The metaverse is quite possibly the future of the internet. To help our readers learn more about it, we've started this metaverse interview series.
These are the questions we've compiled to ask experts in blockchain, DAOs, NFTs, and game development, within the HackerNoon community. The series is intended for tech professionals to contribute their insights about the current state and the future of the metaverse.
If you too would like to start contributing to Hacker Noon, you can do so here.
If you also want to publish your thoughts about the metaverse, answer the template here.
I’m Alec Lazarescu, a technology and digital education industry veteran currently serving as Chief Architect, Messaging at Synchronoss Technologies. I’ve overseen technical aspects for a number of award-winning products serving tens of millions of users.
In the last 5 years, it’s been exciting to see the metaverse starting to materialize and enabled by many emerging technologies I’ve been working on and building communities with: AI, blockchain, chatbots, and voice.
I’ve been a sci-fi reader since my youth and my first digital community was running a BBS as a teenager. I also enjoy board games, computer games, volleyball, and basketball.
The metaverse is a persistent, virtual world where humans have an embodied telepresence/avatar and are able to immersively interact with content and each other in digital experiences and economies.
I created versetech.ai as an educational event and discussion group to bring creators of all types; designers, developers, and directors, together. I am also still working on chatbots, blockchain, and AI projects that will bridge into metaverse experiences.
We’re decades into making physical proximity no longer a pre-requisite for social interaction through the internet and the rise of social everything online. Since more and more interactions are moving online, the trend of people giving more consideration to their online presence and image is accelerating.
The internet had status messages and profile pictures for self-expression while the metaverse extends to avatars with fantastic clothes and accessories all the way to designing your own virtual space. The game Animal Crossing is an interesting peek at the customization aspects of a virtual world and it’s been a massive hit. The metaverse will expand that dimension significantly and add further immersion. The human need served by that expression won’t go away.
Why should we be limited by distance and space in the physical world? The metaverse feels like a natural adjacent experience to the real world. I actually think it’s more inevitable than anything else. People long for connection, belonging, and a self-expressed identity and we can amplify that in a positive way.
A flat video chat online with many people in a grid can’t compare to the more natural turn-taking, reading emotions, interest, and other qualities of in-person conversations. There are opportunities to significantly close that gap between in-person and online in the metaverse.
Whether with a hyper-realistic or animated avatar, using cameras and AI to transfer facial expressions, voice, and spatial audio will ratchet up the lifelike quality of interactions significantly and help speed up how quickly people feel connected. Great friendships and other relationships have been created online since simple text chat, but it’s far slower and has a lower chance of establishing a strong connection.
The metaverse will hopefully also open up a global digital economy where billions of people can earn money creating digital goods or performing services in the virtual world and be paid automatically and transparently. Collectives or companies can form and transact, but the platform itself should make it simple for even individuals to be effective creators, sellers, and workers without pulling an outsized take of the revenue generated.
While in theory the metaverse doesn’t have to be based on blockchain or even decentralized, in reality, it’s incredibly difficult to establish trust and ownership at scale while supporting many consumers and creators alike. Companies aim to maximize shareholder profits not creator profits on their platforms and often disincentivize money leaving their system. Blockchain-based systems can offer decentralized trust, transparency, and ownership.
Additionally, Blockchain opens up new governance models to allow rules and controls to be created without a central authority and more closely align with the desires of the community.
It won’t be a light switch where suddenly the metaverse is there but more of a continuum where richer immersive experiences will be possible and an increasing amount of economic activity will take place there much like the growth of eCommerce. Though AR/VR are not the only avenues for immersive experiences, they certainly enrich certain ones. I do expect we’ll have a consumer price point friendly AR/VR hybrid headset within 10 years and AI-based motion capture and animation that raises the bar on facial expression transfer to avatars.
There’s already a lot of new and existing companies working on expanding physical inputs into the metaverse through face, body, and hand tracking as well as continued improvements in speech-to-text. While virtual interfaces like in the movie Minority Report look cool, they would get physically exhaustive to use compared to a concise and effective understanding of voice commands.
There’s potential for ultra-invasive monitoring and behavior nudging. Incredible amounts of data can be gathered through additional hardware tracking sensors and even paired with heart rate/health devices to know what people are looking at, for how long, and even infer if they’re feeling excited.
I also hope in the current excitement over artificial scarcity that we don’t create unnecessarily awful base environments and experiences and, along with negative social pressure, highly incentivize people to pay a lot for an improved look or be ostracized.
Hacking risk also goes to a whole new level in a virtual world with a greater amount of goods and currency that can be stolen, perhaps irreversibly if solely based on blockchain. Even worse there could be the impersonation of trusted people or diminished reality where actual dangerous people or situations are covered in a digital veil.
Lastly, there may be people that become completely lost and engrossed in virtual worlds and neglect their relationships and health in the real world.
“I’m fairly sure that at this point that Omniverse or the metaverse is going to be a new economy that is larger than our current economy,” -Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang
Some of the biggest tech companies are betting big on the metaverse: Meta (aka Facebook), Nvidia, Microsoft, Google, and many more. Within the gaming space, there’s a similar shift from Epic’s Fortnite and Roblox as well as newcomers like Sandbox. It would be shocking if nothing came of this.
We’re still incredibly early though. There will be a natural and important shaking out of what are the Pets.com and Friendsters vs the Amazon and PayPals of the metaverse world.
I’m bullish on the space long term and agree with Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang who stated “I’m fairly sure that at this point that Omniverse or the metaverse is going to be a new economy that is larger than our current economy.”