INTERVIEW: Former Twitter and Microsoft execs building a classroom on the metaverse explain what it would look and feel like
- Invact Metaversity raised its first round of funding at a valuation of $33 million in less than 3 months of launch.
- They are trying to run a 3D immersive virtual learning platform that allows students to attend online classes as animated avatars.
- The company will be designing their own course structures in order to further enhance the online learning experience.
While there are those working on creating virtual restaurants and dating experiences, Twitter India’s former head Manish Maheshwari and Microsoft’s former executive Tanay Pratap are trying to create virtual classrooms with their latest venture Invact Metaversity.
Earlier this week, over 70 top global leaders and founders — including Future Group’s Kishore Biyani and Infosys’ former executive TV Mohandas Pai — decided to accord a $33 million valuation to the company, Invact Metaversity, that was barely started three months ago.
The company is now looking to launch its first
Students will have the option to attend the classes through their desktops and mobiles or have the real experience with the help of virtual reality (VR) headsets.
The first and the simpler option is that students can simply use their laptops or mobile phones to attend these metaverse classes. It would be like playing Second Life or the simulation game Sims.
The second one is where one uses a VR headset to be in the actual setting — sitting in the classroom, having friendly conversations, interacting with avatars and having a teacher teaching in front of them. The company’s investors have also experienced the VR aspect of this method of online learning before investing.
In both the settings, the only aspect that changes is the mode of usage, but the access to canteens, libraries and other aspects would still be the same, the company’s cofounder and chief technology officer Tanay Pratap told Business Insider. “In the world we are building, you can have the fully immersive experience with the VR device, and it will work on laptop and desktop as well with the clicking and cursor movement,” he added.
“Today, on a Zoom call you are in a box. You look left, you look right, you feel alone. Contrast this with a class in metaversity, teacher is front, you have peers around you. We will bring back the light jokes and humour of the class through spatial audio… When students would study together in the virtual world, there would be better exchange of ideas.”
Though the company has no long-term plans to provide the VR headsets to students yet, they may do so for the first batch to test to experience. The company believes that VR headsets will be more common and cheap as smartphones in the coming years.
‘Coursera and SkillShare are dinosaurs, will go extinct’
The company is trying to solve two problems. First, make online education or remote learning a much more interesting prospect for the students. Secondly, ensure that the course completion rate increases in the online space.
“I think those [Coursera, SkillShare, edX and Udemy and others] are like dinosaurs right now. And in ten years [of launch], the outcome in course completion is less than 10%. It just shows that even though the business model [of these companies] is working somehow, the end user's product is not working. If you sign up for a course, you need to complete it. Why would one out of ten people complete it,” Pratap added.
“These [Coursera, SkillShare and others] are just competitions [sic] that will go extinct in some time when this new way of learning and the whole college experience emerges in the metaversity.”
He believes that the model they are operating in would allow the students to have peers and community, which will drive accountability that will push others to complete it. “The community-based course and the whole cohort experience would drive accountability and course experience,” he emphasised.
‘We want to prevent students from over spending on sub-par education’
“In the education piece [sic] we have not seen a disruption. Education is still the same. It’s still exams, it’s still rot learning, it’s still very dry. If it’s [education] is good, it’s good only for the top 1% of the world,” he said, adding that they want to democratize education and enable students to get better learning opportunities without giving up on the real experience.
Citing an example of an MBA course, he noted that the course on their platform is for $2,500 compared to the usual tuition fee of $50,000-80,000 charged by universities abroad. He said it’s not about replacing all education with a digital one, but more about replacing sub-par education experience with a more hands-on learning experience digitally.
Pratap said, “In the 1980s or 1990s, if somebody asked what the internet was, nobody would have predicted that the internet would be this thing wherein we’ll do voice, video or all our work would be online. Somebody would have predicted, people would have thought that they might be joking. That’s how will it [metaverse] evolve.”
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