Hina Dixit currently drives all investments in the field of AI and Metaverse at SamsungNext. She earlier led a team at Apple for eight years in projects for security, cloud, AI, and data integrity. She holds multiple patents through her work at Apple.
She is also an angel investor in EventTow, an AI/AR-based app to book event management services, and Aryahi Inc, focusing on no-code solutions.
Hina will speak at CII’s (Confederation of Indian Industry) upcoming annual Global Knowledge Summit. The 17th edition of the summit will be held in a hybrid format in Bengaluru and online on April 12-13, with the theme of Knowledge Management and the Metaverse.
In this chat with YourStory, Hina talks about trends in the metaverse ecosystem, innovative startups, and opportunities for India.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
YourStory [YS]: Immersive media and blockchain have been around for a while – what is new about the metaverse concept? How would you demystify the hype and misconceptions around it?
Hina Dixit [HD]: During the pandemic, people ended up spending much more time in front of screens. We started to miss the real-life experience, which created a problem space for tech giants to solve.
The consumer mind also shifted and was more eager to try out new virtual experiences to find some semblance to their pre-COVID-19 life. This accelerated the efforts to achieve the ultimate vision of Metaverse, which was originally coined in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash.
I tend to pursue Metaverse from Jon Radoff’s wider view that a metaverse is an environment in which the real-world limitations ascribed to physical space, objects, and time are dematerialisd.
This perceptions keeps our approach to Metaverse more holistic and grounded and helps us demystify the hype.
[YS]: In the context of organisational learning and knowledge assets, what contributions does the metaverse make?
[HD]: Learning should be active and not passive, which implies the approach to educate should be more creative and engaging. Metaverse can provide creative tools for teachers and students.
For example, a very dull class in history can be revitalised by a virtual visit to museums and historic sites. When teaching laws of physics, a simulation in virtual reality can let students experiment safely while they are in the class.
Learning occurs best when the playful activity has a well-articulated learning goal, be it in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), literacy, or “learning to learn” skills like memory, attention, and flexible thinking.
Metaverse can take learning and creativity to the next level as distractions can be avoided in a simulated environment.
[YS]: What are three most innovative applications you have seen in the metaverse?
[HD]: I will name some of the key infrastructure pieces which are the key to build the metaverse from our portfolio companies.
Alchemy makes blockchain/Web3 development easy with one magic line of code. The Sandbox is virtual world where players can build, own, and monetise their gaming experiences on the Ethereum blockchain using the utility token $SAND.
Proof of Learn, Inc (POL) is a Web3 education platform with a mission to unlock accessible, high-quality education across the world through blockchain and a learn-to-earn protocol.
[YS]: What are the risks and challenges involved in the metaverse, from a consumer rights perspective?
[HD]: Some of the risks can be privacy of user data.
As the metaverse is being designed and implemented, there must be an intentional effort to involve people from marginalised communities in significant leadership and decision-making roles to ensure that all users feel safe and valued as they participate in these environments.
Diversity and inclusion should be key foundations of any Metaverse application. As the Metaverse expands, privacy laws and lawmakers will need to push for user safety and privacy.
With the power of companies providing federated learning like DynamoFL, companies can train AI models without sharing the data with anyone. My tip to early developers in Metaverse is to design their applications with user privacy in mind and have a compliance strategy to implement consumer data rights, including the biometric privacy laws.
[YS]: How can large firms and startups collaborate for mutual benefit in the metaverse opportunity?
[HD]: Various companies in different verticals can come together to create new experiences for their consumers.
For example, Lego and Epic Games recently announced a joint partnership to create a children-focused metaverse. Similarly, new markets can be explored by these joint ventures to provide new experiences and add value to consumers’ day to day life.
[YS]: What are your tips for the audience on how to progress along the maturity curve of metaverse deployment?
[HD]: My advice to the audience would be to keep an eye on the tech and plan for interactions, not just transactions.
Even if your company has in-house developers and 3D modelers, there is no doubt that creating a metaverse is a huge challenge that could take years. This is true especially if your developers and designers have no previous VR experience and have not built any application ecosystems similar in scale.
With this in mind, you can choose to work with partners for this type of need. This way, the work gets done faster and your internal staff is free to work on other pursuits. Not to mention that development partners often have much stronger experience and technical abilities than anyone you host.
[YS]: At a societal level, will the metaverse trigger off a new kind of digital divide? How can this be overcome?
[HD]: I think from an access point of view. If we completely foresee metaverse as a virtual experience, it could worsen digital inequality by creating an even bigger barrier for people who might already be digitally excluded.
A lot of people don’t have access to the internet or sufficient internet literacy. This divide can be overcome, by building better infrastructure in network connectivity, creating seamless and easy-to-use hardware and by also adding some of the computer science pre-requisites in the classrooms.
[YS]: What are India’s unique opportunities, strengths and challenges in the metaverse space?
[HD]: India’s ‘Make In India’ has opened doors for investors and foreign companies to build hardware and software for Metaverse in India.
The global Metaverse market size is predicted to attain $678.8 billion by 2030. Furthermore, consumption of video streaming and gaming in India has been increasing at a scorching rate, with reports suggesting the Indian gaming market will more than triple to $7 billion by 2026.
Metaverse could offer a rare opportunity worth billions of dollars for the Indian economy, especially for the revival of India’s movie and gaming industry, as users become familiar with cryptocurrency, augmented/virtual reality, and blockchain.
[YS]: What are some next steps in your metaverse journey at SamsungNext?
[HD]: My focus is to find more startups that are focusing on a seamless immersive user experience, boosting innovations in XR and gaming. I am also focused on the problem space where Metaverse meets AI and Web3.
This also includes business or technical innovation that intelligently adds the promises of Web3 (decentralisation, ownership, agency, identity) into gaming, XR or the creator economy including automation in content creation.
I am constantly looking for new startups focused on solving such pain points.
[YS]: What are some emerging trends in the metaverse frontier?
[HD]: There are a lot of cool startups working on building the infrastructure of the Metaverse using Web3. Also, there has been a recent boost in creator tools and creator economy.
[YS]: Any other parting remarks for our audience?
[HD]: If you are a startup founder and raising funds in the space of Metaverse or AI, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn! I am also open to advisor roles and serving as board member.