Peter Linder, Timothy Murphy, Yashar Nezami, Mischa Dohler
Join us as we take you on a tour across 12 of the places you can expect to find metaverse use cases in coming years – at home, at work and beyond.
Connectivity for the first wave of virtual reality (VR) applications was often a wire between a head-mounted display and a powerful desktop computer. Unwiring that connectivity by means of 5G represents a leap forward as big as when we made phones mobile three decades ago. And by doing so, we believe, it will enable the metaverse which some are touting as the next-generation (3D) Internet.
In a previous episode in this 5G metaverse series of Ericsson, we described how extensive the required network performance leap ought to be to be able to support metaverse use cases. Here, we would like to address an important and often overlooked issue of where we need to make that performance leap first.
Indeed, while the metaverse itself can be an infinite digital and social place, the augmented reality (AR) and VR devices that ‘port’ us into the metaverse need to be connected via a physical 5G network. We thus would like to explore metaverse use cases, or rather use places, where you can expect the wireless/untethered/unwired metaverse to take shape.
Our homes are a strong use place candidate where virtual and hybrid realities can make a significant difference.
If you have teenagers at home, the metaverse has likely (already) started in their bedrooms. This is the place where gamers can access virtual gaming worlds through head-mounted virtual reality displays, driving/flying simulators, and advanced PC-connected haptic devices. This unique metaverse use place is likely to remain popular when unwired!
To make your teenager’s bedroom use place even more immersive, expect parts of their powerful PC or game console to move to a nearby cloud. ‘Nearby’ means ultra-low latency; and ‘cloud’ means that incredibly impactful graphics can be rendered in real-time and streamed back to the play console without your teens even noticing.
The majority of homes will be ‘metaversed’ by means of WiFi and fiber. However, anybody who understands 5G knows that it is a perfect technology to deliver significantly improved latencies and experiences. Measurements confirm this now, and VR/AR device vendors are already scrambling to make their devices 5G-enabled.
Powered by these tech advances, the next wave of immersive entertainment can make architects rethink the future of our media rooms. The most fabulous screens and the coziest chairs in the house can soon be more open spaces where you can experience sports and movies with virtual and in-person guests. An empty room with four padded walls has the potential to.
Our home of the future could thus transform into a great shared metaverse use place that is excellent for family and guests who can now be physically together yet digitally apart in their own worlds and with ultra-personalized content.
It can further be repurposed for many other activities: from gym, entertainment to office space. Indeed, the pandemic has redefined portions of our homes for office-related work. The transition to a hybrid office environment leverages our recently deployed 2D collaboration use places as a starting point. Plan for a new end-game with more immersive collaboration forms in virtual/hybrid worlds. This use place pushes boundaries beyond adding a screen, a web camera, and a microphone to an office desk environment.
Many of us pivoted to a virtual office environment around Friday, March 13, 2020. It was an instant and uniform shift – with no/low planning and one of the most extensive learning-by-doing journeys humanity has ever done. A natural next step is the transition to a hybrid office working culture – a shift where the office metaverse arises as a new use place.
Indeed, today’s most advanced video conference rooms are multi-screen and multi-camera set-ups optimized for 2D communication. Connecting groups in a larger room as well as individuals at home. The use place is subject to a similar evolution as the media room at home. Large conference tables and chairs for everyone need extended reality capabilities. A big job at hand is to improve multi-party collaborations to a point where we feel we are (socially and productively) together in one place.
Our smaller group rooms, where the whiteboard and conference phone were king, are another use place where we can expect significant changes. In a ‘metaversed’ hybrid office model, participants are unlikely to always meet in person at all times. With one or two virtual participants, the quest of interaction and productivity becomes different!
Can we expect the emergence of geographically separated physical offices linked via AR portals that are placed in meeting rooms and that unify the virtually shared work spaces? Meeting rooms evolve into immersion rooms – multipurpose spaces for engineering work (think digital twins), remote collaboration, employee wellness, etc. Could holographic communications be the icing on this metaversed office of the future?
How to go about it? We need tech and skills. Now, dedicated green rooms in offices are less standard than video conference and collaboration rooms. Maybe reimagined permanent green rooms for local metaverse productions can become a great business tool? In any case, 5G will come handy! Today, it can be delivered into enterprises without problems via public or private 5G networks or Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).
These micro use places, in what we used to call an office, are new tools in the hybrid work toolbox. They will underpin a larger virtual leap ahead of us, as we expand from 2D to 3D communication, collaboration and education.
If the potential for the virtual and hybrid realities in the metaverse were limited to homes and offices, we could opt for stationary wireless connectivity. You might remember how fixed phones were replaced by DECT phones before mobile phones became the universal personal communication tool. But there are several exciting use places beyond the fairly static ones discussed above. And these are use places which can only be services by 5G: either because the density of people using it is too high, or because it is outdoors and highly mobile.
Let’s start with cinemas of the future: Cinemas have lost their monopoly on big screens and great sound for the first release window of new entertainment. The pandemic-powered streaming wars have shifted a growing part of this opportunity into our homes, with a question remaining on what role cinemas will play in the future. You can already taste what immersive entertainment can do for us.
Today, you can equip yourself with a head-mounted display and a powerful computer in a backpack. The next step is to get rid of the wire and the backpack and enjoy new forms of storytelling. Cinemas can aim to become a use place where we enjoy the latest and greatest of immersive entertainment. And in the future, they can morph into the next stage in story interaction through fully participatory multiuser immersion where we will effectively ‘be’ in a movie.
Similarly, the addition of digital elements can enhance the fan experience at sports venues. New smartphone apps allow you to point toward an athlete to access additional statistics. Your physical presence at the venue can also become a part of your friends’ fan experience at home. Sports venues are a use place type that has generated significant attention for 5G deployments. The high concentration of people and the high value of live experiences make this an exciting area for 5G to exploit.
Theme parks and entertainment venues can immerse visitors deeper into their unique worlds. Beloved characters stroll alongside families and escort visitors around the park, handing off to their virtual friends in different areas. Lost children can be located and then follow their favorite AR buddy back to a safe location. Rides are enhanced by amplifying physical experiences with digital augmentation. Home movies transform from 2D passive media into enhanced theme park Vacation Experiences – once back home, visitors can participate in fully immersive recreations of their trip complete with their virtual interactions within the venue universe.
What about traveling? An essential part of traveling is to learn about the tourist attractions you visit. A job performed by a tourist guide, offering the service in a few major languages. But these services are not always available when you want them, in a language of your choice and matched to your previous knowledge of the attraction. Visiting a mix of physical and virtual attractions can change the game. Tourist attractions are spread over a city and represent a use place where the metaverse needs wide-area connectivity to make a difference. Include major transportation hubs into this picture to reduce hassle in the overall travel experience.
Stores and shopping malls are also poised to blend the best of in-store and online shopping experiences to survive. Such as AR-assisted shopping paths, where you combine pre-defined shopping lists with information about price promotion and stock situations. You might keep a wish list where AR enlightens you on through advertisement that matches your list. Personal shopping is limited to areas where the salary of a personal assistant can be justified by what you spend. These services can serve a broader group of shoppers with virtual shopping assistants. Stores are attractive use places to explore for the metaverse.
Hospitals and care-giving centers become use places where XR technologies can greatly improve the care levels provided to their patients through immersive experiences that take residents out of their immediate surroundings. Advanced haptic surfaces can enable therapeutic physical interactions for patients who might otherwise be isolated. Going a step further, remote caregivers can directly interact with patients, both as avatars and via tele-operated equipment, greatly improving quality of life.
Colleges and universities can be pioneers in leveraging more immersive forms of education. An evolution where the classroom can be physical and virtual use place is very attractive. Language students can converse in the metaverse with people already mastering the language. Construction engineering classes can visit intended construction sites to see how their design will appear. We can teach history classes at the actual scene of the historical moment in time. Instructor-led training in classrooms is a use place where you can expect material shifts! Hybrid instructors can teach in person or through a virtual presence. Practical training sessions with virtual equipment are cost-effective and suitable for areas with short product cycles. These education use places can start in metaverse rooms at colleges and universities similar to the entertainment and collaboration rooms described above.
Industrial use places have the potential to appeal to the gaming generation—remotely operated machinery, where driving and flight simulator skills come in handy. On-the-job training has evolved to be a mix of in-person and virtual coaching from experts. Forward-looking use places such as factories, warehouses, and logistic terminals can create a competitive advantage from how leading-edge knowledge is accessed and distributed.
We would be surprised if the metaverse does not make inroads into the club scene this decade. They can offer new ways to engage with music and musicians. Live performances with virtual artists, giving concerts without being present, or with just half the band present. Enjoy a great time with friends who are present and those attending virtually. Glasses help you with names when interacting with larger groups of people. This use place can also support the organizers’ security staff with real-time information about guests as they enter and enable high alerts when appropriate.
Metropolitan areas represent an ‘ambient place’, a geographic backdrop for our day-to-day living. The Metaverse will transform cities into our ambient virtual use places, providing digital data layers which augment our perceptual backgrounds. Metro use places will enable a spectrum of interaction possibilities, from basic ‘default’ sensory experiences all the way to digital asset-enhanced AR overlays that merge the physical and virtual cities into a hybrid metropolis.
If predictions are true that the emergence of the XR-devices today is akin to the emergence of the iPhone years back, and the emergence of the (3D) metaverse is akin the emergence of the (2D) Internet back then, then we are in for a truly disruptive decade ahead.
We hope we have inspired you to think and strategize around where you would like to see the metaverse next. Important is to understand that the success of the metaverse heavily depends on the triad of applications – devices – networks.
We have done our part on networking with 5G and edge computing becoming a powerful combination to enable the metaverse. However, reality is that 5G edge cloud deployments will not happen everywhere overnight. To identify which use places should be enabled first is thus paramount in securing suitable connectivity for these use places.
Reach out to us to discuss use places, use cases, 5G and 6G networking technologies as well as the future of XR devices, metaverse applications and remaining challenges around privacy.
This article was first published on Ericsson blog: https://www.ericsson.com/en/blog/2022/7/10-metaverse-use-cases
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