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Bridging Realities: Active and Passive Participation in the Metaverse featured

Bridging Realities: Active and Passive Participation in the Metaverse 

By Author: Team Agora In Business, Developer

For visions of a vibrant metaverse to thrive in a fragmented device ecosystem, asymmetrical designs are required. This opens up the door to ubiquitous availability, allowing a sense presence for all users regardless of the mechanisms that they use to interact within and across virtual worlds—ultimately driving metaverse adoption. Given the challenges and potential of cross-platform ubiquity, real-time engagement technology is poised to be the linchpin in these interactions.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how both active and passive metaverse users play crucial roles in building a truly interconnected and vibrant ecosystem of online communities that span across physical and virtual worlds.

Active and Passive Participation

Similar to how social media obliterated the barriers to online presence, the metaverse is democratizing 3D digital space creation. But there’s an underlying distinction—where social media could afford to offer relatively uniform experiences, metaverse adoption will thrive on variability across devices.

For users venturing into these virtual worlds, the experience bifurcates into two primary modes: active and passive. In the active mode, users, through devices like VR headsets, high-end PCs, or gaming consoles, control avatars, offering an experience that parallels physical presence. These avatars can roam the digital landscapes, engage in activities, and communicate through spatial voice chat, replicating the real-world dynamics in a virtual setting.

However, the experience’s depth is often contingent on the device’s capability. High-tier VR systems deliver unparalleled immersion but come with financial implications. Conversely, more accessible devices might compromise the sensory experience, leading to disparities in the user experience.

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Source: Photo by Kelvin Han on Unsplash

On the flip side, passive engagement offers a spectator’s lens. In this mode, users, equipped with just a screen and internet connection, can engage with events in the metaverse with limited avatar mobility, or from a virtual camera’s perspective. In the most constrained scenarios, they might simply communicate with select users in the virtual world via voice or text chat. While they might not have the immersive experience of avatar control, they are also not merely bystanders. They are real-time participants along with their digital peers.

The challenge lies in balancing these experiences. While the metaverse’s inherent variability offers diverse avenues for engagement, it also risks creating a chasm between high-end and entry-level experiences. We must recognize that users will oscillate between active and passive modes based on convenience and their present context. Crafting experiences that cater to both modalities will ensure comprehensive outreach. And, ultimately, greater adoption of this new paradigm.

Passive Interactions

To dig into this further, let’s expand on the role of the passive user.  Consider these real-world analogies to appreciate their potential influence in the metaverse:

  • Virtual Observers: Picture a monumental virtual gala, akin to the Oscars or a fashion show. Active users, as avatars, grace the red carpet, engage in conversations, and receive awards. Meanwhile, passive users watch this spectacle through live-streamed virtual cameras, changing angles, zooming in for close-ups, or panning out for a comprehensive view. They might even have the ability to “like” or “applaud,” sending ripples of reactions across the virtual landscape.
  • Communicators: Envision a vast virtual academic conference. Eminent avatar-professors deliver lectures and present papers. Passive users, meanwhile, use chat functionalities to send questions, feedback, or even hold sidebar discussions. Although not dissimilar to video conferencing experiences, the affordances of a 3D virtual space enable these users to engage in varied discussions across the virtual space without having to “exit” the room.
  • Signal Senders: Consider a virtual game show. Active users, as contestant avatars, face challenges, showcase talents, and form alliances. Passive users could vote for challenges, rate performances, or send virtual gifts as tokens of appreciation. Their collective decisions dynamically alter the game environment and influence avatar standings.

If each of these passive user roles sound like digitized versions of real-world experiences, that is precisely the point. The rise of social media in the last 20 years shaped a generation that in turn has strived to shape the world to better fit with the available technology. But, what of the next 20 years?

The widespread adoption of platforms like Minecraft and Roblox points to a future where digital worlds are themselves infinitely varied simulations of real-world social interactions. This, of course, is not a newly observed user behavior. It is, however, much more prevalent among younger generations than ever before. And, as builders, we must ask, how might we enable these metaverse natives to communicate and collaborate in real-time?

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Example: Web user streaming voice and video into an Unreal Engine virtual world, powered by Agora

Agora, Real-Time Engagement Infrastructure for the Metaverse

Enter Agora’s suite of Real-Time Engagement solutions, perfectly tuned to bridge the divides in the metaverse’s fragmented device landscape:

  • Agora’s Interactive Live Streaming SDK is a robust platform that enables thousands, even millions, of users to witness events simultaneously, and engage directly with the action, regardless of their location.
  • The Voice Call SDK with 3D Spatial Audio capabilities introduces a more immersive layer, enabling users, regardless of their mode of participation, to engage in spatially-aware audio chats.
  • Agora’s Chat SDK ensures that users, especially the passive ones, can still actively participate through text-based conversations, share their insights, or even just connect with others in the digital realm. It is an invaluable tool to foster community across platforms.

Altogether, Agora’s infrastructure can help build a metaverse that is as intricate and engaging as our imaginations.

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Learn more: The Sandbox partners with Agora to power next-gen social interactions in the metaverse.

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