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In 1969, the first lunar walk thrilled the world and pointed to all the possibilities of wider space exploration. But today, 53 years later, our imaginations are less captivated by the thought of exploring Mars than by the development of another frontier: the metaverse.
The concept of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) has been around for a while, particularly in the gaming world, and the creation of the metaverse has brought a whole new dimension to the technology. As more and more people dive into this secondary reality and buy homes, attend events, and nurture relationships on a virtual level, current technology must evolve to support the demand.
This is where embodied reality comes into play. Virtual and augmented reality made the metaverse possible, but the true test of this technology is how fully one can “live” in the virtual experience. Embodied reality, which engages the senses to have a more complete experience of your surroundings and activities, will fundamentally change the way we perceive reality, and it is this ultimate frontier that will change our world forever.
The current state of the metaverse is undoubtedly impressive. In 2020, the Metaverse market was worth a whopping $46 billion and is projected to reach $800 billion by 2024. Additionally, investments in the development of this space are coming from big tech companies like Microsoft, Epic, and Meta (formerly Facebook). The latter are already investing $10 billion in their Reality Labs segment.
The truth, however, is that existing technology has only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. There is still a long way to go before the experience can blur the line between the real and virtual worlds. As it stands right now, most of the developers’ time and energy has gone into creating graphics that pop off the screen and are so lifelike that the concept of “real” is beginning to lose meaning.
But that’s just the beginning. In a virtual stadium you still only see the game, but as a participant you can feel the racket cracking. At Coachella, you can feel the beat of the festival all around you in ways that go beyond just seeing and hearing. The experience can and should be visceral, not just that of a spectator. If the goal is to make it so people have trouble telling the difference between the virtual and real worlds—and that’s actually the ultimate goal—visual effects don’t create the sense of immersion that’s necessary .
To do that, we need a new format so that people can feel and fully absorb the experiences they see, rather than watching them play out on a screen. The most memorable experiences in a person’s life are full of color, yes, but beyond that they are connected to the sounds, smells, textures and feelings of those moments. Capturing this level of authenticity and reality is impossible with current methods of virtual and augmented reality, but through embodied reality we can advance the metaverse light years and break the boundaries between what is real and what is fabricated.
Just as people were struck – and instantly hooked – by the experience of the first moving image, embodied reality is a new way of communicating an idea or sensation that helps people “teleport” themselves to another location. Every day we get closer to capturing a full experience or environment – visually we are very close – but feeling and hearing things as if we were really there is key to meeting this new expectation of reality. Until all five senses are represented, the experience will not live up to that expectation, and embodied reality is key to bringing the virtual world to life.
The Metaverse is coming and will likely soon play a key role in our personal and professional lives. But if building a lived experience for all users is the end game, relying on legacy technology is not the answer. Whether the dream is to live a whole new life in the metaverse – complete with a house, friends, and virtual possessions – or to take that infamous walk on the moon, embodied reality is the final frontier and the only way to make those dreams come true to be (virtual reality.
Valtteri Salomaki is co-founder and CEO of Edge Sound Research Inc.
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