education will benefit from metaverse technologies by being able to improve the learning outcomes for students.
“3D simulation and experimentation is clearly more engaging to children than just reading in a textbook.”
Ball also comments on how buildings using “interconnected simulations” (built in the metaverse as digital twins) can be designed to improve energy efficiency.
“So [we] look at these examples and imagine what happens as their realism improves, the devices become more intuitive, and our familiarity grows as well.”
Ball seems to acknowledge on the one hand that “the concept of exiting the real world and fully entering a new one” isn’t, in fact, something that many people really want while pointing to the younger generations as being born with a digital mentality.
“Nearly everyone born today is a gamer,” he says, suggesting that ubiquitous metaverse interactions are an inevitability. To be clear, his belief is that the metaverse will involve full-scale immersion in time once problems with VR headgear are solved.
“I think that the threshold for fully replacing one’s senses, most notably sight and sound, is much higher than was often imagined. Television doesn’t exclude the environment around you. With video games, you still know where your dog and your kids are. You need a truly extraordinary experience to replace reality in its entirety.
“The technical challenge in making a lightweight, high-performance, long-lasting battery cool (in temperature) device is really hard. This doesn’t mean that they’re never going to be successful. But it does explain why we’ve had so many false starts.”
The metaverse may be a wild frontier, but here at NAB Amplify we’ve got you covered! Hand-selected from our archives, here are some of the essential insights you’ll need to expand your knowledge base and confidently explore the new horizons ahead:
- The Metaverse Will Make $5 Trillion By 2030. That Sounds Awesome and… Wait, What Are We Talking About?
- Metaverse Expectations vs. Reality
- A Metacode of Conduct for the Metaverse
- Metaverse Interoperability: Utopian Dream, Privacy Nightmare
- Consumers Are Confused About the Metaverse, But Seriously, Can You Blame Them?