The metaverse is not just about creating realistic virtual experiences, but about enabling hyperreal ones. This is the process of creating personalized content based on data, or the things people do and say and what it reveals about them.
In a sense, the hyperreal is not just a target, but potentially a necessary end state of the metaverse. Scaling immersive digital experiences to billions of people will only be possible when content creation is automated with artificial intelligence (AI).
Hyperreality occurs when we interact with photorealistic digital content that looks exactly like real life – it’s so engaging that the distinction between “real” and “digital” is less important than the experience itself. In this way, hyperreality is an extension of reality not just a low-resolution “digital version”.
The ways in which AI can use facial and voice biometric data — and our preferences revealed in that data — will not only recreate our favorite physical environments online, but transform them. In this scenario, it is essentially that we build tools that help take back control of our digital lives and experiences.
The metaverse promises that everything from business meetings to interviews with parent teachers will take place in photorealistic virtual worlds that look exactly like our homes, schools, and offices. We will interact with each other as embodied photorealistic avatars. There will also be game worlds and imaginary universes: we can be anyone or whatever we want.
As this hyperreal metaverse emerges and as our avatars blend seamlessly with who we are in real life, you need to stay in control. We need to safeguard our identities and possess the deeply personal biometric data used by AI models to build and animate our realistic avatars.
In fact, web 3 adds a user-centric property layer to the existing “read/write” Internet. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will play a critical role in enabling more realistic forms of content participation and leading to the creation of new digital economies. Ultimately, the Internet Web 3 will become “read/write/own”. NFT and blockchain technologies are essential elements of the technology stack that will allow ordinary people to create and own their own hyperreal synthetic avatars in the metaverse.
In the future, each person will have an NFT in their wallet that connects to their sensitive biometric data stored offline. These NFTs will provide the basis for our persistent virtual identities. We will access experiences such as “3D Immersive Zoom” and “Hyperreal FIFA 2025” using our wallets, just as we use “Sign in with Google” today.
However, this is a radical departure from the relationship people have with their data in Web 2 paradigms. Blockchain will allow users to verify their identity in the real world, control access to their biometric data, and consent to how it is rendered in hyperreal content.
This also allows us to participate directly in a new wave of virtual economies. For example, we will be able to track our participation in virtual events and be compensated both for the data we create online and for a portion of any advertising revenue or brand activations that we make possible by participating in a metaverse experience.
We will also be able to contribute our personal datasets to build more representative and realistic virtual worlds. When we become part of a content experience, it is reasonable that we share its financial advantage. This is the power of Web 3.
The new data ownership
Since the birth of the Internet, we have lost control of our data in two ways: gradually, then suddenly. For a long time, the only people who raised concerns about data ownership were activists who watched in horror as companies built toll booths on the information expressway and began extracting value from individuals’ personal data.
With the rise of social media and Web 2, it has been impossible to ignore how big tech has amassed unimaginable collections of personal information often without our knowledge or without our truly informed consent. Who really reads the terms and conditions?
For many people, giving up control of their data is an easy choice. The internet services and products we use every day are infinitely convenient and our personal data is the price of admission. Web 3 offers a revolutionary window of opportunity where we can claim our hyperreal virtual identities without having to hand over our personal data to centralized third-party platforms.
There are many questions that still need to be answered about data security in Web 3, such as the possibility of restoring our identities if we lose our keys. Similarly, it is essential that the high-resolution biometric data on which personal avatars are based does not find its way into the hands of every company or developer who builds virtual experiences in the metaverse.
The concept of extending our individual sovereignty into virtual space without being bound to corporations is a powerful idea.
If the metaverse is going to become a seamless extension of physical reality and then some, we will have to enable persistent and portable versions of our virtual selves. We don’t have to change our identities when we go to the store, office, or a friend’s party in the real world, and it should be the same in the metaverse.
While we may have multiple versions of our hyperreal avatar that allow us to play with our identity, such as creating younger versions of ourselves or making ourselves of a different gender, these hyperreal creative permutations are all ultimately based on our real-world data, personalities, and desires.
When we securely store our personal data in NFT, we are able to transport this information through virtual spaces in the metaverse. At the same time, NFTs give you complete control over when and how this personal information is used by third parties. We can prove that we are who we say we are in any context without requiring before disclosing sensitive personal information.
Hyperreal NFTs like these can become a decentralized, user-controlled identity verification platform integrated into the fabric of the metaverse.
This transition to hyperreality is already well underway. Those who work to protect personal data with NFT are charting the path to a metaverse where our virtual selves have all the characteristics we value in our real identities. In fact, our physical selves are not fungible, and under ideal conditions, we are in control of our bodies and actions. Now we finally have the technology to allow normal people to protect and control who they are and what they do in the metaverse.
But the more realistic the metaverse becomes through technological progress, the more we need to consider who we “become” in an Internet that looks and feels like reality. The hyperreal metaverse could be more Web 3.1 than Web 3.0 – explained as the emergence of a “read/write/own/be” Internet.
If the digital worlds we occupy look exactly as they were filmed with a camera on the spot and are populated by photorealistic versions of ourselves and our loved ones, is it still just the Internet?
Or are we creating a seamless extension of reality that forces us to “be” ourselves beyond the confines of the physical world? Or are we creating something a little more than ourselves?