Vitalii Vashchuk, Director, Co-Head, and Gaming Technologist at EPAM Systems shares his views on the subject and explains what the metaverse is building upon.
‘To The Verge’ had an insightful conversation with Vitalii Vashchuk, Director, Co-Head, and Gaming Technologist at EPAM Systems, a leading software engineering company. He shared his knowledge regarding the developments for metaverse creation along with the related potential challenges. Read till the end to strengthen your understanding of the matter!
Metaverse: the idea and the technologies behind it
In Vitalii’s opinion, Metaverse can be understood as a concept that aims to build better communication and experiences for the people, through the people, and by the people. It is evolving to substitute Web2.0, allowing people more freedom to express themselves and share their creativity without any limitations.
Blockchain, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), AI (Artificial Intelligence), and IoT (Internet of things) are some of the technologies the building blocks of the metaverse, and their use inside of the metaverse would depend upon different use cases.
Elaborating the building blocks
When asked how these different technologies play their respective roles while we see different companies and organizations trying to create their version of the metaverse, Vitalii thoroughly explained them one by one.
First is the Internet of Things (IoT – Google), of which he has been a part since the mid-2000s. He shared that it has been and still is an amazing space. IoT penetrated the telecommunication industry and gradually made its way into the manufacturing and automotive industry. The important point to catch here is that the acceleration of the IoT platforms and data pipelines (i.e., a series of data processing steps) generated will serve as one of the building blocks for the metaverse.
For instance, every device people use can produce enormous amounts of data. This data can then be connected and utilized in the metaverse to create realistic experiences. Digital-twin technology (Digital Twin – Google), which visualizes the physical objects in the digital environment, is a great example of how this might be executed. As explained by Vitalii, this technology may assist in transferring objects from the physical world to a digital world by collecting and then connecting certain data points. IoT devices would collect the necessary data connected to the physical world and use it to create a more realistic and lively digital world.
The second, Vitalii mentioned, is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI automates many processes and may analyze the community’s specific needs inside the metaverse. It may be useful in identifying and managing objectionable content that people might come across. This way, more freedom to express and create may become available to the people.
Third comes Blockchain technology. He explained that blockchain might provide an efficient mechanism for various exchanges between different community members. For example, existing currencies or tokens could enable transactions, or something more metaverse-specific may get discovered. He added that’s something to look out for.
Last but not least, Vitalii talked about the Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). To understand them from the standpoint of the metaverse, he gave an example.
“If a person owns a skin/avatar or any digital asset inside the metaverse wants to initiate an exchange, NFTs would be used as proof of ownership of the assets. They could be utilized to purchase other digital goods.”
Opening the gates of opportunities across industries
“Metaverse will create a wide range of revenue opportunities across different verticals. It will take several years to be fully formed and the immersive metaverse experience to be ubiquitous. However, there are a few areas where we can see great potential to capitalize the emerging space.”
Vitalii told us that a lot of early-stage investment possibilities are on the rise. Huge speculations on the metaverse are seen. Majorly, five industries can harness what metaverse has to offer and provide mutual benefits. These are as follows:
Gaming. According to a report by Statista (a market and consumer data company), the value of the video game industry is expected to be worth $268.81 billion by 2025 (• Video game market value worldwide 2015 | Statista). It will be the largest entertainment industry that could provide a unique experience to the players in 3D environments of the metaverse. ROBLOX and Fortnite are the two popular early-stage metaverse companies.
Entertainment (excluding gaming). Interactive virtual events have been taking place inside video games. The first one was a live concert by Marshmello in Fornite, joined by 11 million people. Another artist, Travis Scott, followed in a year later for a concert in Fortnite, and the gross revenue from this collaboration was $20 million, including merchandise sales. After this, other companies also followed suit. (Concerts In The Metaverse Are Making Artists Millions | Forbes). This shows that this emerging space provides great revenue opportunities to artists and companies alike. Eventually, the movie and film industries might also penetrate the market.
e-Commerce. People order goods and services and receive deliveries from several platforms. The industry may benefit the most by offering better purchase experiences with the developments in the metaverse. For example, several platforms allow AR experience for their users to see if a particular piece of furniture or TV would suit their interiors. Companies are trying to level up in this domain.
Education and Work. In the last couple of years, especially during the pandemic, e-learning has been on the rise. People are acknowledging the possibility of taking classes or learning lessons online. Vitalii notices how this brings us to the question of how to make the student community experience better, feel more inclusive, and immersive. The work environment and professional settings also have changed since the pandemic. Ideations to move out of the 2D experience on platforms like Zoom towards a more immersive and productive environment guide innovation in this industry. An early-stage experience in this area has been initiated by Oculus and the Horizon Workroom application (Horizon Workrooms – Remote Collaboration Reimagined).
“Digital environments could actively be used to gather feedback and experiences from their potential buyers and develop physical products accordingly. To be an innovative brand and catch up with the new generation of users and customers, like Gen Z, entering the digital environment would become necessary.”
“BALENCIAGA introduced its new collection of goods inside of Fortnite. This is how games and luxury brands are collaborating – it’s Brand Gamification.”
Data Safety and Security Concerns
Vitalii expressed that people have the freedom and necessary tools to create environments that suit their vision on several places like ROBLOX and other gaming platforms. But, with this freedom, inappropriate content might also be created, which could be harmful, dangerous, and even illegal. As the magnitude of user-generated data is growing, gaming companies are trying to strike a balance between providing next-generation immersive experiences, while adhering to consumer protection laws.
In this space, he believes, content moderation will play a vital role by helping game developers to design and implement effective security strategies to protect their online communities without limiting their engagement and creativity.
An Effective Safety Strategy
According to Vitalii, to ensure safety by checking the content suitability and a certain amount of data analytics would be required to accurately understand the flow of information and assess its quality. System management will need to control and configure operational insight. He suggested the following ways to establish a good safety strategy.
- Inside the metaverse, some regulations would have to be applied so that communities can interact and govern themselves when necessary.
- Then, organizations will need an automated moderation pipeline to label any objectionable incoming object using AI and prevent the community from interacting with harmful content.
- Lastly, companies and organizations getting into the metaverse should have human moderators to label, verify, and solve critical cases.
“There is a very thin edge between community safety and community freedom in the metaverse. Companies entering this space would hence require to spend a lot of energy and effort to understand how communities can be creative and interactive without feeling like they’re being governed by specific companies and policies.”
Metaverse vision and the Future
It’s hard to predict the future, said Vitalii. The year 2021 was about big official announcements. He believes it’s still a very early stage to state anything definitively. All the companies aim to create better communication versions amongst different audiences.
In his opinion, many digital spaces will emerge and interact with each other. A single company won’t be in control of the metaverse. There will be a virtual space where multiple metaverses will exist. Companies are working on developing the present technologies to improve the existing environments.
Vitalii foresees the metaverse as an inclusive 3D space where creativity, exchange, and interaction between communities may enrich.
Our conversation with Vitalii broadened our perspective about what metaverse will be and how it will come into being. While a lot of different technologies are being developed across several mediums, it is important to understand that metaverse is still a distant virtual reality that would take time to develop fully. Besides all the excitement surrounding the trendy tech subject, several challenges and concerns exist. Thus, he persists that awareness and consciousness are crucial while associating ourselves with future technologies.
Vitalii Vashchuk has a background in telecommunications engineering and a double Masters’ degree. He has previously worked in esteemed companies such as Huawei as a senior product manager for the data monetization platform. Since 2017, he has been the Director, Co-Head, Gaming Technologist, and Product Management Leader at EPAM Systems. He leads various technology programs for the company’s customers who want to enter the metaverse space by helping them build components relevant to social and immersive experiences across different gaming devices like consoles, mobile phones, VR headsets, and more used by gamers.
*The views expressed in this article are Vitalii’s own.*
Khatija is a Senior Editor at To The Verge. Her interest in tech started when she came across AI, IoT, and XR. Always keen to learn the latest tech peripherals, Khatija loves to interact with tech industry experts and dig for information relating to emerging technologies. When not nerding over technology, she can be found on the couch binging mystery or sci-fi movies.