Conversational AI & the metaverse: the future of digital interaction

9 min read
Akshay Warikoo
Authors name: Akshay Warikoo December 14, 2021

Big Tech experts are predicting the coming of the next internet. According to myriads of blog posts by tech businesses and leading venture capitalists alike – the future's cyberspace will be transcendent, immersive, and 3D, the different sites and services we use, all merged under one roof. In its ultimate form, we would be looking at the digital representation of all real-world aspects where users would totally immerse themselves in a virtual lifestyle and experience things, they would never be able to do in real life.

Everything could be interactive in such a world, a virtual world free of limitations where even an inanimate object like a door may interact with us! The mundane tasks of the real world would become much more convenient. Things like trying out new clothing or test driving a car may be done in the comfort of your own home.

It’s fair to say that the metaverse is a super ambitious concept but such is the magic of technological advancements, it delivers surprises that nobody predicts. In technology adoption, incremental innovation is still simple to comprehend, radical innovation is difficult to fathom but understanding the metaverse is even more complicated, especially because it doesn’t exist yet. Still 'Metaverse,' has become the newest macro-goal for many of the world's tech companies.

Why does the metaverse matter?

Metaverse is characterized as an expansive virtual space where users can interact with 3D digital objects and virtual avatars in a complex manner that mimics the real world.

However, it will require a plethora of new technologies, protocols, enterprises, breakthroughs, and discoveries. And it won't appear out of nowhere; there won't be a clear "Before Metaverse" and "After Metaverse" distinction. Rather, it will develop gradually over time as various products, services, and capabilities connect and meld.

If the contemporary internet experience is two-dimensional – that is, you surf and scroll across it on a screen – then the metaverse is three-dimensional. You’ll be “walking” through it via connected headsets or glasses. It's uncertain whether there will be one metaverse or many independent metaverses (or whether there will be any metaverse at all), but one thing appears to be certain: The metaverse would be an immersive next-generation version of the internet, likely rendered by virtual or augmented reality technology.

We'll be able to feel present, as if we're right there, no matter how far we are.. And that will open the door to a plethora of incredible new experiences.

Role of AI in metaverse

By merging augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) with artificial intelligence, the metaverse will create scalable and realistic virtual worlds. This combination would undoubtedly open the door to incredible experiences, but it would also raise many questions, such as how brands would enter, operate, and survive in this metaverse, what role digital humans will have in this digital world, and how will customer service function in a newly minted metaverse?

The metaverse is uncharted ground for any industry. Some people may squirm at the prospect of running a new channel, while others will be rubbing their hands at the opportunities. But it's fascinating to think about how companies may leverage the metaverse as a customer support channel. Consider how mobile phones have evolved as the go-to medium for customer care. If big tech experts are correct about the metaverse being the successor to mobile, customer service might well become virtual-first and this fuels the need for Conversational AI.

Conversational AI: Bridging the gap between virtual and real

With the metaverse boom beginning to pick up steam, Conversational AI has a unique role to play as it would enable the creation of AI-driven virtual characters that can be used to populate virtual immersive worlds. These Conversational AI-powered avatars would be able to engage with many of the modalities that people utilize, such as facial expressions, body language, emotions, and physical interactions, in addition to speaking.

As a toolset, Conversational AI will play a pivotal role to create sophisticated, naturally interacting virtual characters that deliver more compelling digital experiences for users inside metaverse where speech would just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of communicative capabilities of these AI characters. The level of immersion offered by these experiences will determine whether the metaverse lives or dies. 

Sophisticated virtual characters are key for immersion

Advanced Virtual Agents are employed by brands and businesses today, adding a human touch to their customer experience. But what will virtual characters aka digital humans do in the metaverse? There can be a few use cases that could be low-hanging fruit for companies looking to thrive in the virtual world.

An immersive world for retail channels

Initially, people may mostly utilize the metaverse to the game, socialize, and simply hang around. However, this does not mean that their worldly desires are totally gratified.

What if you are in this immersive world and want to order pizza while having the experience of a virtual amusement park? Will you remove your VR headset, search for the phone, and order one via the app before returning to the metaverse? Or will you visit your favorite outlets within the metaverse? Undoubtedly the second option appears to be more appealing due to the quick time to value and the seamless user experience. I’m also confident that digital individuals (virtual characters) will be the preferred interface for even little metaverse transactions.

Furthermore, voice technology will be more efficient than typing on a virtual reality screen. And organizations will seek to deliver dynamic, human-like interfaces that can foster deeper emotional connections with customers. Experiences that feel natural and frictionless in the metaverse and won‘t force users to leave it. As a result, organizations will need to include the metaverse into their omnichannel customer experience plans.

Concierge services: From chatbots to digital humans

At present, a lot of organizations use sophisticated chatbots to assist their users by performing various tasks such as making restaurant reservations, booking hotels, booking transportations, etc. The metaverse would also need a virtual concierge service – but with these virtual characters, users can engage in open-ended conversation, seek advice from, crack a joke with – and they could even make you laugh in return.

The metaverse is still a ways off, but parts of it are already here

Defining customer experience in the era of AI is in its infancy, and it will evolve in tandem with the metaverse. But the fundamentals of what we seek as humans remain the same. In our digital environments – on websites and apps – we expect interaction, emotional engagement, and personality. When businesses give it, whether in the metaverse tomorrow or online now, the results can be seen across the customer journey.

The metaverse is the next evolution of digital interaction. Conversational AI will bring it to life by powering human-like avatars as well as by humanizing artificial objects, enabling meaningful and natural conversations in multiple modalities.