How the idea of the metaverse could change the content we create

By Carlos J. Ochoa Fernandez

The metaverse, the ultimate dream of what immersive worlds will be, has yet to be built; indeed, it has yet to be imagined. The possibilities are endless. The promise of interacting with realities that we will never experience either because they have been left behind or are too far in the future is exciting for the content consumer. Imagine enjoying live events in interactive virtual worlds, sports competitions beyond the reality that can be felt in a stadium, or educational trainings that provide the most inaccessible and expensive tools -such as a professional broadcast camera- with the lowest associated costs.

This is an interview with Carlos J. Ochoa Fernández, founder of One Digital Consulting, in which the reader will be able to understand all that we can achieve if the technological industry of immersive realities goes the way that remains to be done.

 

 What is the metaverse?

“What is the Metaverse? Yes, no one ever asks me, I know. But if I wanted to explain it to anyone who might ask me, I wouldn’t know what to say.” How to define something that does not exist, when everyone talks about it, repeating the same mantra over and over again.

Perhaps we should let ourselves be carried away to ancient times and try to establish some sort of symmetry between philosophy and science, look into the depths of the relationship between space and time, and see where that would lead us.

In Plato’s philosophy, the universe is understood as a duality comprising the sensible or material world and the intelligible world or of forms or ideas.

For Plato, forms or ideas exist on a different (higher) plane than material reality, and are immutable, eternal, and ideal. On the other hand, the sensible world is the one we perceive through our senses and is subject to change and deterioration. That is, forms or ideas are the true reality and are known to the intellect, while the sensible world is an imperfect imitation of forms.

In short, for Plato the universe is a duality comprising the sensible world and the intelligible world, where the true reality is the intelligible world.

On the other hand, the metaverse refers to a virtual world, a reconstruction of a three-dimensional space made by a computer and a human being, which can be explored and experienced through technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. The metaverse is a human recreation, with all its limitations -including technological limitations-, which in turn allows users to interact with objects, avatars and other digital entities in a virtual environment.

In short, the universe is a concept that refers to everything that exists in its different states, while the metaverse is a human recreation, which allows interaction with objects and virtual entities in a virtual environment, beyond time, physics and imagination.

Another interesting aspect to consider, and one immensely appealing when searching for references between universe and metaverse, is the space-time relationship. Something that has chained the reality of the human being throughout history, trapping him in his physical, mental and emotional deficiencies and limitations. However, the opportunity offered by the Metaverse, to teleport to past or future moments, outside the laws of physics, is something really exciting that transcends the borders of reality, without limitations of space, nor time-based restrictions.

To sum up, the definition of the Metaverse could be simplified (without no pretense to become a reference), as a term used to describe a (set of) virtual universe(s), inhabited by millions of people (avatars) in an immersive, shared environment. It is often represented as a virtual reality space where users can interact with each other in different ways, with digital objects, etc.

In the metaverse, users are able to take part in different types of activities and with various roles or profiles. Games, digital commerce, creative spaces, concerts, educational simulations, virtual events, virtual communities, are some of the most representative examples. The notion of metaverse has become immensely popular through film and science fiction literature, but it also has its own representation in art, painting, music. Not to mention more entrepreneurial and advanced spaces, in which large corporations are investing, such as in the implementation of this technology in hybrid scenarios, which more integrated with the real world.

The Metaverse hype is striving for a future more oriented to immersive, richer experiences. The convergence of emerging digital trends, such as the progress seen in virtual worlds and space media, artificial intelligence, blockchain adoption, real-time remote productivity, and the democratization of e-commerce, has led to the creation of the ‘Minimum Viable Metaverse’. And although many questions remain unanswered, it is already clear nowadays that the potential is enormous and hence the large investments that are being made in different companies in converging sectors.

 

 What is the link between the metaverse and broadcast?

Broadcast is the various ways of transmission that make reference to distribution of audio, video, graphics or other types of content to an audience through different media channels, including television, radio and the Internet.

Over the past few years, the broadcasting industry and media have undergone a significant evolution, primarily driven by technological advances and changes in consumer behavior. Digitization and online transmission; the use of mobile phones, thus facilitating access to content at any time and place; social networks, sharing and distributing content, the growing availability of data analytics thereof, which is changing the way media is marketed, produced and distributed; the use of artificial intelligence to automate tasks, improve content creation and stremaline audience orientation; and the last great mega-trend, which is the creation of interactive content, allowing to create experiences in interactive media, in immersive platforms or metaverses.

When we talk about metaverse, we usually refer to a virtual world or a collective computer-generated space, where users can interact with each other. It is a term used to describe the concept of a shared virtual space, normally created by the convergence of a virtually enhanced physical reality and a physically persistent virtual reality, including the combined aggregation of all virtual worlds, augmented reality and the Internet.

These developments continue to shape the broadcast and media industry, and further evolution is likely to occur in the coming years and perhaps the convergence with the Metaverse will be the next step forward.

In any case, we should not forget that each medium requires a specific language that must be understood, adequate and transmitted through the medium to an audience. The transition to a new medium or language requires a process of understanding, learning and acceptance, which we must monitor intelligently.

 

 What steps must M&E companies and public service broadcasters take in order to adopt this new way of consuming content?

Currently, content consumption habits are evolving very quickly. As well as tastes and trends in the media. New languages are emerging that require forms of expression that sometimes are very simple and sometimes very complex. But with a clear, direct and brief message. To adopt the way of content consumption in the “metaverse”, media and entertainment companies and public broadcasting services must follow a series of steps that we believ it is important to note:

 

  • Research and analysis: A lot of careful and through work is needed to investigate and analyze the technology of the ‘Metaverse’ and the potential impact on its industry.
  • Developing a clear, visionary strategy: It is essential to develop a clear strategy to analyze how the commitment towards the ‘Metaverse’ will be addressed and how this will be integrated with their existing channels and operations.
  • Acquisition of skills and resources: It is necessary to carry out a gap analysis program in order to acquire the skills and resources necessary to create and distribute content in the ‘Metaverse’.
  • Content creation: A content creation strategy must be developed and put un place, in such a way that the contents are suitable for the experience in the ‘Metaverse’ and therefore attract users.
  • Active participation: Get involved in groups and communities of experts, actively taking part in the construction and development of the ‘Metaverse’, coordinating actions with other key players in the industry for the development of standards and norms.
  • Creation of a community: The creation of a community, seeking links between related parties, through networks and proactive dynamization activities, will be one of the key factors for the project’s success. Only in this way will we be able to access the channels of the groups that are the focus of our action.
  • Monitoring and adaptation: It is very important to closely monitor the evolution of the experience in the ‘Metaverse’ and be willing to adapt to changes in technology and user demands.

These are just some of the most important steps that we believe should be taken for a successful adoption of the ‘Metaverse’, although these must be adapted and focused in a more customized way to each user and company.

 

 What are the main technological challenges associated with the consumption of entertainment content in the metaverse through the XR technology?

Over the last 20 years involved in the field of immersive technologies and having taken part in a good number of projects and experience development, I have been able to witness firsthand the dizzying evolution in devices and development engines. And there is no doubt that this greatly facilitates the process of acceptance and acquisition for end users. However, the big challenge remains the final ‘content’. Complex, interactive, reusable, multi-platform and multi-device content, capable of being adapted and updated quickly and providing added value to users. That is, a tangible and real benefit, beyond the ‘wow’ effect.

In any case, if we can make a brief summary of or note what we think as the main challenges of the world of entertainment for the future:

  • Human-computer interaction: creating experiences in the ‘Metaverse’ that feel natural and are easy for users to use is an ongoing challenge and requires a deep understanding of human-computer interaction, the technologies being used, and how to interact with the medium.
  • Scalability and performance: among the current barriers to virtual worlds, we find scalability and performance. This makes them in the greatest number of cases, unfeasible. This is one of the most important barriers to overcome, as these technologies must be able to handle a large number of simultaneous users and ensure smooth, uninterrupted performance. Here everything having to do with connectivity and accessibility becomes especially relevant.
  • Security and privacy: another critical aspect to face in the immediate future is all that has to do with ensuring safety and privacy when it comes tro user identity. The ‘Metaverse’ must guarantee 100% privacy and security of user data, including protection against hacking and privacy of personal information in all its aspects (physical and virtual).
  • High-quality content: the production of content in the ‘Metaverse’ requires a large number of resources and skills, as well as content from various sources, formats under a common ground: ‘high-quality’ and authenticity of content must be developed and integrated, effective solutions must exist for the creation and distribution of high-quality content. This is a key aspect, where the adaptation of standards will play a key role in the future. Understanding the medium, the content and its dissemination are key aspects when it comes to shaping our business model. As well as the target audience and the device to which we are going to release this content.
  • Platform integration: this aspect, is a utopia at present, but it is deeply rooted in its core definition. And if we believe in the Metaverse as an evolution of the Internet, each world must be configured as a portal, from which it is accessed from a common platform. The ‘Metaverse’ must be supported by a wide range of platforms and devices, which does require an open, collaborative approach from the technological side.

 

 

If a user is already at ease watching content on normal devices, why would they want to access virtual worlds to do this?   How is access now and how should technology evolve to provide easy, simple and convenient access to content?

New times, new media, new languages for collaboration. We all want to create our content and realease it. We want identity, reputation, to monetize our work and socialize in networks where we find affinity, complicity and markets and opportunities, where empathizing and interacting are key factors to seek our difference and value.

This is where we find several reasons why a user may want to access virtual worlds to consume entertainment content in a different way.

Virtual worlds offer us an opportunity to feel that we are there, a feeling of belonging and uniqueness. Creating immersive and enriching spaces and experiences on different devices, allowing users to interact with the context in a meaningful and personal way is one of the keys.

We are also discovering new ways to interact with content in a novel and creative way, which can increase its appeal and sense of fun. As if we were inside a video game.

One of the distinct aspects as compared with other media is a social connectivity that allows users to interact with others, sharing experiences in attractive, idyllic environments, thus generating empathy.

As for how virtual worlds are accessed and how technology should evolve in the coming years, we can currently access them through different more or less complex virtual or augmented reality devices, such as VR or AR glasses. However, the various manufacturers and brands in the sector are focusing on the development of more advanced technologies to make access easier, simpler and comfortable for users. This could include improving the ergonomics of devices, reducing costs and removing technical barriers hampering access. In addition, technology and communications will need to improve in order to ensure a seamless and smooth experience and offer easier connectivity and full integration with other platforms and devices.

 

 What practical applications will the metaverse have in the consumption of multimedia content?  What are the existing limits?  What technical and commercial innovation is needed to overcome them?

The multimedia world is the quintessential field of the ‘Metaverse’, and the opportunities for growth and development are almost endless. A new medium, open to imagination, creativity, innovation, to discovering new formats that are more immersive and experiential, cusomized and that cannot be viewed or experienced in any other medium, will be the key to the future of these platforms. Living your unique, inimitable experience, metaphorical and ephemeral universes at your fingertips and on demand.

 

One of the aspects that we cannot ignore is that the world’s population is aging rapidly. And this group demands high-quality content and experiences.x Likewise, this group and others are barred from accessing certain activities in the real world for multiple reasons. Financial, physical, etc… And the opportunity to develop practical and real experiences for this group, is one of the largest globally.

Some of the sectors where great experiences and projects begin to develop are:

  • Cinema and live entertainment: users can access cinema and live entertainment experiences in virtual worlds, enabling a more immersive and participatory experience.
  • Games, sports and health and life: virtual worlds offer new ways to play and watch sports, perform physical and mental activities, thus allowing users to interact with content in a more meaningful and personal way.
  • Online lectures and events: virtual worlds enable online lectures and events to be held through more immersive, interactive and enriching experience for participants.

And a long list… yet to be discovered…

However, there are currently some limits to the use of the metaverse regarding consumption of multimedia content.

  • Some technical barriers remain, as current technology is not yet accessible to most users, and lack of connectivity, need for specialized devices, and shortage of smooth experiences may limit or delay adoption.
  • High costs: the equipment and services required to access the services and contents in a virtual world can be expensive for a large majority of potential users, which limits accessibility for most of them.
  • The scarcity of quality, specialized content limits its appeal to many users. And creation of content, in immersive environments, is especially expensive and complex to develop.

Therefore, to overcome these barriers, both technological and commercial innovation are necessary, which entails heavy investments, something that is very important. If we look at the critical factors, according to a good number of consultants and as proven by our own experience of years of development, the critical aspects to improve would be:

  • Accessibility and ergonomics of devices: technological evolution must allow for simpler, easier and more comfortable access and handling devices for users.
  • This aspect requires rethinking the business. Although nowadays a high-end television, or a smartphone have very high prices for most users, ways should be found to reduce the costs associated with access to the ‘Metaverse’ for increased accessibility. And this involves quality of content and contribution of value. These will be the keys to the winners of the future.
  • Development of quality content, with investments in the development of quality content in the metaverse to attract and retain users. Content must be experiential, with new narratives, enabling freedom of movement to users, selection of scenes, feeling the world, experiencing it through the 5 senses.
  • And finally, improve user experience. The technology will need to improve so as to guarantee a seamless, smooth experience for users, ensuring connectivity in an agile manner, and seeking cross-device and cross-platform integration. And even though these experiences may not be identical, increase the perception of immersion adapted to each medium.

 

 What will be the possible practical applications in the future?

If we were to view a feature report by the BBC or NBC from 40 years ago about the future of Virtual Reality, we would be surprised to see that the fundamental messages are all the same… In the future, Virtual Reality will allow us… blah blah blah… And although devices, development engines -in short, the technology- have evolved to a great extent, the theoretical areas of application remain the same. So, what has failed? The real-virtual connection is still far from being established, and that is the most critical aspect for the acceptance of technologies that must solve problems of today’s real life and not offer vague solutions to problems that do not exist or have otherwise been already solved by other means.

This simply means that we must seek to address the solution of real problems in industry, medicine, education, leisure or entertainment from a different perspective, one that is improved, more satisfactory and which brings us benefits in one way or another, but real benefits, either as individuals or collectively.

 

Although, in theory, opportunities are almost endless, the process of adaptation and transformation is not simple and requires an important and methodologically well-developed adaptation stage carried out in a sustainable way.

Among the most relevant opportunities, the following should be highlighted:

  • Education and training: the ‘Metaverse’ can be used to create more immersive and effective educational and training experiences. Collaborative project development, networking, expert communities, community development and global space networks, etc.
  • E-commerce and new business opportunities: virtual worlds can be used to conduct business meetings, hybrid product displays and sales in a more efficient and customized way. Living or creating an immersive, unique, customized experience for a user can be expensive, but even more expensive is getting and retaining a customer.
  • Tourism and travel: virtual worlds can be used to create virtual tourism experiences, allowing users to explore places and cultures around the world without having to leave home. This aspect is vital for groups of elderly people, with physical or material impossibility to travel. Or just because they may not be in a position to tour the world in a week and teleport from the North Pole to the Bahamas at the click of a button.
  • Entertainment and social events: the metaverse can be used to create more enriching social and entertainment experiences, such as parties, concerts, and sporting events. This is an area where the generation of creative multiverses opens countless windows for development opportunities. The creative space is truly spectacular, and it is a space yet to be explored.
  • Health and wellness: the metaverse can be used to design and develop more customized, effective health and wellness programs focused on cultures and people, thus allowing users to interact with health professionals in a virtual environment. Immersing yourself in a calm bath in the middle of the ocean without danger, is an experience that would be impossible in the real world and violates all laws of physics.

There is no doubt that all these potential areas of application, as has already been reiterated on several occasions, will depend on the evolution of technology, including increasing accessibility, reducing costs, improving user experience and developing quality content.

 

Carlos J. Ochoa Fernández ©

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