Cirque de Solei explores the new options of VR and holoportation.

A few weeks ago, I talked about Facebook’s Metaverse and the issues that I have with this service, in a regulatory vacuum. I hope we have learned our lessons with the current way social media have developed and that we are making sure we are not going to use new developments in these media purely for advertising purposes.

This is no longer the realm of unfettered commercial activity. Social media have become utility platforms and will need to be aligned with the common good and not just being developed to maxims profits for the digital giants.

Having said that, I of course am not an advocate of stopping technology, I am just arguing for proper use of them.

Obviously, Facebook is very serious about these developments and they even changed their name to highlight the major strategic shift in the company’s strategy. They developed a holding company named Meta Platforms, Inc, doing business as Meta. It is the parent organisation of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, among other subsidiaries.

The metaverse is Facebook’s imagined next iteration of the internet, supporting decentralised, persistent online 3D virtual environments. New “virtual” services will be accessible through virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphones, PCs and game consoles. It most certainly offers very interesting services for the video game, erotica, business, education, retail and real estate sectors.

However, it won’t stop there and would very easily creep into the broader consumer market. This is where the potential problems are, as Facebook doesn’t have a good socially responsible track record here. VR can easily lead to addiction and, of course, it is far more intrusive, so alarm bells around privacy should be ringing loudly.

VR services have been around for decades, so as such it is nothing new. Obviously, technology has improved and it has now reached a stage that more serious services can be offered. And with companies such as Facebook behind it, these services can be scaled up massively.

An interesting element here is that these new services do require large amounts of bandwidth and in order for them to be commercially viable, there need to be mass-market deployments of high-quality broadband. It will be interesting to see if the NBN in Australia would be able to handle large scale use of services such as Metaverse.

As the technology has been around for some 30 years, there are many other companies involved in VR and I would like to highlight the latest developments from Microsoft. What triggered me here was the story about Cirque du Soleil, a circus group that I really enjoy and admire.

If you know this group, then it wouldn’t surprise you that they are interested in experience with innovations. But on the digital technology side, at least so far, nothing had been good enough for them.

Recently Microsoft, offered them their new Microsoft Mesh platform and it received their approval; I would most certainly see their approval as one of the best recommendations the company could receive.

What Microsoft offered them through their Ignite digital conference facility was holoportation, which uses 3D capture technology to beam a lifelike image of a person into a virtual scene. It offers a remarkable mixed reality experience.

Microsoft’s platform is powered by Azure that allows people in different physical locations to join collaborative and shared holographic experiences on many kinds of devices. It connects live and digital entertainment experiences into single events.

After many decades, VR technology now really seems to have matured to a stage where it can be fully deployed in a whole range of new digital experiences. Or will it? After decades of trials will it catch on this time in mass markets?

Paul Budde

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