The potential behind the metaverse is becoming greater as virtual and physical worlds converge. Market intelligence firm Contrive Datum Insights recently found that the global metaverse market is estimated to surpass $1.3 trillion by 2030. According to the study, this growth will be driven by newly adopted virtual economy trends, combined with the rise of both crypto and online games.
Additionally, a recent survey conducted by CoinWire highlighted that the metaverse would likely reshape social lifestyles. CoinWire found that 69% of respondents believe that the metaverse will eventually modify social lifestyles due to new approaches taken for entertainment and activities.
AI will make the metaverse more interactive
Cathy Hackl, author of Into the Metaverse: The Essential Guide to the Business Opportunities of the Web3 era, told Cointelegraph that the metaverse comprises virtual shared experiences that happen both in virtual spaces and in the physical world:
“It’s just that the physical world side of the metaverse equation hasn’t been fully enabled. It’ll come in the next 10 years. If you take that into account, then how we socialize will be deeply impacted by the metaverse.”
Hackl elaborated that technologies such as volumetric video — a technique that offers a more immersive experience by capturing three-dimensional spaces — will likely change how individuals communicate. “For example, this may help us feel more present when our loved ones are far away,” she said.
Hackl added that artificial intelligence (AI) would help create more interactive metaverse environments moving forward. Although the concept of AI and the metaverse is relatively new, some examples today demonstrate how this may play out.
For instance, Sebastien Borget, co-founder and chief operating officer of The Sandbox — a popular decentralized virtual world — told Cointelegraph that over 1 million users played games in The Sandbox last year. Borget believes that users of The Sandbox have become familiar with using avatars to showcase their digital identities. He said:
“In The Sandbox, users can connect with their digital identity, make friendships and have real emotions through these experiences. It doesn’t matter the background, age or where users are from. The Sandbox is a global, digital nation.”
With this in mind, Borget is aware that metaverse platforms have the potential to reshape social lifestyles. “Three billion people are now digitally native — there is no way back from that. The way to interact is now with avatars in social worlds and across social media platforms,” he said.
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While this may be, Borget shared that The Sandbox users will eventually be able to incorporate their own physical movements into their digital avatars, resulting in more personalized and realistic characteristics. Borget explained that The Sandbox would partner with Kinetix, a technology startup specializing in AI, to bring “emotes” — animations that express emotion — to video games and virtual worlds.
Yassine Tahi, CEO of Kinetix, told Cointelegraph that emotes will allow users to animate avatars through customized dance moves and physical interactions displayed in reality. “We have developed a unique AI that allows users to record movements with a phone’s camera, which can then be applied to avatars,” he said.
According to Tahi, emotes are important for recreating social interactions. “In the future, people will want to embody the physical world to behave in certain ways in virtual worlds. For instance, if someone falls during a runway show in the physical world, this can be recreated in the metaverse with avatars using emotes.”
In addition to emotes, using AI to implement voice characteristics may also help deepen interactions within digital worlds. Sabin Dima, CEO of Humans.ai — a layer-1 protocol built on top of Cosmos — told Cointelegraph that AI would play a massive role in the metaverse when creating better user interactions. “Humans.ai is the blockchain of AI and is being used to mint ‘superskills’ and voices that users can apply to avatars within different virtual worlds,” he explained.
According to Dima, creating a digital voice or allowing avatars to speak in different languages will increase social engagement and improve experiences. To put this in perspective, Dima shared that Humans.ai lets users create digital voices, speak in different languages and implement synthetic voices that may prevent discrimination.
“You can enter a zoom call with a different voice, for instance, which could prevent discrimination if you wish to remain completely anonymous. This will certainly reshape social lifestyles,” he said. Moreover, Dima noted that voices are minted as non-fungible tokens to give users true ownership of their voice clips.
Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands, further told Cointelegraph that he believes AI will enhance metaverse experiences.
“One primitive example of this is chatbots. In video games, we constantly engage with non-player characters with rudimentary character development. AI changes this significantly. They will deepen and enhance engagement as well as create deeper meaning and utility to their related ownership of their assets in the metaverse,” he said.
Will metaverse interactions replace physical encounters?
While the metaverse has already started demonstrating how people can engage socially in virtual worlds, incorporating AI within these environments will likely create better engagement. Yet it remains questionable if social interactions in the metaverse will eventually replace physical engagements.
According to Siu, individuals are already influenced by online experiences. Therefore, he believes that the metaverse will likely create deeper immersion moving forward. Given this, Siu noted that the metaverse will not replace real-life engagements but rather enhance these interactions.
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Dima added that the metaverse, combined with AI capabilities, will result in a digital transformation that could make individuals “smarter.” “AI will allow avatars to speak in different languages or be present in multiple spaces at the same time,” he said.
Yet while virtual worlds powered by AI will likely result in more realistic experiences, Hackl pointed out that the physical world remains a key part of the metaverse. She said:
“The future of the metaverse is about connected experiences that transcend the physical and virtual divide. They will just be experienced. The difference is that experiences will be augmented by technology.”