In my search to understand what the metaverse is and how it might apply to broadcasting, I have found a suitable definition that describes the metaverse as technologies that are a creative platform used for developing enhanced experiences. Sounds something like ATSC 3.0.
If the metaverse is a computer-assisted production platform, then I can see broadcasters embracing computer-enhanced productions using limited goggle-based augmented reality to supplement the broadcaster’s content. For example, the content producer might let the consumer experience a lap around the racetrack or take a swing at the pitch of a major league athlete.
Traditional broadcasting is still dependent on seeing the picture with support from the sound. The metaverse is described as where the consumer goes beyond looking into the digital space to also moving through and interacting with the space. To achieve this fully immersive experience, the metaverse seems to depend on the cocoon-type experience necessary to control and stimulate the senses. As with television, the metaverse seems to still be tied to basic human senses such as sight and hearing, but perhaps the metaverse will include taste, touch and smell. So, what role or influence will the metaverse play in the broadcasting space?
Alerted by Sound
Without much consideration I conclude that the metaverse is in conflict with broadcasting because the metaverse is computer-rendered into the VR, AR, XR and MR space, which requires a different level of attention than what broadcasters currently expect.
For example, sports broadcasting is often a shared experience. I would argue that most consumers are not particularly interested in The Super Bowl, but the event provides an opportunity to drink, eat and socialize, and clearly television is perfect for sports because the consumer never misses anything. The consumer is alerted by the sound that something eventful has taken place and the producer is obligated to show multiple replays with endless commentary of the play, the strategy and the game along with a lot of unnecessary laughing.
Additionally, news and hosted programs such as talk shows and sports are often consumed in the background. Essentially a lot of television is a low-attention pastime and I argue that consumers like it that way as opposed to a goggle-intensive experience.
Recently I heard a newscast that stated the metaverse is “the future of the internet.” I guess it could also be argued that, if the metaverse is the future of the internet, then by logical extrapolation it could be reasoned that the future of broadcasting may be linked to the metaverse since ATSC 3.0 is built on internet protocols. If the future of broadcasting is 3D, then the metaverse and internet may be a path forward from 2D to 3D visuals. The concept of the metaverse as a production platform seems plausible with a goggle experience like VR, however research has shown that people still want to watch television on the big screen.
The metaverse has also been described as moving beyond just looking at a screen or picture to also interacting with that screen or picture. It is possible for computers to generate believable graphic content for a fully immersive goggle experience, but in my mind, this is more of a gaming experience than a passive viewing experience like watching drama, movies, news or sports.
Perhaps the metaverse is an “extended reality” that has already been contemplated by television engineers and producers. Hyped-up and interactive sound seems to be defined and described by the metaverse as well as the “telly-verse.” I see the convergence of sensory technologies and use of extended data enhancements as “Next Generation Television” and not defined by a meandering definition of a bold new meta-universe promising nirvana.
Perhaps future broadcasting experiences will also include the additional senses of smell, taste and touch, which clearly benefit an extended reality approach to television. I think the metaverse relates to television in a way that you can “dial-in” or vary the experience. For example, the addition of smell to a cooking show delivers more entertainment value than the smell of a locker room. Dial in more smell or turn off the smell-o-rama.
As contemplated, the metaverse certainly will impact many areas of our lives and be beneficial in education, travel experiences and training. I envision that the metaverse will piggyback and augment the televized entertainment experience and provide broadcasters additional tools that give complete control over the consumer’s entertainment and educational experience.
The metaverse will not define future broadcast experiences, but it will refine the actual reality of the broadcast experience.
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Dennis Baxter has spent over 35 years in live broadcasting contributing to hundreds of live events including sound design for nine Olympic Games. He has earned multiple Emmy Awards and is the author of “A Practical Guide to Television Sound Engineering,” published in both English and Chinese. His current book about immersive sound practices and production will be available in 2022. He can be reached at email@example.com or at www.dennisbaxtersound.com.