The metaverse has been around for some time now, and promises to be a mainstream technology over the next few years. Many companies across the world already have a presence in it, but there still are a few challenges to overcome.
The metaverse is still evolving. Many large enterprises are exploring new business models with it including virtual training, virtual service agents, virtual touring, and virtual industrial visits, to name a few. We can expect full-fledged implementation of the metaverse in the next 7-9 years, with the crypto economy and spatial technology driving its growth.
There are three integral components of metaverse solution development.
Virtual reality (VR): This is a 360-degree immersive digital environment that simulates the real world. It requires special devices like a VR headset and head mounted devices (HMD). Examples are PS4 games, driving simulators, and network based 3D games.
Augmented reality (AR): In AR, real-world objects are enhanced by digital content and the technology can work with a regular mobile camera. However, it requires special software. Examples include Google ARCore/Sky Map, HoloLens, and Snapchat.
Mixed reality (MR): Here, physical and digital objects co-exist. The real world and digital world merge to create an interactive experience. MR requires special displays and devices. Examples include virtual makeup applications and virtual furniture fittings.
In short, metaverse combines VR and AR along with IoT, AI, cloud and blockchain to create augmented virtual worlds, in which users immerse as avatars. It requires high-end computing and special software.
Metaverse vs multiverse
In the metaverse, humans hide their identity and travel as an avatar. All transactions, like online trading, are through cryptocurrencies on the blockchain, which is a highly secured platform for virtual shopping and trading. Multiverse is commonly used for gaming and virtual collaboration since it has multiple digital worlds like cyclic, simulated, quantum and holographic universes.
You can understand how the metaverse and multiverse compare by looking at the difference between the movies Avatar and Inception. Avatar is set in the metaverse where you immerse yourself in a virtual digital world (Pandora) as an avatar and come back to the universe. Inception looks at the multiverse, where you travel as yourself in a digital world (dream sequence), then travel to another world, and so on.
As can be seen in Table 1, the multiverse is a commonly used theme concept for gaming and virtual collaboration platforms, whereas the metaverse has multiple applications in different sectors like virtual assistants, virtual banking, and virtual shopping, to name a few.
The challenges in the metaverse
Closed ecosystem: Metaverse is envisioned to connect people. However, its creator Meta is building ‘walled gardens’ within it, to which only a few tech giants have access. Every company designed for the metaverse environment has its own limitations and boundaries, and is disconnected with other companies. So, making the metaverse interoperable is a challenge.
Virtual reality hardware: The only way to access the metaverse is via VR/AR headsets. However, these are too expensive for the average consumer. Also, prolonged usage of these headsets can lead to physical issues such as nausea and eye strains. Headsets developed so far are not very comfortable to wear too.
Addiction: The metaverse experience can be very addictive.
Privacy: Privacy is a huge concern in the metaverse. VR headsets collect far more information as compared to smartphones or any other smart gadget. For example, companies can get every minute detail about the user such as biometrics, eye movements, and physiological responses. If this information falls in the wrong hands, it can destroy the privacy of the user.
Safety: A major issue on the internet is cyber bullying. In the metaverse, the effects of cyber bullying can be even worse as the person is completely immersed in the virtual world. This situation could be catastrophic for kids.
Power consumption: Blockchain is an important part of the metaverse. However, blockchains consume a lot of power. As the metaverse grows, it will need more and more power, and that can be a challenge.
|Digital ecosystem||Hypothetical system of multiple digital ecosystems|
|Assets and human interaction possible||Imaginary world without any
assets to own
|Can be a mixed reality based universe||Can be a cyclic, simulated, quantum,
or holographic universe
|Humans are recognised as avatars||Humans take a role play|
|Commonly used in many sectors like healthcare, banking, and retail for virtual world use cases||Commonly used for gaming and virtual collaboration|
Top 10 open source metaverse projects in 2023
Developers are slowly increasing the use of open source to build projects in the metaverse. The top 10 open source metaverse platforms you can explore this year are listed below.
Webaverse: This is a great platform for open source learners and metaverse developers. It is an open source web3 metaverse game engine that anyone can host and is fully compatible to run in any web browser. It uses open source tools like three.js and Node.
GitHub link: https://github.com/webaverse-studios/webaverse
Hypercuber: This is a free and open source framework for designing self-hosted metaverse applications. It consists of powerful processing and storage options to design these, and to run AI/VR/AR programs.
GitHub link: https://github.com/hypercube-lab/hypercube
Somnium Space: This open source platform looks more like a gaming platform. End users can deploy virtual land, and convert it into powerful residences and commercial establishments.
XREngine: This open source program for making metaverse development frameworks has powerful features like 3D world-building, real-time chat, user management, etc.
Amazon Sumerian: This is an open source development platform for making VR/AR/3D apps in any web browser. It makes use of the Babylon.js framework to create 3D scenes. Amazon Sumerian works flawlessly with Amazon services like LEX, Lambda, and the Polly text-to-speech platform.
GitHub link: https://github.com/jbaicoianu/janusweb
Blender: This is an open source 3D modelling program to create 3D visuals.
WebXR Device API: This open source project provides standard APIs for web app developers to design interactive apps with VR/AR headsets.
BlueJeans: This is a strong platform for creating 3D content for VR, AR, virtual avatars and AI based chatbots.
Reyder: This supports the design and development of immersive 3D, AR and metaverse solutions across the web.
Commercial metaverse platforms at a glance
Many commercial metaverse platforms have been launched recently.
- Tardi World is the popular virtual event platform for hosting virtual marriage receptions and attendees (friends and relatives across the world). Here, gifts are deposited as cryptocurrencies through Zion Verse.
- JP Morgan was the first bank to open its ONYX virtual bank (marketing lounge) in Decentraland (Dessland) metaverse. Decentraland is a blockchain based virtual world where users can buy, sell, and develop virtual real estate, interact with other users, and even build and deploy decentralised applications.
- South Korea’s Kookmin Bank has opened a customer service centre in the metaverse aiming for personalised consultation to its customers.
- Tintra is developing a new-age web 3.0 solution called Metaverse Bank, which offers fully-functional private and investment solutions for end users with immersive services.
- NextMeet platform is very popular in the US. It hosts virtual (immersive) art exhibitions where visitors across the world participate, and even purchase art works through cryptocurrencies.
- Second Life has introduced a metaverse social platform for people to interact and create new friendships/relations. In this virtual world, users can create their avatars, interact with other users, explore various virtual environments, and even participate in the virtual economy by buying and selling virtual goods and services.
- LokaLocal has introduced virtual touring in a metaverse world that has 3D real-world maps of popular cities/places.
- Roblox is a game development platform where users can create their own games using Roblox’s proprietary game development engine and publish them on the platform for other users to play. Gucci has set up a virtual fashion house on the Roblox platform. Its retail store offers an immersive experience for digitally-wearable virtual clothes.
- High Fidelity is a metaverse platform that enables users to create their avatars, interact with other users, and even build their own virtual environments using High Fidelity’s proprietary development tools.
Each of these metaverse platforms has its unique features and use cases, and all of them provide opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs to develop innovative applications and services.
Many more popular platforms have evolved in the last couple of years like Airmeet (virtual corporate events and meetups), Enjin (fashion design), Upland (showroom for sale), and BeyondLifeClub (themed wedding receptions). Latus Health offers digital twins for medical consultation, and Zippy sets up virtual marathons for runners with virtual coach training.
The metaverse commercial platform list is long — it will get longer as the technology gets even more popular.