Sriram Thodla (Founder of Hypermatter) shared valuable industry insights on product development for the Metaverse, the role different technologies play, and their future.
‘To The Verge’ had an extremely informative and enlightening conversation with Sriram Thodla, founder of Hypermatter, an innovation and venture studio. They deal with various developments across different technologies to bring users an immersive and advanced experience on the web. Stay tuned till the end to know all about the discussion!
Heading From Web 1.0 to Web 3.0
With a passion for technology, a strong background in design, and 11 years of experience as a consultant, Sriram has seen the internet space evolve very closely. He explained the progression of this space thoroughly. The Internet 1.0 came in the 1990s. There were doubts and queries about how to use it. People struggled with modems, routers, connection to the phone line, dialing in, understanding the browser, and so on. There were software companies and various computer service providers. Finally, websites and webpages became the thing of the time.
Web 2.0 ushered in a shift towards interactive technology. Social networking companies took hold of the scene, and users participated in content creation through social networks. A decade later, smartphones with applications for different purposes rose to popularity. Now, developments in product designs continue to enhance user experience.
Thus, here we stand at the very beginning of Internet 3.0 — the Spatial Internet/Alternate Reality. And the aim is to provide a capability to have highly immersive experiences, said Sriram.
Defining the Metaverse
Sriram believes the metaverse is all things virtual. It is the coming together of all the technologies we know today. He emphasized metaverse is not a technology but a combination of technologies to deliver the concept of an immersive, whole-body experience that will improve the present experiences.
“Metaverse is the combination of AR, cloud-based technology, multi-gaming, and all other technologies coming together to deliver this concept of an immersive experience, a whole-body experience that is much better than what we have today. But to get there, there are a lot of other things that need to happen first.”
To explain it better, he shared his concert analogy of metaverse with us.
“Metaverse is a concept. It is NOT technology. A concert is a concept that is created by performer, audience, music, stage; these are the elements. They all come together to create an experience called a concert. Metaverse is exactly like that!”
Contemporary Technologies, their Role, and Developments
Several technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Extended Reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud-computing, and more are the foundation on which Internet 3.0 will grow. Sriram explained how these would be the key components to build the metaverse.
Metaverse, an alternate reality, an entirely 3D virtual world, will require different components to be realized. He drew our attention to some important questions on developments in the technologies. These need to be addressed before we overhype the whole subject. AR, VR, and XR are the three technologies he explained in detail.
Sriram has experience in the nitty-gritty of product designing. He thinks the issue with AR is concerned with making it more accessible and useful for businesses and people. The scope of AR has been limited to a marketing tool which he thinks should now be explored as a commerce tool. It will require breaking down its technology to improve different capabilities like object, motion, and gesture recognition.
Sriram further explained how VR is a critical part of the metaverse. A truly immersive experience cannot happen without virtual reality. Hence, VR technology will continue to be relevant for the metaverse. He added that the current limitations of the technology lie in the headsets. Creators can improve the size, weight, battery life, and processing power of the product that would reduce the bulkiness of the VR experience, making it user-friendly. He also shared his opinion on the content available for VR, which he thinks is quite engaging, but there is always a scope for improvements.
XR or extended reality is how we will experience the metaverse. Metaverse, according to him, will be a space that mimics the physical world and will replicate things, places, and people as an immersive spatial experience. Sriram presented an interesting point — “Today people can go on and play Fortnite on their phone, PC, and tablet. They are experiencing a spatial world through 2D glass. It’s not ideal, but it is convenient. There is no reason why the metaverse experience can only happen in 3D. However, it’s better in 3D. And this idea is driving the innovations.”
Multi V/s One Metaverse: Which one will happen?
There is a slight confusion regarding the presence of the metaverse. Whether there would be multiple metaverses and several communities? Or a single one would encompass everything?
Sriram shared his opinion on the progression of the metaverse. He thinks there will be different metaverses for different areas like gaming, entertainment, social interactions, work, and more. But, in his opinion, it is unlikely to have all the alternate realities built on a single platform.
For instance, if a fashion designer wants to do a virtual fashion show, then they would look for the best platform that will allow them to showcase their creativity in the best way possible. For this, they would have to assess the platform’s capabilities. Check if the platform enables them to create the best possible immersive experience, allowing them to invite and host a large number of viewers.
Companies/artists will create XR experiences by choosing a platform through a selection. Eventually, people may rely upon a few platform providers for the metaverse.
Collaboration and Projects around the World
Hypermatter primarily focuses on Metaverse and AI. It helps its clients embrace the technologies and prepare for the metaverse world. Sriram shared with us some of the projects he has been working on.
He is leading product development for a company exploring how Artificial Intelligence can provide help with mental health and wellness. The aim is to create a conversational avatar for people who don’t have easy access to mental health therapies.
Another one of his projects is focused on building a platform that will help solve business problems by creating domain-specific avatars. The platform will allow users to convert raw data and information into an expert avatar. A virtual assistant for various specific domains.
The organization collaborates with businesses and other organizations to help them make an efficient digital strategy and establish a strong digital presence.
Vision and Contribution to the Future
Sriram believes that the modes and mediums of interaction and communication would evolve. Immersive technologies will pave the way for advanced interaction experiences. He envisages that webpages, apps, texts from Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 could be replaced by people, places, agents, avatars, and spaces in the digital world. But, the requirements, use cases, and behavioral aspects would be highly variant from the previous versions of the Internet’s utility. One would be immersed in the spatial experience. Hence, he said, it must be acknowledged that the metaverse that we imagine will take time to build.
He also pointed out that it’s challenging to curb the present excitement. Some crucial aspects need to be configured before anyone can experience the metaverse as imagined. These include identifying a convenient user pattern and developing an experience design for the metaverse by figuring out how to navigate, save and perform other functions in that space. Every single thing would have to be re-designed. Sriram thinks the metaverse will take at least a decade to get built.
He believes Hypermatter will continue to contribute to this space by helping companies figure out how to get into the metaverse. They aim to help businesses understand their stance in the metaverse. The organization will assist their clients in identifying the ways they can make the necessary changes, the people they need to contact, and how they can re-design or innovate new services and products for the metaverse. Their final aim is to bring together different capabilities and user-centered design to deliver the experience of metaverse as imagined.
Our conversation with Sriram offered us significant insights into the process of creating the metaverse. The design and development of advanced products need a seamless transition from Internet 2.0 to Internet 3.0. The key takeaway is that it’s necessary to acknowledge the several components that will be constructing the metaverse along with their limitations and their scope for improvements, leaving no stone unturned to make it a reality. Sriram reinforces that the metaverse will take time to fabricate, so the overhype should be contained.
Sriram Thodla is a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master’s in Design from the Institute of Design, Chicago. With a strong passion and background in technology and design, he specializes in combining the two in interesting ways. Sriram has worked in different kinds of organizations in consultancy and management roles. Before starting his venture in 2022, Sriram worked at Samsung for 8 years on multiple projects. He finally found his sweet spot in helping companies and organizations turn their vision into action.
Nitisha Lal is a writer enthusiastic and curious to learn new things. Currently, she writes about the latest developments in technology, particularly around Web3 and the Metaverse. She enjoys nature walks, capturing the world around her on the phone, or reading books when away from work.