By Raj Koneru

The much-hyped metaverse concept — once thought of as a futuristic, hypothetical online destination — is quickly becoming a new kind of internet. As more users interact with one another in these virtual environments, brands will realize new opportunities for engaging their target audiences. Companies such as Meta (formerly Facebook) are rapidly making plans to expand into the metaverse, altering and advancing how people will work, socialize, shop and even bank in the future. 

While some completely disagree with the positive potential of this digital world, it cannot be refuted that the metaverse is a topic that many have heard of and will become increasingly ubiquitous. Gaming may be its most obvious initial use case, as consumers and gamers alike are steadily continuing to merge their physical and digital lives. This is something that’s been happening since the arrival of the iPhone, a device that has become an extension of our brains and bodies. As technology progresses and advances, it’s only natural that more parts of our lives will be embedded into the digital world. 

With more people opting to “live” inside the metaverse, there will be routine tasks that require more advanced and intuitive communication. Be it mailing a letter, purchasing land or buying a burger, there must be a proper way to scale communications through artificial intelligence. Technologies like CAIP (conversational AI platforms) will allow brands to design more appealing and engaging user experiences in this burgeoning virtual environment.

Building the experiential foundation

As more retail, banking and technology companies begin to inhabit the metaverse, the need for intelligent and relatable customer service programs will be crucial for success in this new arena. To achieve this, it has become increasingly clear that conversational AI must be the foundation of the metaverse, especially for experience delivery. 

Whether it’s a virtual post office, bank, or fast food restaurant, the interactions will be between a human-controlled avatar and a chatbot, so these avatars must have a streamlined way to communicate in order to effectively reach their goal. We are seeing this begin to take shape, as Meta just released its open source language model that includes 175 billion words, a good start for the conversational AI that will give consumers access to advanced customer support systems that interact like humans. These advancements will not only allow retailers to make the customer service process easier, they can also help them create an even more immersive experience for brand loyalists.

In addition to its language model, Meta released major improvements to its hand tracking API, allowing a user’s hand to move as freely as it would in the physical world. This same precedent must be set for digital conversations, especially in consumer engagement and customer support settings. Just as users need to be able to use their hands, they will need to achieve goals through conversation. If a user cannot properly communicate with an avatar (bot), the lack of “human experience” will likely detract from the system’s ability to blend the digital and physical worlds.

Metaverse + AI aspirations

The metaverse can be thought of as a series of universes that merge, where a user could seamlessly flit among their worker, gamer and social media personas based on their requirements. Many have noted that the metaverse will probably play out like an open-world MMO or MMORPG (e.g. Fortnite or World of Warcraft, respectively) which will allow metaverse avatars to interact with each other. In order for these aspirations to even begin to take shape, the proper AI must be implemented to ensure algorithms and interactions are as scalable and sustainable as possible. This will be especially important considering the number of languages spoken across the globe (there are more than 7,100). 

If the metaverse aims to unite these worlds, how will it allow us to overcome language barriers? This is where conversational AI, speech recognition and self-supervised learning come into play. When providing a chatbot (or in this case, avatar) that needs to support thousands of languages, any conversational AI platform would need to train the avatars to recognize patterns of specific speech and language in order to respond effectively and efficiently to written and voice queries.

The future of the metaverse 

Mark Zuckerberg referred to AI as the most important foundational technology of our time, believing that its power can unlock advancements in other fields, like VR, blockchain, AR and 5G.

With companies across all industries developing ways to monetize the metaverse, these industry giants are banking on it becoming the new (and all-encompassing) internet. Much like the internet boom in the 1990s, we just may look back at this moment and wonder how we ever survived without the metaverse. 

In any universal shift of life, and especially when it comes to technology, it’s important to understand the foundational elements that build these integral parts of our lives. As technology becomes more and more integral in our lives, it’s important for users to truly understand the underpinnings of things like smartphones, computer programs and alternate digital universes.

Innovations like the metaverse would not be achievable without conversational AI, and as open source programs continue to develop, the adoption of this space will only grow.