Metaverse democratization: one vision for an affordable future for AR, VR, virtual events and more
The world's largest virtual event cannot be hosted without significant digital technology and a small amount of high-tech razmataz. However, the world's largest scale cannot be achieved without providing for people who do not have virtual or augmented reality headsets. So what are you doing? Diagnose your device. Room CEO Hans Elstner said in a recent TechFirst podcast, “We're running a virtual event. "If you say ... this is a VR headset only, it will only connect to other people who have this particular version of a VR headset. This is not the world or the future we see."
Metaverse has been receiving a lot of media attention recently. In general, people think of the metaverse as a kind of an alternate reality. Fully immersive virtual experiences like Ready Player One or Neil Stevenson's Snow Crash. This aligns with Horizon Worlds' Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's vision for Oculus, which is currently in beta.
(I have early access to Horizon and it crashes frequently on my Oculus Quest 2.) This is the right way to think about the metaverse. An endless virtual world connected as a portal for work, play, exploration, communication, and anything imaginable.
But what if the metaverse is like what we've been living in for decades? What can you experience while drinking with the fire hose of a high-end VR headset, what can you immerse yourself in through a text interface, what can you dive deeper with 2D images on the screen?
In other words, it works with any device. It is something you can comfortably use regardless of the level of immersion. “We are focusing on a platform that works on almost any device,” Elstner said. “You can use a VR headset. Smartphones can also be used. You can use a tablet. You can use your desktop. It should be very easy and cheap."
Recently appeared in stealth mode with the $7 million Series A, Room created an immersive digital environment for IFA 2020, hosting more than 200,000 virtual visitors in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic at one of the world's largest consumer electronics shows. He also hosts virtual events for Augmented World Expo, Deutsche Telekom, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Vodafone. Key: Build cross-platform 3D web apps for virtually any device.
"[Many of these technologies] are just 2D video sharing platforms," says Elstner. "It's not that exciting... we call it Fake 3D." “And some people do it in a very VR headset oriented way. The problem is that fake 2D isn't that exciting, and VR headsets require specialized and sometimes expensive devices."
According to Elstner, the metaverse is already all around us, bringing together as many different areas of people, business, and life as possible. In other words, this is the Internet. And the Internet is designed for use in both full immersion mode and low-resolution raw material intake mode.
“On the one hand, you can use a VR headset and experience virtual reality right in the headset,” he says. “And since we use a technology called WebGL and OpenXR from the Khronos Group, it works with almost any VR headset. So, it works right in your browser, no matter the device. On the other hand, it's very simple to use and use 3D right from your browser without the need to install low bandwidth."
This works when creating virtual events or virtual spaces for customers in Room. But it's also a definition that works for all of us when we think of the metaverse and applies when we're tempted to dramatize and glorify what it is. In this version of the metaverse, doing a Google search via Alexa on your smart speaker will give you access to the metaverse, even if done in a very low resolution and superficial way. So, watch YouTube on your phone. Just like reading the news on your iPad.
What we can live with (and increasingly) VR headsets is immersive 3D virtual reality. However, this does not invalidate other methods that are faster, simpler, cheaper, and less thoughtful. And that's a comforting thought for those of us who read Snow Crash. After all, this is a dystopian novel. Or, like James Halliday, founder of OASIS in Player One at the Ready, who likes to eat well from time to time.