In our blog, Popular Tech Trends and CES 2022, we discussed a few tech trends we expect to continue to emerge in 2022. Among these trends, we discussed that we expect virtual reality and the introduction of the metaverse to be a hot topic. The Consumer Electronic Show (CES), which concluded January 8th, proved us correct as the metaverse was a primary topic of discussion. Although the metaverse is not expected to emerge for another decade or so, companies are creating virtual reality gear to help consumers get the full experience of virtual reality. In today’s blog, we are going to discuss what the metaverse is and how we are going to get there.

What is the metaverse?

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is paving the way for the metaverse. In a lengthy letter, the CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg explains what the metaverse is and his vision for Meta. Zuckerberg describes the metaverse as “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at.” The metaverse is an immersive virtual reality world that allows consumers to interact in real time using simulated scenarios. To provide this immersive experience, the metaverse involves a variety of technology including virtual reality, augmented reality, holographic avatars, video, and other avenues of communication technology. These technologies combine to create a virtual space in which users can interact and engage with one another.

Zuckerberg explains that the “defining quality of the metaverse” is that individuals will feel right there with another person who is in another place. In the metaverse, individuals will have an avatar and be able to engage in almost any activity including, but not limited to, running, playing, working, attending concerts, or shopping. Individuals will be able to attend these activities by teleporting through this virtual reality world.

Does the metaverse already exist?

The metaverse is not a new concept. The term was first used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 scientific novel Snow Crash. In his novel, Stephenson describes the metaverse as a space where 3D avatars meet in realistic 3D buildings and other environments through virtual reality. If all the metaverse is, is a world in which avatars can interact and engage in activities, this poses the question of whether the metaverse already exists. There are plenty of video games that involve avatars engaging in activities and buying goods in the virtual world. For example, an article in Wired Magazine provides the example of Fortnite. Fortnite, a popular video game that came out in 2017, allows users to choose avatars to socialize, buy things, and play games, among other things; however, Fortnite is not an immersive experience for users, whereas, in the metaverse, users can feel experiences of their avatars. Additionally, avatars are currently confined to specific video games whereas in the metaverse, avatars will be able to move and participate in a variety of activities. In short, aspects of the metaverse exists; however, the full immersive experience Zuckerberg envisions does not.

How do we get to the metaverse?

As Zuckerberg explained in his letter, the metaverse will not be created by one company. Instead, it will need many creators and developers to create a fully immersive experience that interweaves our virtual and physical world, but how exactly will creators create this “fully immersive” experience? At the CES 2022 show, there were introductions to a few technological devices that may just allow us to get this experience.

The first necessary technological device needed to enter the metaverse is a virtual reality headset. Meta already has the Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset on the market. The Oculus Quest 2 allows users to experience hundreds of experiences including playing games, attending concerts, and working out. Other companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple have already developed or are working on developing virtual reality headsets; however, according to CNBC, Meta has a large lead over these companies in the virtual reality market. In 2021, Meta accounted for 75% of the virtual reality market. In addition to headsets, at CES, companies continued to expand virtual reality glasses which are not as bulky as virtual reality headsets. Shiftfall (a subsidiary of Panasonic) introduced their MaganeX which is an ultra-lightweight virtual reality glasses. These glasses offer 2560 x 2560 resolution and are small and lightweight. Currently the MaganeX must be attached to a PC via a cable to be used. The glasses are expected to launch in spring 2022.

Aside from virtual reality headsets, OWO announced their haptic vest which would allow users to feel over 30 different sensations on 10 different areas of their upper body when playing video games, or, eventually, in the metaverse. The less than two pound vest is battery powered and has carbon electrodes, conductive gels and elastic cables to allow users to feel different sensations. OWO has categorized sensations into three categories: impact, interaction and experience. In the impact category, users can feel a punch, a gunshot or an insect bite, among other things. The interaction category allows users to feel sensations such as a collision or gripping an object. In the last category, experience, users can feel stress or wind. For a full list of sensations, you can look at OWO’s website. I am sure you are probably wondering, who would willing want to feel a gunshot? Well, OWO has an app that allows users to customize their experience. Through the app, users can calibrate and modify the intensity of each sensation. This ensures that each user has an experience tailored for them. The OWO haptic vest is compatible with games on PC, mobile, console and virtual reality.

HTC also announced a wrist controller for virtual reality. Currently, virtual reality headsets use controller like interface. Controllers are fine to use when playing games; however, controllers are not as convenient for casual use. At CES, HTC announced the VIVE Virtual Reality Wrist Tracker which fits around users’ wrists like a watch. HTC wants to make it easier to track the movement of user’s hands and the objects they hold and see when using virtual reality headset. The wrist tracker uses several LEDs that are tracked by the VIVE Focus 3’s cameras and offers 6 degrees of freedom tracking. These features better tracks hands and object movement when wearing a virtual reality headset. Using high frequency IMU data and an advanced kinematic model, users motion trajectories can be predicted even when out of the camera’s view. The wrist tracker is currently designed for VIVE Focus 3, the company’s most recent virtual reality headset.

The concept and idea of the metaverse are still vague and unclear. Zuckerberg outlined his vision for the metaverse in his letter; however, there is not a clear vision on exactly what a metaverse entails. Wired Magazine explains in their article that the metaverse doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific type of technology but rather how we interact with technology; however, to create an immersive experience, as Zuckerberg described, there will have to be collaboration across companies. This blog outlined a few of the devices announced at CES 2022 that could help usher the immersive experience of the metaverse. Although we are beginning to see new devices that reshape the virtual reality experience, the metaverse is not coming anytime soon. Zuckerberg estimates it could be 5 to 10 years before the metaverse is mainstream. Continue to tune into our Tech Tuesdays to continue to learn about new technological devices on the market as well as other technology trends and tips. In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding your technological devices, stop into your nearest GeniusCPR locations and one of our employees will get you taken care off. 

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