Microsoft wants its mesh platform to be a vital connection connecting numerous virtual environments if Facebook wants to develop the metaverse.
Over the last few weeks, tech businesses of all sizes, from Facebook to Microsoft to Tinder, have announced their ambitions to establish a metaverse, which many predict could succeed the Internet in the coming decade. But, for the time being, it’s a meta-verse, with no one knowing what the final form would look like. There are also concerns about who will ultimately regulate this virtual environment and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
“Metaverse” is described as a “evolution to the internet, where you would have 3D places, virtual surroundings, communication, commerce, and entertainment…” by Sai Krishna V K, co-founder of AR business Scapic, which is a part of Walmart Inc-owned Indian e-commerce major Flipkart. For him, the “Metaverse” is the natural next step after the smartphone and the Internet as we know it today.
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg relaunched the social media platform as Meta, he also revealed his plans for the metaverse. That isn’t to say he wants to control the metaverse. He is unable to do so. No one is capable.
Over a video call, Sai tells indianexpress.com that no one owns the metaverse, just like no one owns the internet. Meta’s intentions are primarily focused on creating its own “meta-universe,” a digital realm in which the real and virtual collide. You could, for example, meet your relative in California in a virtual cafe in real time using digital avatars.
“While social media is a terrific way to engage with people, they [Meta] have the power of collecting this data,” says Dr. Anupama Malik, Managing Director of Vizara Technologies, an IIT-D incubated AR/VR business. “The next step is to transition from 2D to 3D since there are now extremely simple ways to get 3D data, and he [Zuckerberg] recognizes that 3D spaces will be the next big thing.”
Meta possesses the talent and resources necessary to construct the metaverse. Indeed, the social media behemoth intends to hire 10,000 individuals across the European Union to help with this massive undertaking. It helps that they already own Oculus, a virtual reality hardware leader that will serve as a literal portal to the metaverse.
Sai feels that Facebook’s previous 2D-only digital ecosystem is no longer viable. “If Facebook can be designed around people, if you rationally move the platform from feature-first to people-first, where groups of users can choose to do whatever they want in 3D areas… that’s logically how social interactions have always happened.”
Microsoft wants its mesh platform to be a vital link connecting multiple virtual environments together if Facebook wants to develop the metaverse. Microsoft announced plans to integrate Mesh to its Teams collaboration platform, which has 250 million users worldwide, during its recent Ignite conference. Mesh for Teams will “combine the mixed-reality capabilities of Microsoft Mesh, which allow people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences, with the productivity tools of Teams, where people can join virtual meetings, send chats, collaborate on shared documents, and more,” according to the company.
The fact that Mesh will allow firms to use APIs and will give them with a common set of controls and UI components to develop its metaverse demonstrates Microsoft’s sincerity about being a part of it. It’s similar to how apps for cellphones can be created.
The race to develop the Metaverse or become a part of it, whether it’s Facebook or Microsoft, will help the AR/VR ecosystem in the future. “Adoption of AR/VR technologies by businesses and consumers has been slow, but that is projected to change dramatically as these technologies become more widespread,” says Kanav Singla, Founder & CEO of Adloid, a deep tech firm focused on Augmented Reality (AR). “With major corporations such as Facebook joining the AR/VR market, individuals are more inclined to adopt these technologies in their daily lives.”
Many people overlook the fact that the “metaverse” already exists and integrates a variety of developing technologies, including cryptocurrencies, NFTs, gaming platforms like Roblox and video games like Fortnite, and virtual reality headset manufacturers like Oculus (Meta) and HTC Vive. In a broader metaverse, all of these technologies will continue to grow and intersect.
There is a requirement for specialized technology because a metaverse can be a 3D immersive world shared by several users in which you can interact with others via avatars. “You can’t do that in a 2D environment, an app, or on your smartphone,” Sai says, explaining why immersive technologies like VR offer a superior approach for social interactions in a 3D world.
Smartphones aren’t going away; they’re just not built for 3D environments. This is why all of the major tech companies are significantly investing in virtual reality and augmented reality technologies. According to experts, the race is on to create experiences that will deliver information to your face, but this will necessitate a new set of hardware goods that are unlike any other smartphone. “Over the next five years, there will be an arms race about how to outfit your face with what will succeed a smartphone,” Sai said. Both VR and AR, however, will coexist and compliment one other. “Over time, the distinctions between what high-fidelity virtual reality is and where the metaverse begins will become even blurrier… He went on to say, “It’s pretty similar to the similarity between your laptop and an internet connection.”
“The immersive digital environment that the metaverse will create for individuals to interact in appears revolutionary, but it will come with its own set of issues,” Singla says. Facebook’s track record with data and privacy is dubious, and with advertising expected to be a major source of money in the metaverse, it’s difficult to put faith in the social media behemoth. When asked why there is a need to put stringent data policies in place to keep their users safe, Singla adds, “Unlike the data Facebook can collect from someone through their use of a PC or mobile; VR data is biometric, and all personal and behavioral characteristics of the people will be recorded and harvested, making them susceptible to cyber-crime.”