Tech Meraki
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Tech Meraki

Tech Savvy Nation #2 Teleporting to the Metaverse

Hi Everyone,

So today as promised I’m coming with the first detailed article of my new series. And think What! It is on Metaverse. To coming to the topic, there are two underlying technologies you need to understand. Augmented Reality and then the Virtual Reality. What are they? Well I’m more than sure that most of you knows the difference. But to give a small briefing, Virtual world in the sense, is a digitally created space which is not physically available in the world you see from your naked eye. But provided devices like VR headsets you are able to interact in this virtual world. Augmented reality means a space where real world mixes with this virtual world. Which is an extension to the physical world we interact with. For VR we can take the Metaverse which is a complete virtual world outside the physical world. Then AR can be the snap chat filters and different programs where you see extensions to real photos or videos.

Now now, today’s AR and VR are not this simple as my brief introduction. This is a wider and far deeper area. Today there are lot of companies chasing a Virtual reality concept called Metaverse. It is a futuristic immersive world where everything is connected in a virtual world via VR headsets. You have social networking, crypto currencies, gaming, AR, VR and many other segments building this experience.

World at full swing

The full metaverse is still not achieved and many big IT companies are chasing behind this. Mark Zuckerberg and Meta is one of them. The change of name from Facebook to Meta in 2021 is based on Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to build the Metaverse and make it a reality. They had brought Oculus a company that design VR headsets by moving in this path which followed many more other acquisitions. Currently Play Station is also moving from consoler to VR Headsets with PS VR2.

As Meta is investing in Virtual reality and Augmented reality now little by little the Metaverse is also taking shape. Another company who is investing heavily is with 600+ patents in this regard is Accenture. According to Accenture terms they are developing and scaling the Metaverse Continuum to global companies. This will allow other companies to bring the Metaverse experience to their own employees. This will be online workspaces in virtual world with extensions to customers as well to visit the company through the virtual world. Below is how the N’th floor of Accenture looks like.

Google is also partnering with Foxconn to build hardware and software for the metaverse. Then their are global companies like Tencent, Decentraland and Binanace making waves toward building the Metaverse.

Global startup scene is also heating up for 2022 with new innovative minds coming forward to create the Metaverse. One topping the list is GuildFi which is developing Web 3 infrastructure backed by NFT’s. Simply combining blockchain with virtual reality gaming. Another innovative startup is PlayersOnly. This is a decentralized social network which connects sport loving people, Athletes and Recruiters. Athletes profile get updated with their performance progress which is available to the recruiters to decide on their pick. And the list goes on.

Oculus Quest 2

If you are to test VR headsets in the market the best and the most cheapest would be Oculus Quest 2 of Meta. Mark Zuckerberg and the team had done some ground breaking work here. You can use oculus by using the headset with a couple of joysticks to navigate. Or else by using your own hands instead of joysticks, as the headset detects objects in front of you as well. Inside the meta VR space, you can create your own avatar and design your home space. There is a full store of applications and games here that you can use for free. By using Horizon workspaces you can take your office experience out of your lap top to the virtual world and immerse your self to a unique experience. Then there is Horizon Worlds where creators can build spaces and use their creative thinking to the maximum. So without any real world boarders 🙌

You can have meditation sessions using Trip, have exercise sessions using different apps according to your preference or go to a concert, and the possibilities are endless.

Glimpse at where we are heading — Through the eyes of Entertainment Industry

Through out human history entertainment had been a massive force in bringing tech savvy people to hunt for the futuristic. As such is AR and VR. So what is out there giving us hopes into what the future will be? Well not far away, if you switch to Netflix you will find a bunch of such TV Shows. One example is My Holo Love which aired in 2020. This show brings to the stage an idea of having programmed AI through AR Glasses accessible for people of all ages. To help them with knowledge and material for education, career and etc, same as how Google or Alexa helps us now. But in a different scale where the depicted AI can be with us at our difficult times as well, as a companion.

Then we have the Netflix show, Memories of the Alahambra, which is a Korean drama based on Spanish city of Granada. This talks about a AR game stimulated upon real world setting of Alahambra of Granada. By wearing a special contact lenses people can see ancient characters and experience battles and quests through the game, backdropping the real world setting while they physically move through the landscapes.

As this will be the future we are edging towards. How far are we to real experiences through VR Glasses and Contact Lenses. Well the contact lenses are not there yet, with the current development of the segment you can have a full immersive experience only through a VR headset. But Meta is currently working on AR glasses and so is Google. They are trying to bring back the Google glasses project. Well, that would be something. So it seems as we need to wait till some advancements are being done in technology.

If we goes to Hollywood, the concept of VR is fully embraced in Ready Player One of Steven Spielberg. Then there is another famous TV Series about tech, The Westworld. In Westworld the story is about a park with robots where human visitors can interact with and create their own self experienced story. As it seems very futuristic and costly to maintain robots, if we can use AR, we will still be able to achieve the intentions of the story. This will be a concept same as in the Memories of the Alhambra.

For Sri Lankans

In Sri Lanka there are lot of new startups coming in the VR and AR space. Some of the companies in this segment are VR Labs and SimCentric Technologies. SimCentrics is having a stimulation product called SAF-TAC which uses VR headsets to train soldiers using computer based stimulation. Below are some snapshots of SAF-TAC from there website.

Even though there are few good examples in VR and AR in Sri Lanka, I would say that the market is still primitive. There are no revolutionized ideas coming from Sri Lankan companies at this segment. Most of the companies doing AR and VR, are using it as a service with other services such as Website development etc. What I will say is that we need more in Sri Lanka, not just to use what’s already invented in the world. But to innovate from hardware to software.

Once back in 2019, When I works as a very young Business Analyst in a consultancy company, I suggested a social networking idea to Clehan Pulle, the person in Sri Lanka working with Google. My suggestion was to use Google glasses to create face recognition app where someone can see a person’s social profile and preferences by looking at their face at a public area. Just imaging how many times at an event or a public space like crowded bus stop you felt like need to know someone you sees. But we have our human barriers. The person wearing the glass will be able to view people’s profile if they are allowed in public and message or send friend request. This will be using CNN based image/face recognition and AR as it’s core technologies. Then his suggestion was that as Google glasses were scraped at the time, it will be not an avenue to go into. As now Google and others are venturing into AR Glasses space again, my input is that this will become a good area in times to come. Therefore I still think that AR Social platform is a very bright idea, and hope to see something similar when AR glasses hit the market.

By taking examples from the entertainment industry we went through, we can build a AR park for Sri Lanka as well. This will bring more tourists to the location and promote Sri Lanka as a VR/AR hot spot. But to be frank there are some technology advancements that needed to be done. Example is the Oculus Quest 2 limitations. You can only use the headset in an indoor area because if exposed to sunlight the lenses would get damaged.

So in the future when Sri Lanka is moving forward with the world in this segment we will need more Unity developers and should have a national level plan. If only into AR, people can use Spark AR studio of Meta to come up with innovative mobile apps or filters augmenting realistic photos and videos with less effort.

Future possibilities are open for our tech minds to grab as the stage is still fresh.

Wrapping things up

So the Metaverse we dream of is still in the making. Today’s article had been all about it and beyond. So are you hoping to have a future where people can teleport from place to place. Well I think the Metaverse covered it for you. Then there would be no need to have floo powder even for wizards 😏 Tech is already doing it’s wizardry.

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