Combining the digital world with the physical world, metaverse became popular and gave birth to the virtual “parallel space”

A6021 illustration: the audience feels “metaverse” in the MR virtual experience hall. The interview object is for illustration

Remember the scene in the movie “the number one player”? Wearing VR glasses and joystick, the hero looks for hidden colored eggs in the “oasis”. It seems that this is “metaverse” – a virtual world parallel to the real world and infinitely close to the real world.

Recently, “metaverse” has suddenly become a hot word. 2021 is also known as “the first year of metaverse”. Facebook, NVIDIA, Microsoft and other well-known enterprises in the Internet and computer fields have announced their “entry” and started the relevant research and innovation of “metaverse”.

What is such a popular “metaverse”? What kind of “parallel world” will it give birth to?

What is “metaverse”

The concept of metaverse first appeared in the American writer Neil Stephenson’s science fiction avalanche in 1992. The novel depicts a virtual digital world parallel to the real world – “Yuanjie”. People in the real world have a virtual avatar in the “meta world”. People compete with each other to improve their status by controlling this virtual avatar.

In March 2021, Robles, known as the first share of “metaverse”, was officially listed in New York; In October, Facebook, an American social media giant, announced its name change to meta (“Yuan”); On the eve of the fourth China International Import Expo, Microsoft announced that it would introduce “metaverse” on social platforms and game platforms

In fact, the current scientific and technological circles do not have a recognized authoritative definition of metaverse, but the academic and industrial circles generally agree that metaverse itself is not a technology, but an idea and concept. It needs to integrate different new technologies, such as 5g, 6G, artificial intelligence, big data, etc.

According to the relevant person in charge of Microsoft, in the process of accelerating the digital transformation of enterprises, “metaverse” can let people meet in the digital environment, and let people communicate with each other more freely from all corners of the world with the help of digital avatars and more creative ways of cooperation. “The essence of ‘metaverse’ is to let users live, work and play in the interconnected virtual world through a series of new applications integrating the virtual environment, and combine the digital world and the physical world. From ‘digital twin’, ‘hybrid reality’ to artificial intelligence, metaverse is not only a new medium, but also a new application type.”

So how far is “metaverse” from us? A considerable number of enterprises and academics pointed out that the “metaverse” industry as a whole is still in its early stage and there are many uncertainties. Data security, regulatory review and other issues also need forward-looking research.

Digital transformation under epidemic situation

After the outbreak of COVID-19, businesses are responding to hitherto unknown changes. Remote collaboration replaces business trips and face-to-face meetings, code scanning payment replaces cash and card swiping, and online shopping and express meal delivery enable people to consume as usual without leaving home. The rapid rise and popularization of digital technology not only accelerates the development and innovation of digital economy, but also accelerates the digital transformation of enterprises and organizations of all walks of life and different sizes.

In November this year, at Microsoft’s annual “ignite” conference, Microsoft CEO Satya NADELLA shared the experience scenes in the mixed reality conference platform “mesh”. This is not only a new attempt of online conference triggered by the epidemic, but also one of the “metaverse” applications being explored and developed by Microsoft researchers.

The reporter saw that on the “mesh” platform, if participants don’t want to show their face, they can appoint their own 3D virtual avatar to “play”, and the appearance characteristics, words and deeds of this avatar can be “customized” according to their preferences. Not only that, “mesh” will move the face of “you” (3D avatar) sitting or standing in the conference room according to the voice prompt of your speech, just like a real person speaking. This new feature does not even require users to wear VR headsets.

At present, Microsoft is also building the function of translating and transcribing various languages, so that “mesh” can break the language barrier – people can meet colleagues from all over the world in the virtual space, and real-time translation will immediately appear on the screen. In addition to “meeting”, mesh will also provide a series of immersive spaces. Researchers can “display” product prototypes on the table or use whiteboards for document demonstration. After work, they can also “play” table tennis and aerobics in the activity room.

New social and entertainment experience

Wearing Mr glasses, the whitewashed venues will immediately turn into real rooms that are difficult to distinguish between true and false. Tables, chairs, beds and sofas are presented realistically, and even different decoration styles such as science fiction, warmth and art are exquisitely restored. In “metaverse”, the popular virtual anchor of station B, who can only appear in the barrage video as a two-dimensional cartoon image on weekdays, came to the players with a three-dimensional image for the first time

During this year’s BiliBili world offline carnival, Shangtang technology, headquartered in Xuhui, Shanghai, and BiliBili jointly built MR (hybrid virtual technology) virtual experience hall, bringing players to the “metaverse” created by “Ai + Mr”. Wearing Mr glasses, the popular virtual anchor of station B will come to the players with a three-dimensional image – this is one of the landing achievements of Shangtang Mars hybrid reality platform.

In the case of MR virtual experience hall, through the digital reconstruction of three-dimensional space, combined with AI technologies such as image and object recognition, the Mars hybrid reality platform can understand people, things and things in the scene, and then create a surreal interaction of virtual and real integration.

Professor Zhang Guofeng, deputy director of Zhejiang University Shangtang 3D vision joint laboratory and chief scientist of Mars hybrid reality platform, introduced that this platform is an underlying technology platform that integrates a variety of technologies. In addition to high-precision map construction and positioning technology, it also includes space computing, 3D digitization of object / human body, perceptual understanding, rendering and virtual real fusion presentation Human computer interaction technology and so on. It is the integration of multiple technologies that can create a real platform for the integration of virtual and real.

“Mars hybrid reality platform is the technology enabling platform of ‘metaverse’, which can help form the digital twin of the physical world, including the construction of maps, scenes and even virtual characters. This virtual world can correspond and register with the physical world. Combined with AI technology, we can interact with the virtual world in the real world and achieve the integration of virtual and real.” Zhang Guofeng told reporters, “the platform organically integrates the virtual and real world, and can create a ‘metaverse’ technology similar to the real world, which is also different from the completely virtual game world.”

In Zhang Guofeng’s vision, “metaverse” will realize the mixed reality of larger space in the future – at least a scene covering an entire city or even larger space, and can connect various terminals, not only mobile phones and smart glasses, but also robots, smart cars and other terminals. “Hybrid reality technology is the carrier of ‘metaverse’. Most of the popular hybrid reality applications are based on mobile phones, tablet computers and other devices, which is not very ideal from the perspective of experience. Large scale applications should still rely on the maturity and popularization of devices such as hybrid reality glasses, so as to truly integrate Mr into all aspects of people’s life and work.” He said.

Xinmin Evening News reporter Ma Dan Gao Yang