Today, “metaverse” has emerged as a buzzword in the information and communication technology sector, with key stakeholders trying to leverage opportunities in this domain. This new technology is expected to usher in an innovative era of connectivity that can be enhanced after the emergence of 5G services. However, a reliable and robust underlying communication network that can support low latency and high performance applications will be a must for leveraging opportunities in the metaverse space. In an interview with tele.net, Vikram Anand, senior sales director, Ciena India, discusses the impact of the metaverse on business processes, and how 5G and the edge are keys to the metaverse space…
Is “metaverse” just a buzzword? Is it new or is it describing emerging technologies that are already being adopted?
The ability for people to live, work and interact in a virtual space is not new. Even though the term metaverse may be new to many, the concepts and technologies involved in augmenting or replacing our day-to-day reality with a digitally enabled virtual world have been around for years. The enabling technologies behind the metaverse, such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and smart sensors, are already being used widely. However, it is important to note that neither the metaverse nor any of these technologies will work properly without a reliable and robust underlying communication network that can support low latency and high performance connectivity.
How will the metaverse transform business processes?
Paving the way for a new era in connectivity, the metaverse is a combination of two processes – VR and a digital second life. Accessed through AR tools and VR headsets, “Web 3.0”, as it is also sometimes called, is ushering in a new level of experiences wherein websites and apps will be able to process information in a smart, human-like way in real time using machine learning. Similarly, the metaverse can potentially transform many business processes and the working environment.
Some of the other benefits of VR and AR are that they will let those with disabilities or impaired mobility telecommute into the office, and may enhance face-to-face interactions for workers who are sight or hearing impaired. Everyone can be equal in the metaverse, because they will be represented by their avatar or digital twin (which can, but does not always have to, look like them in real life). AR will start playing a much bigger role for businesses that are making remote working a long-term fixture. Commuting costs can become a thing of the past as carbon footprints are reduced through reductions in travel. There will be no need to worry about the vaccination status of colleagues either.
Why is the network important to the metaverse?
While much of the attention is focused on the cloud aspects of the metaverse, let us not forget that it will not get off the ground until underlying communication networks are able to support it – not just for a few of us, but on a national and global scale. With 5G, these networks would allow us to connect to the cloud, bringing the metaverse to wherever we happen to be. Long-haul networks form the underlying fabric of interconnections that creates the cloud in the first place. Higher bandwidth and lower latency are also crucial to any concept of a metaverse.
Bandwidth is one thing, but if the avatar you are talking to takes several seconds to respond, then meta life is not so great. This is where the importance of low latency comes to the fore. Edge computing, or the concept of moving processing and compute closer to where it is being consumed, can reduce network latency and improve reliability. This will become increasingly important in networks that require real-time reaction, which is crucial to the metaverse experience.
How is 5G related to the metaverse?
The metaverse brings forth a new era of connectivity that can be enhanced by 5G. The higher bandwidth and speeds, and lower latency that 5G offers, would all work together and be crucial to any concept of a metaverse. VR and AR, the two key components of the metaverse, are dependent on powerful computers and specialised equipment that largely relies on data stored on the user’s side.
To achieve the more sophisticated level of a truly immersive metaverse and make it accessible to more people than a select few, fast streaming technology and low latency will be necessary. In India, while the metaverse may be aspirational, 5G networks are still essential to bringing this aspiration to reality, and thus it would be crucial for both the public and private sectors to allocate resources towards the impending 5G roll-out. Net, net, the combination of 5G networks with residential and business networks will be the ultimate enabler of the metaverse.