In Laval, a metaverse that is just beginning to emerge from limbo

What exactly will the metaverse be, this digital universe popularized by Mark Zuckerberg? At the Laval Virtual show this week, virtual and augmented reality professionals said they were ready to get started, without being able to define the outlines yet.

“The Internet first made it possible to find information, then to connect with others. With the metaverse, it will allow you to have a complete experience, an immersion, which makes you forget the screens”, tries to sum up Arnaud Dressen, the boss of Wonda, which sells 3D universes to companies for training.

At Wonda, the headquarters is set up in a virtual 3D room. “Our only central space, which is always there for everyone, is a virtual space” where employees meet in avatar form, explains the entrepreneur. A small piece of metaverse, which he dreams of interconnecting with others.

“I see metavers rather than a metavers”, explains Arnaud Dressen, who is delighted to see real-world architects taking an interest in the construction of virtual worlds. “They are beginning to understand that there are real architectural projects to be done in virtual worlds,” he says.

“To do this, the metaverse will have to include a lot of different people. If it’s concentrated between a few big platforms, with a few people deciding for everyone, it won’t work,” he adds.

On another Laval Virtual stand, the Pole Chris Wrobel, owner of a small company which markets conversational robots (chatbot) embodied in avatars, sees the metaverse as a “commercial opportunity”.

His company seeks to “have brands embodied by virtual people”, by playing on their outfit, their voice, their shape.

Consumers need to be able to “become friends with them”, he says.

At the stand next door, Thibaut Daudin, research engineer in the private artificial intelligence laboratory Spirops (about twenty employees) presents his work on the animation of avatars.

Spirops manages to animate virtual characters realistically, with a reduced amount of data.

– Artificially animated avatars –

“Ideally, the metaverse should be a system that reconciles different technologies” of virtual worlds, to make them compatible together, says Thibaut Daudin. He regrets, for example, that there is no agreement on the technical formats of the avatars.

If this were the case “small businesses could now adapt, invest” without fear of having bet on the wrong horse, he regrets.

In the meantime Spirops is working in particular on crowds – how to reconstitute them in a virtual universe. “The fundamental error is to think that we will populate the metaverse with only avatars of human beings”, he says.

Far from confinement in virtual reality helmets, Michel Ruiz, boss of the small start-up Kaviar Tech (7 employees), sees the future in augmented reality – images, shapes are projected into glasses to superimposed on the real world, without hiding it.

“The metaverse is a second layer of information that we put on the real world,” he explains. “You visit a natural park somewhere, and through your augmented reality glasses, you talk to an artificial intelligence-powered hologram that guides and informs you.”

Michel Ruiz does not believe in 100% virtual worlds, in which “we would create an ideal character, through which we would live by proxy”.

In any case, the metaverse “will need a European helmet”, which “is not a Chinese or American helmet with above a cloud which comes to pump our data”, warns for his part Stan Larroque, the general manager of Lynx, a French start-up of about fifteen people who is preparing to deliver this summer its first lightweight helmets, intermediate between virtual reality and augmented reality.

“It is now that it is played” to succeed in launching European equipment, “otherwise we will wake up again in two or three years when it will be too late”, he says.

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In Laval, a metaverse that is just beginning to emerge from limbo

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