The Metaverse is a word thrown around in conversation between even the least-techy of us nowadays, yet understanding its massive potential remains a considerable obstacle.
What exactly does it mean to build the Metaverse? Rather than a single software platform, Jon Radoff describes the metaverse as a digital environment made up of seven distinct layers that represent different phases. These layers must work together, from the experiences people seek to the enabling technologies that make it possible.
Let’s put it this way – if the metaverse were a cake, these would be the ingredients.
Layer 1 – Experience
Contrary to popular opinion, the ‘Metaverse concept‘ is destined to be far more than just a 3D manifestation of the physical world for our passive viewing. It’ll involve the physical dematerialisation of physical space, distance, and objects, made possible by photo-realistic graphic elements. Think 3D games like Fortnite on our game consoles, Roblox on our computers, Alexa in our kitchen, Microsoft Teams in our virtual offices, Instagram on our phones, and Pelaton in our home gyms.
And what happens when we dematerialise the physical space? Well, what were once limitations of physicality can cease to exist within it.
Miss out on front-row tickets at your favourite band’s latest concert? All tickets in the metaverse will give you the best seat in the house. Wondering what a particular outfit will look like but can’t reach the in-store shop? Go wild in virtual changing rooms. Surgeons are using augmented reality technology to guide specific surgical procedures. Teachers sit back to relax as digital assistants take their class on a virtual tour of ancient Rome.
And this brings us to another operational angle of the Metaverse: the ‘content-community complex,’ as Jon Radoff calls it. Once, customers were simply content consumers, but now we’re content creators.
We no longer just generate content; our social interactions amplify it. Content sparks human interaction. And human interaction propels content. And that content sparks further human interaction. We’re willing, visionary guinea pigs on the world’s most innovative wheel – a wheel we don’t ever want to get off.
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Layer 2 – Discovery
Arguably the most lucrative layer for businesses, the Discovery segment forms the discoveries (no way?!) that result from a constant push and pull of information that familiarises users with new, innovative experiences.
We can classify Discovery systems as:
- Inbound – where users proactively look for experiences (such as app stores, search engines, community-driven content, and real-time presence). Or,
- Outbound – the indirect marketing processes that inform users (such as display advertising, emails, social media, and notifications).
As mentioned above, 2 of the most powerful facilitators of inbound discovery are:
Community-driven content (such as NFTs): One of the most cost-effective facilitators for discovering Metaverse experiences. When we’re interested in something, we spread the word about it. In a ‘snowball-effect’ style, these can become marketing assets as the content becomes more accessible, valuable, and quicker to exchange, trade, and share.
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● Real-time presence: Discovery about what is the Metaverse? and its experiences isn’t going to result from content alone but from knowing what other people are doing right now. If you log onto your Xbox, you can see what your friends are playing in real-time. The Metaverse is leveraging this by digitising social structures, shifting the power toward the social group to allow the frictionless transition across collective experiences. Once it’s adopted more pervasively and surfaced more apparently, we’ll continue to move from flat ‘social networking’ to real-time ‘social activity’.
Layer 3 – Creator economy
We’ve moved past pioneering eras of experienced creators who have to build websites from scratch by coding HTML or dedicated programmers writing directly to graphics hardware and games.
The newest spaces, powered by AR, VR, and similar technologies, are specifically targeted to entice visitors who will be able to do anything they want within them. We’re moving into an era where designers and creators would instead swerve the tedious coding and place their abilities more creatively. We can use tools, templates, and marketplaces that reverse development from a bottom-to-top, code-centred process to a top-to-bottom, creatively-centred one.
Today, we can log into our Wix.com account and make a slick, dynamic, fully-functional website within the hour. We can launch an e-commerce website in Shopify in minutes without knowing a single line of code.
The metaverse is a win-win for all.
We’ll see more business success as the Metaverse concept becomes more mainstream.
Over time, design tools will allow many platforms to include drag-and-drop capabilities that simplify the authoring process. Becoming a creator, developer, or designer has never been simpler. It’ll only get easier as Web3.0 becomes more ingrained in the culture and Web2.0 is phased away over time. Just like anyone can buy a website domain and have their site, one day, the same will be said for an individual’s potential to venture into the Metaverse.
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Some of the highest-performing platforms, such as The Sandbox, are doing so well because they’re so accessible. The production of digital assets is exceedingly simple and code-free, allowing even newbies to get involved and make an impact.
Layer 4 – Spatial Computing
SP has already made our lives easier. It’s made fashion fun and shopping more convenient by allowing shoppers to try clothes in virtual changing rooms. Eventually, we’ll work, shop, and live as avatars in a 3D digital world that mimics reality.
Spatial computing is a technology solution that merges virtual and augmented reality to provide a high level of authenticity to the immersive 3D experience.
A game that uses SP will enable you to play against the backdrop of the immediate real-world surroundings, where characters won’t just detect the physical objects around you but can interact with them (e.g., sit on a sofa in your living room). It’s become an essential class of tech that allows us to access and manipulate 3D spaces for improved experiences.
Spatial computing comprises the following:
1. 3D engines for displaying shapes and animations;
2. Geospatial mapping/object recognition visualises data linked to physical spaces in user environments.;
3. Voice/gesture recognition; and
4. Human biometrics for identification.
Layer 5 – Decentralisation
‘Decentralisation‘ refers to the technologies, designs, and approaches that shift power and control away from centralised authorities. This proposed framework is viewed by many as the only way to run the Metaverse effectively.
The question is, how do we get there?
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Developers are looking to perfect this layer by moving ecosystems to permissionless structures that distribute ownership. One day, the Metaverse will not be regulated or run by a single corporation or individual but by all of us under a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO).
Since this new technology is currently being dominated and fuelled by the biggest tech companies and major corporations entering the space, a question arises: will they create the same privacy, security and data protection issues that are persistent in the internet as it is today?
Let’s put things into perspective here by using our old friend Facebook as a case study. The company’s business model is based on user data. It uses the data it gathers to enable third parties to show targeted ads to its users. But if a single, centralised entity governed the whole Metaverse, it would have infinite opportunities to analyse user activities and use the resulting data as needed. The authority may then design the working of the Metaverse to benefit businesses by giving them access to this data. The data stored centrally would make it difficult for regular users to verify who has access to it and under what conditions, leading to security issues.
That’s where Blockchain comes in as a breakthrough technology for resolving privacy and data security problems that might affect a centralised metaverse.
Take Decentraland, for example. The metaverse’s most decentralised virtual world currently runs on the Ethereum blockchain. A DAO (whose policies may be altered by user voting) governs the ecosystem.
Layer 6 – Human Interface
This layer describes the technologies/hardware/devices that allow users to experience the true magic of the metaverse and explore it through dynamic human-computer interaction (HCI). Think VR headsets, smart glasses, and haptic technologies where users can navigate digital worlds in real time.
Take smartphones. They’re no longer just devices through which we can speak to friends and family (though it’s always fun to have that post-night-out catch-up with your bestie). Also, they’re highly portable and keep us constantly connected. They’re only getting more powerful the smaller they get. With further miniaturisation, the right sensors, embedded AI technology, and low-latency access to robust edge computing systems, our smartphones will absorb more and more applications and experiences from the Metaverse.
Ironically, as gadgets get smaller, they become more intelligent as they get closer to our bodies. As scary as that may sound, closing the gap between humans and machines is imperative for immersive, virtual experiences of the Metaverse. With advanced SP and a suitable interface, we’ll soon be able to experience the meta-virtual just as we experience the physical world. WOW.
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Layer 7 – Infrastructure
This layer pertains to the complex technological infrastructure required to create a fully functional and interoperable Metaverse that enables our devices to connect us to virtual networks and deliver content.
The next generation of smart devices (think glasses and other wearables) requires high performance and functionality. And since the metaverse brings technology closer to us, it will ironically require tinier hardware far more powerful than existing technologies we have today. Examples include microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that enable small sensors; and compact, long-lasting batteries.
7 layers, 1 centre
With large corporate giants like Facebook and Google investing big money into <a href=”https://exarta.com/”>the Metaverse</a> to make it a reality, the space has become a significant talking point among interest investors, tech enthusiasts, and everyday people alike.
We all want to know where the metaverse is, what it is, and its capabilities. But it’s still yet to exist in its proper, full-blown form. That’s why we must understand the 7 layers that make it up to build our knowledge from the ground up–each representing a vital aspect of the metaverse that can’t function in isolation from the other 6.
Granted, all those cogs are needed for the Metaverse engine to run smoothly. But the central piece of the puzzle is missing – YOU. As Radoff defines the metaverse, it’s “a creative space for anyone who wants to craft experiences.”
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So, what are you waiting for? The metaverse is ready for you. The question is, are you ready for it?
Written by Hannah Clayton