Leslie Shannon, the head of trend and innovation scouting at Nokia, focuses on identifying emerging technologies with connectivity requirements. As Nokia no longer manufactures phones, the company now specializes in selling network equipment and services to phone companies and large enterprises. Leslie has been exploring augmented reality, virtual reality, and visual analytics for the past five to six years, thereby making her well-versed in metaverse initiatives.
During an interview with The Metaverse Insider, Leslie discusses the current state and future potential of the metaverse. She emphasizes that while some aspects of the metaverse already exist, like avatars and three-dimensional digital worlds in platforms like Rec Room and VR Chat, people are unlikely to spend their entire lives in such digital environments. The physical world remains important, and the true potential of the metaverse lies in the integration of both worlds.
For Leslie, there are three types of metaverses: industrial, enterprise, and consumer. Industrial and enterprise metaverses are currently in use, but the consumer metaverse is still emerging. The key missing element for realizing the consumer metaverse is a practical, comfortable, and widely accessible consumer augmented reality (AR) headset. Creating such a headset will require advancements in several areas, including:
Optics: Improved visual quality and the ability to render realistic and immersive digital content.
Battery technology: Longer-lasting and more efficient batteries to support extended use.
Computation: Shifting the computational load from the headset to the network enables lighter and less bulky devices.
Generative AI is expected to play a significant role in realizing the full potential of the consumer metaverse. With a slim form-factor AR headset connected to powerful computational resources in the network, generative AI will enable users to create and interact with digital content in entirely new ways. Leslie envisions a future where users can “speak into existence” any type of digital content or programming they can imagine, enabled by a strong, low-latency connection between the headset and the network.
Currently, many metaverse experiences run on Wi-Fi, which people often take for granted. However, Wi-Fi relies on a landline connection to function, and poor connectivity can lead to latency issues and negative user experiences, such as nausea in VR headsets. Leslie emphasizes the need for improved Wi-Fi quality and better landline connections, like laying more fiber instead of copper to enhance the consumer metaverse experience.
Leslie also highlights the limitations of Wi-Fi in enterprise and industrial metaverse settings. For applications requiring mobility and immediate response, such as teleoperations or large data feeds from 360-degree cameras, Wi-Fi is insufficient. In these cases, 5G is necessary due to its higher bandwidth, lower latency, and increased security compared to Wi-Fi.
Due to the constraints of physics, such as the speed of light, low-latency communication (around 10 milliseconds) requires computing resources to be located relatively close – approximately 15 kilometers to the end device. However, distributing data centers in this manner is expensive. To understand how far processing can be moved from the device to the network, R&D efforts are focusing on different use cases. Enterprise and industrial settings, with their fixed footprints and on-site servers, provide controlled environments for experimentation. These setups act as dress rehearsals for implementing similar functionality on a larger scale for consumer networks.
Nokia is particularly interested in improving 5G and developing 6G, working closely with other companies like Qualcomm to set the standards for these technologies. The company’s focus is on developing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the metaverse’s future growth. Nokia has a massive emphasis on the blending of physical and digital worlds, focusing on how the network can handle this convergence. Another important aspect is human augmentation, which includes AI-powered body enhancements and potential brain implants like the Neuralink. The company is examining the connectivity requirements for these innovations and ensuring that the technologies developed are safe, particularly when they involve devices that are in close proximity to human skin, like smartwatches or potential brain implants.
In conclusion, Nokia’s transition from mobile phones to the metaverse is proving to be a trailblazer in providing the necessary infrastructure for the internet’s ongoing evolution. Leslie and her team are at the forefront of identifying emerging technologies with connectivity requirements and building networks to meet those needs. The metaverse’s true promise lies in the union of the digital with the physical, and Nokia is striving to make that a reality through its ongoing research and development efforts.