Diego Di Tommaso is the COO and Co-Founder of OVER, an open-source, AR platform powered by Ethereum Blockchain.
When the metaverse and Web3 are discussed, we hear a lot about virtual reality (VR). Augmented reality (AR) rarely comes up in conversation, and the two are often mistaken as synonymous among non-technical audiences. More importantly, the clear distinction between the two emerging technologies have far-reaching implications for the future of the metaverse.
VR provides users with a completely artificial 3D environment in which they can interact using special equipment such as VR headsets, whereas AR is an integration of digital technology and the user’s physical environment. In short, AR users experience a fully immersive mixed medium experience with digital information overlaid on top of their real-world environment.
Until now, AR has merely been an afterthought in conversations surrounding the metaverse. However, AR is the missing key to the mass adoption of Web3 technologies.
A recent study found that 54% of experts predict that the metaverse will become a fully functioning feature of our everyday lives by 2040. In the same vein, a notable number of experts in the space envision that users will prefer a world with elements of “real” reality and that AR applications will become more widely used than VR for this reason.
In fact, part of the draw of AR lies in its simplicity: users require nothing more than a smartphone to experience this new digital environment. With Web3 sceptics citing inaccessibility as a barrier to adoption, AR has the potential to widen the metaverse’s user base, bringing in a broader stroke of users, without the burden of expensive equipment or technical know-how. Google’s plans to release new smart glasses mean a lot of growth in this area. Of course, it’s much more fashionable to wear a sleek pair of sunglasses than it is to carry around a clunky VR set.
For newcomers to the space, AR provides a more user-friendly experience as it does not change the user’s environment. Instead, it enhances it. The result is a more human experience with digital information assimilated into the physical world in real time, without losing touch with the physical environment the user is located in.
Beyond increasing accessibility to the metaverse, AR technology has a host of potential use cases spanning a range of industries.
In the field of education, for instance, AR can enable science students to examine cell structures up close. Without the need for bulky equipment, this technology can give them the ability to zoom in and out to appreciate the intricacies of cellular structures. Architecture students can view how their creations actually fit within the physical world. Suddenly, the adage “seeing is believing” becomes a reality. Students won’t need specialised rooms within universities to experience AR because a smartphone is the only requirement.
The advertising and retail sectors have already begun to reap the benefits of AR. In fact, a version of this technology has already been used by the Swedish DIY furniture giant IKEA through their smartphone-compatible app, IKEA Place. The app leverages AR to let users virtually place true-to-scale 3D furniture in their very own space before purchasing. Considering the merging of fashion, advertising, and retail with metaverse technology that took hold during Metaverse Fashion Week, we can be sure that when coupled with AR, the opportunities in this space are endless.
One industry where the metaverse is offering new, compelling experiences is gaming.
The introduction of blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) allows creators to design and trade in-game assets. Interoperability even allows players to bring these assets from one game to another. Incorporating AR into this mix creates a whole new realm of possibility by placing players into real, existing environments.
Pokemon GO was one of the first examples of this, taking gamers out of their living rooms into a version of reality that tracked their journeys in real time in the physical world. With AR, players in the metaverse can better examine the environments their characters are in whilst they come up with strategies to complete their quests.
AR facilitates inclusivity in the metaverse, fostering a more human-like user experience.
With a number of powerful benefits and use cases, it’s clear that integrating AR technology into the metaverse will bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds. At last, users will be able to enjoy the benefits of the metaverse without leaving the comfort of reality.