Metaverse Poised to Erase Limitations to Human Endeavor DX Week experts Say Superhuman Capabilities Await in the Digital World


Of all the capabilities and exciting, immersive experiences the metaverse potentially will deliver, it is its ability to elevate people to become their best selves that holds the greatest promise. That was the consensus of the experts gathered to discuss the metaverse’s opportunities and challenges during TDK Ventures’ DX Week seminar on digital transformation. The inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers, academics, and investors assembled for the virtual roundtable were optimistic that the metaverse will evolve to complement and augment everyone’s creativity, productivity, society, and understanding of the world.

“All the areas that require rapid processing of facts that humans can do, we need to put that intelligence into the metaverse,” concluded Julie Larson-Green, Magic Leap’s chief technology officer. “We need to not just look at each silo of information but to employ machine learning and understanding to give people feedback” to make them better citizens, workers, and social animals, “by giving them new facts and new perspectives.”

Pearly Chen, HTC vice president in charge of Viveport’s business development and content partnership, acknowledged that the metaverse’s backbone, extended reality, already is contributing to medical research, industrial training, and other learning areas while lowering the barriers to adoption.

Amber Allen, CEO of Double A Labs, said her company is focused on developing a “frictionless bridge” to span generational and technical gaps to spark adoption outside the gaming, healthcare, education, and other distinct communities. One approach is to ease less tech-savvy users into 3D worlds by introducing elements through two-dimensional media and familiar products such as smartphones and desktop computers.

Edgar Auslander, Meta’s senior director and head of Strategic Partnerships and Intelligence, said this expansion of use cases to spur widespread adoption may necessitate a distinction between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications. Products designed for consumer markets, for example, must consider device appearance, comfort, while enterprise marketers can focus almost solely on performance and productivity. Similarly, training and simulations make sense in VR, while AR overlays could prove too cumbersome, obscuring the actual picture over which it is laid. The focus should be in developing the technologies that are applicable for useful products, context, and use cases because most will not be amenable to both AR and VR.

Chen agreed and said much of her work involves ensuring multiple gateways exist for leveraging AR and VR and making it available for a range of business models and user types. A company that has introduced web versions of 3D chat worlds currently is experiencing 90 percent to 95 percent of the niche’s active engagement.

“Then, we will see people who are acting in VR inside those worlds on their web interfaces,” Chen said. “They will be inspired to adopt the immersive interfaces. It has become a valuable user-acquisition tool. We are big believers in making sure here are multiple gateways into the interoperable metaverse world so you can access with not only immersive, high-tech glasses but also with any connected browser.”

Larson-Green said harnessing the power of the metaverse to create superhuman powers will require us to overcome of our preconceived notions of what reality is and the limits it places on us. We can defy physics, gravity, and biology if we “let creativity happen.”

She said it will be easier for young people to shed those inhibitions because “kids who have grown up with AR/VR as a thing are going to have jobs expectations based on the things they’re doing in games today — things that in the physical world today are not possible. Of course, there has to be guardrails and protections around it, but I think the next generation is going to want to get out of their room and into the real world, want technology to…give them those superpowers in the real world, rather than having those abilities in the game they’re playing or the job they’re doing in an office.”

Auslander invoked the television series, The Six Million Dollar Man. “Though, with inflation, maybe it should be the Six Billion Dollar Man,” he quipped. “But the idea of seeing better, hearing better, is something we are working on. We try to create a more intuitive and discreet user interface.”

He introduced Meta’s work with electromyography, using sensors to translate electrical motor nerve signals through the wrist into commands that can be used to control devices similar to, but more private than what can be accomplished with voice commands.

Continuing with the “superpowers theme,” Allen envisioned an AR/VR/metaverse solution that extends the boundaries of human memory — to recall faces and details of previous conversations, and more.

“One of the biggest challenges we see in building these spaces…is that people keep trying to replace real life,” she said. “Real life is amazing; using digital would enhance it and help bridge that gap between one experience and the next. Think about the people you will meet here and the conversations you will have. How do you keep that going? And how do you stay in touch? If we look at what a superpower could be, it’s not just what Web 2 is meant to be for networking. It’s more of an open ecosystem” to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas.

Superpowers could include harnessing AI to supplement or stand in for talents people may lack. Tae Ashida, head of fashion maison Jun Ashida, said metaverse technology could enable those without it to develop a sense of style.

“Fashion will be very important in the metaverse, as we express our personalities through the clothing, we choose to dress our avatars in,” she explained. “People who don’t have fashion sense of have trouble choosing clothes [to convey their outlook]. I imagine in the future they will be able to call on an AI stylist system that can advise them how to dress to project yourself and ensure their appearance reflects their feelings.”

Endowing people with powers they never possessed or have lost due to age, or health or medical issues opens an entire frontier for metaverse users, Larson-Green said.

“For people who are blind or can’t hear, we could potentially in the future use these technologies to help them better understand their surroundings using their other senses [to replicate images or sound] to alert someone that there’s something coming behind them,” she said. “It starts with a real-world understanding of objects, content, sound categorization. That’s where we can all work together to define the characteristics of things in the metaverse.”

Auslander also sees AR and the metaverse as aiding in helping people live better lives by keeping them healthy and restoring senses diminished because of disease, accident, age.

“You can envision contextual AI or the ability to prevent disease,” he said.

He noted his own denial after being diagnosed with sleep apnea. After measuring his nighttime heart rate and blood oxygen levels, he became convinced he should lose weight to control his condition.

“It would be nice to have glasses that tell me how many calories there are in my meal,” he said. “Of course, I can do that with a phone but that’s unnatural. I see many applications that could be good for health. Even glasses that show if my posture is OK without having to wear other types of sensors. There is a collection of applications people will discover.

Brittan Heller, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, with the Digital Forensics Research Lab, picked up on Auslander’s discussion of neuroscientist David Eagleman’s work to develop devices for sensory substitution. She said that and similar has shown that people process experiences in virtual reality the same way we process the physical world. So, virtual vacations, business meetings, and personal interactions not only seam real; they are real.

Rio Kurokawa, director of IBM Power and head of Metaverse Technology Sales for IBM Japan Ltd., said processing those experiences will heighten human communication.

“We need interaction and community,” he said. “We can stay in the movie theater for two hours, because of the quality of content, but more importantly because we want to stay engaged with the people we like, chatting with them and building relationships. Building community and accessibility is key, onsite or online. We need to integrate ourselves with this new world. After integration, the services which can entertain you and your avatar in a one-stop digital experience will come.

When that occurs, Heller said, “It’s not a virtual reality; to your brain, it’s an actual reality. In that sense, we have a responsibility to the user and consumers to make sure we’re creating a place that embodies the best of humanity.”

The panelists and other impact scalers who will perfect the metaverse and leverage the multiple use cases and experiences it can provide soon will create that embodiment for the greater good. TDK Ventures is optimistic that the metaverse will fulfill even the most grandiose prophesies. That’s why it sponsored this panel and the rest of the DX Week discussions. DX Week demonstrates the company’s commitment to supporting these visionaries.

As Allen said, “Connection and curiosity happen the moment people can see potential.”

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