; it looks and feels the same; did they do it for branding or image purposes; will people now trust Facebook more, jibble-jabble, bibble-babble.
The truth of the matter is – the Metaverse isn’t created by Facebook. In fact, Facebook… OK, Meta is trying to find its place in the Metaverse. So what is this “Metaverse” thing? We’ll start off with that, then discuss which smartphone-enabled experiences the Metaverse could potentially elevate, and which ones it might make more complicated.
What is the Metaverse
In simple terms, according to Meta and Microsoft, the Metaverse is set to become the future of the internet – the next version or the next level of it. A digital 3D avatar of yourself that comes to life when you put on your VR headset, able to interact with everything and everyone that has access to this virtual world.
- A VR or mixed reality headset powered by a powerful enough computer
- Custom software that’s built to take advantage of this powerful VR & computer combo
We start with this because some people might be put off by the concept of wearing a headset that cuts them off from the real world, which might be an instant deal-breaker.
But the more important question to answer is why does the Metaverse exist? What is it trying to achieve, and are we ready to put a silly visor/helmet/piece of headgear on in order to experience something new, compared to our current window to the world – smartphones?
You are already in the Metaverse, and you’re using it!
Do you know how some people say “go on the internet” as if the internet was a real place? Well, it looks like the internet already is a “real” world that you can go to, except this world isn’t quite built up… yet! In other words, “the big bang” already took place, and now we need to develop the (virtual) world created by the explosion. And building this world will eventually give us the Metaverse.Whether you realize it or not, there’s a good chance you’ve already dipped your toes into it. For example, Pokemon GO is a game that allows you to play while you overlay visual game elements on top of your real surroundings – that’s essentially what augmented reality is. And in this case, it is powered by your smartphone, which is how most of today’s AR is experienced.
Then we have VR headsets like Meta’s Oculus Quest 2, allowing you to escape into a whole new dimension, which does not involve your surroundings. You can play a game, and it feels like you are indeed in a completely different place while you’re actually in your living room. That’s pretty much what virtual reality is and what the Metaverse should feel like.
Smartphone-enabled experiences that the Metaverse could potentially elevate
So, with all that being said, are there any smartphone experiences that could potentially be elevated thanks to the Metaverse and its VR features?
The answer, of course, is yes! Smartphones are our window to the world, and they enable some incredible things which we weren’t able to do 20 years ago. That being said, there are а few smartphone experiences that more or less feel like a compromise.
Thanks to the COVID 19 pandemic, conversing, studying, or working online has become our saving grace in the past two years and smartphones are the most affordable, most accessible, and respectively most used means of long-distance communication.
- Playing a game, watching a movie, listening to music
- Doing homework, attending lessons
- Working on a project, attending a business meeting
All of these things that we’ve got used to doing from a distance while being stuck at home aren’t ideal for one particular reason – we still miss real human interaction. Seeing someone on a video call is nice, but it doesn’t encourage further interaction. Students can learn and study together, but after-class activities would feel weird on a video call. Here, at PhoneArena, we get to attend a number of meetings every week, but that’s where our long-distance interaction as a team ends unless it takes place at the office. When we finish work, we can’t socialize while doing fun stuff like playing ping pong together. Because that’s fun? Right. OK.
Smartphone experiences that could potentially be made more complicated in the Metaverse
Ronaldo (left); FIFA Ronaldo (right). Can’t wait to see Metaverse Ronaldo!
All that being said, the biggest challenge for the creators of the Metaverse will be to deliver a hassle-free experience that “just works”. Modern smartphones have existed for about 15 years now, and manufacturers are still working on making them as reliable, as secure, and as accessible as possible. And if you’ve watched demo material from Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, or Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, you’ll know that the tech has a long way to go before it’s ready to add to your experience, rather than just get on your nerves.
For one, the most striking difference between just FaceTiming your friend and meeting them in the Metaverse is how you see them. Your phone camera and screen do a good job at representing what the other person looks like, but in the Metaverse, you’d be stuck with an avatar similar to Apple’s Memoji stickers, which, of course, look nothing like the real you. At least until the tech allows an actual render of yourself (from the Universe) to be transmitted into the Metaverse.
If you’ve played some of the most popular AAA games, you’ll know that even multi-billion dollar companies like EA struggle to make human characters look real. For example, take the universally popular FIFA and NBA 2K games – Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron look far better today as game characters than they looked ten years ago, but it’s still not “the real deal”.
Are smartphone companies prepared to deliver a competitive Metaverse experience, and when will it replace your smartphone?
So, having discussed what the Metaverse is, and the potential challenges and opportunities around the virtual world, can we tell which smartphone companies are going to lead the Metaverse development alongside Facebook and Microsoft? Yes, we can! It comes to absolutely no one’s surprise that a smartphone company from Cupertino that might or might not be named after a fruit will soon stay at the forefront of the Metaverse revolution.
If we assume Apple will be the leader in the development and delivery of the Metaverse to its already huge user base, it looks like it’s going to take at least another five years before using AR/VR for smartphone tasks even becomes a possibility. But who knows – the Metaverse might simply live alongside smartphones (like your laptop) and even be powered by them for a while. Although the latest rumors say Apple’s headset will not rely on an iPhone connection.
The most important thing you want to know about Apple’s upcoming Metaverse revolution is that the company has been leaving a ton of hints about the fact that this will indeed happen. From the iPhone’s incredibly advanced A-series of chips to the LiDAR scanner on its back and the introduction of Spatial Audio, which Microsoft mentions as “a key part of a great Metaverse experience”, Tim Cook and company have already laid some of the ground for what’s to come. We’ll certainly dive deeper into Apple’s Metaverse plans in a future story.
Another smartphone giant, Samsung, is also expected to play a role in the development of the Metaverse. For now, it looks like the South Korean company will take a backseat role, which was hinted during the unveiling of the latest Samsung LPDDR5X RAM. Samsung promised that the new faster RAM will be featured in smartphones and mixed reality wearables as soon as next year.
Ultimately: Why now, and what about us as human beings?
In the end, it’s probably fitting to touch on a few important questions around the Metaverse:
- Why now?
- What about my privacy?
- Will it make me less human?
This can be a whole other story, so my short, and vaguely educated answer to each of these questions would be:
- Probably because COVID 19 magnified the need for virtual human interaction and made it stronger than ever.
- You’re already sharing a ton of your data with companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, so this might actually be the last thing to think to worry about.
- Just like your smartphone, which can contribute to you being less social in real life, the Metaverse could be bad, if we let it…
Since I don’t have another two pages to develop the last few topics, I encourage you to let me know what you think about the timing, existence, and potential impact of the Metaverse on us as humans!