Wednesday, February 1st, 2023 01:48:31

The Brave New World Web 3.O : From Stephenson’s Snow Crash to Meta of Today

By Sarat C. Das
Updated: December 17, 2022 5:23 pm

The emerging world of Metaverse, call it a parallel universe, is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. In Neal Stephenson’s science fiction Snow Crash it is referred to as a portmanteau of “meta” and “universe”. The seminal book depicts humans, as programmable avatars, socialize with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that employs the metaphor of the real world.

Neal Stephenson’s metaverse shows up to its teeming users as an urban environment developed along a 100-meter-wide road, named the Street, which spreads across the entire 65,536 km circumference of a featureless, black, perfectly spherical planet. Users of the metaverse approach it through personal terminals that project a high-quality virtual reality display onto goggles worn by the user, or from grainy black and white public terminals in booths. The percipient and discerning users experience it from a first-person perspective. Stephenson narrates a sub-culture of human beings (avatars) opting to remain uninterruptedly connected to the metaverse; they are dubbed the moniker “gargoyles” due to their queer mien. Within the metaverse, its residents materialize as avatars in multiple grotesque forms, with the sole restriction of height, “to prevent residents from walking around a mile high”. Transport within the metaverse is limited to analogs of reality by foot or vehicle, such as the monorail that spans the entire length of the Street, stopping at 256 Express Ports, located evenly at 256 km intervals, and Local Ports, one kilometer apart.

As the Metaverse idea is beginning to take shape Web3 innovation harnessed to blockchain innovation like NFTs and Cryptos, the future Metaverse would be something basically the same as our true in numerous viewpoints and even supplant a few certifiable exercises like working or hanging out. Currently, a score of Metaverse NFT vendors have equipped their NFTs to be usable in some Metaverse games, i.e., clothes and footwear and more are desiring to enter into this space. The metaverse market size is expected to grow exponentially to up to $5 trillion by the year 2030. With top-league organisations such as Meta and Microsoft unwaveringly committing themselves to create technologies that can help transform the virtual world, the future of the metaverse seems jaw-droppingly exciting.

The metaverse is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal, and immersive virtual world that is assisted by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. The Metaverse has been referred to as “the future of social media” by Mark Zuckerberg. It aims to offer users an opportunity to socialize, work, interact with engaging environments, shop, spend and explore virtual worlds in multiple forms. Both VR and AR play a major role in making the entire Metaverse experience immersive and interactive, which is why there are many organisations such as Meta working on creating the best VR hardware for burgeoning users.

There are varied metaverses currently being built by multiple organisations, such as Decentraland, Sandbox, and the Pavia. Each metaverse offers its benefits such as 3D Creators, in-built marketplaces, the ability to host events, and a host of other experiences.

Metaverse development is often associated with advancing virtual reality technology due to the increasing demands for immersion experience. The recent ground swell of interest in metaverse development is fulled by Web3, a concept for a decentralized iteration of the internet. To say in a few words, the metaverse organization is a business that emphasizes on creating and managing virtual worlds, either for the purpose of entertainment or education, and so much more. These enterprises often build the necessary software and hardware to make their virtual world accessible to users. In majority cases, these organisations also create and maintain the content within these digital environments. For example, companies working on Metaverse can focus on developing VR hardware, creating new platforms, creating virtual marketplaces, establishing data security, creating 3D modeling tools, and much more!

The 2003 virtual world platform Second Life is commonly regarded as the first metaverse, as it amalgamated many strands of social media into a persistent three-dimensional universe with the user represented as an avatar. However, the historical claims of metaverse development began soon after the term was coined and became a common currency. Early projects included Active Worlds and The Palace. On July 4, 2000, the USPTO awarded self-contained java applet LivePlace, the first Metaverse Trademark, a Goods & Services mark, provided temporary use of on-line non-downloadable software enabling visitors to a website to chat online, identify other on-line surfers, exchange private messages and allow multiple visitors to browse websites together. LivePlace creator eUniverse Vice President John Hanke later created PokemonGo. Popular games described as part of the metaverse include Habbo Hotel, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Fortnite, VRChat, and game creation platform Roblox which has since employed significant usage of the term in marketing. In a January 2022 interview with Wired, Second Life creator Philip Rosedale described metaverses as a three-dimensional Internet that is populated with live people. Social interaction and 3D virtual worlds are usually regarded as an integral feature in many massively multiplayer online games.

The Metaverse is much more than just a space to interact with other users; Metaverse organisations are making continuous efforts to build a full-fledged virtual economy. Users can masquerade as ‘avatars’ to travel the Metaverse and explore unimaginable ‘virtual worlds.’

IIT Kanpur alumna NavinManaswi’s three-year old start-up WoWexp, considered to be India’s first metaverse company, has a portmanteau of products in the space of augmented and virtual reality. It ranges from education to retail. Manaswi asserts, ‘’It is a truly immersive virtual platform in which its 3D web technology has evolved to make 3D worlds accessible on any device, including computers, mobile phones, and VR headsets.’’ A WoWExp team is a team of technology evangelists, programmers, strategists, and marketers who believe in the potential of technology to solve business problems and connect communities across geographies.

The front runner is Meta, the new avatar of Facebook, which is developing Metaverse for users and players to be in the vast network of real-time 3D virtual worlds while maintaining identity and payment history. It has been proclaimed that the Metaverse company is focused on developing a record-breaking supercomputer to power the Metaverse— reaching quintillions of operations per second. It has also the approval of the European Union to develop the Metaverse Technology for creating more employment in Europe.

Microsoft is a popular organization for Meta focused on developing a string of Metaverse applications on the top of the Mesh platform. It is also building a new augmented reality chipset for Metaverse with Qualcomm for offering access to a host of new features. Microsoft is also known to be one of the forefront companies building Metaverse by updating AltspaceVR for making a Metaverse Technology much safer place for users and players.

WoWExp, which currently helping businesses in their transition to Web3, is facilitating the acquisition of virtual spaces and providing a suite of services that are powered by virtual reality and augmented reality. WoWExp creates immersive experiences for brands by allowing the customers to interact with brand promotions, thereby building deeper relationships with the brand. Among WoWexp’s suite of products there is WoWCity, a new social, immersive world filled with diverse and exciting experiences. The users can teleport themselves to different locations, each one offering unique experiences. ‘’From shopping sprees to hosting events or even just spending time with your friends – there’s so much more on WoWCity that you have never experienced before,’’ reveals Manaswi.

Further, there is WoWMeet, an enterprise metaverse platform where users can meet and collaborate in a common virtual space. The WoWMeet platform offers multiple experiences like writing on whiteboards, sharing 3D presentations, “Speech to text” summarisation, Brainstorming sessions, team meetings, and more. ‘’It’s like an extension of the office that lets you work offsite and share your idea with a team in a gamified environment,’’ says Manaswi.

”Our solutions help businesses in their digital transformation journeys by leveraging the power of immersive technologies such as VR/AR/MR to create engaging experiences for their customers.”

The technology behemoth Apple is known as a well-known company for Meta for creating a Head-Mounted System (HMD) virtual meetings apps. It will amalgamate physical hand and arm movements to be present and interact in virtual meetings.

The trillion dollar company Amazon is developing Metaverse through the recruitment for the Metaverse technology— a senior product manager. It has shown the product manager needs to own the delivery of cloud-based Metaverse services in the gaming tech division.

Snapchat is one of the growing Metaverse organisations that announced the launch of a new avatar lens showing how a user or player will appear in the Metaverse. The avatar filter leverages augmented reality that permits avatars to change garb and faces in sync with the mood. This organization is developing Metaverse through the launch of 3D Bimojis.

Roblox Corporation is focused on building a creator economy Metaverse while offering an open gaming platform to let players create their own digital and interactive worlds. It is gaining popularity for building a business model of the Metaverse. It provides multiple games within its platform and some of them offer virtual worlds where players can efficiently and freely interact with each other. This popular Metaverse company has hosted Metaverse events such as the Lil NasXConcert for the entire world to enjoy.

NVIDIA is one of the top companies for Meta to strike a deal with Metaverse market. It took an initiative to distribute free copies of a programme built for developing Metaverse-ready assets known as Omniverse.  NVIDIA is becoming a popular company developing Metaverse by supporting artists as well as content creators to build virtual worlds and products. The Metaverse company has a series of partnerships related to the sharing of Metaverse-related content. It will also help users to create personalized avatars to bring visions to life.

In 2019, the social network company Facebook launched a social VR world called Facebook Horizon. In 2021, Facebook was renamed “Meta Platforms” and its chairman Mark Zuckerberg declared a company commitment to developing a metaverse. Many of the virtual reality technologies advertised by Meta Platforms remain to be developed. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen criticised the move, adding that Meta Platforms’ continued focus on growth-oriented projects is largely done to the detriment of ensuring safety on their platforms. Meta Platforms has also faced user safety criticism regarding Horizon Worlds due to sexual harassment occurring on the platform. In 2021, Meta made a loss of over $10 billion on its metaverse development department, with Mark Zuckerberg saying he expected operating losses to “increase meaningfully” in 2022.

The future of Metaverse can likewise be a gigantic contributing element to the development of the virtual economy, which relies upon video games and virtual universes where interruptions are nearly nothing. Some metaverse implementations rely on digital currencies, and often cryptocurrency. Assets within the metaverse are sometimes traded as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and track ownership using blockchain technology. Proposed applications for metaverse technology include improving work productivity, interactive learning environments, e-commerce, mass-audience interaction, real estate and fashion.

The Metaverse representing things to come additionally ranges on the thought of running transparently, nearly with next to no break from a single community or organization, as the cooperation of makers will be from across the world as additional brands are hoping to open their outlets on the more extensive Metaverse very much like on the web of the present situations. This multitude of conceivable outcomes makes worldwide organizations contact the Metaverse improvement organizations in India to get remarkable computerized digital solutions using Metaverse technologies.

In a February 2022 article for The New York Times, Lauren Jackson contended that the metaverse is “stalled from achieving scale by a lack of infrastructure for both hardware and software, a monopolistic approach to platform development, and a lack of clear governance standards.” In December 2021, Raja Koduri, a top Intel executive, asserted that “Truly persistent and immersive computing, at scale and accessible by billions of humans in real time, will require even more: a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency from today’s state of the art.”

Metaverse development may amplify the social impacts of online echo chambers and digitally alienating spaces or abuse common social media engagement strategies to manipulate users with skewed content. Keza MacDonald of The Guardian excoriated the utopianism of technology organisations who asserted that a metaverse could be a reprieve from worker exploitation, prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. MacDonald affirmed that they would be more positive towards metaverse development if it was not dominated by “organisations and disaster capitalists attempting to figure out a guileful way to make more spondulicks as the real world’s resources are depleting.” However, at best it can be said to be wishful thinking. Let us see how it unfolds.

By Sarat C. Das

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