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Facebook has invested $10 billion in the metaverse. It is so optimistic about this new state of existence that it changed the name of the parent company to Meta.
That sounds like a timely investment, given Goldman Sachs estimates the metaverse’s value at $12 trillion. That’s more than enough to buy the 30 largest companies on the Dow Jones, including Apple and Microsoft, at today’s prices…and save enough money to enjoy 58 billion large Dominos pizzas and 2.5 billion bottles of Dom Perignon to wash them down.
With so much investment and market forecasting for what’s to come, it’s easy to miss what’s here.
The metaverse has already changed the way we live and work and now offers us a hybrid state of existence.
Some technological developments are so great that they change our behaviour. The really big changes change perception, so much so that it becomes difficult to remember what life was like before their arrival.
Our current, hybrid existence falls into the latter category. I believe this is why so many consumers, investors and even technologists have missed its arrival and misunderstand its potential to be associated with a fully digital existence that will never come.
The hybrid verse
Our new existence is what I like to call the “hybrid verse.”
There are many terms for anything close to this concept – mixed reality, augmented reality, and hybrid reality are just a few.
I think those terms are inadequate because they reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of how we access and interact with the metavers.
I think it could be better described as a ‘hybrid verse’. It is not a mix of realities, or an extension of one or the other. It is a true hybrid of three different states of being: the physical universe, a web 2.0 internet and data-based world, and the metaverse.
The hybrid verse is here now and unless you read this story as a print in your cabin in the woods, you live in it.
This new state of existence has crept up on many of us. And while many look forward to the next stage of the human experience – a completely metaverse existence – I would argue that our hybrid way of life will not disappear anytime soon.
No Bolognese in the metaverse
There are certain experiences that are either impossible to duplicate or not desirable to duplicate in the virtual world. If you love to cook, you’ll want to see, touch and smell your organic tomatoes before you buy them…not to mention eating them after stirring them into your spaghetti sauce.
Of course, you may also want to see the sustainability certifications from the farmer who grew those tomatoes, in-store and before checkout. And you might also want an interactive assistant to remind you to grab whipped cream if he notices you’ve bought all the other ingredients for Bolognese and wants to checkout without it in your cart.
In a perfect world, none of these elements are replaced by others – they are all necessary, but synergistic when combined intelligently.
It’s more than a mix. It is a hybrid that makes the most of the physical, data and virtual worlds. This idea of a hybrid verse encompasses a very humanistic technology in an already adaptable and willing generation.
This hybrid verse integrates smart, personalized and immersive digital content into our physical reality. It is a world that seamlessly blends the physical with the virtual, encouraging interaction with and between organic and digital entities and objects.
Right now we don’t think about the hybrid verse in our lives, except perhaps with its most new uses. We use our GPS phones to catch Pokémon on our way to the subway, or a holographic Whitney Houston goes on a world tour eight years after her death, or a surgeon performs remote surgery on a patient thousands of miles away using a robot and AR glasses.
But artificial intelligence has a very real place in our tangible environment. And more and more advanced integrations are coming.
The present and the promise of 3.0
The concept of the metaverse and the breakthroughs that the hybrid verse provides are made possible by Web 3.0.
If Web 1.0 gave us the ability to deliver massive amounts of data over long distances, and Web 2.0 gave us the ability to easily share rich content, interact, and create our own insights, then Web 3.0 will adapt and deliver experiences and provide information before you know you need it.
Rather than just inserting notifications and analytics into our day-to-day lives, I see the next phase of 3.0 as being linked to AI-generated personalities that appear to be humans, and are personal, helping us through our day.
We see that already in digital people like Ruth, an avatar that gives an extremely accurate representation of a human – so much so that you might feel like you’re at a web conference rather than a website.
Ruth acts as a “cookie coach” on the Nestle Tollhouse website. If you visit the site today, Ruth will help you bake cookies in the real world.
At this point, the interactions with Ruth in the hybrid verse are quite simple. Ruth will run through a list of questions about your preferences, level of experience as a baker, and the ingredients and equipment you have on hand. With that information, Ruth will guide you to recipes that go well with it.
Now that Web 3.0 is starting to reach its full potential, you may have the option to give Ruth access to a smart kitchen app that came with your fridge and oven, which can deliver your ingredient stock in real time. (At least one appliance supplier — Samsung — is already collecting this information.) Ruth could use that information to predict whether you’re planning to bake something, what ingredients you might already have in your kitchen, and what you might want to bake on. based on previous recommendations.
From there, it’s a short step to make cookies with your child who goes to school out of state, and help them roll out the dough in a virtual metaverse-based kitchen… all while working under the tutelage of our friend Ruth.
Integrating this technology will be a slow drizzle of homogenization – not evolution. Machines will never be invasive; they will be integrative. Over time, synergistic experiences such as those mentioned above will be more expected and more widely adopted.
Nestle is one step ahead of the curve, anticipating digital humans that can move seamlessly between our physical universe and the metaverse. I believe that soon other companies will also have to think about how their own brands will migrate between these different universes.
I’m intrigued by digital people – people who are more than just digital assistants or online support. These AI-powered avatars can improve the actual productivity of a company’s customers and prospects, helping them overcome limitations and achieve real-world results.
As smart home and smart office become more widespread and integrated, digital people will literally be able to imagine improvements and improvements in our lives before we realize we need them. Just like real people.
Unlike real people, digital people have the ability to be always busy and always learning. They can interact with and adapt to customers and provide personalized service on an almost infinite scale. They can also overcome cultural, linguistic and geographic limitations and implicit biases, creating ideal, personalized, empathetic and recognizable customer service experiences. They are virtual helpers who act in the real world to improve actual, tangible productivity. They allow us to reach beyond our normal limitations.
A present and future state
The idea of an entirely digital existence – the metaverse – represents a future so different from our current reality that it is hard to imagine.
That’s exactly why a full-time existence in the metaverse doesn’t make sense, at least not with everything currently on the technological horizon.
The hybrid verse will continue to add value and efficiency to our lives, while also helping us overcome our own physical limitations. The value it delivers is so seamless it’s almost invisible. In time we won’t see it as the “hybrid verse” at all – it will just be the “reality”.
The hybrid verse is the future of human existence. And that future is now.
Greg Cross is CEO and co-founder of Soul Machines.
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This post If you’re waiting for the metaverse revolution, you’ve already missed it
was original published at “https://venturebeat.com/2022/04/13/if-youre-waiting-for-the-metaverse-revolution-you-already-missed-it/”