What is the Metaverse?
The word Metaverse is being used a lot at the moment. It is a technology in its infancy, like many technologies it could be a gimmick. However as the technology develops I think we’ll be hearing more and more about the metaverse. What it is, and how people use it will evolve over time.
The metaverse isn’t one place, it is a whole range of interactive “lands” usually based on NFT and blockchain technology. The current big names, Decentraland and the Sandbox, are out of my financial reach. I thought the concept of using the metaverse for educational purpose was worth exploring. I wanted to host the first Sensory Story in the Metaverse.
An Augmented Reality Project
I signed up for OVR Reality which is a geographically linked augmented reality metaverse. You can explore the world people are starting to build for free using the app. To build you need to buy some NFT “land” using their cryptocurrency. I bought an NFT geotagged to outside the Excel in London (Find the Metaverse Sensory Story Experience Here). You don’t need to be there you just need to know the address. After a bit of experimenting using the builder tool I managed to create an approximation of the environment I wanted.
Currently the issue with the development of the metaverse for projects such as this is knowing where will be worthwhile to invest. There are so few users compared with established technologies such as forums or youtube. There is no way to know which ones will become dominant. Many metaverse projects and their cryptocurrencies, or native tokens will fail over the next couple of years. However, the metaverse represents an opportunity for collaboration and connection that the SEND community can make use of to share resources and ideas.
Sensory Stories in the Metaverse
Sensory stories are immersive tactile storytelling experiences usually with tactile sensory elements. Sometimes creating the world the story exists in is very expensive and resource heavy. Maybe augmented reality can help, and wouldn’t it be great if that could be accessed from anywhere by anyone with a smartphone? I chose to use the most popular sensory story from the ones I have written as the first Augmented Reality (AR) sensory story. Snow Bear is about a polar bear hunting for food in the arctic.
Building the Metaverse Environment
I used the web based and free OVRBuilder software to create a scene that fitted the story. There was a bit of a learning curve here but it is reasonably intuative and it links with Sketchfab so you can use freely available 3d models to enrich your scene.
Now with my daughter narrating you can explore the world of Snow Bear using a phone or tablet moving around the environment and examining the 3d elements within it. This gives a good approximation of the immersive storytelling experience that the metaverse can provide. The next stage is to use the lighting and equipment in the sensory room at school to fill in the elements a virtual world can’t provide.
How To Access The Sensory Story
- Download the iPhone/iPad app here. App Store.
- Sign up with google, facebook etc
- Click OVR Experiences
- Click this link or search for: likewise.upload.modular
- Click Live Experience Remotely or Visit the Excel in London.
- Navigate around with your tablet or phone.
An NFT Experiment
The second stage of this project was to create the first Sensory Story NFT. You may have heard the term, so what is an NFT?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. Non-fungible is an economic term that you could use to describe things like your chair, a PDF, or your iPhone. NFTs are tokens stored on the Ethereum blockchain that we can use to represent ownership of unique items. They let us tokenise things like art, images, virtual property, maybe one day real property. They can only have one official owner at a time. This is unlike many resources you download from the internet which can be downloaded and shared without tracking ownership.
I thought it would be interesting to create an NFT of the video of Snow Bear which you can buy here. Everything on my site is downloadable for free, that means anyone can share it via email etc. Tokenising them is just a way to see the value in the work and whether this is a viable format for future releases.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our sensory adventure in the metaverse. I already have plans for version 2. Which story would you like to see virtually next? Let me know in the comments.