I often refer, in some of my ramblings, to sci-fi movies. Obviously, I am a fan. So, I am taking some editorial license here to do a bit of ethereal daydreaming about the brave new digital world being called the metaverse. The timing with this getting some traction is pretty good. It seems that things on the sci-fi front have been a bit slow if late – mostly zombies and invaders from outer space. Perhaps Hollywood can get a whiff of this and create some really cool flix with it as a theme.
It is interesting that someone finally came up with a name to breathe some new life into the well-worn internet and up the ante for what we describe as the digital world. Although definitions of the metaverse vary slightly, the bottom line and the common thread are that, just like the universe, which contains everything and anything physical, the metaverse contains anything and everything digital.
Actually, I like it. It is kind of a cool name. Even though the term has been around for a while — it was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi book, Snow Crash — I am a bit surprised it has taken this long for it to connect to the internet. It seems it is about time to rebrand the internet to give marketers something new to work with. And everybody is hopping on the bandwagon – from The Motley Fool to Forbes to Nvidia.
This column’ topic is borrowed from one of the other products in the wireless publishing space. That is what got me going on this. The story headline likened it to the Matrix film series. There are a lot of similarities, and my hat is off to whoever came up with the thought.
However, there is one big difference. This brave new metaverse is real and not just a virtual world created by a Skynet-iteration of a supercomputer with one of its appendages stuck in everyone’s brain.
We could easily have continued with the term internet. But what the heck, why not add a bit of 21-st-century creative fantasy to what has become a well-worn ecosystem.
It is a great way to bring in things that are on the edge. For example, at the just-concluded Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA – International Automobile Exhibition) in Germany, one of the coolest things was an exhibit by Mercedes-Benz showing a futuristic vehicular platform that allows the driver to pilot the vehicle with Telekinetic powers — or for now, a brain-computer interface (BCI), but without the probe.
The presentation at the IAA used a headset that is actually a BCI. It enables the wearer to manage some rudimentary functions via brainwaves, such as finding a parking spot, managing the 21-st-century equivalent of the radio – streaming media content, like Alexa without the voice – and dialing down the interior ambient lighting. So far, this is only a vision. However, BCIs are real and functioning in other areas, so why would we not be able to port them to vehicles – especially autonomous ones.
The BCI, sometimes called a neural control interface (NCI), mind-machine interface (MMI), direct neural interface (DNI) or brain-machine interface (BMI), like the metaverse, has been around for a while – since the mid-1990s, as a matter of fact. Some of the more common applications are in the medical realm with electroencephalographs (EEG) and the oft-barbaric shock therapy.
The future metaverse will couple the BCI with other objects within it, such as 3D holograms, all types of virtual realities, medical applications and retail. Another huge space is in video conferencing. Imagine a digital twin of every physical location of a company.
There are many others, some yet to be developed and integrated. But make no mistake, it is going to happen. Everything would simply be objects within the metaverse.
Another good reason for a metaverse is that the various sub-categories of the internet (IIot, IoPT, IoST, IoMT, yada yada)1 are now simply digital objects in a universe. A metaverse is a place where all of these worlds can live in harmony without having to justify what they are or have a slew of interfaces.
Imagine things like vehicles, medical devices, smart home devices, each having digital twins or some other digital avatar that manages them. One might never have to physically manage anything. One only needs to look to massively multiplayer online role-playing games to catch a glimpse of some of what will be ubiquitous within the metaverse.
The nice thing about the metaverse, unlike the internet, is that when looking at it as a “universe,” untethered intergalactic travel among apps will be the goal. The final stoke will be a single app that is capable of communicating with every “world” in the metaverse. The metaverse will become a platform that is not tied to any one app or any single place.
The metaverse will make it possible for objects and identities to move from one virtual world to another, even into the physical world, with augmented reality. It will seem as real as our world today.
I could go on about this for hours. The metaverse itself is not that fascinating, but what it will enable, is. That is the exciting thing.
One can only hope that the concepts of metaverse worlds catch on and everybody gets on board. It will make tying all of this together so much easier and quicker. This is truly a concept that can tie together the widely disparaged and fragmented world that is our internet of today. Let us just hope the politicians keep their noses out of it.
1. IIoT – internet of industrial things; IoPT – internet of personal things; IoMT – internet of medical things; IoST – internet of smart things, yada yada.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.