may 2022

Metaverse and interfaces. Exploring virtual realities: challenges and perspectives of human-metaverse interaction

The future of the metaverse and the ways to explore it

Within 2026, one in four people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse: this prediction was made by Gartner, which pictures an expansion from entertainment – the preferred use for virtual realities – to possible applications in business and education.

Experiences need to be more and more appealing in order to increase the number of active metaverse users. Devices also need to reach a larger audience, and not only – for example – the current 4,8% users in the world who own a headset for virtual reality.

Let’s look into the main development guidelines regarding Extended Reality (XR) technologies, including not only virtual realities and augmented realities, but also new frontiers of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI).


The metaverse is mainly explored with headsets


The world of augmented realities is now reserved to few companies only, notably Meta, Microsoft and Sony. The main concern is that such concentration may become another obstacle towards interoperability, with the risk of having a metaverse made of separated entities. It’s not that different from what is currently happening with big social networks, even though the “walled gardens” depend in this case from geopolitical circumstances. Therefore, we can simplify the situation by saying that Western Countries use Facebook and Instagram, Russia uses VKontakte and China uses WeChat and Weibo. With virtual realities, the fracture might become similar to the rivalry between PlayStation and Xbox.

If virtual realities are to become part of our everyday lives, certain technical issues need to be solved, such as migraines and nausea caused by a protracted use. The innovations in display technology and the interest for the growing investments in the VR area might make the future more “comfortable” for the use of headsets.

The future of augmented reality is becoming increasingly interesting. The first thing that comes to mind is Pokemon GO as a popular example that employs this technology. Broadening the horizons beyond the smartphone-interface, the exploration of more practical devices that keep our hands free (such as the unfortunate case of the Google Glasses) suggests exciting developments towards the overlapping of real and virtual worlds. The “usability” of reality is amplified through a layer of interactive information at hand’s (or eye’s) length: an interpenetration that some say represent the definition of metaverse itself.


Pokemon GO is the most popular application of augmented reality


At the moment the road to the adoption of BCI seems more difficult, because of its invasiveness. It is important to consider that when we say BCI, we don’t mean just the notorious “microchip in the head”, but also haptic interfaces that give a virtualized sense of touch. The potential of BCI applications is very promising: in the medical field, this technology might be useful for the restoration of impaired or lost functions as a result of pathologies or accidents, from speech to writing.

Overall, the possible applications are crucial in the development of metaverse interfaces beyond the most common uses (entertainment, education, business). From medicine to 3D reconstructions useful for the industrial field, specific sectors will guide this development, following a path similar to the one trailed by robotics and the Internet of Things.


BCI is the new frontier of extended reality