Imagine a virtual world where life unfolds like the one you know: you go to work, go shopping, see friends, and meet new people, all from the comfort of your home. Yes, just like a parallel universe, which, thanks to advanced AI technologies, enables the creation of a virtual concept of living known as Metaverse.
The Metaverse concept gained global popularity in 2021 when Facebook officially changed its name to Meta and announced plans to invest $10 billion in advanced technologies to create its vision of the Metaverse. What’s been revealed is done. In January 2022, Facebook unveiled Meta’s Next-Gen AI Supercomputer, the AI Research SuperCluster (RSC), which will accelerate metaverse research and development.
No one knows what the virtual universe will look like yet, but one thing is certain: The Metaverse will change the Internet as we know it.
What will Metaverse look like? What functions will it have? And what role will artificial intelligence (AI) play in its development?
What is Metaverse?
The metaverse is a shared digital reality – a digital world where you can work, travel, communicate with other users, and shop. Simpler put – you can perform all activities as in everyday life, only in virtual reality, where you will represent yourself with an avatar.
In order to access the Metaverse as a guest user, all you need is a smartphone or a computer. However, suppose you want to participate in the 3D world. In that case, you will need a computer or smart mobile device with sufficient computing power. Plus, if you plan to buy any digital assets like a jacket for your avatar, then you’ll also need a cryptocurrency wallet since Metaverse digital asset ownership is based on blockchain technology and uses exchange-traded products (ETP) for payment. On some platforms like Meta’s Horizon, you will also need augmented reality (AR) glasses or virtual reality (VR) equipment to access all Metaverse features.
All users will have to provide identity verification, supported by blockchain technology, to access the Metaverse data. Unauthorized users will be denied.
The virtual world Metaverse is built on Web 3.0. While the first two versions of the World Wide Web served mainly to view websites and facilitate user created content, Web 3 introduces us to a new way of using the Internet. On Web 3, users can seamlessly interact using decentralized applications (dapps) where they can control their data. Data is stored in a distributed ledger, which is entirely safe from theft or misuse.
What technology is used for the Metaverse?
A combination of five advanced technologies currently support the Metaverse: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things, Blockchain technology, and Edge computing.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence is the core technology without which the Metaverse concept would not be viable. AI uses machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and computer vision. ML enables intelligent computers to make decisions independently, while the other two technologies allow better understanding and user interaction of the Metaverse. AI also plays a significant role in server security and prevents Metaverse users’ data misuse.
Extended Reality (XR)
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), mutually called Extended Reality (XR), are two other technologies strongly associated with the Metaverse. They combine real and virtual environments, enable real-time interaction and create objects in the 3D world. AR combines scenes from reality and the digital world for a unique experience. Users pair VR glasses or headsets with smartphones or computers, then connect to a server and enter the digital world.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Experts call the Metaverse and IoT digital twins because they form an identical virtual copy of the physical environment. IoT pairs VR devices, such as headsets, glasses, gloves, speakers, and others. Thanks to its intelligent sensors, users can feel the texture of virtual objects wearing haptic gloves, see digital world landscapes using VR headsets, hear and recognize voices, etc. Without IoT sensor data, the realistic experience of the digital world would not be possible.
The Metaverse enables a significant exchange of data, including financial transactions, and security concerns are justified. Thanks to Blockchain technology, which allows the use of non-fungible token (NFT) identifiers, smart contracts, and cryptocurrencies, the possibility of data misuse is minimized. Blockchain has another remarkable feature – traceability. Thanks to this technology, developers can track the sequence of any event that could endanger users.
Edge computing enables fast data transfer and security, improves reliability and resilience, reduces operational costs, and is a must-have in the Metaverse. Users of the digital world will use distributed computing in the cloud without adjusting the hardware system.
In addition to the technologies that enable the creation of a digital universe, the Metaverse uses hardware, software, applications, and other content.
How does AI contribute to creating a Metaverse?
The contribution of AI in the creation of the Metaverse is reflected in the following segments:
AI allows the creation of user manifestations – avatars with desired physical characteristics. Users can change their avatar’s facial features, clothes, and hairstyles according to their taste. Avatars remind of a more advanced version of iPhone customized memoji, only in 3D form.
Powering 3D chatbots – digital people
Digital people shouldn’t be confused with avatars. While avatars are a controlled representation of the user, digital people do not participate in the game. They are 3D chatbots that rely entirely on AI technology. Digital people are typical customer support – guiding users through purchase processes and answering their questions.
Enabling data learning
Artificial intelligence finds patterns in large amounts of data and predicts possible outcomes thanks to machine learning. Over time the predictions improve and become more accurate and superior. AI data learning is valuable because it is expected to replace the human factor in data-collecting jobs in the future. After all, scalability will increase.
In the Metaverse, users can communicate smoothly, even if they don’t speak the same language, all thanks to AI. AI recognizes the user’s natural language and converts it into machine language, from where it is transformed back into its natural form and delivered to another user. The whole process takes a fraction of a second.
Why is AI important for the Metaverse?
Both the natural world and the digital world are accepting of artificial intelligence. AI in Metaverse enables user interaction, data processing, and protection, the construction of avatars and chatbots, and a wide range of additional features that produce a genuine experience.
AI can analyze a user’s image by AI, creating an avatar that mimics their gestures and facial expressions and even simulates their speech. Millions of users from all over the world may understand each other, because AI processes natural language. AI helps to broaden inclusiveness and lessen discrimination in this way.
Both users that provide unique entertainment, learning, or employment opportunities and businesses that can sell new items, analyze user experiences to enhance their services and product line, and eventually increase income, can benefit from AI in the Metaverse.
People are becoming increasingly accustomed to virtual reality, which puts them in touch with AI, which, despite being cutting-edge and practical, must be used in accordance with moral principles. Artificial intelligence will shape the virtual world, but flaws are expected because this technology is still in its infancy and needs a lot of work to be perfected.
Future of AI in the Metaverse
Artificial intelligence is the fundamental technology upon which the metaverse relies, and it can fundamentally change the world as we know it. The metaverse will be accessible to the masses, making AI, still shrouded in fog for many, more accessible and understandable than ever.
AI will elevate business, learning, and entertainment to the next level. Advanced artificial intelligence functions like data learning and natural language processing will enable work automation and remote co-workers connection. Companies will have the opportunity to test new products and services in the Metaverse to see the target audience’s response.
Since AI is still a young and developing science, we should not expect everything to go smoothly. Essential functions widely used in everyday life (chatbots, voice and face recognition, intelligent computers for data processing) will run smoothly, while when adopting new processes, there will probably be errors.
AI in the Metaverse has many advantages: it can increase productivity and collaboration, but it can also be easily misused. It will require open cooperation from all stakeholders to prevent manipulation and achieve transparency and accountability.
Industrial Metaverse vs. Digital Twins
The industrial metaverse uses similar technologies as the “classic” metaverse, only in industrial applications. These are the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT), AR, MR, and Virtual Reality (VR) for industrial use. These technologies allow company owners to make informed decisions, which makes business processes efficient. The concept of the industrial metaverse fully corresponds to the actual image: it is its faithful digital representation.
The terms industrial metaverse and digital twin have been used interchangeably, although they do not represent the same concept.
In the article “What is a digital twin,” IBM explains:
“A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately reflect a physical object. The object being studied — for example, a wind turbine — is outfitted with various sensors related to vital areas of functionality. These sensors produce data about different aspects of the physical object’s performance, such as energy output, temperature, weather conditions, and more. This data is then relayed to a processing system and applied to the digital copy.”
Another difference between digital twins and the industrial metaverse, according to IBM, is their interactivity.
“Digital twins are designed around a two-way flow of information that first occurs when object sensors provide relevant data to the system processor and then happens again when insights created by the processor are shared back with the source object.”
Nvidia is the pioneer of the industrial Metaverse. The company’s Omniverse platform for 3D design collaboration and simulation was an ideal opportunity to create digital twin cities in which virtual 5G antennas were placed to test the wireless signal’s effect on the environment before the implementation in real life.
Siemens AG, the largest market stakeholder in the emerging industrial metaverse, has collaborated with Nvidia on this challenging task. The combination of Nvidia Omniverse with Siemens Xcelerator brings together all the advanced technologies of the Metaverse. It lays the foundation for the presence of companies of all sizes in the industrial metaverse.
When can we join Metaverse?
Although still in the early stages of development, the Metaverse is a platform that has the potential to change the world as we know it and all spheres of life and work, all thanks to artificial intelligence and allied technologies.
The founder of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, estimates it will take five to ten years to open the Metaverse to the public. At the same time, Bill Gates states that most private users do not have the necessary sensory equipment (VR glasses or gloves) to connect to the digital world.
We have nothing left but to wait for the moment when the virtual doors of the Metaverse will open for all users.