Yuvraj Sharma, Co-Founder of Edverse: 'Metaverse offers personalised instructions in the most immersive manner'

Yuvraj Sharma, Co-Founder of Edverse, explains why metaverse is the only way students can capture fantasy and reality into an empirical experience to improve academic excellence

Lajwanti D'souzaUpdated: Thursday, July 14, 2022, 08:45 PM IST
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Is metaverse the new to-go place?

Tell me why does a common man use the internet? To shop online, to do e-commerce or to find bugs or mistakes. Basically, Google search. Hence, with metaverse, the whole experience is probably elevated and moved to a higher dimension. 

Okay, when you come to metaverse how does that happen? Now imagine, let’s say, you were to buy a pair of shoes for yourself. Let’s look at a very simple case Now what would you do in a normal internet-driven scenario? You could go online to search for, let’s say, buying running shoes. So, you will look at some of the options that are available and then place an order. But how about if you were to do the same thing in the metaverse? What will happen is you will get the experience as if you’re there in a virtual showroom to shop for your favourite running shoes. There will be someone to greet you, so you get personalised attention. That person shows you around and you possibly get all kinds of running shoes that you want to look at. 

Tell us about your new project, Edverse.

As a learner, I should have all the opportunities and education should be democratised. I get to think about what I want to learn and from whom do I want to learn? So, I make it to the best school in the UK. If I’m sitting in tier two or tier three towns, I can’t travel to the UK every day to get my lessons done and it doesn’t even work the same way on these online calls. So, it’s not that kind of a feeling. 

Now, when you enter into the metaverse, you’re taking your English classes and security tokens, and you have an eclectic group of your peers as well. Now, you’re part of the interaction, right? The teacher asks you questions and then you are in that group. I could be learning English from a teacher in the UK or Mathematics from a teacher in Finland or Hindi from school or a teacher in India. For my other subjects, we refer to various virtual features that are the possibilities that you know a metaverse presents. The experience is interesting because you’re talking to peers at a global level.

Is it made for children of today who want quick results?

The children of today are different, they want things quick and fast. They are digital natives, as I call them. Things like Google, YouTube, etc, are second nature to them. They learn how to use YouTube even before they learn how to speak. The attention span is dipping. So, I think we also have to evolve to provide better, deeper, and faster learning. Hence, you give them the metaverse space which offers them personalised instructions in the most immersive manner.

How does Edverse aim to transform the learning of routine school subjects?

It is not just for typical school, college or higher education subjects. It definitely caters to it along with a holistic world of education... It’s like an umbrella. The most interesting part is that we make informed use of blockchain. What blockchain does is it captures the entire learning journey and the learning interactions in a single block that was available digitally. It could store all that you have learnt right from the beginning. You then don’t even need a CV or Resume, because everything is there in the block, every possible learning interaction is there. Corporates or big companies could spot talent early on, and give them internship opportunities while they are young. And these children can then grow up with a person who is in cohesion with the talents these children possess. These are some exciting opportunities that we envision.

Do you also provide those heavy headsets?

Right now, you don’t need those heavy headsets. We are cautious of the fact that technology is newly arrived and, hopefully, by the end of the year, with more brands entering the market, the headsets will be more accessible, reachable, and affordable. For now, we have ensured that even if you have a laptop or a desktop you can download and experience through that mechanism as well. It’s going to be a streaming experience delivered onto your desktop/laptop.

The usage of VR is limited across the globe, people buy them and then don’t use them.

Yes, you are right. The reason for limited usage is that there aren’t enough used cases. But now players like us are coming on board and developing that kind of content. Hence, it’s the same story you are going to find a lot of 4k and 8k television sets today. But, even on television, you don’t have that resolution content for people to enjoy even if they want to watch daily soap or anything for that matter. There’s anticipation that big players are going to introduce affordable devices soon and it will be announced.

But what about the affordability factor isn’t it still a very urban process?

Yeah, I don’t disagree with that. But I am sure with all these sectors focusing and genuinely wanting mass adoption, the tech will evolve. When you look at companies like Meta, they are looking at metaverse as the next big thing to revolutionise social networking, which is beyond just watching each other’s images online. I think these brands are experimenting with affordable headsets and we do hope that the time will come when this will be affordable for all. When we talk about the Direct TV utility space, things are evolving. Similarly, it will take a while for the tech to be made accessible to everyone.

The argument still holds that you are isolating children even more with this technology. 

I understand the argument. It is akin to the essays we wrote in school on whether television is good or bad. However, today we don’t even write about that topic because it’s a foregone conclusion. Everything has pros and cons — be it social media or anything else. It’s for the intelligent lot to figure out that we are personally responsible.

That is what we too bring out — like what Apple gives you on your phone about the screen time. We do advise that you must make proper use of screen time. I think just because of that we should not restrict the opportunities that it brings to learn from the very best. At times, I think, our children, be it in school or college, are on the back foot because they do not have global exposure. It’s not putting people in isolation, it is bringing people closer and helping them understand different cultures and mindsets. It’s good as well. However, you have to be responsible as well. We should do our bit but I’m sure these are the things that users will acknowledge at their end.

How about technology? Are we globally on the same plane? 

Everything is made in India by Indians and we are proud of it. We don’t outsource. We are based in India--the tech team, subject experts, visualisers, instructional designers, everyone is here.

What is your rural outreach? 

There’s browser accessibility, even through smartphones. If we can provide a seamless experience within a browser, then I think we can even go to the remotest part of the country, and get children and teachers on board. We are working towards that part as well.

What about languages, growth has to be vernacular, right?

We are working on this aspect as well. Currently, the content available is in English and Hindi will be available soon. After this, we will go for other regional languages as well. In terms of penetration to happen at the rural level, we will have to offer different languages for people to understand this.

Would you say the metaverse is like a fairy tale world but real?

Yes! This is like exploring something new. For me, learning has always been an experience and I feel it’s the same for everyone. Why do you still see the child of today as disengaged and uninterested in learning? Because, unfortunately, the experience is not rewarding or captivating. When you put people in these real scenarios, you can give them something that they would remember for the rest of their lives. Hence, I think metaverse is like a step closer to the experience we can get in the virtual space that can thoroughly prepare you for challenges that life has in store for you.

Do you think you are killing intuitiveness or spontaneity in children?

I think it only accelerates it further. When you put people into immersive scenarios or challenging situations, the alertness increases. They are then able to perform better and become more intuitive, imaginative, creative, and expressive. It opens the brain to a world of possibilities. So, the experiences only accelerate the brain, technically called neuroplasticity, which is your ability to respond and correspond to how the brain trains as well.

How are you managing to get teachers on board? 

As far as teaching is concerned, anyone who knows how to operate a smartphone, to my mind, is qualified to conduct a class at an interval. As I mentioned before, that can be our time novelties in schools, colleges, and universities. That’s going to be the first case where we will encourage them to come on board and take classes. Through that, we want to ensure mass adoption as well. I think that’s opening different avenues. A lot of people have positive interests. 

Can you explain how metaverse NFTs work?

NFTs are non-fungible tokens and they work in different ways. Let's take the example of the brain. The creator can create a 3D asset for 3D modules of a brain. You can then sell it as NFTs, which can be customised for creators. These creators make lessons around it, package them, and sell them. So, whoever is the beneficiary of the NFTs will be rewarded through that mechanism. Here, the NFTs will be about the brain and people have to come to the equities and create lectures on topics revolving around it.

Won't travel work as well for the metaverse as education?

For me education is huge. In our current pre-alpha vision, we are giving a tour of the Taj Mahal. Now, imagine going to the pyramids in Egypt. There will be one of our experts to explain everything you need to know about the pyramids. But, what he needs is a 3D asset that is made by one of the creators to create a custom pose. However, the lens through which we look at education has to expand beyond our current understanding of traditional subjects, degrees, and qualifications. We want to bring out the difference because there is a desire to learn and explore new avenues.

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