Of the Metaverse Presence and Holoportation

It is a very exciting week ahead for me. As I am writing this blog post I am sitting on a train to the airport of Helsinki-Vantaa (and finalized the post at Heathrow airport in UK) where I will depart for a packed tour of exciting events and speaking. On Monday 10th I will be exploring GITEX Global in Dubai and also present my session How Metaverse is Shaping the Future of Work there. On Tuesday there I will be a mentor in Metaverse Masters -hackathon.  Being invited to join the Metaverse hackathon as a mentor is indeed  an honor and I feel humbled and proud at the same time about it. From Dubai I will fly to Manchester to be present on-site at Microsoft Ignite 2022 – Spotlight UK. In there I am doing and supporting several sessions such as Enter the Mesh with Chris Hoard and Chiraq Patel, Field Worker of Tomorrow together with Microsoft UK Metaverse Lead Alex Karim, Spotlight on Finland Modern Work panel discussion session along with Karoliina Kettukari, Matti Paukkonen and Kalle Saarikannas and finally also supporting Learn Live session as a moderator. Even after all that my week is not done, since I am presenting a session with Chris Hoard at South Coast Summit, in person in Southampton, UK. A week with lot of traveling to be present in various events, which takes me to the first topic of this blog post: Presence.

Presence

Presence is the ultimate killer app

Satya Nadella, Microsoft Build 2022

Satya Nadella hit a really good point with his line at Microsoft Build at the end May 2022. When I have been thinking and building about my sessions which I will present during my exciting tour, the presence is indeed one of themes I am pointing out. Being present on the event, physically on the stage, is enabling to have your presence  in the space available to attendees who are there. The body language, your expressions, “speaking with hands” and other aspects are very much prominent when you can make the contact with the audience. Yes, the presence of audience matters strongly as well. As a speaker, it is great to see how you can make a contact with people, seeing how your content resonates with the crowd. While I am a very big fan of online-events for various reasons, such as inclusivity and sustainability, there is surely more energy present when you are on a physical stage in front of the audience. Why is that? Because we know how typical online-events are: audience mostly faceless and emotionless. Despite all tools at their disposal there are multiple cases when the chat is quiet and you don’t get any feedback from the audience. As a speaker you need to maintain the illusion to yourself that there are people listening to you, who want to hear what you have to say. Then there have been active and wonderful online-events where audience have used those tools and made their presence known and thus it has been more fun and energizing for everyone.

Metaverse is already enabling a better presence

In the future the gap won’t be as wide as typically today. As tech advances, we are getting more and more new tools how we can be more present in virtual events, meetings and spaces. The next simple step is to enable avatars to meetings to replace faceless attendees. Avatars that are not static pictures, but expressing your presence there along with idle animations and different reactions that reflect you. For the speaker or meeting participant the impact is much bigger than first thought. Your digital twin is there. Your avatar. And you are responding in some ways – even when you are not using all tools in your use. There are already avatars in some platforms that can reflect your emotions and expressions automatically – if you have enabled your camera. Avatars are enabling more presence than typical events and meetings have, since people will have their cameras very often off. Yes, we all need breaks from camera – meeting fatigue has built up over time for various reasons.

But let’s not stop at avatars for the presence. When you port your meeting or event to happen in an immersive, virtual, space you can only not express yourself there (the avatar) but also interact with others there. In an event the audience can gather into front of the stage and see their speaker there – and speaker can have a view of the audience. Unlike in the real world audience, there will be a lot more moving around as people want to check out surroundings. Or perhaps they just take their spot in the virtual space and max out the presentation and speaker for them – not enjoying the interactions with other attendees – but the presence speakers brings to the virtual stage and to experience.

Today, these experiences are not as effortless to create and attend as a typical 2D meeting is. To truly enjoy the immersive meeting you would be using a Virtual or Mixed Reality headset, and not that many people have them or actually use them for longer events. Most of the people prefer to join the typical meeting experience, which is a flat but efficient way. Some people join the immersive space via 2D – meaning that they have the event in their screen and it shares similarities to movie or game experiences. The bigger the screen, the better the immersive experience will be.

Mixed reality is of course adding new options to the presence as well. How about bringing in the virtual attendees or speakers to the physical space. People can enjoy the real-life connection and presence and as well enjoy the virtual or Metaverse -participants in the same space. Sounds a lot like Star Wars, but we are not that far away from this experience either.

As tech develops on both devices and platforms we will have easier and more effortless ways to experience the presence in various events and meetings. There will be a point where the presence is giving out more benefits and value to people than the flat experience – and that point is getting closer all the time.

Holoportation

Holoportation is the tech to bring people to the digital space as either a highly detailed avatars or as real figures and mimicking movements in high details . Basically teleporting the speaker or audience to the digital space. This is what we have seen in movies and series – for example in Thor Love and Thunder as one of recent ones. In that Thor movie it was more a magical ability, than high-tech, but the result is the same. Projecting your body and presence to the digital world.

For an event this could mean the whole stage is brought to the digital world. People in the virtual space can see the stage in 3D and whatever is being displayed there – or whoever is on the stage. That way the speaker is not necessary an avatar, but more like a videoed version. Yes, you can do video-based holoportation already today, but those experiences are either rare / more expensive to set up with multiple cameras or as they are: more flat videos than 3D. But they still do look very good when you are watching them in a virtual space.

Being in the immersive space and seeing the stage, feeling grandness or depth of that stage and presence of speaker – that is the future experience where presence is almost touchable. We are already seeing holoportation in events that video capture the speaker or artist (or DJ) and holoport that person to the virtual stage. This takes some setup today, but it is already possible. A CEO or Event speaker could have more presence in the virtual stage than traditional flat experiences can provide. I am actually surprised that this has not been used more today. It is a kind of chicken and the egg situation: when people see it happening and feeling the presence (and thus value) it will be seeding the excitement and usage. But until decision makers (especially those who control the money) experience it, the value is not recognized.

Holoportation could also happen with more realistic avatars and rely on capturing speaker movements and body language. This would make the speaker more flexible to be transferred to various virtual or mixed reality spaces. Using avatars and multi-point holoportation we could bring together people from all around the world and have them interact and speak together. Talk about the effect to events or meetings, when avatars or headshot video feeds are being replaces with full-body holoportation where you can interact with others. Add some haptic equipment (gloves or even a suit) and you could also convey the touch with others. Shaking hands a thousand miles apart. Those haptic equipment exists already, so this is not as far-fetched vision as you might think.

Holoportation will be enabling new ways how we do and participate events in the future. Instead of doing a GITEX Global scale event (100 000 people) on site you will be also experiencing those online far better than you can do today. At some point I know my holoported avatar will be doing the presentation and I am going to be on the stage out there – and on multiple digital worlds at the same time. We are not there yet today, but let’s wait and see what tomorrow is enabling eventually.

Holoportation and Presence are not separate topics, but connected to each other. Just as the Metaverse is bringing in all tech to work together to one experience.

Indeed, Presence is the ultimate killer app. And Metaverse is enabling our presence into the digital world.

Images in this blog post are generated by AI. Just one more example how Metaverse-technology is disrupting the old world and spawning new innovations and opportunities. Just as presence and holoportation will.

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