Web 3.0 is going to be vastly different from what we know Web 2.0 to be. Virtual reality (VR) will play a big role in UX, and hinting at what’s to come will generate a lot of excitement. How will VR improve Web 3.0? What would the advantages be? Will we become obsessed with augmented reality (AR) and ignore our own? (For the basics on AR, see Augmented Reality 101.)
1. Redefining the Way We Experience the World
The arrival of Web 3.0, described as an extension of Web 2.0, has been predicted since 2014, but in the subsequent years, the term “Web 3.0” has been used as an empty buzzword so many times that it has practically lost any meaning. Today, this buzzword keeps being used everywhere to build hype whenever it’s needed, but what is Web 3.0 really, and how does virtual reality contribute to the transition from Web 2.0?
The progression from Web 1.0 to 2.0 was quite straightforward. Web 1.0 was essentially the sum of many static, flat text- or image-based websites that left almost no interaction margin to visitors. Web 2.0 allowed people to interact and get social, talk and share their content freely. Collaboration between people and social interactions were the core elements that defined Web 2.0 rather than technology, so what’s the bottom line of the evolution toward Web 3.0?
To earn its true definition, Web 3.0 must be able to freely interact with our real world. Artificial intelligence will draw information from human behaviors to personalize the navigation experience, such as by optimizing the results of search engines. Internet of things (IoT) devices will expand the “perception” of the machines to the real world, and allow humans to interact with almost every object through the internet (domotics technology is a prime example). And while the web is already “talking” to our reality, VR is, therefore, needed to augment the web until it looks like our real world. We will learn to interact with the web through all our senses as the VR technologies redefine the way we experience our daily lives. Eventually both the real world and the online one will be merged into a single, interconnected continuum.
2. Blockchain-Based Virtual Transactions
Today, when we shop around the web, we buy and sell stuff by moving between pages (think of Amazon, eBay or any e-commerce site out there). Virtualization can make every single space in our world a dynamic channel people can interact with. Blockchain and smart contracts can be used to program every single space of our cities and towns through technologies such as the newly announced VERSES protocol for spatial interaction. For example, as access to a hotel room can be limited to people who have the key, similar spaces such as a kindergarten in a private school can become “content” that only users who’ve paid for it can access.
These protocols can be used to virtualize virtually (pun intended) every transaction, from purchasing both physical and digital items (such as e-books or video games), to acquiring all kinds of services. VR and AR can serve as the meeting ground for the physical and virtual space together. As the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 resulted in the evolution of physical shops into e-commerce, the virtualization of Web 3.0 may lead to the birth of a new generation of “virtual reality commerce” (v-commerce) shops, a modern blockchain-based economy.
3. Video Games and MMORPGs
Some argued that, back in the early 2000s, massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPGs) represented the first transition toward a fully virtualized world. It is definitely possible. Games where you can purchase virtual goods and services with real money are not a novelty, so a first basic form of Web 3.0 interaction already exists. From what we’ve seen so far, many of the modern MMOGs and gaming platforms are starting to implement virtual technologies that significantly enhance the players’ experiences and make them much more immersive.
There are many technological hurdles to overcome before we can achieve the heights imagined by “Sword Art Online” or by Overlord’s Yggdrasil world, however. VRs still cannot deal with the massive amount of clutter required by even the most basic MMOG’s interface, and current VR visors still cause a strain on the eyes which is not compatible with the overly lengthy gaming sessions typically associated with these games. Room scaling may also prevent people with mobility limitations from fully enjoying the gaming experience, and the haptics required to fully interact with a virtual world are not exactly within an arm’s reach, yet. (To learn more about VR, check out Tech's Obsession With Virtual Reality.)
4. Virtualization of the Shopping Experience
The two points described above can be easily merged in the near future. While v-commerce may still seem an amazing technology from the distant future, the whole idea of shopping can be fully revolutionized inside Web 3.0 by introducing some basic elements of virtualization. Instead of changing the way people interact with physical space as described in the point above, the entire web can draw from the experience of MMOGs and start hosting “virtual worlds” with shops, buildings and other areas.
Here consumers can interact together in new “virtual social media” platforms, interact with products before buying them in virtual shopping malls, or explore a property before buying it from a real estate agency. It comes as no surprise that large companies such as Alibaba, Amazon and Ikea have already started investing in these technologies.
5. The Future of Arts
Virtualization will make every sensorial experience much more immersive, therefore enhancing the impact of all arts. If movies can be watched through a VR headset, it is easy to imagine what the future of Netflix or any streaming website is going to be. All artistic content will be produced (and consumed by users) in a 3D format, such as art galleries with paintings virtually hanging on the walls and statues you can touch without risk of damaging them. In Web 3.0, artists will share their online portfolio in a new 3D format which can now be consumed on a PC, smartphone or next-gen VR headset.
Virtualization is a key element of the transition from Web 2.0 to 3.0. The next internet revolution is just around the corner. It will become a reality as soon as we’re able to walk the extra mile needed to go beyond all the current limits of VR technologies.