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AI and the Metaverse – What You Should Know

A virtual universe with a humanoid robot’s brain at its center, visualizing the concept of AI being at the center of the metaverse.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse are quickly changing the way we live. Although not without their share of skeptics, these incredible technologies have the power to bring the physical and virtual worlds together and offer us all kinds of new opportunities.

If you understand what AI and the metaverse are and how they relate to each other, you’ll be better equipped to take advantage of those opportunities — and even create new ones for yourself.

What do you need to know about artificial intelligence and the metaverse? Let’s explore just that!

In this post, VIVERSE will show you how AI works and its pivotal role in the virtual world. You’ll discover the different kinds of artificial intelligence, why they matter, and how we can use them in the metaverse to do things previously thought impossible.

Read on for a look into the AI-powered metaverse.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence is a way in which computers can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence to complete. It is the development and use of algorithms, programs, and systems that can learn, reason, and correct themselves.

Artificial intelligence (AI) visually represented by a humanoid robot and its brain.
Many people associate AI with robots, but there are simpler examples all around us.

Take, for example, the voice recognition on your phone. It is a form of AI that interprets the sounds produced when you speak to respond to your commands and inquiries. This mimics the way your brain attaches meanings to words spoken by your family and friends.

Scientists develop AI by studying how the human brain works and simulating the cognitive process — i.e., thinking. You can generally consider something AI if it is able to replicate three basic skills:

Learning: AI recognizes patterns or relationships in data. That could mean, for instance, acquiring the ability to distinguish objects in a picture from the background.

Reasoning: AI makes informed decisions or predictions in response to data. This is how a chatbot answers questions asked of it or your email inbox filters out potential spam.

Self-correction: AI continuously improves its performance over time, remembering errors or undesirable results to avoid in future iterations of itself. Practice makes perfect!

Not all AI are created equal. Some machines are better at performing these skills than others, and theoretically, they could one day become sophisticated enough to complete any intellectual task that a human could. Such an AI is known as artificial general intelligence, or AGI.

The term AI actually encompasses many kinds of technology, and each kind benefits the metaverse in some way. But before we explain what those kinds of AI are and how they work with the metaverse, let’s make sure you also understand what the metaverse is.

Metaverse avatars gathered in a virtual world in VIVERSE, the metaverse gateway from HTC.
Like artificial intelligence, the metaverse is full of promise but often misunderstood.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a vast virtual space that connects people across the physical and digital worlds. As with Web 3.0 (Web3), the metaverse allows you to control your own identity, data, and assets. However, we should consider the metaverse a more open, decentralized, and interoperable version of the internet that includes immersive interactions with technologies like XR, blockchain, 5G, and, yes, AI.

Visualization of a 5G network providing high-capacity, low-latency connectivity to devices within its range.
The metaverse is dependent on other modern innovations like 5G networks.

If that definition of the metaverse sounds vague, it’s largely because the metaverse is still early in its development. Many people have different ideas about what the metaverse should look like or how exactly it should work, and we wrote an in-depth post exploring these various points of view here.

We believe you’ll have a much better understanding of the metaverse if you just dive in and spend some time in it yourself. There are several ways to get into the metaverse, and each offers a unique kind of experience. You don’t even need a VR headset to start exploring!

Mixed reality experience combining virtual elements with a real-world environment.
Many people associate the metaverse with VR, but there’s more to it than that.

What technologies work with AI in the metaverse?

Whether you think of the metaverse as one virtual world or the product of many, try to keep in mind that the metaverse is built on a foundation of many kinds of technologies, each of which has a close relationship with AI. In this post, we’ll focus on three of them:

XR: Short for extended reality, XR is a term that includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). It is a means of experiencing immersion in 3D computer simulations – that means you feel physically present in a digitally generated experience like a video game or online world. Although you can enter the metaverse without XR, using an extended reality device lets you connect with people in the metaverse on another level.

VIVE XR Elite, the powerful and lightweight standalone VR headset from HTC VIVE with mixed reality features and PC connectivity.
An XR headset like the VIVE XR Elite is ideal for navigating the metaverse.

Blockchain: A blockchain is a digital ledger shared across an entire network of computers that records information in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to tamper with. Blockchains make transactions in the metaverse fast, secure, and decentralized, allowing you to buy and sell goods and services with payment forms like cryptocurrencies that cut out the need for an intermediary. They also offer verifiable proof of ownership of digital assets like NFTs.

Visualization of the blockchain, a digital ledger shared with an entire network of computers, and cryptocurrencies on the blockchain.
Crypto tokens like Bitcoin are widely circulated on the blockchain.

5G: 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks that connect a wide range of devices. It offers fast, high-capacity, low-latency data transmission — ideal for preventing lag that would disrupt otherwise-immersive metaverse experiences. For example, 5G can handle the huge amounts of data you would need to send and receive to participate in a virtual concert, which may feature performances captured with volumetric video and be attended by a crowd of custom avatars.

Reign Core, the portable private 5G network solution for enterprise from G Reigns, a subsidiary of HTC.
A 5G network like Reign Core’s can allow metaverse content to run more smoothly.

The role of AI in bringing us closer together with these technologies is significant. Artificial intelligence isn’t just a metaverse building block; it’s also the key to making the metaverse both immersive and inclusive.

What kinds of AI are in the metaverse?

Just like the metaverse, AI encompasses many different kinds of technology. Getting familiar with them will help you see just how AI and the metaverse can shape the world we live in.

Among the most important kinds of AI at work in the metaverse are machine learning, natural language processing, voice recognition, computer vision, and planning. Let’s go through each of these and see how they can enhance our experience of the metaverse.

What is machine learning?

Sometimes abbreviated as ML, machine learning is any of various techniques used to train a computer on how to handle or respond to a set of data — often a very large one. It’s how AI acquires the abilities that we want it to have.

Visualization of machine learning, the means by which AI can be taught to process a set of data.
Machine learning is critical in developing other applications of artificial intelligence.

Just like humans, machines can be taught in different ways. ML includes three basic styles of learning:

  • Supervised learning is when AI is given a labeled data set that it can study to predict the outcome for a new data set. For example, a computer might be supplied with the daily number of active users on several metaverse platforms for the past year. AI could analyze this data to forecast how many people will use each metaverse platform over the next 12 months.

  • Unsupervised learning lets AI cluster new data into categories without providing it with existing data or instructions to reference. The machine is left to identify characteristic features among elements in a set of data. For instance, AI can learn to distinguish realistic metaverse avatars from stylized or animal-like metaverse avatars, even though it may not have any clue what the metaverse or avatars are.

  • Reinforcement learning has AI use trial and error to discover desirable and undesirable actions. Rewards promote the reoccurrence of the actions they follow, while errors discourage actions from repeating. This is like having an AI play a game — perhaps even a VR game — and letting it discover that its character gains health with power-ups and loses health when colliding with enemies. It learns to do the former and avoid the latter.

You may have also heard of deep learning. Deep learning is not a learning style per se but an entire subcategory of machine learning. It is the training of AI using special algorithms called artificial neural networks, which mimic the activity of the human brain.

Machine brain powered by a neural network, a method used to teach AI to process data in a way that is similar to the human brain.
Deep learning draws inspiration from the neurons that make up our own brains.

What’s all this about neural networks? While deep learning is a fascinating subject, you don’t need to understand precisely how it works to appreciate what it can do. Just know that deep learning is just a more sophisticated kind of machine learning that results in smarter, even human-like AI.

As an example, consider that AI trained with deep learning could become able to create highly detailed artworks in a matter of seconds. AI art generators like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion draw upon their knowledge of existing artworks (pun intended) to produce fantastic new creations in response to simple prompts.

Deep learning can even allow machines to accurately process inputs they have never seen before. That means a properly trained AI could correctly guess the meaning of a newly invented word, which is a feat for even a human, let alone a computer!

What is natural language processing?

Speaking of words, natural language processing (NLP) is how AI can understand, interpret, and use human language. It allows us to communicate directly with computers using our own words and phrases, as opposed to pre-set commands or machine codes.

AI-powered virtual assistant talking to a real person's virtual avatar in the metaverse.
Human-AI communications are becoming more and more realistic in the metaverse.

Perhaps the most famous example of NLP at work is chatbots, which have been around since the early days of the internet — and may have even been your first memorable AI encounter. You can ask questions or make requests of chatbots and receive intelligent responses (usually, anyway).

Lots of people have been doing this with the OpenAI chatbot ChatGPT. We gave it a try, too:

VIVERSE: Would you like to join the metaverse?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have feelings or desires, so I do not have a personal preference about joining the metaverse. However, I am programmed to interact with users in various settings, including the metaverse, and I will continue to provide assistance and information to users as they navigate virtual environments.

Responses like these are possible thanks to NLP, which applies the machine learning techniques we discussed earlier with computational linguistics to teach computers how to make sense of and reproduce human language. And it’s not just limited to English — natural language processing helps machines gain fluency in multiple languages, which they can then translate between.

Besides chatbots and AI translators, other common examples of NLP in use include:

  • virtual assistants, which can help us troubleshoot problems,

  • spell checkers, which detect errors in writing, and

  • AI writers, which can compose entire texts in response to prompts.

In case you were wondering, this blog post was not written by an AI bot. It does, however, feature some AI-generated art we thought looked neat!

Just as with the internet, the metaverse is a place where our communication with computers and other people takes on a new dimension, so NLP-powered AI is an invaluable tool to have around. We’ll see what it can do in the metaverse shortly.

What is speech recognition?

This is another kind of AI you’re probably familiar with. Speech recognition is how computers can recognize what people are saying. It is the branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on collecting and processing information from human speech.

Person speaking to a device that is using speech-to-text AI to convert the spoken words into writing.
Many of the everyday electronics we use have been taught to understand what we say.

You might think that speech recognition sounds a lot like NLP, but there is an important difference. While NLP helps machines recognize the meaning and intent of textual information, speech recognition is all about converting sounds into text. Once converted, that text can then be displayed on a screen or analyzed by the computer for further use.

For AI to process human speech, it must identify words or phonemes as they are spoken and distinguish them from other audio (e.g., background noise). It assigns the sounds of our voice corresponding symbols — such as the letters of the English alphabet — which are examined in the context of things like grammar and syntax to determine what was said.

Since many words have similar pronunciations and everyone’s voice or accent sounds different, some amount of guesswork is done in speech recognition, but AI gets better at this over time thanks to machine learning.

After spoken language has been converted to its written form via speech recognition, NLP can be applied to compose responses to commands and convert those text responses to speech, allowing you to have a spoken conversation with AI like the virtual assistant on your smartphone.

Of course, such an AI could also be present in the metaverse.

What is computer vision?

Computer vision is the field of AI that enables machines to collect, interpret, and respond to visual information. It’s what allows a computer to understand what it’s looking at when shown a digital photo, video, or live feed from a camera.

Although you use your eyes to see what’s around you, it’s really your brain that attaches meaning to the visual inputs that your eyes gather from the environment. Similarly, computer vision extracts information from images (however they may have been obtained) by assigning their visual elements some kind of significance and analyzing the relationship between them.

This is how AI can identify the subject matter in a work of art, recreate 3D environments from the real world in VR, or track the movement of objects. With the right training (i.e., machine learning), AI can even read multi-dimensional images from medical scans.

VIVE Tracker 3.0, a VR tracking device compatible with VR headsets that use the Lighthouse technology from HTC VIVE.
A tracking device like VIVE Tracker 3.0 makes virtual experiences more realistic.

In short, computer vision is how AI can see things, and it can often do so much faster and more effectively than our own eyes can! Computer vision helps us easily bring information from the real world into the metaverse.

What is planning?

Also known as scheduling or optimization, planning is a kind of AI that finds solutions to complex problems. It is how a computer decides the best sequence of actions that will achieve a desired goal in a given environment.

Suppose, for example, that you wanted to deliver several packages by car as quickly and efficiently as possible. How could AI assist you?

Planning looks for and analyzes possible solutions to a problem using the information provided — i.e., the starting state of the environment, the ideal ending state in which all goals have been met, and the possible actions in between.

To generate your optimal delivery route, then, AI could assess things like the delivery locations involved, the number of stops you have to make, traffic conditions in those areas, the time sensitivity of individual packages, and your vehicle’s unique qualities. It would compare the routes that ensure successful delivery of all packages and select the one that requires the least time and distance.

Visualization of theoretical delivery routes a vehicle could take throughout a city.
You can use planning AI to simplify and accelerate virtually any decision-making process.

If planning sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is, but AI can do this all in seconds. Planning thus automates decision-making and helps us discover problem-solving strategies faster than we could on our own.

The same sort of process used for your package deliveries can of course be applied to the delivery of other things — like computing resources for a metaverse experience.

How do AI and the metaverse benefit us?

AI is a tool that redefines what we can do in the metaverse. To understand how, let’s look at the ways AI works with other technologies that make up the metaverse. We will once again focus on the three pillars of XR, blockchain, and 5G.

What can AI and XR do in the metaverse?

Recall that extended reality makes you feel present in either a totally virtual environment (as with VR) or a digitally enhanced version of the real world (as with AR and MR). Artificial intelligence makes XR experiences in the metaverse even more engaging and realistic.

AI optimizes XR experiences in the metaverse.

The metaverse requires a lot of computing power. To correctly display fully customized avatars, detailed 3D objects, and the virtual environments that contain them, several calculations are needed, and these increase with the number and complexity of each visual element.

Avatars enjoying a virtual performance at a metaverse concert in Beatday, the holographic music platform from HTC.
AI can make three-dimensional graphics less demanding on your hardware.

One way AI supports us in the metaverse is by enabling more efficient use of the computing resources needed to render VR, AR, and MR experiences. Planning can effectively manage the computations and data allocation on an XR device like a standalone VR headset, using automated processes to predict, detect, and respond to any bottlenecks.

This can, for instance, prevent a virtual meeting from lagging or crashing because it contained more 3D graphics than your hardware was prepared to handle. Smooth XR experiences supported by AI are important in making the metaverse accessible to everyone.

AI enables high-precision tracking for XR in the metaverse.

Tracking in VR, AR, and MR contributes to the feeling of immersion these technologies give you. It’s possible thanks to computer vision, which lets XR devices recognize different parts of your body and follow your movements.

For example, head tracking and eye tracking are used by head-mounted displays to update your view of virtual environments as you look around them. They also enable foveated rendering, which is a feature that saves computing resources by providing higher image quality where your eyes are looking and lower image quality in your peripheral vision.

Hand tracking, meanwhile, allows you to explore the metaverse without having to hold any kind of device or VR controller. You can grab virtual objects with your fingers or execute commands using precise hand gestures. This makes for more intuitive metaverse navigation.

AI and XR provide more immersive interactions in the metaverse.

We use virtual avatars to represent ourselves in the metaverse, and AI gives our avatars lifelike qualities that make interactions with others feel more natural.

You can actually use AI right now to build your own metaverse avatar. Try downloading the free VIVE Avatar Creator mobile app and taking a selfie with it. Watch as our face-detection AI makes a full-body avatar modeled after you!

Virtual avatar being created with VIVE Avatar Creator, a mobile app from HTC for designing metaverse personas.
Creating your own realistic avatar from a photograph is a breeze thanks to AI.

Paired with the right hardware, AI can also animate your metaverse avatar in new ways. By analyzing your behavior or biometrics, for example, AI can read your emotions and express them through your virtual self. Your avatar could appear to laugh (or, conversely, cry) at the same time you do, letting others in the metaverse more easily understand how you feel.

Metaverse AI is also able to control avatars of its own and communicate through them using NLP. Think of an AI avatar as a more sophisticated, three-dimensional chatbot. It can act as your virtual guide in the metaverse, showing you around a VR world in your preferred language, teaching you how to perform a new skill, or recommending newly minted digital assets you might be interested in.

By combining NLP and speech recognition, meanwhile, AI can even interpret and translate what real people’s avatars say as they talk, producing live captions for the hearing impaired and real-time voiceovers or subtitles for speakers of other languages. That means you could easily have a conversation with someone in the metaverse no matter how you or they choose to communicate!

And with deep learning, AI voices can acquire more natural inflection and tone in their voice over time, enabling more life-like conversations with other people, virtual assistants, non-playable characters (NPCs), and others. If you wanted to, you could even use AI to disguise your voice in the metaverse and protect your privacy.

Virtual avatars gathered in one of the metaverse worlds of VRChat, a partner of HTC's VIVERSE.
AI can support safe yet fun interactions in the virtual world.

AI facilitates XR content creation for the metaverse.

The metaverse still has a lot of growth ahead of it, and AI helps bring the metaverse entirely new XR experiences.

For example, AI writers can be trained to quickly compose original stories or character scripts for online VR games and events. AI art generators can likewise let you design your own virtual objects for AR, VR, or MR experiences. We can even use artificial intelligence to build entire virtual worlds in the metaverse!

3D objects available for placement inside the metaverse worlds of VIVERSE via the integrated Sketchfab virtual library.
How you decorate your digital space in the metaverse is all up to you.

By pairing such powerful AI with data from cameras, sensors, or other sources in the physical world, it’s also possible to faithfully produce a given place’s digital twin. You could revisit your favorite real-world location anytime in the metaverse and watch it change in real time.

What can AI and blockchain offer us in the metaverse?

Blockchain is essential to the security and convenience of the metaverse, and AI helps make blockchain transactions even safer and more efficient.

AI powers blockchain transactions in the metaverse.

Artificial intelligence enables smart contracts, which are programs stored on a blockchain that automatically execute when certain conditions are met. Smart contracts are written with straightforward if-then logic, and AI is used to both recognize that a smart contract’s requirements have been fulfilled and produce a predetermined result.

Thanks to smart contracts, you can exchange goods and services in the metaverse without worrying about the conditions of an agreement getting altered unexpectedly or having to go through a third party like a bank. You could use a smart contract to trade your crypto coins for property like metaverse land or receive instant payment in your crypto wallet for completing a remote job task. AI ensures that you and the people or organizations you interact with can all get what you want as efficiently as possible.

Visualization of a smart contract, a program stored on the blockchain for instant transactions.
Outlining the terms of an exchange in a smart contract helps everyone get what they want.

AI enhances blockchain security in the metaverse.

Blockchains are essentially records containing textual information. Although they are already highly secure, their transactions can be further monitored and analyzed by AI to detect suspicious activity and prevent fraud. Artificial intelligence is thus a powerful tool for preserving the integrity of blockchains and protecting all of us in the metaverse who use them.

How do AI and 5G support the metaverse?

Data transmission between devices is what connects people in the metaverse. While AI lets machines process this data more rapidly, 5G offers a fast and secure way for data to travel where it needs to go.

AI and 5G enable data-intensive metaverse experiences.

Remember that a single virtual world and the avatars inside it comprise huge amounts of information. That information needs to be relayed back and forth between your device and a central location — likely a cloud server — because you are interacting with the environment and other people, not just passively observing something.

Planning AI (i.e., optimization) can be used on the devices involved in metaverse activity to instantaneously collect, interpret, organize, and manipulate the data, then transmit it within a 5G network’s range. The result is a fluid, highly immersive experience with minimal interruptions.

We can see this kind of setup with edge computing, which moves some of the data storage and calculations needed for a virtual activity away from the cloud and closer to where the data is produced — for example, near your VR headset or smartphone. By having the data processed locally, edge computing reduces network latency and bandwidth usage while also enhancing privacy.

AI optimizes 5G for the metaverse.

AI can also optimize the overall performance of a 5G network. Telecom companies may use it to facilitate their operations, such as by automating monitoring for things like network traffic load, the number of devices connected, and environmental conditions. AI is also capable of predicting and preventing outages and making more efficient use of existing 5G infrastructure.

AI and 5G make the metaverse “phygital.”

Connecting more and more AI devices around us means the digital and physical realms can interact in increasingly complex ways. Smart cameras, for example, can transmit real-time data over 5G to bring objects, people, and places from the real world into the metaverse.

Concept for AI-powered smart buildings inside a futuristic city.
The metaverse and the artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) represent similar ideas.

Elements from the metaverse can likewise be integrated into our physical spaces, creating smart parks, smart buildings, and smart cities where you’re able to both see and affect what’s happening in virtual environments without even using a personal device. AI and 5G allow us to communicate across worlds more seamlessly than ever before.

Discover the AI-powered metaverse.

Artificial intelligence and the metaverse are truly impressive innovations that will impact our lives in ways not previously seen, and we’ve only shown you a glimpse of what they can do.

Machine learning and deep learning are going to continue improving how effectively computers can perform tasks with natural language processing, voice recognition, computer vision, planning, and other forms of AI not mentioned here. These technologies will in turn enhance how we experience the metaverse with the immersiveness of XR, the convenience of blockchain, and the speed of 5G. The result will be a world where anything is possible.

Visualization of XR, blockchain, 5G, and AI coming together to form the metaverse.
Use the metaverse and artificial intelligence to shape your own reality.

But you don’t need to just wait around for the AI-powered metaverse. Why not be a part of its making instead? Try out your favorite AI tools and see what you can bring into VIVERSE today!


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