HITS Spring: Softtek Explores the Creation of Impact-Driven Metaverse Experiences
For the foreseeable future, enterprises are going to be expected to make major investments in building and operating metaverses, either for their entire organization or for specific areas of their businesses.
Metaverses represent the convergence of physical and digital lives, including digital-twin, fully interactive environments, as well as game-inspired activities that create engaging and immersive experiences.
Softtek’s Digital eXtended Reality (XR) services division uses distributed agile and lean methodologies to identify productive applications for customer-defined metaverses, enabled by proven processes designed to deploy enterprise-grade immersive solutions.
There are “challenges and implications” that are being “driven by the metaverse” and Softtek is taking a “lean, agile approach to creating the metaverse” to help solve them, Diana Rodriguez, director of Enterprise Lean-Agile CoE at Softtek, said May 19 at the Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS), during the Metaverse breakout session “Creating Impact-Driven Metaverse Experiences.”
During the session, she and Douglas Fajardo, CEO and chief experience officer at Xennial/Softtek, provided demonstrations of metaverse implementations, along with the application of agile processes to develop, test and deploy immersive content to environments managed on-prem or in the cloud.
“We’ve been working on what people are calling the metaverse, which mostly are interactive experiences through virtual reality and augmented reality,” Fajardo told attendees.
“At the end of the day, we live it day in and day out and we’re still figuring out how to transmit the right message to the market,” he said.
For Softtek, the metaverse is much like the internet in that we need to deploy applications where everybody has access to it, he explained, noting: “We still don’t have that infrastructure to where I create a virtual reality application and it’s available to all of you.
The Main Issues
“When it comes to challenges and implications that are being driven by what we’re calling the metaverse, there [are] three very specific things that we need to focus on,” according to Fajardo.
The main issue concerns data and security implications. “Not only do we need to think about how do we authenticate users, because most of the world’s virtual worlds or virtual experiences that we’re creating right now still have those factors that we need to consider,” but we also need to think about “the safety of how we interact with each other within these environments,” Fajardo said.
The second key component is content production because when thinking about content production at the enterprise level, which is where Softtek plays, “we need to think about how do we deploy multiple modules, multiple pieces of content through a portal,” he said.
And the third “key piece” is workflows, he pointed out. “When it comes to the media and entertainment sector, probably for a lot of your companies, you have workflows that are going to completely change from a 2D environment,” he noted. So companies must figure out how to create and deploy those workflows and transform them “through the environments where we’re actually replicating or making what everybody’s calling digital twins of our real world, he added.
Softtek has nearly two decades of experience in “implementing a lean, agile mindset, both at a team and enterprise scale,” Rodriguez pointed out.
The company’s approach “starts from understanding the customer problem and defining what is their solution through constant feedback that flows from each stage to get a full knowledge of what is actually bringing value to the users and where we need to pivot,” she explained.
“First, we want to understand what is the problem that we’re trying to solve for and, through a series of workshops, we can gain insights into defining what is the vision of the product,” she said.
One key issue is the value stream, which she explained “outlines what are the activities that are required to deliver the value to the end users [and] gives us more clarity on who are those end users that are going to be using the product and what their needs are.” They “provide input to create our empathy map, which helps us better understand what those users are thinking and feeling through the use of the product and help design [the] experience through journey maps,” she said.
A Real-World Use Case
The company demonstrated an enterprise application that Fajardo said “provides a micro version of a problem that we identify at a micro scale.”
He explained: “One of the biggest challenges that the world is facing, especially in the healthcare area right now, is the shortage of critical medical staff. From here until the end of 2030, there is going to be a shortage of 80 million healthcare workers around the world and 40 million of those are nurses.”
Softtek is working with the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, specifically its nursing program, to identify the major challenges, he said.
And “when we talk about discovery here, one of the major problems that we discovered is that their simulation labs, which are physical, are not scalable,” he told attendees.
The goal was to put more nurses through training and get more healthcare workers out there but he said the “physical environments are actually limiting us from doing that.” He added: “By identifying how we can create simulation labs in virtual reality, we can help scale that.”
Softtek’s experience design hub will design prototypes and validate the product to be built through “prototyping and user story workshops [and] constantly refine and design the next set of features that are going to be created, Rodriguez said.
“We’re still using the leading tools in the market to create entertainment experiences,” according to Fajardo. That means “we still use Unity and an Unreal engine to create these massive worlds,” he said. “But we also have other standard tool sets … to create all of the 3D objects, all of the 3D environments, all of the textures, so that we can replicate in the virtual reality environments what we experience in the real world.”
This will “continue to evolve over time,” he predicted, saying the metaverse is going to be an ever-evolving environment in different areas.” Especially in entertainment right now, “most of the work that we’re doing is we’re creating offline experiences,” he said.
One new technology stands to play a key role in taking the metaverse to the next level, according to Fajardo.
“Streaming virtual reality content is very expensive” now, he said. But 5G next-generation wireless technology is “going to allow us to do that,” he said, predicting 5G will be a “key technology in the metaverse because it’s going to allow us to have more and more real time interactions with other people from across the globe,” he said.
Another major factor will be the evolution of meta humans or virtual beings, he told attendees. Companies must figure out how to create a movie or an entertainment experience “where we as end users actually participate in it,” he said.
“Right now, we’re just bystanders, just watching these incredible movies with incredible visual effects, but we’re not participating in it,” he noted.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will also play a key role, he said, noting we need to understand which interactions “we love the most,” how we can move through the spaces and how does AI then “understand that to give us more of what we create.”
Adding more senses to virtual reality experiences will also play a significant role and haptics presents a “key piece of this equation” because right now there are various companies “making a huge dash into how to build virtual reality gloves so that we can get tactile experiences,” he explained.
What companies working on metaverse technology now are trying to figure out is how can we have feedback from virtual interactions, how users can feel weight and resistance within the virtual world, he said.
Right now, as others at the event noted, controllers are still “difficult sometimes to manage for a lot of people,” he said.
It is important to think about how these technologies are going to “continue to help us enhance these environments as we move forward into the metaverse,” he added.
To view the entire presentation, click here.
The Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit event was produced by MESA in association with the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Media & Entertainment Data Center Alliance (MEDCA), presented by ICVR and sponsored by Genpact, MicroStrategy, Whip Media, Convergent Risks, Perforce, Richey May Technology Solutions, Signiant, Softtek, Bluescape, Databricks, KeyCode Media, Metal Toad, Shift, Zendesk, EIDR, Fortinet, Arch Platform Technologies and Amazon Studios.