Invact Metaversity Joins VR, Identity and Assets for Holistic Education: Former Head of Twitter India

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There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way education is thought of and that it should not be limited to uploading educational and professional course videos online, believes former Twitter India chief and Invact Metaversity co-founder and CEO Manish Maheshwari. In an exclusive interview with Aashish Aryan, he says that higher education should not be limited to just those who can afford those campuses. Edited excerpts:

What is the idea behind the launch of Invact Metaversity as a platform?

In the last two years, education has gone online, not by choice but by obligation. Before Covid, it was inconceivable that classes were online, people were getting degrees online. As a result, many quick fixes appeared. Software intended for office communication was being used for classroom teaching.

What we are now building is a combination of virtual experience, identity and assets and bringing all of this together so that we can solve holistically for students, from the beginning. Instead of watching a class happen, you would actually be sitting down, experiencing the class. A simple VR (virtual reality) headset will help you do that. The cost of hardware is going down. Our view is that in the next few quarters this would probably be around $100, which is Rs 7,000-Rs 10,000. Bandwidth is also almost free. So why not experience the feeling of being in a classroom?

The greatest amount of learning for me in college came before and after class when I hung out with my friends in libraries, coffee shops, and auditoriums. There was a lot of networking. All of that is missing in online learning today. The completion rate is less than 10 percent in online learning.

Through Invact Metaversity, we are going to bring social media and community back to learning. I come from Twitter, so I know the power of building social networks, of community. During the times of Covid, I saw how people connected online and created a community. I want to bring the same to learning.

Are you a pioneer in the meta space or is it too early with a platform for an ecosystem that is still in its early stages?

Our view is that the world is ready now. The number one reason is Covid. People have accepted that things can be done virtually and that is here to stay. Even if Covid clears up, not everyone may be going to campus every day of the week. They can go one or two days a week. The world is also ready for a metaverse. People like a more immersive experience, and in education, there hasn’t been any fundamental innovation so far. People also hang out in virtual spaces. Our opinion is that this space is innovating very fast.

How do you plan to compete with other bigger companies in the metaverse that will attack you with much more money?

Zoom was nowhere two years ago and look where it is now. How did he get to be so great now? Everyone will try to enter this space. But we are resolutely focusing on education. We are not going to build a layer that is for everything. We will continue to focus on students. Yes, everyone will try to do it, but that’s the beauty of it.

The market is huge. There will be different variations to solving a problem and a small, agile team is much more likely to spin around and find the answer than a larger team at a larger company.

Metaverse is a very different layer of the Internet. My opinion would be that it resets the playing field and creates a new way of doing things. Different players will come and occupy different verticals. Our desire is to occupy the educational part of the metaverse.

I think existing companies have a lot of legacy to unload and things can’t move that fast. They may not see a new trend on the horizon.

How big is your company? Where do you plan to expand it?

We are a global company based in the US that now has a team of about 50 people. We have a technical team in Bangalore. What we are building has global applicability. We are expanding because so many people want to work on the cutting edge of both education and the metaverse. Our plan is to run two courses first in India and then one in the US, and then invite schools and universities to recreate their campuses online. A lot of colleges want to do that because they realize that the real estate that they’ve owned for the last two or three years is lying in the trash.

Students can be anywhere and it is brutal to expect them to travel to a town, leave their house and attend a course. We are getting good traction from students as well. Our first course begins in May on the Invac Metaversity campus. We are adding and hiring more.

Will the fees for students at Invact Metaversity be on par with what they pay on campus?

It will be much lower and very affordable. Our vision is that anyone should be able to get the kind of education they need at a price they can afford. Because it’s a virtual environment, you can modify it to fit any budget. It is about creating virtual libraries, learning material, etc. Because we’re doing it on a global scale, we can mix and match.

The price point for India could be very different. We can make sure it is affordable for the mass market. We can loan these devices to students for short-term courses. So for almost no cost, they can get and experience all of this. We say you attend campus from your couch. That way, even if the students are from small towns, they would have access to the same professional network that someone who goes to the Ivy League has.

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