Trendwatching: The Metaverse

What comes after the internet? With big players such as Facebook and Epic games betting on the Metaverse, and even changing their name to reflect its importance, we thought we should explore this possible future trend from the angle of integrations. Fear not if you are still at the "meta-whut?" level - our learning curve was steep as well.

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It is the year 2050. I wake up in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, however my body is in Australia. I am under attack. Thankfully, Rat Things appear and they protect me against the Daemons that are attacking me. With the Rat Things as my shield, I narrowly escape certain death, by ducking out of the Metaverse through a public access terminal located on De Dam, one of Amsterdam's famous squares.

With adrenaline rushing through my veins, I am back in Sydney - taking deep breaths to regain my composure. I need some tea and coffee to calm down, wake up and get on with my day. Immediately, a digital selection menu appears. I opt for an enhanced concoction with the benefits of both coffee and tea, and the next moment it is in my hand.

Wondering if we are either going a bit mad, or possibly pivoting Harmonizer into a platform to produce science fiction content? Nope. This might be around the corner. This might be what comes after the internet.

What comes after the internet?

The next iteration of the internet was first described by Neal Stephenson in his book The Snow Crash in 1992, and called the metaverse. In essence, but not doing it justice, the metaverse is the convergence of artificial and virtual reality related technologies, into a digital universe. Maybe the term ‘spatial internet’ helps. More on the metaverse in the next paragraph.

To draw a famous parallel, George Orwell's book 1984, written in 1949, describes a society where cameras watch our every move, and our behaviours are tracked to a point where our privacy is at significant risk and totalitarianism takes over. As with George Orwell's famous book 1984, if you look beyond quirks and details in The Snow Crash, substance over form, this looks to be where things are heading. We borrowed some of the terms we used in the first paragraph from The Snow Crash.

There has been plenty of speculation since The Snow Crash about virtual / mirror worlds. But we are turning a corner now, with IT having advanced to a point it can actually enable a virtual world. This is further evidenced by major players making landmark announcements.

For example, recently, Facebook made an announcement about their vision and a name change. This entirely revolves around the 'metaverse'. They state they will be creating ten thousand jobs in Europe to create their part in this new world.

Two things:

1.If you think this sounds too weird, and you are of a middle-age vintage, remember your own initial ideas around and expectations of the internet, smart phones, social media, etc. I bet if you are honest, the world today looks nothing like anything you could have possibly imagined in 1995. (If you are too young to remember pre-internet days - ask mum & dad...)

2.If you think we are probably getting ahead of ourselves in saying that this is our 'reality' in 2050, think again. In the announcement quoted above, Facebook is saying they will develop their share of the metaverse in the next five years. They might be ambitious, but again, remember where Facebook was in 2005 versus the global dominance it had in 2010. Other large players, like Epic games, have made similar announcements.

Some background about the Metaverse

According to Wikipedia, this is what a metaverse is:

'The Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet. The word metaverse combines the prefix "meta" (meaning "beyond") with "universe" and is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe'

Akin to the internet, the metaverse has the potential to create economic, social and creative opportunities, if handled with care.

A bit much to take in? Even though we are tech entrepreneurs and deal with data every day, it is for us as well. We did find a Youtube video here about what it looks like to be living in an augmented reality environment - bear in mind augmented reality is just one of the many technologies underpinning the metaverse. The visualisation starts at around 2m into the video.

We are biased to believe it will come to this metaverse though, even though this ‘reality’ might look different to what we can imagine now, based on things we have seen in the past. At a more holistic level, there is an undercurrent in society, a school of thought underpinning our thinking. This school of thought is becoming increasingly mainstream. It says that the evolution of life from RNA to DNA, will progress to more efficient, digital forms of codifying information. Maybe initially bits & bytes as we know them, likely to change to q-bits in the next decade or so. For a comprehensive overview of this school of thought, refer to Yuval Harari’s book Homo Deus.

What about integrations?

Since we are not pivoting from offering cloud integrations, and we believe some form of metaverse is where the world is heading, we should also build a future vision around integrations in the metaverse. So that Harmonizer can move towards this ‘dot on the horizon’ over the next five - or more years it will take to get the metaverse up and running.

Since integrations serve contemporary technologies - presently cloud applications, the first question for us to consider, is which technologies will enable the metaverse. According to Wikipedia, these are: Extended Reality, User Interactivity (Human-Computer Interaction), Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Computer Vision, Edge and Cloud computing, and Future Mobile Networks.

For integrations to be provided scalably, standardisation is required. There are many websites referencing working groups already defining the common standards, interfaces, and communication protocols, enabling the aforementioned virtual environments to be linked.

We expect that these standardised interfaces and protocols will be pivotal, and will allow for many of the virtual technologies to be linked and communicate. However, if we don’t go completely into a post-capitalism state of anarchy (which, by the way, Neal Stephenson thought we would), there will still be entities operating in the metaverse, that want to make money. Dollars, or more likely crypto Bucks of some sort.

Competition stimulates variety - it is therefore not likely that everything will converge to one single protocol, standard and/or interface. Therefore, these will likely not be enough to make the metaverse experience entirely seamless. Like in the cloud, there will be a need for a ‘middleware service’ if you like - some virtual glue to liquify the whole meta-experience.

This is where we fit in. Obviously, we haven’t written the code just yet, but we will be following these working groups and the development of the metaverse-associated virtual technologies - so we are ready when the day comes that our services are needed to link your world, to ours.

Share your ideas with us!

We are tempted to invite you for a coffee IRL to discuss all this sometime soon, as we are worried what might happen to coffee in the Metaverse - we like it way too much to give it up just yet! Hit us up if you are interested in a contemporaneous philosophical discussion on where this all might head.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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