The expanding frontiers of computer vision in the metaverse
The past few years have seen a spike in the allure of immersive digital worlds. The concept of the metaverse — a digitized layer of life atop the physical realm — has been around for some time, but close mainstream attention is a relatively new phenomenon. What makes this moment different?
The difference today is that the technologies upon which the metaverse relies — including AR, VR, computer vision and personal electronic devices — are now available and accessible at a level never before possible. And, importantly, the adoption of the metaverse is being hastened by powerful champions. Facebook's rebrand to Meta, for instance, and its extensive metaverse-focused campaigns have sparked great speculation and excitement.
Currently, the metaverse can be defined as an immersive, virtual world where people can meet, socialize, exchange currencies, create digital art, shop and sell in interactive and hyper-realistic ways. It isn't all that different from our physical plane of existence — except that in the metaverse, the entire world becomes an accessible online community, and avatars allow you to be anyone you want to be.
Unlike the "real" world, however, technology is a requirement. Users need headsets, haptic gloves, apps and connected equipment to see, hear and feel the metaverse — which is why supporting fields like computer vision are exploding, to the tune of $41 billion by 2030, according to Allied Marketing Research. As the invisible infrastructure that renders these interfaces interpretable, computer vision will play a critical role in making virtual reality feel real.
The applications of the metaverse
Although it has its roots in gaming and social media, the metaverse will have applications well beyond those sectors. Here are a few examples:
Innovators are exploring the idea of virtual tourism using VR and AR technologies. In the metaverse, people could visit tourist destinations, hotels and historical landmarks as they were originally built through a multi-sensory travel experience without ever leaving their homes. Virtual tourism has the opportunity to enhance accessibility for those with disabilities, phobias and travel anxiety.
Technologies such as digital twins, blockchain-enabled record keeping, cutting-edge robotics and imaging powered by computer vision are already transforming healthcare delivery. Over the next decade, the health and wellness metaverse will further enhance patient care and medical education in ways we are yet to imagine. For example, virtual reality simulations in the metaverse could help surgical trainees gain immersive technical training for complex medical procedures before engaging with patients in the real world.
Metaverse shopping is poised to reinvent the retail space. Brands like Alo Yoga, Vans, Nike and Ralph Lauren have already partnered with Roblox to build virtual stores where people can shop digitally. In one notable example, a collaboration between Roblox and Gucci saw a digital Dionysus bag sell for $800 more than the IRL tangible version. And in early 2022, Walmart applied for a series of patents that suggest it has plans for cryptocurrency, NFTs and virtual goods.
The metaverse is inspiring a new generation of virtual home owners. Real estate sales on digital platforms are growing in popularity, with celebrities staking their claim as tenants and landlords in the metaverse.
Companies, small and large, local and global, are beginning to realize the immense potential that the metaverse has to offer. With the right technology and support in place — a decentralized experience, accessible infrastructure, good governance, security, a safe and bias-free environment — the metaverse has the ingredients to transcend the current internet.
The role of computer vision in the metaverse
Artificial intelligence (AI) — specifically, computer vision — will play a vital role in transforming the metaverse into a commercially accessible reality. Seamless rendering of virtual worlds primarily depends on spatial computing that leverages intelligent 2D/3D sensors and advanced computer vision algorithms that enable machines to accurately map the real world to recreate realistic three-dimensional metaverse environments.
Tenets of computer vision like gesture recognition, human-pose tracking and emotion and expression analysis will help devices decipher how humans interact with their environments, and use that intel to design intuitive and hyper-realistic sensory experiences in the metaverse. For example, anyone who has used a Snapchat or Instagram filter already knows that facial recognition can instantly process your likeness and turn it into a 3D animated figure to create avatars. Thanks to these evolving computer vision technologies, avatars of the future will be more sophisticated and allow seamless interoperability between different metaverses.
Advancements in machine vision will further enable the creation of highly immersive experiences via simplified hardware and improved accessibility across devices like smartphones. We'll see more and more variations of computer vision applications online as the metaverse continues to evolve and become more sophisticated.
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How labeled data will power the future of the metaverse
Ground-breaking metaverse innovations can only materialize when machines can accurately map, learn and recreate the real world.
As the foundation of the metaverse's invisible infrastructure, advanced computer vision will require high-quality annotated datasets to inform machine learning models and ensure that metaverse software and hardware can bridge the gaps between the virtual and the physical world.
Data annotations via a human-in-the-loop process can help annotate visual inputs (images, videos, point clouds, geo data) using standard techniques like classification, object detection, tracking and segmentation. These labeled datasets provide insights to train, test and validate computer vision models, which in turn help to create accurate representations of people, objects and things in the metaverse.
Already, virtual and augmented worlds are generating large volumes of images, graphics, animations and outputs from various sensors. Metaverse AI will rely on even more data to ensure the physical reality is closely mimicked in a virtual setting. The ability to automate the creation and indexing of visual content on a massive scale will significantly influence the successful implementation of the metaverse. Sophisticated data annotation platforms, quality assurance tools and highly-trained annotators are the keys to creating high-quality training datasets.
There is still a long way to go before the full metaverse vision is a reality, and it will take a great deal of real-world work. At TELUS International, we are helping innovators who are passionate about the metaverse upgrade their AI with high-quality datasets. Explore our full range of AI Data Solutions and reach out to our experts today.