Rene – Hi! Welcome to Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're going to talk about public policies for the metaverse and much more. And I'm very honored to have a special expert guest today the fantastic Sophia Mosasha. Hi Sophia, and welcome to the show, how are you today?
Sophia - I'm great, thanks for having me, Rene.
Rene – Awesome! Well can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to the metaverse for all the folks that might not know you.
Sophia – Yeah! I have been in immersive technologies now called the metaverse for about seven years now and it really drew me to the industry because it was just so easy to understand and relate to especially coming from like a marketing background and I understood how it related to empathy for people and then how that translates across all Industries. So, I've been doing a lot in this space again across all Industries and helping clients, helping partners figure out how to apply the technologies to those relevant spaces.
Rene - Nice and like you said you have been working in the AR VR and now like you said metaverse community for many years and also strongly involved in the community in fact I remember we met in person the first time when you actually interviewed me for the VR / AR associations podcast which was five years ago. Can you imagine? It's like time flies. But anyhow, let's start with a simple but also complex question actually what is the metaverse for you and where do you see the potential?
Sophia - The metaverse is right here and this is part of it right or in it. It's all these digital virtual technologies kind of coming together cohesively kind of being able to move in and out of spaces and potentially even carry your identity across those different spaces. Ideally, they would be 3D immersive spaces but then interconnecting with all the other emerging technologies that are coming to fruition now and we can only begin to imagine what that will become but I think that all of us kind of had this baseline standard understanding, expectation that the metaverse is going to be interconnected 3D worlds, persistent worlds that we can convey our personal identity through across those worlds and be able to do pretty much everything that we could do in real life besides eat, and sleep. Although I'm sure some people are trying that well. And you know create opportunities for learning for connection for commerce and grow the economy in exponential ways across the globe.
Rene - That's a lovely definition, and in fact, like you said like, oh maybe, some folks are actually sleeping in VR or whatever, I think. I remember there was one guy that actually tried it for a few days to basically just live in a virtual world and an empty apartment or something like this and had all of the stuff set up virtually right and which is oh man that's very dystopian. I don't buy into this of course, right? It's like that's also a misconception you often hear from a lot of folks, like, oh no, I don't want to do this. I don't want to live in this pure virtual thingy world and some people really think that this is a replacement for the real world, like, what, no we love the real world, we need the physical world! I mean right?
Sophia - This is how I relate it. I, you know, I use social media a lot, as well a lot to to stay connected to people and I think that the combination of all of these tools is what I call them the tools on your tool belt, to be able to stay connected, to stay relevant, to, you know continue with personal and business affairs is the utilization of all of these tools that we have available to us to include the in-person real-life connections which we can't exclude because no nothing can replace seeing someone in real life and being with them in real life. But then, being able to stay connected in the meantime through virtual mediums, through social media and I think all of these things are just as equally important or we will become equally important to be able to maintain those connections with the people that we meet.
Rene – Yeah. Fully agreed and it's rather an enhancement right of today's kind of digital collaboration and communication tools rather than a replacement of the physical world. So that's the, I guess, that's the main point but anyhow we also probably all of us, maybe also the audience, hear about issues that are happening and certain metaverse platforms. I'm not going to put out names there but you know there are people getting harassed, even kids you know get harassed in these platforms because like parents they just bought them like a VR device for Christmas or whatever and then they give it to them and you know just like, hey do whatever you want without any instructions or like a little bit of oversight or something and well then it might go into these platforms where it's pretty much the wild west at the moment, which is cool to some degree, I mean, there's certain I would say creative and Innovative things that come out of these kind of, hey, I can do anything I want but also to some degree it's not cool when harassments happen, right? Like this is really a red line and I guess this is also one of the reasons why public policies are needed and what do you think why is it important to look into these policies and regulations for the metaverse and maybe you can also tell us a little bit about some of the policies and regulations that are top of mind at the moment and the motivation basically.
Sophia – Yeah, well first of all let me preface it by saying, you know it's like, you know, the fruition of the modern day internet where all the chat rooms are popping up and a lot of kids were on that too back in the day and they were searching the web like it didn't matter and the parents had no idea they don't know what's out there and what they should be aware of. So first and foremost it's just responsible usage by the individual as we need to do with watching TV, with using the internet and these different devices and now there's like parental controls on these things as well. So I think we'll come to a time where, you know, once adoption gains traction you know policy makers and other organizations are, you know, they're, they already are but they're going to continue to care more about helping people use this technology responsibly because it's not really going anywhere, right? And it can be used for really great things but you know things like, I mean, in these Virtual worlds you know identity theft means something completely different, right, than what we're used to right now and again we can just begin to imagine what that could be like and the implications of that you know things like deep fakes and you know just being able to truly pretend that you are embodying someone else and you know with how believable things are in these different worlds and environments being able to embody else and pretend like you are them is a lot more compelling than you know a chat bot or an email coming to you from a recognizable seemingly recognizable source and so I think that you know that can definitely be of danger especially when we're developing relationships in these deeper ways with beings that we believe and perceive to be real. So, I think that is definitely top of mind you know cyber security definitely folds into the metaverse and I know the FBI is just beginning to start to figure out what they should be caring about and I think it's definitely a good time to have these conversations to get out in front of mass adoptions so we can again deploy responsibly because it is the wild west and it can become even more messy once it's out there in the ether and you know we're deploying to the masses without having thought about some of the things and regulations that we should be thinking about up front. It becomes really hard to reel it back in so it's really important to have these conversations now. Even with safety, with using the hardware itself. I know Underwriters Laboratory is working on a certification for standards for Hardware development as well, safety standards for hardware development but again, it's hard to get signed off on these things because everything is still new and we don't want to hinder Innovation at the same time. So how do we balance these two priorities, I guess while continuing while being able to innovate within the realm of safety standards and policy standards? So there is definitely a lot of back and forth but I believe that everybody is excited about the possibilities of this and so the conversations that I've heard have just been, they've been great, you know and again it comes down, at least for right now, and then moving into the future to just personal responsibility of how you use these technologies. The good thing with metaverse is, if you do get harassed in the metaverse, you can just take off your headset. But there are, you know, I do see different things being implemented like personal space bubbles around you or the host of the environment of an environment can moderate the users and put restrictions on users for access to different worlds and things like that. The good thing is because each platform each metaverse platform is its own and it's not necessarily regulated by, you know, an overarching umbrella. The owners of each platform or each world within each platform can really have their own kind of regulation over what happens there and so I think it's good because that we just have a lot more opportunity for policing you know these worlds and acting upon you know bad behavior as it comes so rather than putting like a ticket into Twitter and waiting like three-four weeks for a response you know because everything is so real-time we need to be able to act in real-time as well. So yeah, those are the couple some of the things that I've come across but from what I've seen and what I've heard, the right people are having the right conversations now and that's really exciting because it just goes to show and prove that this is a real thing and it's going to continue to grow.
Rene – Yeah, it's a very good point and I can give you another signal or maybe probably you already have seen it but the European Commission, the European Union basically, the President, in her State of the Union, she basically put the metaverse as one of the topics for the European Commission to look into in the next couple of years, right? And so that's exciting for me being a European person right like living in Germany and being affected by laws there but it's I think it's both right it's an opportunity I hope they just don't mess it up with over regulations because this can happen sometimes and this will hinder Innovation and you know research and things like this but something needs to happen and I fully agree and it's great to hear what you said that the right folks are talking with each other and so let's see what comes out of it and hopefully we can influence it a little bit so that it comes in a good way right. Alright, let's talk about another topic. At AWE the augmented World Expo a couple of months ago I think it was June or July, you took part in something quite novel I have not seen before which was called The Meta Traversal, A day in the Life and folks you have to look it up on YouTube or whatever. It's pretty amazing. It was basically a stage play with quite a twist, so tell us all about it.
Sophia – Yeah. So a group of us, I think it was like 15 or 17 people in this cast, like all stars of the industry so it was super fun to work with them. We basically did a stage play, live stage play of what it could be like using this these different immersive Technologies, metaverse technologies in a day in the life of someone. So it involved a lot of personal and family and friends, matters and interactions as well as a lot of the professional stuff as well, to just showcase how we can reuse these technologies in real life, right? We talk about them a lot but it's very rare that we actually see the realistic applications of this on a consumer level right? Because right now there are there's a lot of deployment of this technology but they're in like Enterprise settings and those types of things and so we just wanted to show what it would be like with people using these technologies. So it was very interesting because technology in itself is great when it works and then sucks when it doesn't. However, doing that live on stage and then switching out different, you know, hardware and software platforms between each scene between different people was tough and we only had three days in person together to rehearse this, all the other rehearsals were done virtually which I guess you know makes sense considering we're using virtual technologies, so we got a lot done during those virtual rehearsals. However to do this on stage there's definitely some considerations that need to be taken, that you know we had a lot of foresight on but there's a lot of lessons learned there actually as well which we hope to come together and talk about during you know the next AWE or one of the XR conferences coming up because there are some great lessons learned in terms of you know, making sure you have the right lighting and making sure that you know like the person that was setting up the headset for me was on it on the ground level and then bringing the headset up to me on stage where yeah where then I had to use it and I was like 10 feet tall instead of being on the ground like I should have been like those types of things are things to keep in mind and then there's a lot more. But what I thought was really cool about it was just looking at the script itself was really interesting because the stage directions that were put in the script are very metaversey and things that you wouldn't go in regular stage plays and we're talking about different directional cues from within these virtual worlds that we need to do walk to the left walk through the portal and then like those types of things that you wouldn't really see in real life. So it was really interesting just the scripting of this play itself and it was awesome we used a combination of VR or AR, you know, how it would be used with friends, how it would be used in professional settings and I think from what I've heard people loved it. They love being a part of it, they love seeing it and nothing works perfectly which it's okay and I love doing it around people in our industry that are totally understanding of this and just want to see something new and novel and love the trials and tribulations that come with it and are totally done for it. So it was really cool doing it amongst peers that wanted to see something new and were totally understanding of things breaking and not working all the way correctly and it was just really fun to do.
Rene - Well we all have been there right like, maybe not in such a strong and complex situation but we all have been doing demos and things break and so we can appreciate and feel for it.
Sophia – Yeah, well and a big prerogative again of doing this stage play was to showcase not only these technologies but like metaverse capabilities of being of being interoperable being able to portal from one place to another so we used a lot of actually most of what we used was WebXR platform because our particular team does a lot around the immersive web and kind of showcasing the capabilities there and we believe that's where true metaverse capabilities are going to continue to evolve and grow, being able to connect these different disparate virtual worlds and platforms together. So we did a lot of that live onstage and we thought that was important.
Rene - This is great. Yeah, I mean WebXR is just fantastic having a wide reach to pretty much anyone that has a browser, right? So this is awesome, no app installation is needed now, this is great. Are we going to see a sequel?
Sophia – Yeah! We all, we've been talking about it. It's a lot of work but yes we will, just stay tuned.
Rene – Awesome! Well, really exciting and thank you so much for chatting with us. We're already at the end of our short show here. We could talk for many more hours and would love to learn more about your insights but thank you so much Sophia, very much appreciated.
Sophia – Absolutely, thank you!
Rene - Well and thanks everyone for joining us for Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels, subscribe to our YouTube channel to hear all about the next upcoming episodes, and of course visit our website to watch all the previous episodes. Until then, take care and see you soon in the metaverse!