If you haven’t heard of generative AI by now, then you’re probably not the kind of person reading this blog, so we’ll keep intros short.
At the time of writing, AI has absolutely everyone talking, marvelling over its power and the good or ill that it might bring to our technological future. In that sense, it has superseded the metaverse as tech’s most newsworthy buzzword. Importantly, though, the AI hype is backed by genuinely mind-blowing capabilities which are accessible, not just in some envisioned future, but right now.
Many long-established creative tools, like Photoshop, Canva, Unreal Engine, and more, have begun to integrate AI functionality as seamless improvements to their product offering. Elsewhere, apps are springing up that let you create complex imagery, sound, text, and even 3D content from scratch with a few clever prompts and a click of a button. All of this is making it easier, if not trivial, for adepts and amateurs alike to fulfil complex creative visions worthy of sharing with the world.
In doing so, AI is breaking the digital creator economy as we know it, unleashing torrents of digital content previously held back by the barriers of skill, time, and dedication to craft.
Is this good for society? Bad? The debate rages on in comment sections and news bulletins across the internet. But one thing is certain: AI gives us a sure chance to make the wildest dreams of the metaverse, based on a democratic, dynamic, and culturally active creator economy, a reality.
Why? What does AI have to do with the metaverse?
The concept of a metaverse describes an ecosystem of virtual worlds that bridge with the physical world to allow users to socialise, work, play and shop with unprecedented freedom. The main crux of this is in allowing people to feel a better sense of presence and agency in virtual communities that interlink meaningfully with real-world interests, cares, and concerns.
But existing metaverses have a big problem: they rarely have good enough content to keep people interested in them for an extended period of time.
If a metaverse, or any community-driven virtual experience, were to gain widespread adoption, it would need a consistent rotation of interesting and/or valuable content – just like the most popular streaming and social media platforms have today.
Where the content comes from doesn’t matter so much, so long as it is as good as it is regular. But in the realm of virtual experiences, making good content from the top down has proven to be especially difficult. It is paramount, therefore, for platforms to empower users to share some of the load in making virtual platforms an interesting place to be.
We can learn this lesson from the gaming industry, where we have seen countless flops from ‘live service’ games furnished by one development team alone, unable to maintain the constant output of content needed to retain a large and dedicated audience. On the other hand, we see gaming platforms grounded in UGC, such as Fortnite and Roblox, thriving. UGC removes the burden of producing interesting content from any single creative team, ensuring that the available selection of content doesn’t become stale and is always open to new ideas from a diverse variety of creators.
More importantly, UGC breeds authenticity. When a platform is open to UGC, communities have the opportunity to forge their own identities through the content that they produce and share, and to benefit from the audiences that they attract. This is something which is essential to the success of the metaverse, where everyone should be able to contribute their opinions, feedback, and creations meaningfully, just as they do currently on social media.
This should also be compelling to brands and enterprises who, as early catalysts in the development of the metaverse, can benefit from granting consumers greater agency and interactivity in their consumption of branded products and content. This is a strategy that has already proven crucial in cultivating greater engagement and brand loyalty in the age of social media, and will only become more important as consumer preferences shift towards virtual worlds.
How generative AI is breaking down barriers to finally unleash UGC in the metaverse
A significant obstacle to full-fledged UGC in virtual environments, so far, has been the simple fact that producing 3D content is very hard. Creating experiences in game engines is a technical skill that is totally inaccessible to the average, untrained user. Even for adepts, it is seriously time-consuming, and therefore not generally viable unless there is a clear pathway to compensation. Platforms like Fortnite and Roblox, therefore, while offering their creative tools openly, nevertheless depend on a small subset of skilled, quasi-professional developers to provide high-quality, delimited experiences to the broader userbase, and not a culture of fully democratised content sharing. This, in part, is what holds them back from being ‘true metaverses’ that every user can be an agent in, rather than falling into a hard split between the creators and consumers of an experience.
Generative AI is blasting down this obstacle. By circumventing the skill and time required to create the various elements of a high-quality virtual experience, from objects and aesthetics to narratives and programming, it is helping users of all kinds to build entirely new worlds and virtual experiences, as well as to contribute quality content to existing ones.
AI functionality is also enabling more accentuated self-expression in virtual realms, providing people with more personalised, outside-of-the-box experiences that make their presence in the world feel more significant. Our partners at Move.ai, for example, use AI capabilities to enable markerless motion capture for the first time, allowing regular users to have their movements reflected seamlessly in 3D worlds using only their phones. Functionalities like this achieve not just the creation of new and better content, but also a better experience of interfacing with virtual worlds and communicating with the users that share them.
Progress is being made in the development of virtual experiences that was not possible before the AI boom, when the metaverse hype was at its peak. Immediately, the introduction of generative AI empowers more people to join in with virtual creator economies, express their agency more fully within them, and in doing so, become a part of an authentic, dynamic, and thriving digital culture. Thanks to this, we expect to see more people engaging with metaverse experiences that integrate AI tools. Let people see the power of AI in virtual worlds, and the metaverse hype will grow all over again.
Hadean is all-in on the integration of any AI tools into our virtual experiences. Let’s harness it to do amazing things.