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Metaverse Will be Popular by 2030? I’d Say, The Next Three Years Are Enough
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On May 28th this year, Senior Vice President of Tencent, Ma Xiaoyi said that in terms of VR hardware, the technology has made key breakthroughs. The general VR display’s 4K resolution and brightness have improved, and devices that utilize the pancake optical system have reduced greatly in terms of size and weight. Hands, eye and facial tracking technology have also improved the overall immersiveness for users.
However, Ma Xiaoyi thinks that there is still a long journey to go before VR gets popular and adopted by the public. He predicts that VR hardware will remain in fairly similar forms in the forthcoming years and the metaverse will become universal after 2030.
I am personally on the opinion that any prediction that is longer than 5 years' time-window is no prediction at all. Case in point, there’s no point in saying that we are “bullish about Web3 and Metaverse in the next ten years” - anyone could easily say that. This means nothing at all!
I founded STEPVR based on two key philosophies : First, I believe that we need to perfect five senses engagement in the metaverse, not just visual and auditory senses. Only if we get this right, the metaverse will become as compelling as the physical reality and users will onboard en masse. Second, I believe that right now, every industry player in the metaverse must focus hard on cracking the hardware game. We need ubiquitous portals to the metaverse, a piece of hardware that people will use often and everyday, just like the portals to the Oasis in Spielberg’s movie Ready Player One.
Hence how far along are we from perfecting the five senses engagement and solving the hardware challenge? I’d say that we are very very close. In the next three years, I predict that we will be able to reach that tipping point, the point at which the metaverse mass adoption will become inevitable.
Contrary to popular belief, in terms of visuals, VR display’s overall quality is sufficient to scale. If we think back and look at the resolution of the first iPhone, the visual was very pixelated when compared to the latest generation of iPhone. However, this never stopped the eventual popularisation of the iPhone. When it first came out in 2007, the iPhone was not an instant hit, it did not even sell in the millions. Only after constant reiterations did they finally nail a product that people love and keep buying one after another. Similarly, the lack of visual quality should not be the reason why VR has not yet been popularised and widely adopted.
iPhone 1. Credit : ifixit.com
Another important component in the metaverse is the vestibular sense, which is the sense of spatial awareness and balance. Currently, most existing VR headsets on the market give users motion sickness because the headsets are very heavy and clunky - the solution to this was developing a backpack PC to distribute the computing load, so that not everything is concentrated in the headset. Full-body VR gears with a backpack PC like what we offer in our free-roam VR experience have improved user experience greatly. In a free-roam large space experience, users are allowed to move as fast as their vision is moving, so this also contributes to eliminating motion sickness completely.
Our Free-Roam VR franchise Future Battle. Credit : STEPVR
Next is solving the problem of limited space and how to cover vast distances in the metaverse within our limited physical reality. The most feasible solution to this challenge is the use of an omnidirectional treadmill. STEPVR has launched a commercial edition of an omnidirectional treadmill metaverse portal that occupies a 2.5 square meters cage. Named Gates 01, these metaverse portals enable limitless mobility, including running, in the metaverse. The design was inspired heavily by the movie Ready Player One.
It baffles me that no one else in the metaverse industry has attempted to solve this challenge before, as the concept of VR omnidirectional treadmill is actually nothing new. Game developers are constantly designing new games so they can avoid spending any resources on the research and development of something hardware-heavy like the omnidirectional treadmills.
Gates 01. Credit : STEPVR
Then, there is the sense of touch. Touch-pressure sensation can be rebuilt using robotic haptic feedback that we have introduced in our free-roam experiences, to great success. However with this current technology, it only provides a limited degree of tangible sensory experience. Based on what I am working on, achieving a hyper-realistic haptic feedback still requires three years of time. Case in point, replicating a sense of friction in the metaverse will require a robotic device with many solenoid valves, which can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, hence making it difficult to scale.
Our upcoming home version of omnidirectional VR treadmill, complete with a robotic arm. Credit : STEPVR
Next, come our auditory senses. Compared to the sense of vision, touch and vestibular, auditory replication in the metaverse is easy to achieve, and it has already been developed almost perfectly by the spatial audio technology. Lastly, the sense of smell can be replicated by heating up chemical substances. We are going to experiment further in creating these five-senses engagement experience in the metaverse.
Yes, from the technological standpoint, only three years of time is needed to perfect five senses immersion in the metaverse. I believe that once we reach that point, and invent the right hardware that can create such experiences, the metaverse will become compelling to the mass audience.
Last but not least, the key challenge we must solve is proving profitability. So far, all the metaverse leaders like Meta and Apple have been disappointing in showing to the world the demand and commercial value of metaverse technology. Without profits, it is unlikely we can convince entrepreneurs and businesses and creators to adopt the technology and help engineer behavioural change in consumers. In this sense, STEPVR is at least 10 steps ahead of the rest of the players in the market as we have been proving profitability so early as a Series B startup with modest funding.
STEPVR is looking forward to being a leader and a key player in the next generation internet and computing platform. Yes it is an extremely challenging battle, but we are determined to win!