Summary: In part one of this three-part blog series, we explore how Agora’s intelligent global network for building scalable, low-latency, Real-Time Engagement (RTE) solutions can help overcome the challenges of connectivity and interoperability and enable ubiquitous availability.
Proponents of the metaverse envision a simultaneous shared virtual space created by the convergence of the internet and the physical world; a hypothetical future version of the internet where users can interact with each other and with virtual objects in a seamless, immersive manner, across a vast number of interconnected virtual worlds and phygital (i.e., internet of things and extended reality) experiences. While this is a compelling vision, it presents a number of connectivity, interoperability, and design challenges that we must overcome before any such system can manifest with widespread adoption.
In part one of this three-part blog series, we explore how Agora’s intelligent global network for building scalable, low-latency, Real-Time Engagement (RTE) solutions can help overcome the challenges of connectivity and interoperability by enabling ubiquity; sense of presence from any platform.
Part 1 – Ubiquitous Availability
As of 2023, destinations in the nascent metaverse remain fragmented; interoperability standards have yet to mature, and developers continue to experiment with (1) iterating on the designs of real-time rendered virtual spaces that enable embodied interactivity, and (2) extending physical spaces into the digital realm with XR (extended reality) technologies. This is consistent with the Gartner 2022 technology hype cycle, which indicates that the metaverse is currently at the innovation trigger stage of adoption and may not reach mainstream status for at least 10 more years.
Looking ahead, business leaders in the metaverse innovation space lead with questions on long-term sustainability, like: How many people can use these systems? What are the barriers to entry? How do you monetize these experiences? The specific answers to these questions will differ for entertainment, commercial and enterprise use cases, but they are nonetheless the common concerns of businesses experimenting with new customer acquisition channels. Ultimately, their top priority is achieving a critical mass of users with recurring monetization potential.
So, to reframe the problem, how can businesses in the metaverse reach a wider audience?
Reaching across platforms
To answer this question, we can look at the gaming industry’s ongoing economic success. Consider that, according to Newzoo’s 2022 global gaming report, the gaming industry will generate over $180 billion USD in 2022, roughly half of which will have come from the mobile games sector. These gains are driven by improvements in mobile internet connectivity and the proliferation of smartphones worldwide, which continues to rise despite inflation. Desktops and consoles certainly make a dent in those numbers, but are each individually dwarfed by the mobile ecosystem’s strengths with user acquisition and retention. This means that, for the foreseeable future, mobile devices are positioned to remain the primary access points into the digital realm.
Notably, small viewports and limited functionalities present a significant constraint to the immersive potential of virtual spaces. This might seem incongruent with the visions of densely populated, fully immersive worlds that kindle excitement for the metaverse. Yet, we should note that virtual spaces are still valuable as mechanisms for reaching consumers, regardless of how they might access those spaces. What we can learn from this is that metaverse adoption could be accelerated by embracing a medium agnostic approach for blending digital and physical spaces; in other words, device-independent, asymmetrical user experiences with a relative quality of experience across all major platforms. This begs a new question: How might a VR user, a PC user, and a mobile user co-exist within the virtual space and still perceive a similar sense of presence and agency? We will speak to the user experience component of this question in part three of this blog series and focus instead on cross-platform availability for now.
Tools for a new dimension
Purely digital, 2D experiences have long solved the problem of cross-platform availability. An Instagram or TikTok user on a browser can very well engage with their counterparts on native mobile applications without a hitch. This is true even for real-time event and collaboration applications like Conference Compass, which supports simultaneous users on both web and native applications. The native version offers access to device-specific features and functionalities that are unavailable on the web version. And, while the complete feature-set may vary between web and native, the core experience is appropriately represented for each type of user.
The key takeaway is that supporting both native and web applications, businesses can take advantage of the strengths of both platforms (deeper functionality and reach, respectively) and provide a more comprehensive and functional experience.
Similarly, it’s reasonable to expect that success in the emerging metaverse industry will rely on streamlined cross-platform accessibility that works seamlessly across PC and mobile native applications, as well as their respective web browsers. The difference is that coverage for metaverse applications necessitates real-time 3D rendering capabilities akin to those offered by game development engines.
As an example, Unity and the Unreal Engine are game development platforms that are widely utilized by teams focused on crafting such virtual spaces, even outside of the gaming industry. And, more importantly, projects from both engines can be published to the web using various techniques, like WebGL and Pixel Streaming. Indeed, Unity Technologies and Epic Games are already paving the way for ubiquity by prioritizing broad availability of service. These efforts, we predict, will maximize the adoption of the early metaverse.
The above indicates that there is a path forward for building metaverse experiences across platforms, leading a final question: how might we connect users in these experiences such that they can interact across a variety of devices in real-time?
Build for the future of real-time engagement today
Agora’s intelligent global network for building scalable, low-latency, RTE solutions was designed to work seamlessly across multiple platforms, including the Unity and Unreal engines. It is interoperable across devices and offers a range of key features to enhance digital communication and collaboration, including 3D spatial audio, metadata synchronization, and interactive live streaming into and out of virtual worlds. If reaching a wider audience is critical for the proliferation of the metaverse, Agora is the infrastructure that can enable the types of multimodal communications required to accomplish that goal.
Want to learn more? Our global team supports customers in over 100 countries and would love to answer your questions.
Stay tuned for part 2, where we will discuss the challenges with relative space in virtual environments, and how Agora’s 3D spatial audio and signaling solutions can help address them.
In the meantime, sign up for free to discover Agora’s potential for yourself.