Personal Contemplation from AWE 2021

by Alan Smithson

Every year, AWE USA brings together the most forward-thinking adventurous pioneers of a new technology colloquially known as the metaverse. After this year’s show (Nov 9-11), I stayed in the San Francisco Bay Area where I starred at the ocean in Pacifica, CA, contemplating the massive amount of technology that I was privileged to see. These and other XR technologies will revolutionize how we communicate as humans in a new era. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility and an overwhelming feeling that each of us is contributing in a small way in the vast ocean that is technology.

With a never-ending fight for our attention, social media platforms and productivity apps have created addicts of everyone by making us crave little red dots on our devices…begging for our immediate focus and response, but getting very little of our focused attention. In a world of always-on visual stimulation, we must be very careful to avoid creating mental distractions. We must be mindful that we leverage the power of XR wisely and try to avoid the little red dots that create addicts, and replace them with carefully-thought content and tools that create contributing members of society.

The future belongs to all of us, including but not limited to creators, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, developers, educators, students, investors and institutions. Without their contributions, we are nothing but cogs in the machine. We must fight for an open and interoperable metaverse, and we must allow everyone to participate and be rewarded for their contributions fairly.

XR Talks: Metaverse, Shmetaverse

Binding Force

AWE 2021 comes at a time when the world is opening up. And yet so many people are still without access to the internet, the one part of this planet that brings us all together. It is unbelievable in 2021 to think that some people are not connected to the fundamental binding force of the new economic engine of the planet — while we plan for the next phase, the metaverse. It is vital that we strive to give others access to the digital world and access to technology that will have profound impacts on the near and far world that we live in.

We must provide access, not only to share ‘gramable’ moments (which I love), but also to share the wonders of our planet and the challenges ahead with a population rapidly on its way to 8 billion. We can show the next generation of plastic minds the real-world implications of ignoring climate change or what it’s like to be displaced. And at the same time, we can  show the myriad technologies available to everyone that can create immediate solutions (AI, Blockchain, XR, Molecular Genetics, IOT, 5G, etc.).

Name of the Game

Web-based, low-code tools like MetaVRse Engine are coming online, that will leverage powerful new technologies combined with unique features that make it easier for anyone to participate in creating solutions in XR. Creating value as quickly as possible in this new world order is the name of the game.

I truly truly believe that we have an opportunity to be the stewards of the next generation of pioneers, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and technologists. We can accomplish this by offering tools that are open, interoperable, and accessible on all devices. Using real-time communication systems, we can offer one-to-one and one-to-many learning that’s orders of magnitude more effective than current 2D, passive systems.

Creators are the cornerstone of the metaverse, and we can all be creators. This is possible if the reward systems allow everyone to not only participate, but also to make a living using the technology in ways that liberates and prepares us for exponential growth across every sector.

We are at the beginning of a new cultural revolution that has many buzzwords associated; Blockchain, NFT, Crypto, Web3, Virtual World, Avatar, Spatial Computing, XR. The only name that matters now is that all of these together belong to the metaverse.

It is one thing to buy 3D NFT art and look at it on your phone or your computer. It’s another thing to put on a headset and have that art adorn your house or bring your friends into your virtual space and share this experience with them. Taking it to an even further level, it’s quite another thing to be able to put on haptic gloves and reach out and touch and feel virtual objects as if they are real. We’re getting very close to having the ability to hijack many of the senses needed to give people unbelievable experiences that are unforgettable. These are the technologies I experienced at AWE 2021.

XR Talks: Jumpstarting the Geo-Spatial Web

“I Was There”

As I think about my time at AWE 2021, I realized how blessed we all are to be living in a time when we can say “I was there when this technology was in its infancy before the boom of the metaverse. I was there at AWE 2021 and I am making a difference, and building on what I’ve learned to share with the world in a responsible and ethical way. I am taking on the responsibility of being a steward of this incredibly powerful technology and sharing it with the world so that everyone has access to this technology and everyone has access to the power of the metaverse.”

To summarize my time at Augmented World Expo 2021, I can say this I got to watch 5 synchronized Hololenses. I saw light fields with infinite holograms. I touched virtual raindrops. I felt a remote punch in the stomach. I got to play a holographic 3D interactive board game. I received my Burning Man name “Sassy Lover.” I got to play drums in a German urban park. I fixed a wire harness from an airplane. I saw full view human FOV and human eye resolution virtual and augmented reality. I got to create my own experiences, and I even got to see someone walking in Ekto Boots….and all of this in 3 days.

AWE is a glimpse into the future that is ready for prime time. And from the private conversations I had with industry leaders, the uptake of this technology at scale is upon us.

My final message is this: don’t wait for someone else’s future to be forced upon you. Build your own future using the tools available right now, and do so in a way that serves humanity well. We are just a drop in the ocean, but our contributions can make ripple effects that make a global impact.

Alan Smithson is co-founder of MetaVRse. A version of this article first appeared on his Medium, contributed here with permission.

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