The metaverse is coming, and it’s only a matter of time before we experience what all the hype is about. Experts agree that thanks to advancements in virtual reality and augmented reality technology, it seems inevitable that one day we’ll be able seamlessly immerse ourselves into a virtual world of any kind.
Is the Metaverse Real?
The metaverse is the proposed future development in technologies which would allow people to participate in wide-ranging virtual and augmented reality experiences. Its currently a work in progress.
Using VR or AR glasses, phones, or other devices, the metaverse would immerse you in a virtual world, where you could interact with others and do activities.
What Could I Do in the Metaverse?
Activities available in the metaverse might include going to a virtual concert, taking a trip online, and trying on digital clothing.
Work could happen in the metaverse, allowing people to virtually see each other and work together.
Shopping, advertising, and social media activities would also be available in the metaverse, and these are the economic drivers for its development.
It seems it may become a reality in the longer term, with major tech and economic players all interested.
Who is Developing the Metaverse?
Facebook is a key company driving the metaverse’s development: this can be seen from the company’s recent landmark change of name, from Facebook to Meta Platforms Inc, or Meta for short.
In 2014 Facebook bought the virtual reality company Oculus.
Other large companies that are interested in the metaverse include Microsoft and Nvidia, who are working on a platform named Omniverse.
Video game companies are also leading the way, including Fortnite’s Epic Games and Roblox. Gucci and Coca-Cola have also launched collaborations.
It’s envisaged that the metaverse would not be owned by any one company, but would be an open space where users could virtually “teleport” between experiences.
Is the Metaverse Real Now?
Only in a very limited sense. Some smaller versions of the metaverse already exist, such as the gaming platform Roblox; these are sometimes called metaverses, although the word usually refers to a much larger, future, collaborative creation.
Some gaming platforms allow users to interact and to select from available games and worlds.
What Needs to be Developed to Make a Metaverse?
The vast majority of current computers and phones are not capable of the advanced processing that would be needed to run a metaverse.
Virtual reality technologies need a lot of development to improve image quality and movement tracking.
Ideally, headsets would be wireless with long battery life, but this is not really feasible with current technology.
In addition, tech giants need to work out how they will connect their platforms to each other.
How is the Metaverse Being Developed?
Collaborations and working groups already exist aimed at developing standards and protocols to support an easy flow from one platform to another in the metaverse.
These include the Open Source Metaverse Project, the Metaverse Roadmap, and the Virtual Worlds Standard for Systems Working Group.
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What is the Metaverse Going to do to Humans?
Is the metaverse real in terms of health impacts? There are health concerns about people spending hours immersed in a metaverse, and these include possible depression, anxiety, and obesity.
Like social media and other technologies, the technology could have an addictive quality.
Psychologists are already seeing technology used as an escape from reality and real-world problem solving, sometimes to an extreme degree.
Algorithms will likely remain at work in the metaverse. This brings with it the risk of content being biased, with hidden agendas present, which can create distortions in perceptions of reality.
Is the Metaverse Part of a Dystopian Future?
Is the metaverse real in a progression towards dystopia? Science fiction has long speculated about dystopian future scenarios involving a metaverse or something similar.
The 2018 film Ready Player One is about players “living” in a metaverse called the Oasis, accessed using a virtual reality headset and wired gloves.
This allows social interaction and role-play gaming when real travel has been impacted by global warming and the energy crisis.
Facebook’s proposed metaverse platform, Horizon, includes plans for employees, who will be virtually present to answer questions or help users with technical or safety issues.
There is an implication that they will function as police in the virtual world.
What About Data Privacy and Mental Wellness in the Metaverse?
Social analysts have concerns about a new future built by and around social media tech giants.
The increasing interconnectedness of the internet is already a challenge, but it will become an even greater one as we move into the Metaverse.
Personal privacy and marketplace competition are just two examples for how this could hurt consumers in their everyday lives.
The metaverse could allow access to an even greater amount of our data and behavior tracking. It could also become a place for bullying and exclusion, as happens on some platforms now.
Is the Metaverse Real? Not Yet. But Soon.
The Metaverse will be a shared space where people can share their thoughts, communicate with others in real time, and experience the world around them. For now, it’s just another concept that is not yet ready for prime-time use. But when it does come into being, it may change how we interact with each other forever.