The digital sector’s major stakeholders agree that it is not a question of if the metaverse will become a reality, but when. From user experience and telecoms infrastructure to human-machine interfaces, the entire metaverse value chain relies on several technological building blocks. Some of these components are well advanced already, while others still need to mature.
A Gateway: AR/VR Technologies
VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) glasses and headsets have made strong and swift progress in recent years. These connected accessories are a gateway to the immersive world of the metaverse. It’s this vision that led Facebook to purchase the Oculus VR brand of headsets in 2014 — the social media company firmly believed that the headset would “change the way we work, play and communicate.” In 2016, Snapchat announced the launch of its connected glasses, Spectacles, and in August 2021, TikTok acquired Pico, a Chinese VR headset manufacturer. Orange Innovation is experimenting with Chinese start-up Nreal the use of AR glasses that are less bulky than VR headsets.
Although still in their infancy, these AR/VR technologies have already been deployed in fields such as entertainment, consumption and work; and that’s only the beginning! “AR/VR equipment is the best way to enter the metaverse and provide a more human-centered experience,” says James Li, Principal, Technology Group at Orange Silicon Valley. “Indeed, the pandemic has bolstered the desire for immersive virtual experiences in the real world. The VR headsets of tomorrow will have evolved into connected glasses, offering users greater comfort and a growing number of sensory and cognitive experiences.”
Decentralizing for Latency and Trust
Edge computing technology is another essential building block in the metaverse. In a future world where millions of people will be having continuous virtual experiences in real time, the cloud will not be able to centralize and store all the resources involved. Due to latency, this data will need to be distributed across the country. Edge computing will bring the cloud closer to our homes, allowing us to enjoy low-latency applications.
Another key technological building block, blockchain, is the foundation of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which give the metaverse a market value. For example, NFTs can be used when purchasing digital artwork, acting as a certificate of identity and guaranteeing the art’s value as an original piece, allowing any copies to be identified.
Interoperability: A Must
Thanks to 5G’s increased technological maturity and power, which will improve bandwidth while reducing network saturation and latency, the metaverse could be right around the corner. Once all the technological challenges have been overcome, the migration of Internet users to this metaverse will be reliant on interoperability. Indeed, having a virtual experience or digital asset becomes more appealing when it’s possible to move into another universe or onto another platform. “All the technologies in the metaverse value chain must work together to provide an excellent user experience,” explains James Li. “Interoperability between technologies and stakeholders is essential for making the metaverse a reality and for creating an open and seamless space.” That is to say, an alternate universe in the true sense of the word, not just a collection of discrete 3D communities that are open only to the customers of the companies that own them.