Augmented reality as a metaverse gateway
With a growing list of companies and brands expressing their plans for the metaverse, one technology will be key for early adopters: augmented reality (AR). AR technology primarily uses smartphones and, to a lesser extent, smart glasses to adapt the reality we see around us, often adding a new level of interactivity. Since this technology uses equipment that most of us already have in our possession, it’s quite logical to see that one of the ways the metaverse will begin to converge is through video games and augmented reality apps.
Augmented reality has already proven itself to be a strong contender as a gateway into the metaverse. From the parachuting experiment that helped jump-start AR, to the modern period where giants like Snap Inc. are spearheading initiatives for AR developers to succeed, it’s safe to say that AR is here to drive us into the metaverse.
Why do some believe that AR is where the “real” metaverse is going to happen?
Metaverse AR is a natural progression. Do you remember the summer of 2016? The period of hysteria when most of the public wandered around your local parks and streets trying to catch pokémon? Pokémon Go, created by San Francisco software development giant Niantic Labs, uses AR technology in several ways; by overlaying a pokémon on a map that you physically walk on in the “real world”; it uses the camera in your phone to show the pokémon against the background of where you are now; and it allows you to interact with other players through their avatars in game, while they might be standing just a few meters away from you in person. Now, how does this play into the concept of the metaverse?
The metaverse is a virtual reality space that:
- Operates on an ongoing basis, never shutting down;
- Uses multiple technologies that immerse us in the digital world;
- Creates separate laws and economies within itself, essentially a single state.
Are you beginning to see how this relates to the metaverse yet?
As people become more familiar with AR, our phones will not only change how we interact with the world, but also how we shop and communicate with each other (three of the above criteria points already fulfilled). From small ideas, such as creating an IKEA app that places furniture choices in your intended room so you can see how it will fit your home style. To “big brain” concepts – Google uses AR to support its language translation and visual search apps with Google Lens, where you just point your camera at foreign text to see its translation in real time. You can also project directional arrows on the ground or float in the air to plot your travel route on Google Maps. Of course, there is still a way to go before we are all connected to each other. But these games and apps point to what we can expect from the future.
Worry comes from metaverse AR developers
But there is one very important point of view that has often been overshadowed by this wave of optimism; that is, from metaverse AR developers.
While the rise of AR for the metaverse has undoubtedly created a sense of optimism about its possible applications and possibilities, and there are plenty. It has been more recently started to become viewed as a double-edged sword by its early believers and developers.
One of the pioneers of AR, Louis Rosenberg, has warned that the development of the metaverse could lead to dangerous consequences for humanity. He spoke about the risks to users in an article on the Big Think platform.
“Personally, I find it frightening. Because augmented reality fundamentally changes all aspects of society, but not necessarily for the better,” he said. According to Rosenberg, it is impossible to predict the consequences of the development of AR and its increasing introduction into people’s daily lives.
He believes that the meta-universe might end up being more dangerous for users than current social networks. AR systems can “change the sense of reality”, blur the boundaries of the possible and distort what one sees and feels, the developer added.
To get rid of problems in the virtual world, you can’t just take off the AR headset, Rosenberg said. He believes that, over time, failure will mean the loss of many social, economic and intellectual advantages.
The AR creator agreed that the technology has many ways to improve lives, but one has to be careful about how it will be implemented by the growing technogiants. “We live in dangerous times. Augmented reality has the ability to increase danger to levels we have never seen before,” the expert concluded.
Earlier, renowned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple plans to abandon the iPhone within 10 years to make its own AR headset as a main device.
The head of Meta (formerly Facebook) Mark Zuckerberg also has high hopes for AR. In October, he unveiled the company’s metaverse and the projects they are preparing to work and relax in. In connection with these developments, the tech giant renamed itself Meta.
The current stage of Metaverse AR is just a taster for what’s to come
It’s not hard to imagine that one day you will pick up your phone, look across the screen at your best friend, and seeing their digital avatar live. If we are to listen to the analysis by Niantic Labs, it’s not so hard to walk across a bridge in your hometown with your phone outstretched and watch the scene transform into what that bridge looked like fifty years ago, when everyone was digitally dressed in old-fashioned attire. It’s also not difficult to imagine a group of kids visiting a museum to get their hands on signs that bring ancient worlds to life before their eyes, or take them away to stand on the edge of a volcano.
It’s safe to say the the metaverse AR period is still at its infancy and we can expect many of these scenarios creeping up while perhaps not even realizing it.