Telecom companies have a major role to play in delivering impactful metaverse experiences
The metaverse is kind of a funny thing. It’s not really real just yet but given what we do know about it–a combination of connectivity, compute, graphics rendering, immersive user interfaces and a handful of attendant technologies–it’s already relatively clear what it will do once everything falls into place. This may sound familiar to those of us who started thinking (and writing) about 5G well before the standard was even set. With that, let’s take a look at some likely metaverse use cases, and use places, courtesy of Peter Linder, Ericsson’s head of 5G marketing in North America.
As an aside, and to that earlier comment about pretty well knowing what 5G would be before it was actually real, this writer once upon a time hosted a panel including Linder wherein he compared 5G to golf, bowling and making cheese. He also very accurately predicted where we are today in terms of 5G being much more an enterprise than a consumer play and a technology dependent on a mix of spectrum types. Anyway…the metaverse.
The metaverse at home, at the movies, and at the stadium
In a recent blog post, Linder laid out 12 metaverse use cases; here we’ll take a look at some of the key points he works through. First, how we will we use the metaverse at home? This one is relatively straightforward–more immersive media experiences like gaming. In this case the how is maybe more interesting than the what. As operators, particularly in the U.S., look to leverage 5G to expand service revenues by providing home internet services via fixed wireless access, the metaverse could emerge as a key driver assuming demand comes around. “The majority of homes will be ‘metaversed’ by means of Wi-Fi, fiber, and 5G fixed wireless access,” he wrote. “Anybody who understands 5G knows that it is a perfect technology to deliver significantly improved latencies and experiences…VR/AR device vendors are already scrambling to make their devices 5G-enabled.”
He also makes another interesting point about the future of home media rooms and, as an extension of that, the way homes are designed. There’s a parallel here around the COVID-driven transition to working from home and remote working–basically if lots of people are working from home, they need office space. As such, home designers and builders will include more working spaces in new homes. The Atlantic covered that in this article, “Welcome to the Post-pandemic Dream Home.” As Linder wrote, “The next wave of immersive entertainment can make architects rethink the future of our media rooms…Our home of the future could thus transform into a great shared metaverse use place that is excellent for family and guests who can now be physically together yet digitally apart in their own worlds with ultra-personalized content.”
Other consumer-type metaverse use cases we can potentially enjoy in the not-too-distant future involve cinema and venue-based experiences. “Cinemas can aim to become a use place where we enjoy the latest and greatest immersive entertainment,” Linder wrote. “And in the future, they can morph into the next stage in story interaction through fully participatory multi-user immersion where we will effectively ‘be’ in a movie.” On the venue side, think of how 5G is being leveraged at marquee sporting events today to provide things like real-time content delivery and the ability to switch between camera views to augment what’s happening in front of you. In the metaverse, the “addition of digital elements can enhance the fan experience at sports venue. New smartphone apps allow you to point toward an athlete to access additional statistics. Your physical presence at the venue can also become a part of your friends’ fan experience at home.”
How enterprises and governments can use the metaverse
Moving on from consumer metaverse use cases, there’s also a clear play for enterprises and governments. At this point we’re all familiar with digital twins–virtual mirrors of processes, products and other tangible things formed through collecting, analyzing and visualizing data sets. Especially for that visualization piece, the metaverse could significantly embolden digital twins, catapulting them from clunky, spreadsheet-based exercises into something completely different. Want to know why your machine keeps breaking? Go inside it and take a look around. Want to see what an urban corridor would look and feel like with significant investment in pedestrian infrastructure and urban forestry? Pop on a headset and “see” for yourself.
Linder considers a hospital use case “where XR technologies can greatly improve the care levels provided to their patients through immersive experiences that take residents out of their immediate surroundings. Advanced haptic surfaces can enable therapeutic physical interactions for patients who might otherwise be isolated.” In the industrial world, he calls out remote asset control and training. “Forward-looking use places such as factories, warehouses, and logistic terminals can create a competitive advantage from how leading-edge knowledge is accessed and distributed.”
As for governments, Linder reckons that “the metaverse will transform cities into our ambient virtual use places, providing digital data layers which augment our perceptual backgrounds. Metro use places will enable a spectrum of interaction possibilities, from basic ‘default’ sensory experiences all the way to digital asset-enhanced AR overlays that merge the physical and virtual cities into a hybrid metropolis.”
Back to our example of municipal digital twins on steroids, this is something the Las Vegas’ CIO Michael Sherwood discussed with our sister site Enterprise IoT Insights. He wants to make municipal data accessible in a way “where we can then model what might happen in 10 years from now. What happens if 1 million people arrive? What would our roadways look like? Taking all that data and being able to look at it in real time and create different scenarios, that’s helpful for planning for the future.” Right now that data resides in spreadsheets–”It’s kind of boring,” he said, but he sees a 3D visual user interface, a metaverse, if you will, as something that’s on the horizon.
The metaverse triad
Linder boiled it down to a metaverse triad: applications, devices, and networks; all things telecom companies are uniquely positioned to deliver to consumers and enterprises in the metaplaces outlined above, as well as many others. “We have done our part on networking with 5G and edge computing becoming a powerful combination to enable the metaverse,” he wrote. “However, reality is that 5G edge cloud deployments will not happen everywhere overnight. To identify which use places should be enabled first is thus paramount in securing suitable connectivity for these use places.”