You’ve likely heard the term metaverse ad nauseum. The term amplified when metaverse underwriter Meta (née Facebook) changed its corporate identity. As the latest tech-world buzzword, metaverse has become a runaway train in the gaming and VR worlds.

But though it’s been rendered almost meaningless through overuse, it does represent legitimate principles. For example, beyond digital domains like gaming, immersive content will overlay the physical world to enable AR devices to evoke relevant and geo-anchored content.

This was the topic of a panel we moderated at Localogy 2021 last month in L.A.. Foursquare showed us how its location database can enable geo-relevant AR, while Epic Games wants its Unreal Engine to be the go-to platform for metaverse creation….starting with Fortnite.

Featuring Epic Games’ Rafaella Camera and Foursquare’s Ankit Patel, the session is the focus of this week’s XR Talks, with embedded video and summarized takeaways below.

XR Talks: Metaverse 101

The Metavearth

Stepping back, the term metaverse broadly refers to digital domains that host time-synchronous interaction between place-shifted participants. The key is real-time digital interaction between far-flung individuals. You could argue that’s what the internet is, and you’d be right.

The difference with the metaverses is that it’s “embodied”, as Mark Zuckerberg says. That’s a fancy way of saying it happens in 3D. We can point to metaverse-like fiefdoms today as examples, including MMOs like Fornite, Roblox, and Minecraft; or VR experiences like Altspace.

But again, the metaverse has two tracks. In addition to online game-like experiences, there will be a real-world metaverse (or “metavearth”) for digital content that brings physical places to life. This track is actually more fitting to the Greek root “meta” which means beyond.

Use cases will include local search, navigation, and discovery. Rather than typing local search terms, the idea is to hold up your phone with Google Lens or Snap Scan to see geo-anchored annotations. Use cases could include education, entertainment, or shopping & commerce.

Who Will Build the Metavearth?

The Next SEO?

But for all of the above to materialize, it will be all about data and devices to render content. The latter will include smartphones today and AR glasses tomorrow. As for data, it will come together through myriad signals such as device sensors (IMU bundle) and location data.

And that’s where Foursquare comes in. Not only will it continue to support location-aware apps and targeted mobile advertising, but also local commerce’s next era of visual search. And it’s already gotten started given its Marsbot experiment to power audio-AR experiences.

To define that, audio AR whispers location-intelligent cues in your ear. It sidesteps the cost and style crimes of AR glasses, relying instead on an established hardware base of AirPods. Marsbot utilizes Foursquare’s database of 105 million places for an audio-AR local discovery engine.

Back to visual AR, businesses can prepare by being “metaverse ready,” says Camera. This means having 3D models of your products, and other optimization to be present and prominent in the metaverse. If that sounds familiar, it’s like today’s SEO playbook, but more dimensional.

We’ll pause there and cue the full video below…

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