Digital Frontiers: Identity Verification for the Metaverse
It’s coming! Or rather it’s already here! The metaverse, that is.
Perhaps, the first time you noticed it was when Mark Zuckerberg announced at Facebook Connect 2021 that it would be rebranding to Meta. According to Zuckerberg, Meta has intentions to welcome its nearly 3 billion users into the metaverse. From Meta’s website:
“The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company’s vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future.”
Zuckerberg leads FB Connect 2021, a highly recommended, feature-film length, metaverse-like experience on what Meta has planned for the metaverse. Zuckerberg and some select coworkers and friends cover various concepts of the metaverse such as the feeling of presence. Instead of staring at a 2-dimensional screen you will be totally immersed in a 3D digital experience. Mark’s team continue by discussing other likely aspects of the metaverse such as the use of avatars, homespaces / workspaces, teleportation around the metaverse, interoperability, privacy and safety, virtual goods and natural interfaces.
It is clear that screens are not very good at delivering the feeling of presence. After two years of primarily connecting with colleagues, friends and family through screens, many of us are suffering from Zoom burnout. The metaverse will change this by allowing us to connect with one another through VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality), or immersive tech, as it is also referred to.
Meta is already hard at work on improving the technologies that will be partial to the metaverse. At the FB Connect event, Zuckerberg interviews Michael Abrash of Meta, wherein he pinpoints 13 different areas that the company is currently focused on. The objective is to make these areas all the more immersive for the user: including displays, audio, input, haptics, hand tracking, eye tracking, mixed reality, sensors, graphics, computer vision, avatars, perceptual science, and AI.
Due to time constraints, Zuckerberg and Abrash focus on avatars as one of the more important areas in development. Given that the metaverse will foremost be a social place, Abrash highlights the importance of avatar safety in the metaverse. Given that individuals will be interacting with one another’s realistic avatar in virtual reality in real time, Abrash suggests that preventing others from using your avatar will be critical. Some ideas are presented as to how to secure one’s avatar and whether or not this will be accomplished by tying it to an authenticated account via some form of identity verification.
Identity verification lies at the heart of what we do at PXL Vision. Our enterprise IDV technology is industry proven and scalable (with no real upper limit of how many people it can verify at once). So, to Meta and its 3 billion users, we’ve got you covered!
The metaverse is about to boom!
Of course, the metaverse is not only a project from Meta, but one platform of many. The metaverse will be a digital network of worlds built by a variety of companies/creators. Though, given the forward-sightedness of Zuckerberg and his affinity for new technologies (did you know that Meta owns Oculus?), he will almost certainly be one of the biggest players in the space.
The idea or concept of the metaverse is not new. In fact, the term dates back to the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, wherein the novel’s characters spend much of their time as avatars in a digital world called the “Metaverse”. In real life, Stephenson is now the chief futurist at virtual/augmented reality start-up Magic Leap. Which, as an interesting sidenote, purchased the 3D division from Dacuda, where the founders of PXL Vision first met and worked together.
The first successful metaverse platform is widely considered to have been 2003’s Second Life. The game no longer enjoys the popularity that it once did, though it still exists. The CEO of Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, recently said that there were about 900 000 monthly active users (MAU). In comparison, a more contemporary metaverse platform, Roblox, has about 200 million MAU. No worries if you haven’t heard of Roblox yet - most of its users are under 25 years of age.
Interestingly, Roblox has received a lot of criticism over the years for exploiting the very demographic that makes up its userbase. Users create their own games on the Roblox platform and are able to earn Robux when other users pay to play those games. However, the issue of underpaid (essentially unpaid) labour arises when users want to cash out their Robux for real world fiat, wherein the exchange rate is highly skewed towards the company.
This could be why the biggest boom in the metaverse might come from the numerous crypto/NFT gaming platforms currently vying for digital attention. The decentralized principle of blockchain projects could bring more economic fairness to gaming in the metaverse. Concepts such as proof of ownership, transfer of value, interoperability, governance and uniqueness of collectibles (NFTs) all rank as important factors for a metaverse built by the people for the people. Some of the top contenders in this space are: Decentraland, Bloktopia, The Sandbox, Enjin Star Atlas and Sky Mavis.
Most of the above-mentioned crypto companies are building out metaverse platforms for playing games. Gaming in the metaverse, and especially play to earn games (which rely on crypto NFTs), is becoming evermore popular. Sky Mavis’s Axie Infinity, a Pokémon style game made in Vietnam, is leading the pack right now, which according to their website has traded more than $3.5 billion on their in-house marketplace. A special report from the CNBC visited the Philippines, which has many Axie Infinity players, noted that some households were able to sustain their daily needs and pay off their debts through the game!
All play and no work makes Jack a poor boy
Besides gaming, people will also work in the metaverse with Microsoft leading the pack with its offering of Mesh for Microsoft Teams. Working in the metaverse will almost certainly improve the home office standard of flat-screen video calls. Colleagues will have the chance to connect in the metaverse at a digital water cooler and feel the presence of one another.
After work there will also be the opportunity to go shopping in the metaverse. As with crypto gaming, NFTs will provide the backbone of commerce in the metaverse, where people will be able to sell both digital and physical goods. There are already a few upstarts for shopping in the metaverse such as H&M and Samsung which has recently opened a store in Decentraland.
Trust in the metaverse
What exactly the metaverse will look like is not entirely certain yet because we are only in its beginning stages. But first concepts are being mapped out and development in the area is accelerating.
There is a vocal minority in the business world who think the metaverse is a terrible idea. Various posts on LinkedIn reveal this. One post in particular, is a picture of the human pods from the Matrix with a caption implying that it is Mark Zuckerberg’s idea for the metaverse.
Most of the Team at PXL Vision thinks the metaverse is a wonderful technological development. We live and breathe tech after all! However, it is also our mission to bring trust and safety to the internet and, of course, the metaverse, which just might succeed it.