Following Facebook’s renaming as Meta to reflect its concentration on the “metaverse,” Microsoft has said it will enter the field as well. While Meta has predicted that the metaverse would ultimately allow us to participate across the educational, business, and social contexts, Microsoft appears to be concentrating on the virtual workplace for the time being.
However, what exactly is the metaverse, and how much should we accept that the vision offered to us would be important to our everyday lives? The concept is not novel in and of itself. In his 1992 cyberpunk novel Snow Crash, science fiction author Neal Stephenson invented the word “metaverse,” describing a 3D virtual environment in which individuals, represented as avatars, might interact with each other and artificially intelligent entities.
Many individuals have attempted to impose their own definitions on the metaverse, as they do with every large picture of a future that does not yet exist. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it may be helpful to learn about some of the qualities you may expect from a metaverse.
- A virtual world: In my opinion, the most significant feature of a metaverse is its virtual world. You might experience 3D images and sound while exploring it on a computer, game console, mobile device, wearable technology, or other device. The notion is that you will feel present in the metaverse and present in the real world because of this (where your body stubbornly remains).
- The use of virtual reality for this, you will need a virtual reality headset. The idea is that by immersing yourself in the virtual world, you would feel present— at least until you come across anything that stays in the real world, such as a coffee table.
- Other individuals: The metaverse is a social environment. There are a slew of other individuals there, all of whom represented by avatars. Some of these avatars might be bots, virtual agents, or artificial intelligence forms. You may socialize with the other members of the group or even accomplish stuff together. Given Facebook’s background as a social network, the social component is likely to key in its metaverse. Fans of the metaverse and some experts claim that communication is more natural than video conferencing since you may use gaze to convey who you are addressing, for example (your avatar can turn its head to look at another person). To initiate a discussion, your avatar might stroll over and sit next to someone else’s avatar.
- Perseverance: This means you can access the virtual world whenever you want. You may alter it by adding new virtual buildings or other things, and the modifications will retained the next time you return. You might be able to move in and own a piece of the property. In the same way that social media relies on user-generated material today, the metaverse will rely on your user-generated content — your digital inventions and personal tales.
- The ability to connect with the real world: In certain metaverse views, virtual objects in the virtual world resemble real objects in the real world. For example, you might use a virtual drone in the metaverse to control a real-world drone. People refer to the physical and virtual worlds as “digital twins.”
What can I do in a metaverse, and when will I be able to do it?
Different organizations will most likely have their own visions or even local copies of the metaverse, but they will all connect, allowing you to go from one to the other, much like the internet. It is conceivable that certain items will be more enticing and useful right away than others. Gameplaying appears to be a logical jump, given many gamers already love online gaming, and certain games have already infiltrated the metaverse to some extent (think back to the characteristics above).
It is also enticing to be able to socialize or connect with individuals and feel as if you are actually there with them in person – especially in today’s epidemic age. We do not yet have a good picture of Meta’s metaverse offers. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, listed many options while announcing the renaming. You might be able to hologram yourself into a real conference or play chess with someone halfway around the world on a virtual chessboard superimposed on the actual environment.
The metaverse, according to Facebook, will be our future internet interface. However, it remains to see if we will one day be able to access all internet services using 3D virtual worlds and virtual reality glasses. Despite numerous huge firms’ attempts to bring headsets to market in recent years, including Facebook’s purchase of Oculus, they still look to remain a niche technology. I believe Facebook will have to be in this for the long term, and that their vision of the metaverse will take many years to materialize.
Finally, yet importantly, Stephenson’s initial metaverse vision was exhilarating, but it also had a lot of potential for harm, both online and offline, ranging from addiction to criminality to the disintegration of democratic institutions. Governments demoted to being mostly inconsequential paper-shuffling outposts in Stephenson’s metaverse, which mostly owned by enormous businesses. Given the present global conflicts between big companies and governments over privacy, freedom of expression, and internet dangers, we should seriously evaluate what type of metaverse we want to build, and who gets to build, control, and manage it.
Professor of Collaborative Computing at the University of Nottingham, Steve Benford, and The Conversation has given permission to reprint this article under a Creative Commons license. Read the full story here.