Rene - Hi! Welcome to Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. And today as you can see we're inside of the metaverse again to talk about the metaverse of course, right. And we are inside of this replica of the Replay Solo world. You have to know Reply has these physical gathering, social gathering spaces in all of their offices across the globe and these are called Solo worlds and well we have this beautiful replica as you can see here inside of Altspace so that we can also have a chat here. But today, it's not about this a nice place we have here, where we can hang out and have a coffee chat, it's actually about our coffee chat or watercooler chat if you will and in particular it's about virtual presence and digital humans, a very important topic we're going to cover today and I'm very honored to welcome our special expert guest Nils Hogemann. Hi Nils, welcome to the show, how are you today.

Nils - I'm feeling great, thanks for having me. It's really an honor.

Rene - Awesome well before we dive into our today's topics please introduce yourself to our audience today. So what is your background when it comes to design the metaverse, 3D and all of the related topics sure.

Nils - Actually, I'm coming from a classical 2D background. As I'm working as a senior UX consultant and open Reply in brim where I design and develop digital experiences together with my colleagues. However, since roughly one and a half years I'm now a member of the Reply community of practice for spatial computing, which allowed me besides my classical 2D job to learn and gain new knowledge in the sense of spatial computing as well as web XR and designing for XR as you mentioned before so this all drove me into the theme of the metaverse and really get me included in the scenery so that's also why I'm here today.

Rene - Awesome and I'm glad you say that because you know you have this great diverse background which I think is adding a lot to the whole 3D and XR community. So thanks for being a member of our community of practice for spatial computing you add a lot of value to this. Let's dive into our today's topic actually and let me ask you my first question. So you know in the metaverse, we as humans are mostly represented as avatars right? I mean just look at us, we are right inside the metaverse are represented as avatars or virtual characters if you will. What is the difference if you compare it to social media these days and why is your digital identity and its virtual appearance so important within the metaverse?

Nils - That's a really interesting question. I think in order to answer it, I think we first need to understand that our appearance in general is a quite important thing for us especially in social context. Every time we get in contact with each other like we do right now and could start to communicate to each other, we want to be able to express ourselves and feel represented. We bring everything with us like our character, our beliefs, our values and oftentimes we also try to put this transfer this to the outside expressing this to the outside. So the exciting point is that it's apart from the visual aspect here, it's also about our expression via body language which happens automatically in this kind of interpersonal interactions of us and we often do not notice how strongly they influence our communication with each other. So the importance I think of this representation is nothing really new but the what changed is with the uprise of this metaverse platforms that this representation is now even more important in the digital realm due to the experience layers we added back in into our experience allowed by the metaverse and its technologies where on social media you have your social media profile picture which represents you as a person and which appears also when you're getting in contact with others, like writing a message in the three-dimensional space so in the metaverse it turns your profile picture turns into your avatar and as in the matter verse we're literally going like we just did go into an experience and interact with others in the three-dimensional space this shift from profile image to an avatar is what really makes the difference and of the importance here of our visual presence because in comparison to 2D not only the look matters but also for example how well a platform is able to recreate and map our natural body language to our physical respect and we get but we also be able to feel represented.

Rene - Gotcha!. That makes a lot of sense and like you said and you know also the importance of your 3D character, all these different virtual platforms, it's a very much important, very much personal thing and might be even more personal than your profile picture right? Now that is a really interesting point actually. So it's not just you know we're entering this 3D world which adds another dimension of exploration for us but also another dimension of you know digital identity and which leads me to the next question around digital fashion and fashion brands. You know brands and in particular fashion brands are all entering the metaverse space. You see it all over the place like you know just to name a few like Gucci but a lot of other brands of course like I'm just picking a few, you know all of them are entering the metaverse space and they're also offering, of course, virtual fashion like for example the Balenciaga and Fortnite combo but also you know big fashion brands like sports brands like Nike, Adidas and again, you know we can name a lot actually all of them are a part of this and have some kind of offering they're working on, where do you see the economic potential here for brands but also for creators?

Nils – Yeah, it's also again a really interesting question and I also really am excited about what is already happening, what brands already do on this market but again I would like to go one small step back for the full picture. As we already discussed our digital identity is our unique identity right as it would be in the real world so of course not only the digital avatar as such the person as such matters but also how it appears visually because we want like I said, we want to appeal visually too and convey something like in the real world we want also to be able to restyle for different occasions for example, so what this means is that especially fashion is one way to express ourselves and also to make this change, this restyling, so it's not a big a surprise so to say that especially avatar fashion is a growing market apparently but from my perspective fashion is just one section in this whole new asset economy which you mentioned. So I think this is way bigger I mean virtual goods and gadgets of any kind, I think will be relevant in this kind of new context. Already today we could see that gamers are spending 100 billion dollars every year on virtual fashion for their avatars or goods in their games, so right, the potential I think for your businesses are many folds. I mean you can think of different business models evolving with the metaverse like for example i could go into a fashion store buy my physical good so my physical t-shirt, let's say and yeah with it I could buy a digital clone of it, so I could wear it here the same way I could also go into furniture store buy my shelf and because I have a virtual space like this one, in our base for example i could simply do it with the digital clone, equip my own digital home as well but that I think is just one example. You could also think of your digital objects which get sold, which might or might not come with ownership privileges, if you will. So basically, it could be access to a limited or restricted field of experiences of a given brand for example. So what's really interesting here is that I think the creativeness or the creativity is the limiting factor. You can think of many business models, the important thing we need to consider is though that this strategies we're putting out in the metaverse should reflect on the brand identity and the core beliefs and core values of a brand so it gets represented also in the metaverse as such.

Rene - That makes a lot of sense particularly I liked your example you gave with this kind of, let's call it a transmedia experience, right, where you have your physical goods on that you buy in a store and you get actually also the digital kind of replica of this along with it and yeah i have seen some fashion brands are already using that right?

Nils – True, yeah, that's true.

Rene - All right. You know, when we look at the current market it's this kind of a multiverse in fact so it's not just one metaverse which is the big vision in a couple of years hopefully we have one made ours and you have different metaverse spaces, right, you have one for let's say meta, there's one for Microsoft, there's one for Amazon and so on. Instead right now what we have is we have all these different kind of you know, heterogeneous walled garden metaverse platforms that all the big players are building but also a bunch of startups of course but the big challenge though is when it comes to interoperability right like I see a lot of challenges because like your clothing goods and platform a, of course, you want to use it for your avatar on platform B and this is a challenge anyhow, what do you think, what are some of the current challenges when it comes to interoperability but also security and you know of course certainly privacy concerns?

Nils - Yeah currently like you said, we have a lot of different systems on the market. Let's just take a look onto the average systems, there are for example avatar systems like meta avatars, like I can put it on my oculus but then I can also use it in the oculus kind of ecosystem. But that's yeah, that's it. Basically so the challenge we will be facing this avatar systems, the centralized nature of the current platforms I think, because like you said the avatar is my identity and me as a person I move freely. But in the metaverse, i'm limited due to the fact that we often times do not have interoperability because platforms when I create an avatar on platform A and want to go to platform b, I cannot take my avatar with me. So which means I need to create an avatar for each and every platform which also looks different. So it's not that unique identity what, in fact users I think will rather want and need is interoperability between the platforms like you said. I want to take my assets with me to another platform, I want to be with my avatar in on another platform. So I want to take my personality, and my avatar with me while browsing different platforms or metaverse services or solutions right? So the second part of the question was about security and privacy. I think, when it comes to security and privacy also the responsible usage of these avatars is really important and it's important to have ethical kind of regulations in place and this will also be key in the future. Avatars provide a great opportunity of course for diversity and inclusion as people are able to represent themselves as with or with their true, self-identity, right? This is pretty cool they're flexible and my avatar does not need to look like me or my physical me. it also comes with a with a problem in case of anonymization. So already today we see that in online games many users get up online or harassed or abused in this kind of social context and this is can also become a problem in the metaverse because we have you can hide behind a person which is completely anonymous right? So that's one of the problems and this must be i think taken care of with ethical and responsible regulations providing a safe space for every human. When it comes to privacy in particular there is another concern of course, which is coming with the amount of data big giants providing these metaverse platforms can now collect. I mean and social media was already intense they could scan everything, they basically tracked everything but the set of data they now get on metaverse platforms due to the immersiveness of this experience it's the new technology, it's more intense. I would say because they can collect body measures, biometric data about ourselves, could even potentially get to the camera feed of our VR headsets and use this one. So also there I think we need responsible regulations guiding this whole thing and yeah making everyone feel quite comfortable and safe there as well. So overall the metaverse requires really the highest standards of security and privacy technology to make it a pleasant future for everyone. I think so that the metaverse does not become the dystopian oasis right?

Rene – Right, no that's a very good point and I fully agree and like you were saying I mean, there's already harassment and bad things happening we see these days and of course, we need to provide and make it a safe place for everyone and I mean, right now, today we're here in this private world right which you cannot openly access but like I was talking with Saskia from the XR community from global XR and they are hosting a bunch of public events of course also in Altspace, and soon right and well she said of course, this thing is happening you need to always look like who, which kind of people join like who's joining and what are they doing and always look out you know if they're like having bad behavior. She was kind of agreeing that, well, we need, kind of, you know metaverse bouncers like people, that are standing at the door and it's like, ‘hey, you cannot come in today, you are going out, like this kind of stuff, right? So yeah, fortunately, unfortunately, but you know humans are humans and you always have the bad actors. We could talk for many more hours for sure, but we are already at the end of our show today. Thank you so much Nils, for joining us today.

Nils - Well thank you for the invitation. It was really my pleasure to be here.

Rene – Awesome, well, and thanks everyone today for joining us for yet another episode of meta minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. Please check our blog, follow our YouTube channel and also the social media channels to hear all about the next episodes when we will release them, but also on and on of course, you can find all of our previous episodes with our amazing guests and you can also find the episodes of our sister show called QuBites, bite-sized pieces of quantum computing. Anyhow, take a look and I hope you enjoyed the show and our episode today as much as I did. And well, I hope to see you soon again! Until then, take care, and see you soon in the metaverse! Bye bye!