One of the topics planned for the 2022 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the metaverse as technology. Virtual reality glasses and experiences that seek to amaze abound. However, among the uses with the most possibilities in this area, there is one that lends itself less to spectacularity: education.
The metaverse could not be missing in the Mobile, whose official speech points to 5G as one of the enabling technologies of these digital worlds. Throughout the pavilions exhibitors with virtual reality glasses and immersive experiences are seen. In this year’s conferences the concept has also been cast. And it seems that soon it will in our lives. Analyst Gartner predicts that by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse.
The concept is much broader than putting on virtual reality glasses and interacting with other avatars. “The metaverse is not just virtual reality and 3D. This is for the full experience, but start in two dimensions and with normal screens. What matters is that you have your avatar and that you are in a universe where you can collaborate, socialize, play with other people”, explains Michaël Trabbia, Orange’s chief technology officer (CTIO). “When you look at Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft, these are already kind of metaverses.”
The manager of the operator highlights that the game (gaming) is the most obvious use case for this technology. But beyond that, there are other sectors where technology will have an impact. Some of the companies attending the Mobile World Congress highlight education.
One of the Ericsson pavilion demos looks ahead to the year 2026, for which it envisions immersive lessons at the university. The scenario he proposes is the following: in a classroom all the students wear extended reality glasses and the teacher, who is currently traveling on a train, can give the class as if she were present. She appears as a hologram and the students also have the subject under study in the background, in this case a type of herbaceous plant. “More immersive tools will begin to be used in education and that is where the borders between digital and virtual will begin to blur,” says Eric Blomquist, director of strategy execution at Ericsson.
Use cases are sought for this new technology. So much so that Telefónica has announced at the fair an initiative through its accelerator Wayra to find emerging companies (startup) related to the metaverse. Open2metaverse will target projects dealing with connectivity, devices, virtual worlds, digital identity or NFT. The company has also reached a collaboration agreement with Meta in this area and has established the position of head of the metaverse (chief metaverse officer), assigned to Yaiza Rubio.
Trabbia comments that Meta representatives were enthusiastic at a meeting about gymnastics and sports in the metaverse. But the Orange manager also highlights the training field: “Education is very interesting as a use case, because you can learn more quickly and efficiently thanks to virtual and augmented reality, for example in fields such as anatomy. You can peel back the skin and see every organ in the body or how the blood moves.”
In its booth, the operator offers a virtual tour of Notre-Dame Cathedral, as it was before the fire it suffered three years ago. Trabbia explains: “We can travel through the entire history of Notre-Dame: how it was built and its different periods. In a few minutes you can visualize it”. A lesson in history and architecture hand in hand with digital immersion.
These types of experiences are what the Korean startup company Marvrus seeks to integrate into its platform. It is a virtual world dedicated to education. Danny Cho, their head of strategy, explains why they do it from the South Korean exhibitor. “It is aimed at the alpha generation, those between 8 and 15 years old. And this segment of the population has a learning behavior very different from ours. They are much more used to spending time in virtual space. They are used to platforms like Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite. I believe that education has to go looking for them wherever they are”.
The platform, called Meemz, could go through a video game. You drive an avatar and you can go to different locations, which in the future will be virtual lessons or experiences to boost learning. “We are at Mobile World Congress to meet partners with whom we can work to expand globally. In something as specific as education we need experts to introduce content”, clarifies Cho.
The future of the metaverse, socialization
Of course, it cannot be thought that these technologies are a reality today. They are under construction and key elements are still missing to polish them. One of them is the universality of a digital identity, linked to an avatar and its digital possessions. This will open the doors to interconnectivity between the different platforms and to greater socialization.
Ericsson makes it clear that the ability to socialize will be essential. In her scenario for 2030, she shows the case of a person who is alone in her apartment on New Year’s. “Thanks to holographic communication, her family can be there and celebrate it in their space. From her perspective, her family would be in her living room, and in her family’s house, she would be with them,” says Blomquist. All users have their extended reality glasses well placed, of course. But the typical isolation of virtual reality is avoided, since physical and digital space are combined.
“Just as we now share physical space, later we will also share virtual space,” continues Blomquist and gives a glimpse of what digital twins are (digital twins), three-dimensional models of real spaces. “There may be a digitaltwin of the entire city. So if there are fireworks displayed in the virtual city for a celebration, we can all see them.”
Marvrus has his own vision for the years to come. The Korean company currently builds custom metaverses for clients who request it. But it also aspires to offer it, with design and development patterns, so that anyone can create their own metaverse with little programming knowledge. A kind of template to make metaverses, like WordPress with web pages. Although he admits that there are important difficulties.
It is an initiative for the future, but intended to pave the way for the massive adoption sought by all the actors involved in this technology. Because without a critical mass of users, socialization is not possible.
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