Metaverse – Techbyte

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Did you miss your best friend’s wedding or the concert of your favorite artist or hanging out with your friends who are miles away or do you ever wish you could take a walk on the moon with your friend or explore the deep seas?

Here, take a look at how the latest buzzword “metaverse” – the most hyped technology is making all these use cases possible. Here are some notable experiences that have happened over the last few months in India itself.

On 26th January, this year Daler Mehdi hosted the first-ever concert in Metaverse – hosted by Partynite, and following its success, he went ahead and bought Land in the same metaverse and called it the “Balle Balle Land” making it India’s first Land acquisition in Metaverse. This ‘real estate’ or should I call it “Virtual estate” in the virtual world will be used to host concerts and sell NFTs via the store that it houses.

A young couple in Bhopal – Abhijeet and Sansrati became India’s first couple to tie the knot in the physical and 3D digital world simultaneously in a 3D Metaverse on Feb 5th this year. The wedding took place on Yug Metaverse on a scenic beachside venue where the guests also joined in via their digital avatar. Media agency Wavemaker India conceptualized and executed the brand associations – with ITC and Matrimony.com.

The metaverse is attracting a wide variety of brands, celebrities, entertainers, real estate developers, and global superstars like Snoop Dogg to luxury brands like Gucci and Sotheby’s. Popular brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Heineken, and Wendy’s have created metaverse-specific content and immersive virtual experiences often hosted on their own corners of the metaverse, such as the Gucci Garden on the popular gaming platform Roblox or Snoop Dogg’s arena in Sandbox, where he invites users to attend private metaverse parties and get access to exclusive NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

Indian brands like Tata Motors, Hero MotoCorp, Asian Paints, Titan Eyeplus, Royal Enfield and CarDekho are making their presence felt in the metaverse.

I am sure by now you are wondering, what is this metaverse and why this hype around it? Digital Avatars, Immersive games, digital worlds like second life were popular even before Metaverse started to gain currency. Who coined this term metaverse you may ask? In 1992 Neal Stephenson introduced readers to the term Metaverse in his novel Snow Crash. But this concept is still evolving and every player in this rapidly growing ecosystem has their own definition. I will use the simplest version that I like which Metaverse is a Digital / virtual distributed networked environment where our digital 3D avatars collaborate in real-time.

Just as the Internet defied definition when it was introduced metaverse is also in a similar phase. The possibilities it presents are endless and combined with technologies like IoT, AI/ML and Blockchain Metaverse will allow to create dare I say a parallel virtual world that will allow you to teleport yourself across time and space into many different worlds without even stepping away from your chair or couch. Transactions in this virtual world are also driven by digital currency and leverage technology like blockchain for both processing payments vis cryptocurrency as wells as securing digital assets as well as real estate using NFT (Non-fungible Tokens) NFTs are key to gaining and trading ownership of digital assets / Virtual World assets – like land or any of digital content  – it could be a fancy dress for your avatar or a block of digital real estate or a digital painting artwork, or a product design. A lot of the Metaverse providers have their own cryptocurrencies which can be used in their virtual world.

So, let’s look at who all are investing in this future Digital world in a massive way. Some of the names are obvious – like Meta (erstwhile Facebook) – Horizons, Microsoft (Mesh) NVIDIA Omniverse, some of the not so obvious but strong players are Roblox, Sandbox (SAND), Axie Infinity (AXS), Decentraland (MANA), Enjin (ENJ), Tencent, Amazon. I have already talked about at least two major Indian players – Yug Metaverse, Partynite, apart from that NEXTMEET is an avatar-based, platform that enables real-time virtual conferencing and networking in a 3D environment.

There are indeed companies/start-ups that specialize in creating AI-enabled digital Avatar / digital citizens who are working across industries and segments like Retail, Healthcare, manufacturing, and insurance just to name some.

For us and for our customers, Metaverse and related technology present a new world of opportunities and new roles and jobs. As this space continues to evolve, we will also have to be prepared to explore and develop new solutions and adopt this world for our own interactions. The pandemic has forced us to rethink our development, engagement, and collaboration strategies. I can potentially recreate the entire lab or cityscape or shopfloor and invite participation across the globe. We will have to revisit the way we work, the way we design the experiences, the way we interact and the way we manage the huge amount of data that we will generate.

As exciting as this brave new virtual world is, it also has its own set of challenges and poses some very interesting moral, legal and ethical questions like when can we consider something as a crime? Can harassment in a virtual world be treated as a crime? What happens to my life like #AI enabled digital Avatar after I am gone? Can I live and evolve forever in the virtual world?  Will we become too dependent on the virtual and ignore the physical or real-world?  Does it raise the spectre of a dystopian world depicted in the Matrix Tribology or Ready player 1 and host of other Hollywood moves and web series like black mirror?

In conclusion, as pointed out by Alexandre Embry (Global CTIO Immersive Futures) in his post – “The metaverse is poised to reshape the world of work in at least four major ways: new immersive forms of team collaboration; the emergence of new digital, AI-enabled colleagues; the acceleration of learning and skills acquisition through virtualization and gamified technologies; and the eventual rise of a metaverse economy with completely new enterprises and work roles. The metaverse also opens up new possibilities to rethink the office and work environment, and we need to invest now in order to ride high on this wave of technology.”

Gita Babaria

About

For the last 20+ years, Gita has been working closely with Senior IT and business executives in designing and implementing strategic transformational IOT and IT initiatives. She has worked with a wide variety of clients across domains like Medical Device Manufacturers, Automotive, Financial Services, Insurance, Manufacturing (Hi-tech, FMCG, Chemicals etc.), creating value via successful business IT alignment.

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