On the way to new worlds How to build a Metaverse with AR, VR, and Blockchain
Another guest by Gopikrishnan Konnanath *
From cloud computing and 5G to blockchain, virtual and augmented reality to artificial intelligence: The Metaverse is currently thriving – and seeing the direction in which things are developing is becoming clearer. How will the convergence of these technologies change the world?
presenters on this topic
Currently, discussions around the Metaverse focus on immersive virtual reality (VR) – but augmented reality (AR) also plays an important role. Augmented reality fades digital objects into the real world, becoming visible via peripheral devices such as smartphones and smart glasses.
According to experts, AR has more potential compared to virtual reality, as sooner or later people are likely to get bored of a completely virtual environment and prefer being in a real one. AR apps have also been around for a while, for example in games like Pokémon Go or real-time navigation like Google Maps. However, widespread acceptance is only slowly emerging.
This is due to concerns about privacy, the cost of the technology required, and the lack of viable applications. This is expected to change rapidly as recent developments in the blockchain ecosystem are driving AR applications – which in turn can be augmented by cloud AR, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralized content creation via open source software.
AR clouds drive many applications
AR clouds are digital 3D twins of the real environment and are supplemented with virtual objects and information. They use data flow and geolocation capabilities to deliver AR content remotely in real-world environments around the world. In this way, augmented reality can offer users a better experience.
Information can be conveyed in an immersive manner rather than users having to search for it in an app or web browser. AR startup Arround, for example, helps companies build blockchain-based social networks (such as communication platforms, metaverses, and educational portals) for their community. Unlike centralized social networks, companies retain complete control over the content on their networks and can also monetize it through advertising.
NFTs can help grow the AR economy
Blockchain-based NFTs are already gaining prominence in the Metaverse. Leading brands like Nike, Adidas, Walmart, and Walmart are experimenting with these brands and developing new digital business models. So far, NFTs have been mainly oriented towards virtual reality worlds, but they are already gaining traction in an AR environment and operating in that environment just as they would in a VR environment.
Geographically located virtual assets from real-world environments, including land, real estate, billboards, and other objects, can be purchased, used, rented and traded in augmented reality clouds. Creating assets such as NFTs on the blockchain allows each object to have unique identifiable properties and ownership is undeniable.
With NFTs in augmented reality worlds, users are able to monetize their assets using smart contracts. For example, advertising space purchased in an augmented reality application can be rented to interested advertisers at a pre-set price and time with other conditions. In games like Pokémon Go, users have the opportunity to acquire unique characters and exchange them for real money in the virtual economy. NFTs allow users to control their activities in virtual or augmented reality environments.
However, NFTs and the coding ecosystem come with some concerns. First, some blockchains consume large amounts of energy. For example, Marathon, a bitcoin miner, bought and restarted a coal-fired power plant in Montana that emit 187,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the second quarter of 2021. Companies may consider using Proof-of-Stake blockchains instead of Proof blockchains -of-Work as the former is faster and less power consuming.
Second, the NFT and cryptocurrency spaces are not regulated – which in turn raises questions about the suitability of tokens and digital assets for mainstream consumer use. It’s only a matter of time before regulators exercise more scrutiny over the new tools, and as a result, the current ecosystem will undergo a transformation – companies must plan for that now.
Creating open source content expands the ecosystem
Decentralization is a basic premise of the Metaverse. There are already platforms that offer software development kits (SDKs) for creating AR content. Additionally, low-code/no-code platforms are becoming more and more popular. This allows users to create digital assets for virtual and augmented reality worlds. This, in turn, fuels the growth of the Metaverse ecosystem, creating a virtual economy that could soon be larger than the real one as there will be many VR and AR worlds.
However, adding open source software to any system brings with it challenges. Allowing the public to develop content on private platforms – intentionally or unintentionally – can lead to security vulnerabilities: for example, OSS may rely on third parties to maintain their code and libraries. Any software developed using third-party code should be regularly scanned for potential security vulnerabilities. This is one area where zero-trust security frameworks can help contain potential problems.
But creating open source content can also unlock a number of new sources of income for individuals and organizations. Companies like OVR are working to create open source AR worlds by superimposing billions of hexagonal faces on a planet’s surface. All of them can be purchased and used by owners to create more digital content. For example, users can create their own virtual properties using digital art, furniture, and other things and license their designs for use in virtual reality, augmented reality, or the real world.
With growing concerns that people are spending too much time with and on their devices, companies need to also be aware of the risks of adverse reactions. While there is little compelling evidence that there are actual mental health disabilities, the perception that spending too much time online can harm well-being and the potential for harm—and thus the risk to the company’s reputation—is only getting “metaverse experiences” growing.
In conclusion, the current hype around NFTs selling for thousands or even millions of dollars should not distract companies from actual problem-solving applications. Most of the current experiments in the virtual and augmented reality economy have yet to be validated to expand consumer and enterprise adoption. However, major technological disruptions have already occurred and will continue to occur in the future. Those who are able to find and provide real value to their creations will thrive, while others may simply disappear – much like a real-world business.
* Gopikrishnan Konanath is Senior Vice President and Global Head of Engineering and Blockchain Services at Infosys.