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LiDAR and the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent attempt to reorient public perception of his social media behemoth, from association with the historically successful social media models of Facebook and Instagram to a futuristic image of social augmented reality and digital world experiences, has produced a boom in public conversation about the implications of these powerful experiences, as well as how and when they will be available. While there is a massive rabbit hole to explore surrounding the ethics and possible effects of these experiences, seeing as this is a LiDAR blog and not a philosophical one, lets be good capitalists, ignore a few humanitarian red flags, and get on with thinking about how LiDAR can bring us the power digital worlds have to offer.

Like the rest of modern technology the two products that will make digital world experiences tick are software services and consumer hardware. Inexpensive, compact, and reliable LIDAR will play a key role in each of these domains.

The current vision for augmented reality hardware is a sleek pair of glasses with displays, sensors, and processing power capable of seamlessly overlaying visuals onto the wearer’s surroundings. For virtual experiences to augment our reality they must first understand exactly what reality it is they are working with. LiDAR is the best tool we have to quantify the spaces in our lives.

It will be the tool that allows us to share and manipulate these spaces digitally. The only problem is that current LiDAR tech is so bulky that it even looks funny on the top of a car let alone strapped to someone’s head.

The solution?

Integrated photonics!

As Voyant’s integrated LoC (LiDAR-on-Chip) matures, and components become increasingly unified onto a single die, compact, low power applications like AR glasses will become powerful possibilities.

LIDAR also has a place in digital experience creation. As I mentioned before, part of the power of having a way to digitally represent spaces is the ability to share them. For example, I could be in my living room playing a game on a virtual chess board with a friend who is in his own home thousands of miles away, but able to share a space with me due to my hardware having the capability to know the exact dimensions of the table, sofa, books, and light fixtures around me.

From a software services standpoint, LiDAR offers the valuable ability to port landscapes on a massive scale into the virtual world. A potential use case for this that has peaked my interest is mountain resorts creating high definition models of their trail networks enabling customers who purchase a virtual pass to down mountain bike trails on a Peloton-like simulator from the comfort of my own home with no risk of bone injury, no need for plane travel, and the ability to ride trails from all around the world.

While many high complexity experiences like this likely won’t be available to the average consumer for a few years, there are massive market forces working to move technology to a place where these experiences are possible. It is also clear that LiDAR in general and certainly LoC will be one of these enabling technologies. Companies like Apple have already begun integrating LiDAR into their consumer products for use in augmented reality applications. Having seen in my lifetime the massive increases in the use of environmental sensors on consumer electronics such as phones for purpose of photography and augmented reality I am confident that Voyant’s products will find their way into these devices, expanding horizons for a future of digital world experiences.

Miles Segal

AUTHOR

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