Are you ready for the Metaverse? 

What we need are short-duration industry-oriented training programmes that can complement degree and diploma courses by providing focussed training in the latest tools

April 20, 2022 10:22 pm | Updated 10:22 pm IST

The metaverse can only take shape when someone designs virtual environments and populates it with digital avatars of real selves that will work and play in the virtual world.

The metaverse can only take shape when someone designs virtual environments and populates it with digital avatars of real selves that will work and play in the virtual world. | Photo Credit: Freepik

“One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we’ll need a new definition.”  Alvin Toffler

In 1992, science fiction writer Neil Stephenson coined the term Metaverse to describe a Virtual Reality-based version of the Internet of the future where people will be completely immersed in the reality of an unreal world. This vision has been picturised in dystopian Hollywood movies such as Ready Player One and Gamer. For 29 years, however, the term remained in the realms of pure science fiction, until October 2021 when Mark Zuckerberg made it famous with his Metaverse presentation, and Facebook inc. was renamed Meta. But, what is the metaverse and how is it going to affect us?

The metaverse as outlined by Zuckerberg, is a proprietary environment designed by Meta, that will create revolutionary immersive online spaces for work and play that are a combination of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence powered by real-time computer graphics running on powerful servers.

Combining AR, VR and AI, the metaverse would be an deeply immersive virtual space where we have high-quality 3D interactive virtual environments such as offices, schools and clubs that will make online life look and feel like a AAA Game at high settings, bringing about sweeping changes in our digital existence.

The important trio

Faced with disruptive new technologies, there are three choices — swim, float, or sink. Swimmers are those who learn quickly and thrive; floaters learn just enough to get by, and the rest simply sink under the weight of their ignorance.

If you wish to be a swimmer, a Power User and content creator in the metaverse, you need training in one of two fields — Computer Sciences or Animation, VFX, Gaming and Comics (AVGC). While Computer Sciences have been a priority in the education sector in India since the 1980s, the focus has now fallen on AVGC, which is at the crossroads of arts and Science. Employment in the gaming sector is already growing at a phenomenal 113%, and it is estimated that new developments like the metaverse could generate an additional 300% demand for new jobs over the next five years, exposing a huge skill-gap in this sector. Therefore the 2022 Budget specifically focusses on AVGC as a high-growth sector and has planned to set up a task force for its promotion.

Viewing the requirement for urgent training in the latest technologies in the AVGC sector such as AR, VR, Unreal Engine Virtual Production, World Building and Character Creation over the next 5 to 10 years, it is essential that we augment traditional degree colleges and diploma courses with focussed part-time training programmes that address specific skill gaps in this sector.

The metaverse can only take shape when someone designs virtual environments and populates it with digital avatars of real selves that will work and play in the virtual world. This world building process is currently common to game design and visual effects where extensive and realistic environments are painstakingly created on computers. Now some of these are standard AVGC skills like CG modelling, rigging, texturing, and lighting, and artists need not be just trained from scratch but merely re-trained to be able to use the new real-time workflows using real-time gaming platforms like Unreal Engine and master new tools that will make the content creation process as much as ten times faster.

The key, then, is to have short-duration industry-oriented training programmes that can complement degree and diploma courses by providing focussed training in the latest tools to students or professionals already in the industry, but without the requisite skills in new technologies. This will enable players to retain experienced artists who will be more productive when re-trained in the new workflows. The time to start re-learning is now!

The writer is Academic Director, EDGE by Pearl Academy.

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