To scale personalized content experiences to billions of people, one potential answer is generative AI
In forthcoming years, everyone will get to observe how beautifully Metaverse will evolve towards immersive experiences in hyperreal virtual environments filled with avatars that look and sound exactly like us. Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash describes a vast world full of amusement parks, houses, entertainment complexes, and worlds within themselves all connected by a virtual street tens of thousands of miles long. For those who are still not familiar with the metaverse, it is a virtual world in which users can put on virtual reality goggles and navigate a stylized version of themselves, known as an avatar, via virtual workplaces, and entertainment venues, and other activities. The metaverse will be an immersive version of the internet with interactive features using different technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 3D graphics, 5G, hologram, NFT, blockchain, haptic sensors, and artificial intelligence (AI). To scale personalized content experiences to billions of people, one potential answer is generative AI, the process of using AI algorithms on existing data to create new content.
Procedural content generation
In computing, procedural generation is a method of creating data algorithmically as opposed to manually, typically through a combination of human-generated assets and algorithms coupled with computer-generated randomness and processing power. In computer graphics, it is commonly used to create textures and 3D models.
The algorithmic difficulty is typically seen in Diablo-style RPGs and some roguelikes which use instancing of in-game entities to create randomized items. Less frequently it can be used to determine the relative difficulty of hand-designed content to be subsequently placed procedurally, as can be seen with the monster design in Unangband. For example, the designer can rapidly create content, but leaves it up to the game to determine how challenging that content is to overcome, and consequently where in the procedurally generated environment this content will appear. Notably, the Touhou series of bullet hell shooters use algorithmic difficulty. Though the users are only allowed to choose certain difficulty values, several community mods enable ramping the difficulty beyond the offered values.
NFTs are another good example of generative AI algorithms. Blue-chip projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks began with the creation of 10,000 unique artworks. Without such algorithms, this undertaking would have taken a team of digital artists weeks to finish, yet both of these projects were started by only two software developers.
There are also other related fields that will play a role in building the Metaverse. From the generative AI design used in engineering applications, synthetic data generation is used for training large AI models, and natural language generation (NLG). In general, the generative function of artificial intelligence is just the tip of the iceberg; AI is a core infrastructural technology for the Metaverse and will be needed in everything from the basic graphics engines to creating next-generation recommendation algorithms to tailor our experiences.
What is Hyperreality?
Hyperreality is an image or simulation, or an aggregate of images and simulations, that either distorts the reality it purports to depict or does not in fact depict anything with a real existence at all, but which nonetheless comes to constitute reality. The idea emerged in the 90s as live TV coverage of the first Gulf War and other real-world events filtered into people’s homes. 24/7, live-streamed news footage of the war transported the reality of the battlefield into people’s homes for the first time in history. On the one hand, there were the physical events taking place in the Middle East, and on the other, the hyperreal televised version was playing out in living rooms across the globe.
The hyperreal metaverse is full of possibilities, but also presents serious ethical challenges that cannot be ignored. The hyperreal metaverse will herald a future where real and virtual worlds collide. As generative AI technologies continue to rapidly evolve, it’s only a matter of time until our new digital worlds are indistinguishable from our physical reality. It’s an exciting vision full of possibilities for more inclusive and diverse virtual spaces that are enabled through the right mix of ethical design, user control, and creative uses of technology. The seeds of this future are being planted right now: how they will come to fruition is yet to be seen.