Where is the Metaverse please? 5 ideas from the SXSW conference

A small and lively anecdote at first: A few years ago, his grandfather asked the author of this text, I, where one actually goes when “one goes to the Internet”. I took my smartphone out of my pants pocket, pointed at the laptop in the other hand and answered with great ecstasy: “Here!” Grandfather didn’t say anything, just shook his head and seemed unmoved by my answer, but didn’t ask any other questions either.

The many experts sharing views on the Metaverse topic at this year’s “South by Southwest” (SXSW) conference all feel the same way — and ask: What is this metaverse and how do we get there? Here, too, many conference participants seem to be either annoyed by the question, the answers to it, or both. After all, there are different avenues that can be heard at the digital conference in Austin, Texas, that can at least give us a rough direction. So where do you go to the Metaverse please?

1. Metaverse is already here

The metaverse is a collective term for technologies that connect the physical and digital worlds. Looking back, we’ll see in two or five years that many of them already exist: Apple’s Airpods are already working wearables that, in terms of the App Store and iPhone, at least enable some kind of “sound metaverse,” says Professor Scott Galloway. from New York University’s Stern School of Business at SXSW. Building on this progress, he currently sees Apple as the best-equipped group forward on the path to the Metaverse.

Other building blocks such as volumetric videos, which can display a hologram of a person in any 3D environment, are already being used in Hollywood, for example in “Matrix Resurrections” and are impressively displayed here at SXSW. Sometimes meter-long constructions with several special cameras are still needed, says Sven Bliedung von der Heide of the special effects company Volucap. It cannot be ruled out that this technology will soon be in our smartphones.

2. “Metaverse is me!”

If Mark Zuckerberg and his newly renamed parent company had their way, the answer seems to be: “Definition” is where we write it. Yes, this goes against the view that decentralized Web3 content no longer collects any content on one or a few central Web 2.0 platforms.

Zuckerberg was a bit hesitant when he appeared at SXSW via the video link and explains that he just wants to help develop the technology for the metaverse to work. His group has mapped out a roadmap for “ten to fifteen years” and is therefore increasingly involved in hardware development, all to enable “more human interaction online” in the future. A lot of research and development is still needed to develop augmented reality glasses, for example, which not only have to be extremely powerful, but above all look good enough that we want to wear them in everyday life.

Incidentally, Zuckerberg announced his first “experiments with NFTs” for his Instagram app in the next few months. Finally, his statement that he hopes to work with both Roblox and Epic Games to develop “common standards for interoperability” makes one sit back and take notice. Respectable privilege for new competition.

3. The players are already here

From “Second Life” to “Fortnite”: the idea of ​​the metaverse is already within the reach of generations of PC gamers. Accordingly, much of the infrastructure we’ll be testing there — 3D environments, avatars, digital objects, all made up of code and graphics — will be created by game designers today, says Sarah Bond, corporate vice president of Xbox at Microsoft. .

She is optimistic that with these people, many years of in-person experience will flow into the Metaverse: “Developers with all the skills needed for the Metaverse come from the games industry,” she asserts, also regarding online bullying and hate-speech. When people are comically close to the Internet and feel a sense of community, empathy for one another develops.

4. Follow the money

“I don’t think Metaverse is primarily about gaming,” says Mark Zuckerberg of SXSW, speaking enthusiastically about his interest in fashion already being sold on his platform. Let’s imagine a fictional Black Friday in the Metaverse for a moment: crowds of avatars descend on virtual NFT tables in search of one of Chanel’s limited edition coins. It’s not there yet, but marketing professor Scott Galloway thinks it’s only a matter of time. Only those who own such a luxury coin will be able to decorate their avatar with the latest virtual elegance in the Metaverse: “The shortage of digital goods is made for the luxury industry.”

A stark contrast to Zuckerberg’s vision that the Metaverse would provide everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background, the opportunity to participate in the new (online) community. Because no matter how cool the idea of ​​limitless internet access is, the biggest piece of the meta pie has already been handed out or just waiting to be sold to those who already have purchasing power and are big bidders. Already today, a large percentage of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies are in the hands of a few big players, much like the traditional stock market.

5. Paid leave from Metaverse

Futurist Amy Webb at SXSW offers at least one ray of hope. When we’re not slipping into our Metaverse avatars, we’re simply renting out our computing power to others, for money of course. Our smartphones, wearables, or whatever enables us to enter this place of the future, via the blockchain we release computing capacity that we don’t currently use ourselves: our devices are then constantly connected to the network (and into it) anyway. So why not free up a little storage for a good cause and a tariff – which we ideally decide for ourselves?

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