If you are waiting for the metaverse revolution, you already missed it

March 28th, 2022

The next stage of human evolution is a hybrid of our physical world and the metaverse – a “hybrid-verse.” You’re already living in it.

By Greg Cross, CBO and Co-Founder of Soul Machines

The original version of this article was published by VentureBeat. Read HERE.
Everyone is talking about how the metaverse is going to change life as we know it – the way we work, the way we play, the way we buy … everything.

Here’s the thing: ‘Everybody’ is wrong. The metaverse isn’t going to change these things. It already has.

At the same time, people who have thrown out their antiperspirant and traded in their stiff leather shoes for comfy socks-and-crocs are in for a big disappointment. The physical world isn’t going away anytime soon, either – at least, let’s hope not since we all live here.

In other words, what’s next is, actually, what’s now. And, it isn’t the metaverse.

Now, we are living in a hybrid state of existence between the physical universe, an information-based existence grounded in the physical world, and a totally virtual existence – in other words, the metaverse. It’s a change that is so significant that it goes beyond changing the way we do stuff, like navigating in our cars, carrying a camera to take pictures or ordering food.

Enter The Hybrid-Verse
We have inherently changed – so much so, that most people interact with the digital world daily and don’t even realize it. That new existence is what I like to refer to as the “hybrid-verse.” And, unless you’re reading this as a printout from your cabin in the woods, you’re soaking it in right now.

There are a lot of terms for this concept – mixed reality, extended reality and hybrid reality are just a few.

I like to call it the “hybrid-verse” not just because I want to coin a phrase. I don’t like the other terms which sound like it’s a mix or an overlap of three different existences – the physical universe, a web 2.0 internet and data-based world and the metaverse.

There are certain experiences that are either impossible to duplicate, or are not desirable to duplicate, in the virtual world. If you like to cook, you want to see, touch and smell your organic tomatoes before you buy them.

Of course, you might also want to see the sustainability certifications for the farmer who grew them. And you might also want an interactive assistant to suggest a recipe with the ingredients already in your cart. In a perfect world, none of those elements are replaced by another – they’re all necessary, but are synergistic when they’re combined in an intelligent way.

It’s more than a mix. It’s a hybrid, pulling out the best of the physical, data and virtual worlds. This idea of a hybrid-verse incorporates a very humanistic technology into an already adaptable and willing generation.

This hybrid-verse integrates smart, personalized and immersive digital content into our physical reality. It’s a world that seamlessly blends the physical with the virtual, encouraging interaction with, and between, organic and digital entities and objects.

Right now, in the hybrid-verse we use our GPS-enabled phones to catch Pokémon on the way to the subway, a holographic Whitney Houston goes on a world tour eight years after her demise or a surgeon performs remote surgery on a patient thousands of miles away using a robot and AR glasses. Artificial intelligence has a very real place in our tangible environment.

Web 3.0 and Digital People™
The concept of the metaverse, and the breakthroughs offered by the hybrid-verse, are made possible by Web 3.0

If Web 1.0 gave us the ability to deliver vast amounts of data over long distances, and Web 2.0 gave us the ability to easily share rich content, interact and create our own insights, Web 3.0 will adapt and provide experiences and information before you even know that you need it.

My colleagues and I are at the forefront of that change in the way that the internet delivers value. Web 3.0 is moving it beyond timely recommendations and deep personalization. At Soul Machines, we’re taking it even further, creating empathetic, autonomously automated avatars – something we call “digital people.”

One of these is Ruth, the official Nestle Toll House Cookie Coach. If you visit the site today, you’ll meet Ruth who serves as a digital assistant to help you bake cookies in the real world.

Right now, the interactions with Ruth in the hybrid-verse are fairly simple. Ruth asks about your preferences, experience level, and your ingredients and equipment on hand, and suggests recipes that are a fit.

As Web 3.0 starts to reach its full potential, you might have the ability to give Ruth access to a smart-kitchen app that came with your refrigerator and oven, which can provide your ingredient inventory in real-time. (At least one appliance provider is already collecting this information.) Ruth could use that information to predict if you’re planning on baking something, which ingredients you might already have in your kitchen, and what you might like to bake based on prior recommendations.

From there, it’s a short step to making cookies with your child who is going to school out of state, and helping him or her roll out the dough in a virtual, metaverse-based kitchen … all while working under the tutelage of our friend Ruth.

Integrating this technology will be a slow drizzle of homogenization — not an evolution. Machines will never be invasive; they’ll be integrative. Over time, synergistic experiences, like the one mentioned above, will become more expected and more universally adopted.

Staying Well-‘Versed’
Just as Ruth will be moving seamlessly between our physical universe and the metaverse, companies need to start thinking about how they will migrate between these different universes, as well.

Advances like autonomous automation and empathetic customer experience allow Soul Machines to create digital people who can be the company’s skilled, knowledgeable and helpful emissaries within and between all universes.

More than just digital assistants or online support, these virtual people can enhance actual, real-world productivity for a company’s clients and prospects, helping them overcome constraints and achieve real-world results.

Because digital people are virtual and are always learning 24-7, they present an infinite ability to interact with and adapt to customers. They can also overcome cultural, language, geographical, ethical and limitations, and implicit bias, creating ideal, personalized, empathic and relatable customer-service experiences. They are virtual helpers acting in the real world to enhance actual, tangible productivity. They enable us to reach beyond our normal constraints.

A Now and Future State
The idea of a fully-digital existence – the metaverse – represents a mind-boggling future state. It’s hard to get your head around it, because it’s so different from our current reality.

That’s precisely the reason why a full-time existence in the metaverse isn’t logical.

The hybrid-verse is going to continue to add value and efficiency to our lives, while also helping us overcome our own physical limitations. The value that it delivers is so seamless that it is almost invisible. In time, we won’t think of it as the “hybrid-verse” at all – it will just be “reality.”

It’s the future of human existence. And, that future is now.

Greg Cross