The next steps towards, well, wherever we are going, are extraordinarily important to get right and the choices seem to be whether we computerize humans or humanize computers. Or both. Or neither.
As the Metaverse calls us into an immersive, digital world, the technological challenges are front and centre in the priorities of the tech world. There are many others, including building rules and codes of conduct. And making all the different versions work together on all sorts of levels.
The next steps towards computerizing humans are extraordinary and a lot of behind the scenes work over the past decade are likely to become reality of sorts in the next few years. From using exoskeletons to a range of implants, disabled people are beginning to lead almost ‘normal’ lives. In the UK a young man who was paralysed in a sporting accident and whose dreams of having a family were broken with his back is now the proud father of a one-year-old. This is thanks to an implant in his spine that tells his legs that they need to move.
The CES show in Las Vegas every January is the place where these breakthroughs generally get announced and, although the show was a shadow of its former self, there were some pretty cool stuff on show. Wunderman Thompson did a round up, highlighting gadgets that use cameras to let blind people walk around safely (better than a white stick), as well as a number of tech products designed to make life easier for disabled people.
The next steps in the opposite direction are equally exciting. Already devices are being launched that make it easier to perceive what is going on around you in a metaverse. Vests that give people the sense that they are being touched or hit or catching a ball. Glasses that can plug into anything and can be used to join video or VR calls. Extraordinary advances in contact lenses that will soon have AR capabilities and are already an enhancement to existing sports wearables.
The conclusion on the next steps with devices is that there is a convergence of human and computer and not a particular direction.
The other conclusion is that, as always when it comes to technology advances, devices will be years ahead of the platforms and networks that will make it all work.
As we sit on the edge of the metaverse age, we should reflect that technology takes 10 years to become ‘invisible.’ Until it becomes invisible it is technology, and – as Douglas Adams and others have said ‘technology is a word we use for things that don’t work yet.’
Bearing in mind that the first glimpse humanity had of a metaverse was in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London, it is fair to say that the futurists who are predicting a metaverse in 10 to 20 years are being wildly optimistic.
What we will have in that time frame is a wildly different experience as coverage remains patchy and even in areas where it is workable, there will be other issues that keep arising.
The next steps, if we are to realise some kind of joined up metaverse is to start work on rules, codes of conduct and who polices what. Frankly, many different ones with their own rules makes more sense than trying to build one or many interconnected ones.