Let’s look more closely at what “a proto-” or “The” metaverse is and why we should all care about definitions and defining features of these largely unregulated digital spaces. And at the same time answer, the all-important and soon-to-be Frequently Asked Question, who wants to be a (2d or 3D) avatar anyway?

 

SwissCognitive Ambassador: Dr. Tania Peitzker – “Where did metaverses & XR come from? A brief mapping of this immersive, emerging tech.”


 

The counterpart to this commentary for SwissCognitive in Zürich is an opinion piece for my other ambassadorial role at Ethical Intelligence in Edinburgh. The EI article is a Medium blog post featuring tables, charts and diagrams about “HOW THE EVOLUTION OF THE INTERNET IMPACTS OUR PLANET & OUR HEALTH – XR INNOVATIONS IN THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY”. Now some may consider this title somewhat negative and depressing; how can you make the internet and all its wonderful innovations responsible for the climate change crises around the world? Could it be to do with the fact that far too many members of Gen Z, not to mention the Millenials and Generations X-Y, have comparatively unsatisfactory social lives – not to mention poor mental health – due to their playing a minimum of 6 hours a day online ie they’re absorbed in the digital leisure of computer games?  Nobody can deny that the web is the source and enabler of many time-sapping activities on various communications platforms (no longer Facebook, Twitter & WhatsApp, now the favoured platforms of the Alphas and Gen Zers are Discord, Twitch and TikTok).

I explain why the www is damaging the planet and our personal health in the EI Medium post: smartphones and costly digital screens are the culprits. It’s not necessarily the internet per se which to its credit and through evolutionary “leaps forward” is, as a concerted industry effort, trying to use renewable energy sources for its massive and multitudinous data centres everywhere. As well as move into Quantum and Edge Computing which will reduce the raw power needed to process the ever-increasing trillions of bytes and data each of us help to create. No, the real problems are our devices which are often designed for “temporary use” only ie not recyclable and wrongly thrown away after being manufactured with a huge carbon footprint.

In the EI article, I ask the reader to consider how our phones consume more fossil fuel energy with every post, every text sent, and video watched on YouTube and On Demand film consumed leisurely on Netflix and Co. If you want to know why the world must inevitably shift its comms and leisure to “screenless devices” and Immersive Technologies, click on the counterpart article above for the whole rationale and for every day solutions we can all undertake today.

In this piece for SwissCognitive by contrast, I examine how screenless communications are the emerging Mission Statements for Web 3.0/Web 4.0 entrepreneurs and their Extended Reality experiences, services and hardware. Not just for climate impact reasons; the proponents and creators of XR are devotees of improved Customer Experience (UX). In the Leisure and Experience Economies respectively, the combined focus is and by necessity the convenience of the UX and its overall “enjoyability”. Repeat customers in the mid to late 21st century will only come back if you make them feel good during a great experience. It is no longer just about a quality product or service, it’s the age-old adage, “how do you make others feel”.

Consumers are moving the dial on these concerns. Ethically, for example, when metaverse users will boycott a celebrity band that uses unethically mined cryptocurrencies (I discuss this at length in my Kindle textbook, see below for the link). They won’t buy NFT merchandise if the mid-century boy bands eg K Pop don’t declare their carbon footprint in creating these bespoke Non Fungible Tokens for sale in one of the proto-metaverses. Let’s now look more closely at what “a proto-” or “The” metaverse is and why we should all care about definitions and defining features of these largely unregulated digital spaces. And at the same time answer, the all-important and soon-to-be Frequently Asked Question, who wants to be a (2d or 3D) avatar anyway?

On the Evolutionary Internet – from Virtual Reality to metaverses in XR

First of all, I ask you to take a quick look at the two detailed timelines below. They explain the evolution of Virtual and Augmented Reality hardware (HW) into increasingly interactive SaaS experiences (Software as a Service integrated into the HW). In these diagrams, I map out the progression of metaverse platforms to the current day – as their predecessor formats were and still are VR games – as well as the Play Station mediums that used Virtual Reality gaming via a screen and a console. Computer games, as most of us realise, have transitioned from portable HW (a console in the home) to online. They have become more and more three dimensional in terms of their graphics, images, movements – and avatars. The Massively Multiplayer Games of today are interactive in terms of you can meet and play with your friends in these digital space ie their avatars.

Most importantly for the owners of and investors in these hugely popular platforms, you and many other millions of players can create your own, personalised “In Game” experience by wearing a VR headset or just as a desktop or screen-based bit of kit. Personalisation comes from the digital “skins” you wear as an avatar, how you accessorise it and even what you purchase for it.

Paradoxically, virtually operated metaverses have become “physically experienced reality”: the evolutionary turning point when the avatars – you and your friends – are able to customise themselves more, communicate freely and do stuff In Game that wasn’t necessarily about the game. The two timelines above show a “convergence” or a rapid merging of the various “immersive technologies” that currently exist in 2022. Bearing in mind that most of the hardware – from VR headsets to keyboards/consoles and screens – are being improved upon at a rapid rate to make them more lightweight, easy to use and enjoyable.

Mapping the Ownership and Evolution of Emerging Metaverses

This brings us to the Venn diagram below that maps out the emerging proto-metaverses, gaming and video conferencing platforms that have “pivoted”, as well as Augmented Reality corporations pivoting into more Extended Reality or hybrid experiences. We have seen a remarkable development of the XR Emerging Tech from large scale, incredibly expensive holograms – from holographic avatars on complicated stages with heavy, industrial equipment, to Special Effects at leisure theme parks like Disneyland and hundreds of 3D interactive experiences at galleries and museums in tech consumer centres like London – to portable holographic UX. My colleagues and I in Europe and Silicon Valley have developed and fine-tuned such cognitive interfaces to make these latest XR formats, hybrid VR, Augmented Reality and holograms; making them more interactive through Conversational AI. That is the subject of a third article that I will be publishing soon on Medium.com with another one of the associations I’m involved with – stay tuned!

For now, I ask you to study the Venn diagrams below and consider how they function as “digital mud maps” to chart the landscape of these emerging proto-metaverses and the builders who own them. Some people say that these could be “murky waters” due to the machinations and paradoxical lack of transparency of the crypto world. It crypto industry, as I write in November 2022, certainly seems to have had its act of “market cleansing” as the German saying goes (a business clean-up Bereinigung, or in Switzerland, Schwizzer Duetsch would describe it as “going through the place with a broom”).

Cryptocurrencies have famously been promoted for their devotion to being transparent on the blockchain and democratising the Financial Industries through decentralisation. However, the spectacular crashes of the main currencies and the actual billion-dollar bankruptcies registered this year are evidence to the contrary.

Get Practice & Education: Our New Realities in Metaverses and Beyond

If you would like Deep Dives into these issues and characteristics, please buy my Kindle etextbook on these topics. Textbook on metaverses, interfaces, Extended Reality & Immersive Technologies (6 book series) Kindle edition (amazon.co.uk) Each ebook is on average 27 pages to make it more digestible for our communal Attention Deficit Syndrome we often share after being hooked on tweets and one liner texts! They make up the first 30 000 words of a 100 000 word book I am writing for a mainstream publisher. For any queries about this work or future commissioned books, White Papers and articles, please contact my literary agent via the portfolio website given at the end of this article.

If dedicated reading of lengthy texts is just not your thing or preferred method of consuming knowledge, then I urge you to do my recently published online course with iversity in Berlin. It is affordable and comprehensive. Best of all, it takes you less than 60 minutes to consume! So just on an hour for the lessons without doing the challenges, exercises or communicating with the other participants. In fact, two of the short 8 units with their individual reading materials are available for FREE as a sneak preview, courtesy of Springer Nature. Here are is the direct link for your convenience and enjoyment  metaverses, extended reality & cognitive interfaces (iversity.org)

Heads up: right now I am creating my first ever MOOC on all these aspects of the metaverse, XR, cognitive interfaces and Immersive Tech with my new alma mater, the University of Silicon Valley (www.usv.edu ). If you would like to know more about the upcoming Massive Open Online Courses we’re offering at USV, please drop me a line in the Computer Science Department where I’m an interdisciplinary Adjunct Professor tpeitzker@usv.edu

See you in the metaverse (here is a guest invitation to mine: it’s free, no crypto or VR headset required, and it is emerging as a hybrid museum in XR!  MRAM matriarchies regen ag museum (taniapeitzker.expert)

We can chat in my MRAM museum on Spatial.io. Just drop me a line with the time slot suggestions as to when we can meet live, face to face, as our own individualised, ever-changing 3D avatars in my customised, commercialised metaverse 😊