This article was adapted from a post on Medium, which you can read here.
AWE brings together the most forward-thinking, adventurous pioneers of the range of new technologies colloquially known as the Metaverse. Sitting here, staring at the ocean in Pacifica, CA, contemplating the technologies that we were privileged to see this week, there’s an enormous sense of responsibility. Each of us is contributing in a small way in the vast ocean that is the Metaverse.
Pacifica, California Ocean views
From Consumption to Creation
With a never-ending battle for our attention, social media platforms and productivity apps have created addicts – making us crave little red dots on our devices, just begging for our immediate focus and response – while actually getting very little of our focused attention.
As we look to revolutionize how we communicate as humans in a new era of XR, it’s our responsibility to replace red-dot addicts with carefully thought out content and tools that empower people, rather than commodify them. The future belongs to all of us – creators, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, developers, educators, students, investors, institutions, and people who just want to play, explore, or connect.
Creal Lightfield Optical System (2 years ago this was the size of a table)
AWE 2021 comes at a time when the world is opening up. And yet so many people are still without access to the Internet. It’s unbelievable to think that some people are not connected to a fundamental binding force of this new economic engine while we plan for the next phase, the Metaverse.
It’s critical that we strive to give others access to the digital worlds and technologies that will have profound impacts on every aspect of our world – not just to share ‘gramable’ moments (as much as we love them), but also to share the wonders of our planet and the challenges ahead. We can show the next generation of plastic minds the real-world implications of ignoring climate change, or what it’s like to be displaced, while providing the tools to attack these challenges. AI, blockchain, XR, molecular genetics, IoT, and 5G are all transformative technologies converging in the near future.
The XR Content Revolution
Creating value as quickly as possible in this new world order is the name of the game. Web-based, low-code tools like MetaVRse Engine are coming online that leverage powerful new technologies to make 3D content creation easy and accessible.
We have an opportunity to be the stewards of the next generation of pioneers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians and technologists, by offering tools that are open, interoperable, and accessible on all devices. Using real-time communication systems, we can offer one-to-one and one-to-many learning that is orders of magnitude more effective than our current, passive 2D systems.
Today’s Buzzwords, Tomorrow’s Digital Economy
Creators are the cornerstone of the Metaverse, and we can all be creators if the reward systems allow everyone to not only participate, but also to make a living using the technology.
We’ve all heard the buzzwords: blockchain, NFT, crypto, web 3.0, virtual worlds, avatars, spatial computing, and XR, to name a few. These and other technologies ultimately unlock a new kind of human experience, a new type of place: the Metaverse.
It’s one thing to buy 3D NFT art and look at it on your phone or your computer; another entirely to put on a headset and have that art adorn your house. It’s one thing to bring your friends into your virtual space and share this experience with them, versus being able to reach out and touch and feel virtual objects as if they were real.
We’re getting very close to hijacking many of the senses needed to give people unbelievable, unforgettable experiences. These are the technologies on display at AWE 2021. I’ve been in this space since the first Oculus Kickstarter, and can say that it’s never felt more real. It’s a humbling feeling to see this technology in its infancy.
The responsibility is also very real – to build on what we’ve learned to share with the world in a responsible and ethical way. To take on the responsibility of being a steward of this incredibly powerful technology. To share the Metaverse with the world.
Attendees of AWE 2021 got to watch five synchronized Hololenses, experience light fields with infinite holograms, touch virtual raindrops, feel a remote punch in the stomach, play a holographic 3D interactive board game, receive a Burning Man name (mine was “Sassy Lover”), watch Donna Summers’ cake melt, play drums in a German urban park, fix a wire harness from an airplane, see full-view human FOV and human eye resolution in virtual and augmented reality, create their own experiences, and even see someone walking in Ekto Boots.
All in the span of three days.
Author, Alan Smithson getting his Burning Man name at AWE 2021
Ben Erwin, Christi Fenison, Julie Smithson & Terry xR Schussler – Live WebXR Hololens Demo, AWE 2021
AWE is a glimpse into the future that is ready for prime time, and from the private conversations we had with industry leaders, the uptake of this technology at scale is upon us.
So what’s the big takeaway? Don’t wait for someone else’s future to be forced upon you. Build your own future, using the tools available right now, and do so in a way that serves humanity well. We are just a drop in the ocean, but our contributions can make ripple effects that make a global impact.