The metaverse has gone from being just another tech buzzword to becoming a massive investment for companies around the world looking to be at the forefront of the race to develop virtual worlds where people can interact, attend events, work and play. Many have come to see it as the next iteration of the digital infrastructures we have in place today. But realizing the metaverse requires gear that can allow users to enter virtual environments and have immersive experiences within it.
From VR headsets to haptic gloves, big investment is pouring into the metaverse. And with so many breakthroughs being experienced lately, engaging with the metaverse is on track to becoming a seamless and compelling experience that attracts more users to digital worlds.
With that in mind, today we are focusing on the metaverse gear that you might be looking into having to make the best out of this technology.
What Is The Metaverse
As it stands, the metaverse is a broad term that extends across many different ideas and technologies. However, to put it simply, the metaverse is better understood as a new layer of reality that integrates elements of the real world and virtual environments. In practice, it is an immersive virtual environment built by means of various technologies, such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Once fully realized, the metaverse will be a space where people can interact with each other, work, study and have a social life through their lifelike 3D avatars.
In other words, the main idea behind these virtual worlds is that users won’t be just observers but an active part of their digital experiences, in a way that can be seen as the evolution of the internet-based life we currently have. Given its potential, the metaverse has become a massive trend that has taken the world by storm, transforming the approach we have to technology and the digital lives we could have in the future.
What Is Metaverse Technology?
There are many different technologies that go into creating the metaverse. Thanks to tech advancements in the fields of virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, holography, data storage and management, and telecommunications, a concept that was first introduced in 1992’s “Snow Crash” sci-fi novel is now slowly coming to life.
Most of us will have already come into contact with some elements of the metaverse even without realizing and while doing routine things like playing games, getting in touch with friends online, taking part in virtual events, and much more. As a digital universe, the metaverse will build on top of those experiences and enhance them with cutting edge emerging technology.
So what are they? Let’s break it down into sectors:
Extended Reality (XR)
Extended reality extends across VR, AR and MR, as well as all future immersive technologies that enable an extension of reality while blending virtual graphics with real-world elements. Such technologies include, for example, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G network. XR covers the full spectrum of real and virtual environments.
To sum it all up, by using extended reality (XR), people are able to visit virtual environments and engage in experiences in an immersive and interactive way that can realistically match what they can access in the real world. This is the main idea behind the metaverse and why extended reality is crucial to make it all work.
They are the touchpoint between the users and the metaverse, while also being the interface that makes entering the metaverse possible. There are different categories of devices associated with the metaverse smartphones being the one that we’re most familiar with. Yes, your phones will let you engage with metaverse-like environments, but expect to face very limited immersion and interaction. For a full-scale experience, most users will have to invest in a VR headset and other gadgets like haptic gloves. We’ll get into it in just a bit.
Telecom, Computing and Network Infrastructures
No surprise here, you do need an internet connection to enter the metaverse, but not just any connection. For the metaverse to really take off, it will be essential to have powerful and high-speed networks that can support uninterrupted and persistent virtual worlds that millions (or even billions) of users can visit at the same time. An important step towards this goal is the global adoption of 5G technology, which still remains relatively low as of 2022. In parallel, there are many other supporting technologies that need to experience significant breakthroughs including edge, spatial and cloud computing technology, and many other systems that allow systems to perform demanding tasks like synchronization, motion capture, AI rendering, near real-time data reconciliation, etc. Lastly, there’s the issue of data usage, bandwidth consumption and internet traffic for which telecom companies have to find upgrades for their equipment, data centers and IT infrastructures.
AI has been one of the biggest bets of companies leading the metaverse race like Meta and Microsoft. Meta in particular has announced big ambitions to build the world’s most advanced AI supercomputer aimed at creating the next generation of AI algorithms. This technology is poised to become a crucial element of virtual worlds, whether from being integrated into avatars and supporting reactive environments to being used to generate original (AI) content. Sensorium Galaxy, for example, has not pioneered the concept of social AI avatars but is also deploying generative AI in music settings.
Sustaining the metaverse requires immense computing power. Whether for real-time 3D rendering, minting tokens, operating deep learning models, creating, storing, analyzing or transmitting data, microchips are a key building block that allows virtual worlds to be fully realized.
Metaverse Gear: Must-Haves You Should Know About
Let’s hope you’re ready to enter the metaverse - or that you’re at least interested. First thing you need to do is get yourself the right props. The good news is that you don’t need to shell out big bucks to really enjoy yourself in a virtual world. There are plenty of metaverse devices that you can start experimenting with today to enter this exciting world.
Yes, as simple as that. Your phone is more than enough to get you started in the metaverse. Of course, there are some considerations to take into account such as the current capabilities of your device and whether the metaverse platforms you’d like to try out even have a mobile app on offer. Fortunately, the most popular metaverses, including The Sandbox and Axie Infinity, are compatible with smartphones. Expecting a boom in users interested in dabbling in virtual worlds, leading smartphone companies are making a push to incorporate next generation chips into their devices.
With your smartphone alone, you’ll be able to do things like playing metaverse games and experiment with augmented reality experiences. However, there are some drawbacks of choosing a smartphone over more advanced equipment. To begin with, a smartphone’s display will work just fine when looking at an image up to an arm’s length distance, but the same won’t happen if you need to have it way closer to your eyes (as some metaverse experiences might require). There’s also a challenge when it comes to current display technologies not being bright or advanced enough to enable a clear rending of AR images.
2. Computer (PC)
Most of us will have a smartphone and - just as easily - a computer. Given how new and unexplored the technology still is, it’s easy to rush to the conclusion that a high tech gadget is needed to navigate the metaverse. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. A computer will be just fairly effective for some types of functionalities.
However, as the metaverse evolves so will the need for computers to be fitted with increasingly powerful graphics processors to keep up with computing power required to keep up with the pace of innovation. Intel, one of the world’s biggest chipmakers, has predicted that “a 1,000x increase in power is needed over our current collective computing capacity”, while also highlighting the need for better computing, storage and networking infrastructures that aren’t currently able to meet the needs associated with running the metaverse.
What exact specs should you be looking at? Hard to specify as each metaverse has its own requirements. Our advice is that you check the information released by your metaverse of choice.
3. AR Glasses
Augmented Reality is a technology that many of us will be already familiar with. Apps like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok offer a wide selection of AR filters that have proved popular with users all over the world. AR glasses will be an extension of that, enhancing digital experiences and acting as an entry point to the metaverse.
Mark Zuckerberg explained the benefits of AR glasses by predicting that consumers will “move across [digital] experiences on different devices — augmented reality glasses to stay present in the physical world, virtual reality to be fully immersed, and phones and computers to jump in from existing platforms. This isn’t about spending more time on screens; it’s about making the time we already spend better.”
Meanwhile, Nokia, which builds telecoms networks that enable devices to communicate with one another has forecast that 6G mobile networks will be in operation by the end of the decade - and that consumers will move away from using smartphones to using smart glasses and other devices that are worn on the face to access this type of internet connections.
With the idea of letting people enjoy the best of both worlds – the real world and the virtual world – at the same time, many companies have developed such glasses:
The tech giant was among the first to lead research and investment into smart wearables, having released its first pair of smart glasses - Google Glass - in 2014. These glasses are mostly geared towards enterprise settings, helping increase workplace multitasking and productivity. This year, Google announced that it’s developing AR glasses with a focus on helpful features such as live language translation.
Snap’s latest version of its line of smart glasses, known as Spectacles, and the first to boast AR features. Snap first introduced Spectacles for recording short videos in 2016 but the company has struggled to woo consumers. The hope is that new Spectacles will help change the tide. Users can see virtual digital objects overlaid on the scene in front of them. The new AR glasses have dual waveguide displays capable of superimposing AR effects made with Snapchat’s software tools. The frame also features four built-in microphones, two stereo speakers, and a built-in touchpad. Front-facing cameras help the glasses detect objects and surfaces, while being able to react “quickly and appear accurately within the field of view,” according to Snap.
This American startup recently unveiled its next generation of augmented reality glasses for enterprise applications - the Magic Leap 2. The lenses have been billed as the “most advanced platform for immersive AR”. After much criticism following the release of the first set in 201, Magic Leap 2 comes with significant technical improvements and it's also more comfortable to wear. And while the new headset is intended primarily for business use, the company has emphasized that it intends to make it available wider markets.
The Hololens is Microsoft's take on augmented reality, which the company refers to as “mixed reality”. These lenses let users interact with mixed reality via holographic projections that effectively make manipulating virtual objects possible . Using multiple sensors, advanced optics, and holographic processing, digital projections can be seamlessly blended with a real world environment. This mixed reality headset is primarily targeted at enhancing workplace collaboration and productivity, so we might have to wait a while to see a product that regular consumers can also benefit from.
In addition to AR glasses, many tech giants such as Meta and Apple have entered the race for smart wearables, which add technology to play audio, record image and video, as well as command AI assistants. Meta’s collaboration with Ray-Ban are an example of it
4. VR Headset
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets are the piece of metaverse gear you really want to have if you’re planning on getting the best out of your experience in virtual worlds. More than phones and AR glasses, virtual reality headsets will enable fully immersive and interactive experiences. The technology already exists, but it has faced many challenges that have made its mass adoption a distance reality for now.
Usage of these headsets is low due to a number of factors, from the high cost of such gear to the low number of applications it currently presents. Another significant issue has to do with how heavy most gadgets are to wear, which becomes an uncomfortable experience for users and it means that trips to the metaverse have to be done for small periods of time. In addition, users may also face some side effects of using this technology like dizziness and motion sickness. The good news is that tech companies have made breakthroughs that have seen great improvements to the headsets, including improving weight, battery time, and removing the need to plug the devices to a computer.
The market for AR and VR headsets has surged in recent years. In 2021, it grew 92% to over 11 million units, according to data from IDC.
And while Meta’s Quest 2 headset continues dominating the VR technology market, with about 78% of sales in 2021, there are many other VR headsets worth taking a look at.
This headset is a safe and reliable entry point for any VR world, without breaking the bank. For the price tag of just $300, you'll get one of the most complete VR experiences currently available, including super high resolution (1832 x 1920 pixel display for each eye), wireless features, ultra accurate motion tracking and compatibility with PC VR. Unlike many of its rivals, the wireless device does not require any PC connection and runs apps and games natively, making it a safe and easy to use choice.
This VR headset is one of the newest on the market and boasts one of the highest resolutions currently available, with 2448 x 2448 pixels per eye, totalling 4896 x 2448 visible pixels. This means that you can count on having a truly stunning VR experience that will keep you glued to whatever virtual adventure you’re having. Critics have hailed the impressiveness of the graphics during gaming sessions in particular. On top of that, HTC also has used a dual-stack lens design which will give you a more realistic view of the metaverse and help you achieve a ‘true' 120-degree field of view.
If you're willing to go all in, Valve Index offers perhaps the best VR experience out there (in exchange for $999 of your money, of course). In addition to the actual headset, Valve has received much praise for its controllers that can take virtual reality experiences to a level of immersiveness way ahead of the competition.
5. VR Gloves
The metaverse is meant to engage all of your five senses so as to make your virtual experiences as close to what you get in the real world as possible.
And while we’re still a long way from seeing that happening, there’s no doubt that some gadgets can help you enhance your experiences in the metaverse, especially when it comes to achieving haptic feedback and having a tactile sensor that can transform your sense of presence in digital worlds. Virtual reality gloves (also called haptic gloves) will let you have real contact with a virtual reality environment and the virtual objects you may find within it. In short, you can touch and feel meta interfaces. Essentially, these types of gloves use actuators and motors to attempt to replicate the resistance you feel when gripping an object. Meta's Reality Labs is also behind ReSkin, a new flexible tactile sensing solution capable of boosting the development of the metaverse.
When you use this type of glove technology and enter a VR or AR experience, the gadget’s control system will adjust to the object you're trying to touch by creating pressure on different parts of your hand and fingertips. These gloves will let you feel the sensation of truly coming into contact with an object as you would in the real world. Coupled with visual and spatial audio cues, it helps create the illusion of physical touch.
In addition to leading the VR headset market, Meta has also teased its own line of haptic gloves (the Reality Labs haptic gloves), but there are many other VR gloves currently available like HaptX and Sensory X.
6. Wrist-Based VR Bands
If you’re inclined to wear a glove to track your movements in the metaverse, you might consider a much simpler piece of gear like a VR wristband that can keep tabs on the fingers. Meta is, again, a forerunner in offering this new type of devices and has explained that its wristband interprets the user's hand movements via a cluster of sensors that detect motor-nerve signals.
Users will be able to navigate virtual environments by touching their index finger and thumb together to perform a "click" on the device. Meta has also revealed that the band’s system has the ability to not only detect hand movements but also adapt to the individual behaviors of its users by using machine learning to predict their likes, dislikes and other interests, in real time.
All in all, wrist-based VR bands are a great gadget that not only is easier to carry with you but it will also help you interact with the metaverse in a more comfortable and effortless way.