By Jessy Cavazos
As our lives are increasingly lived online, many are decrying the negative implications, with one study going so far as to suggest that human anatomy may mutate due to our excessive use of technology. While extreme, this underscores the central media narrative underpinning many tech innovations: namely, progress comes at a cost to humanity.
However, this is poised to change as the metaverse becomes a reality. Ongoing innovations in 5G and 6G will give us permanent connectivity regardless of physical location and create a true blending of physical and virtual worlds. As this happens, the current two-dimensional web experiences will be replaced with more meaningful, immersive interactions that deliver a sustained real-world impact.
Before delving into these benefits, let’s first look at some of the drivers behind the Internet’s bad rap. The ease with which fake news can spread, cyber-bullying, privacy concerns, and the negative impact on social relationships and community are often among the top problems cited by those who fear our reliance on the web.
These concerns are valid but those heavily involved in the metaverse’s development believe they can be mitigated in Web 3.0 by prioritising safety, privacy, transparency, and other critical considerations from the start. To this end, groups such as the Metaverse Standards Forum and the Oasis Consortium aim to permanently change the web as we know it and support a safer and more rewarding experience for all.
New possibilities on the metaverse horizon
With the unrivalled compute and connectivity that 5G and 6G will ultimately offer, traditional boundaries defined by geography or location, i.e., work vs. home, will all but disappear. The subsequent possibilities are numerous, including:
Improved R&D: The metaverse is the ultimate DevOps environment, eliminating all barriers between groups and supercharging collaboration. Allowing all product stakeholders to interact and work together, both with each other and with the ultimate end users, throughout the design phase will result in better, faster-to-market products and open up new opportunities for innovation. Consider how more natural prosthetics could be developed by using the metaverse to model and understand joint movement as it relates to specific actions – gripping a pen, kicking a ball, or climbing stairs, for example. More intuitive diagnostic technologies are another possibility, with clinical trials completed at a fraction of the traditional cost and time.
Scalable sustainability: The metaverse will enable us to significantly reduce carbon emissions in a variety of ways. Digital twins, defined by Gartner as “…a digital representation of a real-world entity or system,” are already being utilised by enterprises for things like testing, monitoring and predictive maintenance. As augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) mature, digital twins will become as life-like as their physical counterparts, resulting in countless gains, including increased sustainability.
This goes beyond the carbon reduction benefits of less work-related travel. Consider the reduction in shipping logistics, packaging, and stocking of returned clothing if shoppers could try on items in the metaverse rather than in-person.
Global creativity: By facilitating connections that span the globe, the metaverse will help individuals and companies alike overcome language differences, cultural obstacles, and other traditional roadblocks that have stymied true global collaboration. For example, employees could combat the isolation concerns associated with hybrid environments by creating avatars that represent their cultural identity, hobbies, or experiences, laying the framework for more authentic and meaningful connections.
Supporting the future of the Internet
In order for the metaverse possibilities to be realised, the industry must overcome some significant tech barriers, including:
Latency: With motion to photon inputs of less than 20 milliseconds, it’s essential that the metaverse can relay data in real-time even if the interactions originate from the other side of the world.
Technology integration: Numerous technologies underpin the metaverse and they must work together seamlessly. As discussed, the computing power of 5G and 6G will play a pivotal role. The IoT, AI, AR and VR, 3D modelling and spatial and edge computing are all critical, and much work remains to ensure these technologies can easily work together.
Uplink: Uplink improvements must be made in 5G and 6G to support metaverse possibilities. It’s one thing to experience buffering while watching a YouTube video but another thing entirely when using an AR headset, for example. This and other metaverse innovations will require much higher uplink throughputs to ensure the seamless connectivity and immersive experiences consumers will increasingly expect.
A new era of connectivity dawns
Every disruptive technology ushers in new capabilities that were unheard of just a few years prior. Think about how ubiquitous Wi-Fi transformed business travel, or how e-commerce brands have capitalised on social media and user-generated content.
We are at a similar point now when it comes to the metaverse and its potential. As 5G and 6G mature, we’ll start seeing an entirely new class of devices and applications coming to the marketplace.
Consider driving glasses in which infotainment, navigation, and hands-free calling are recombined into a seamless AR experience that overlays into the real world. This underscores how the metaverse will eradicate the perception of the Internet as a lonely, anonymous destination and instead connect us in ways we’ve only begun to imagine.
Jessy Cavazos is 5G industry solutions manager at Keysight Technologies