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A Slight Divergence: Part I
Digital Humans and the Metaverse
I’ve been having an email exchange with someone at UneeQ - a company that creates digital humans, also known as digital influencers. These are very lifelike 3D representations of human faces that employ artificial intelligence (AI) to interact with users.
I began talking to UneeQ at a webinar they hosted entitled, “Mapping Your Journey Into the Metaverse.” Some thought leaders at companies such as Dell, Digitas, HH Global, and of course UneeQ were there, talking about the future of the Metaverse and what it will take to create it. I was less than impressed.
First of all, the Metaverse is already alive and thriving. I know because I’ve been taking part in it for more than 15 years now. I have lived (yes lived) and worked in a wide range of worlds including Second Life, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Animal Crossing, the Sims, AltSpaceVR, Open Sim, Skyrim, and Kitely. I also belong to groups and attend conferences focused on defining and evolving the Metaverse.
The thing that’s missing is a way to seamlessly connect and move between all worlds regardless of their focus and function, while still maintaining each world’s unique attributes. But that’s a topic for another discussion. My point is that the Metaverse does not need to be created. It already exists.
But the second thing that bothered me was the emphasis on profit. These company reps seemed to believe that the Metaverse isn’t worth investing in unless there is a way to make money. Well, you know me. I would argue just the opposite is true - that we need the Metaverse to help us take down walls and create community through interactive and immersive stories, creative collaboration, and problem-solving. Not only will these virtual environments help heal some of humanity’s deepest wounds but they can encourage us to find solutions to the many and complex problems we face as well.
AND, just to make the money makers happy, let me remind them that people pay for what they love. When environments in the Metaverse are compelling and useful enough people, will pay to take part in them. How do I know? Because I have worked for and been paid by organizations such as The National Library of Medicine, US Bank, Johns Hopkins, Smith&Nephew, and the US Army to build and test these environments. There IS money to be made, just not with the traditional business model so many companies are stuck in.
What’s needed are investments in the tech, research, and commitments to human-centered experiences that do more than try to sell goods and services. Virtual realities are uniquely positioned to offer story-driven, immersive, and interactive learning spaces that can help us grow as a species as well as discover new ways to make and spend money.
Stay tuned for Part II of “A Slight Digression,” as my refusal to talk with UneeQ’s digital human, Kate (see above) eventually landed me in an ongoing discussion with one of their flesh and blood human beings - a guy I’ll call Stan.
Copyright 2022 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.