In the future, the digital world will complement our professional and personal lives, and the metaverse will become part of the global economy. In the virtual world, the continuation of a person will be avatars, which will have their own rights and identity. How the metauniverse will work and who are the avatars in the author’s article by an industry expert – Konstantin Krypopust.
Why is everyone talking about the metaverse
Technology companies are making big announcements about global changes — the creation of metauniverses, the transfer of life into the virtual world, and the emergence of realistic digital avatars of people. The role of digital identity is becoming increasingly important.
Mark Zuckerberg announced the rebranding of Facebook to Meta and a change in the company’s vector. Although the concept of Meta has many mixed reviews, and the expert community is divided in its opinions, Zuckerberg brought the topic of metauniverses to the “mass market”. This made everyone interested in the topic.
Following Meta, other large companies began to talk about their intentions to create metauniverses: Microsoft, Amazon, Epic Games. It is a matter of time when and in what form these new technologies will enter our lives.
In the real world, we spend years forming our personality. We also leave a digital footprint online, but with each new social network, app or gaming platform, we start afresh. However, in the future, many platforms and digital environments will be combined into one metauniverse.
Briefly about the metaverse
In a broad sense, it is “the next version of the Internet.” A kind of digital ecosystem that will provide our virtual experience, using augmented and virtual reality and other tools to create an immersive world. Simply put, the metaverse is a virtual world in which we, as avatars, can interact with other people, objects, and places.
It is important to understand that the metauniverse is not limited to one universe now, although the concept foresees it in the future. So far, we have separate metauniverses, each offering its own capabilities and services. Here are some examples: metauniverses from well-known companies – Meta, Mesh and Omniverse, crypto platforms – The Sandbox and Decentraland, games – Roblox and Fortnite.
Although today there is a technological and interface gap between all worlds, in the future such worlds may connect and interact with each other so that we can seamlessly migrate between them.
The next important point is that the creation of any metauniverse will not make any sense if there is no main character – a human user. A digital embodiment of people who will interact with virtual spaces is necessary. After all, it is the user who passes game tests, earns virtual currency, owns a wallet in which it is stored, interacts with virtual markets and can purchase some assets.
That is why the central place in this whole story is occupied by the avatar – the only constant element that ensures the compatibility of numerous functions and services in a unified metauniverse.
What is an avatar?
An avatar in the metaverse can serve as a single point of entry and permanent identification, as all necessary user credentials can be tied to it. Avatars sort of unify the account system so we can access multiple apps and explore virtual worlds.
In addition to a purely technical role, avatars will have many different properties and functions. The main thing, of course, is communication and communication between people. Avatars will interact in a new social and economic model, own and operate digital objects and objects, and even more — will be able to create new cross-objects and experiences.
Avatars will be able to live in different metauniverses, have a unique appearance that will ensure maximum inclusivity, and will be able to improve themselves using exclusive clothes, items, accessories and more.
The avatar will even be able to simulate the behavior of its owner, learning its actions, habits and reactions. That is, the avatar will continue to be you in the metaverse, even without your physical presence in it.
Alethea AI has already started building the relevant protocols using AI and NFT technologies, following its recent successful auction of the most technically advanced NFT known as the Smart NFT. The iNFT sold on June 10, 2021 for a record $478,000 through Sotheby’s Natively Digital.
How avatars look now
You don’t need to jump too far ahead, because we already have examples of avatars. For virtual space, avatars can be created in several ways, and they can be both three-dimensional and two-dimensional. With the development of virtual reality and software and hardware systems, 3D avatars that can reproduce the movements of the real world have become common. As a rule, such avatars are of two types:
- VR avatars are typically first-person visualizations where the user sees the world from the avatar’s point of view. Other members of the world can see the upper body of the avatar, as well as the arms, but no lower limbs. This type of avatar can be seen in most basic VR applications that do not require complex leg movements or mobility.
- Full-body avatars — to create such avatars, sensors are used to reproduce the movements of the entire body using a kinematic system. As a result, the user gets greater freedom of movement in the virtual world and can use all limbs to interact with digital objects.
Today, Meta is experimenting with neural avatars – Pixel Codec Avatar, which reproduce the appearance of a person in the virtual world with incredible accuracy. Variants and versions were introduced at Connect 2021, but no consumer-facing product has yet been launched.
Microsoft was ahead, launching 3D avatars in November. Microsoft Teams users can now create their own personal avatars that will be visible to meeting participants, even when the webcam is turned off. Microsoft avatars will also be available in their own meta universe, Mesh. However, they reproduce the anatomy and structure of the human face in a Disney style, which is quite different from Meta’s more realistic options.
There are companies like Ready Player Me that are positioning themselves as a cross-platform avatar creation app for the metaverse, where you can create your own avatar in minutes on your own and for free and import it directly into VRChat.
Ukraine also has something to be proud of, because we also have successful cases and teams working in this area. For example, the Kyiv deep 3D studio, which is engaged in creating 3D avatars, scanning people, clothes and objects. The studio team independently created a custom 3D scanner from 85 digital cameras and now implements a wide variety of projects: video games, movies, music videos.
The team has already worked with Monatik, for the clip of which they scanned and modeled the main character, created a 3D avatar of Ukrainian singer Nadia Dorofeeva and Puma RS-2K sneakers for a shoe advertising campaign in Ukraine.
So soon we will take the final steps on the way to full use of ready-made avatars in the metaverse and will be able to fully enjoy the new experience.
Who will regulate the avatars
Avatars are the representation of people in the metauniverse, all our experience and stay in it essentially forms a virtual social life. This means that many legal issues will arise.
Imagine your avatar living in one metauniverse, having fun and socializing in another. In the third, he works as a digital artist and creates his art objects, then exhibits them in a gallery and sells them in the fourth. And he spends his profits on the purchase of real estate, which he successfully leases for advertising space to brands in other metauniverses.
At each of these stages, you own assets and can make a profit. Creating your own brand, running marketing campaigns, new partnerships and collaborations, creating content or value, launching products or providing services are just some of the possibilities. They all require a legal basis, and in most cases, the consolidation of intellectual property rights in these new digital environments.
The first issue will be the cooperation of different creators of metauniverses and the compatibility of these worlds. If the global goal is to enable people to interact in the digital world without barriers, then each metaverse must be accessible from all devices and gadgets.
To do this, technology companies may have to agree to certain standards for interoperability between different creators, or each company may have to adhere to technological limitations.
The next issue will be the protection and protection of intellectual property rights. Virtual works may appear in the metauniverse, and therefore aspects of artificial intelligence will be embedded in them. If such works are considered AI rather than human, they may be denied some types of intellectual property protection.
Another challenge is the transfer of rights to use author’s content. On the one hand, monetization of own content will be a unique opportunity, because metauniverses will become a new economic platform for users and brands. Possession of objects will determine the avatar’s status, its belonging to the relevant community, identify the individual, and NFT technology will help to secure property rights in digital worlds.
On the other hand, although NFT is a key element for solving ownership issues and enables the tracking of transactions and movement of objects, it still does not solve the issue of transfer of rights in the legal field.
If we talk about the integration of business and commercial companies into the metaverse, there are risks associated with the ability of companies to ensure the protection and management of their intellectual property assets. Monitoring the use of brand trademarks, misappropriation of goods or services, price gouging and counterfeit products are just some of the unsolved issues in the real world, something similar may await them in the virtual world, albeit on a larger scale.
In the coming decades, we will spend more and more time in digital spheres. The digital world will complement our professional and personal lives, and the metaverse will become part of the global economy. Epic Games studio CEO Tim Sweeney predicts that in the future, the metaverse will become a digital economy, the turnover of which will be estimated at several trillion dollars.
What our digital avatars will be will affect how we think about ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we behave in the physical world. Already today, this is confirmed by virtual avatars who become bloggers, influencers and ambassadors of many famous brands.
Today we have a chance to witness the emergence of new generations of virtual worlds. Although we are not close to Ready Player One, the pace of innovation is amazing and maybe tomorrow someone will create a new “Oasis”.