I've been meaning to start these posts for some time and, with progress being made on some initiatives I'm leading, it seemed like a good time to start. Though a lot has already been written, starting at the beginning seems sensible. Things are moving fast, and I'm coming at this from an Education industry lens, so I hope my starting point will be additive. So, through a series of posts over the coming months, I invite you to join me on a mission to share thoughts and ideas on how the metaverse, AI and other future technologies are likely to affect the world of learning as we know it.
There is no doubt that the metaverse is one of the hottest topics in technology right now. With all the big tech players, notably Meta, Google and Apple, exploring the space and committing big dollars to the cause, it is easy to forget that how the metaverse will exactly reshape our lives is still a guessing game but what we do know, is that the impact is likely to be substantial.
Given some of the numbers being talked about, developing a Metaverse strategy is becoming more of a necessity for organisations and institutions. We need to understand the emerging opportunities and the new skills that will be required of us.
Underpinning this burst of interest are some new technologies, many of which are similarly ambiguous, hyped, with unclear implications. In fact, a recent article in Newzoo pointed out that over 500 companies are "building the metaverse", up from just 200 a year ago.
At my organisation, we are actively educating ourselves about the metaverse and exploring how we can bring lifelong learning to it. Indeed, we think it's so important that we recently joined the Metaverse Standards Forum which has over 1000 companies signed up already. This group is dedicated to fostering interoperability standards for an open metaverse, reminiscent of the development of internet standards over the last several decades.
I recently presented at the Festival of Education in the UK, where I shared the following conceptual model:
What this illustration shows is the metaverse as three interoperable components; assets, infrastructure and experience.
Assets – these are things we own (a defining feature of Web 3.0) like NFTs, cryptocurrencies, and even digital real estate.
Experiences – this is immersive and interactive content that is often described in terms of virtual, augmented, and extended reality.
Infrastructure – this refers to the technological platforms that power the other two components (assets and experiences), including things like 5G, blockchain, wearables, and AI.
So, where does this model lead us to? What is the Metaverse? I think it is defined by three ideas, each connected to the components above. I believe the metaverse is:
- a time (Assets): From the idea that, at some point, value creation and the way we primarily live our lives will be augmented digitally or virtually. My prediction is that this timeline will shrink considerably when Apple launch their AR glasses (which some say will be in early 2023).
- a place (Experiences): this is probably the definition most of us default to; a collection of immersive virtual worlds where users can interact and experience things as they would in the real world and beyond. Some would argue VR has long been a solution looking for a problem, but I feel that the emerging and converging technologies needed to fill the void that has held VR back, are now here.
- a user experience layer (Infrastructure). I realise this opens a can of worms because it introduces another broad and ambiguous term, "Web 3" - we'll get to that next time! However, as technologies like AI and blockchain improve, they are more readily integrated into experiences in a mutually beneficial way.
Hopefully, this brief introduction has piqued your interest. Look out for more coming soon and please let me know your thoughts in the comments.