A recent survey confirmed that the Metaverse will be the most popular place to buy, trade and store cryptocurrency. The Metaverse is well and truly here! But what new worlds will it offer its users — and how could startups benefit from the new virtual realm? We spoke to Telekom ambassador Terry Schussler, who works as the Senior Director of XR and the Metaverse at Deutsche Telekom in San Francisco, to find out more.
Terry stresses that the Metaverse requires a few different forms of technology. He explains that the immersive Metaverse “means creating a headworn experience rather than a 2D experience like a browser or mobile phone would offer.” In the 90s, this required a headset where you covered your eyes and prevented yourself seeing any aspect of the real world.
Now, contemporary devices blend both the virtual and real world, using cameras so you can pass through or view the real world — essentially VR headsets with some augmented reality or mixed reality capability. “This ability to see the real world can make it safer for you to be in virtual reality, allowing you to find your drink and take a sip when you’re playing a game. The walls and floors of your environment are reimagined so you still feel like you’re in your own room but it’s still completely transformed into a VR space.”
Which sounds great! But what else will make the Metaverse special for consumers? We all know that it will allow users to inhabit an entire world with your body — the way you gesture, speak, walk around will be translated to the digital world. But Terry stresses it will also allow users to employ what he calls multimodal input: “I can refer to something with my speech, I can gesture at something and all of that gets blended together into an interaction.”
This offers something totally different to what we’re used to, controlling the digital via a mouse or touch screen. “[A touch screen or a mouse] is a much more limited interaction compared to pointing at something that I see digitally and saying, make that magenta. If I’m pointing at something, looking at it, speaking about it, I’m blending those interactions and the software will be able to understand that the thing I’m gesturing at is the object over there and will know what I mean by magenta and as such, will be able to convert the colour of the correct object.”
Terry points out another way it varies from our current digital experience is in terms of consistency. “Normally, when you visit a website and come back to it the next day, it’s all fresh, the content’s totally different, it’s like you’re starting over again.” In contrast, the Metaverse will be “persistent and consistent all the time.” Something may change because someone has added or removed an object or altered something. But the bones of the environment will stay the same, much as your living room is still your living room, even if someone’s added a few extra chairs. This will give it a feeling of place that maybe a website wouldn’t have.
So what does all of this mean for startups: If I’m a startup or developer who wants to make real money through the metaverse, what should my focus area be? Terry points out that it’s expensive to build 3D assets to put into a VR experience or even digital twins of real world objects.
“Taking an object like a fancy chair at your house and making a digital twin of that is complicated to get right: you need special lighting, equipment, a way to turn the object consistently so you can capture it from all sides. So anyone who can solve that pain point and reduce the cost of production will be onto something big.”
Essentially, Terry believes there are real opportunities for any startups who find a way of making content creation in the Metaverse more inexpensive and more efficient. He also thinks that any startup who can make it really easy for individual users to create their own metaverse experiences is onto something big — he believes that consumers will want to build their own metaverses in the same way they can already build their own website or blog.
“Enabling a WordPress for the Metaverse is a huge opportunity for a developer. Any way that a person can take an existing website and reimagine it as a spatial experience, that’s a business.” He stresses that he could imagine this happening through multimodal input, with the user being able to create a specific space simply by delivering their vision by speech — saying “I want a space that looks like an old Western location with a saloon and a shootout area. If there’s a way to do that, that’s a big disruption, a big opportunity.”
We’ve covered users and startups. But where does the telecommunications industry come in? Well, Terry says, for one thing, 5G is the lifeblood of the Metaverse. Yes, it provides better bandwidth than the previous generation of technology, but it’s also about low latency, which is vital for immersive Metaverse experiences. “We typically have to render the content at 90 frames a second to keep the person who’s watching it from getting ill and that means that the data roundtrip time needs to be around 13-14 milliseconds so latency becomes very important.”
One other really important aspect that 5G supports is density, Terry says. “If you have a lot of people in one place and they’re sharing the network, that can be an issue with too many people trying to connect to the same radio tower.” He explains that 5G allows more people in the same location – like a big building or a stadium – to have a Metaverse experience.
He believes the Metaverse will be profitable for telcos because “it creates demand on the network for certain services and functionalities.” It also drives multi player experiences which require a connectivity between users that’s created by the network. How to monetize this consumption will vary, he says. “You could monetize it based on the traditional way: the amount of data you enable the user to use on the network in a given period of time, essentially their data package.”
But you could also create different tiers of service: “So if for example, you had a customer who wanted to utilize more metaverse functionalities, maybe you provide a premium version of the network connection to the user and you charge them a premium for that.” He also points out that telcos could provide content or content platforms that can build business. One example is cites is something “we’re doing at Deutsche Telekom — we’ve built an NFT platform that we’re licensing out to other companies so they can provide their NFT assets to a marketplace.”
If readers are feeling inspired, how can they get involved? That’s easy, he says. hubraum regularly runs programs where they typically bring 10-14 companies into a cohort focusing on a different technology area. Now, hubraum has announced an exclusive program for developers, startups and creatives which is looking for augmented reality apps utilizing the Snapdragon Spaces™ XR Developer Platform.
“One of the problems of building AR or MR experiences as a developer has been that typically you’ve had to build for a specific device. You have to build for Magic Leap or the HoloLens or an Nreal Light and the engineering process was different for each.“ As such, Terry explains, it was really difficult to create an application and make it available on all three devices. “Luckily, Qualcomm has built this middleware software that allows a developer who’s using Unity or Epic Games’s Unreal Engine technology to build an application, to build to target any of those devices easily.”
They’re currently in the end phase of scouting for the program and anyone who’s interested in helping us reimagine reality should apply here.
“This will be a really powerful opportunity for developers who really want to push the bounds with augmented reality glasses and really explore taking products and really pushing them further along with the help of the Snapdragon Spaces software.”
In 2022, there’s still a way to go — “It’s still early days, it’s not truly an immersive experience yet, but we’re building the fundamentals.” But as such, there couldn’t be a more pivotal time to get involved. We’re building the Metaverse — will you come join us?
This article was inspired by a compelling presentation created by our former investment analyst intern, Akashdeep Dey. You can see his XR investing summary here and Akash’s Metaverse presentation here.
If you’re a metaverse enthusiast with a great idea for an XR product or service, apply to our Snapdragon Spaces XR developer program here.
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