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Stepping towards Metaverse – fact or fiction

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An Immersive Socially Connected World

Metaverse was first announced in October of 2021 by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a new company brand that will bring all the current company products under one umbrella.

“It has been presented as a set of interconnected digital spaces that lets you do things you can’t do in the physical world. Importantly, it’ll be characterized by the social presence, the feeling that you’re right there with another person, no matter where in the world you happen to be” (Meta, 2021) [1].

Meta is now the new face and name of Facebook and all its related products. This was done to better reflect the new focus of the company, moving forward.

Meta focuses and relies heavily on Virtual Reality (VR) technology to provide its users with a fully immersive experience. ‘The Metaverse’, as it is called, was a term originally coined by Neal Stephenson in 1992 to describe a futuristic world of virtual reality.

This network of 3D worlds can be traversed using a personal 3D ‘avatar’. This metaverse requires a whole host of technologies and structures such as blockchain, 3D Graphics, Sensors, VR Headsets, and digital currencies.

The social and business impact of such an endeavor, if successful, will be enormous and may shape the future of the world and how people interact with each other.

Other tech and gaming giants have already started to move into this territory and are creating their own metaverse. While a VR Headset is not strictly required, as these digital spaces can be accessed with a computer, it is required for a fully immersive 3D experience.

“Virtual Reality is the first step in a grand
Adventure into the landscape of the imagination”
– Frank Biocca

Endless Possibilities

The metaverse is, by all rights, a place that is quite literally only limited by the people’s imaginations. Since it is a virtual world, the only constraints on what it can be, are hardware and imagination.

In a virtual world, people can easily ignore physics, tame dragons, or live out their favorite movie universe, all without even having to leave their homes.

With the impact of COVID, people have realized the potential of virtual presence and how it negates the problem of distance.

As the world moves more and more towards decentralization, VR spaces such as Metaverse will become more and more popular.

74% of internet users would join or consider joining the Metaverse. Have a look at the stats below by Statista

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Horizon Home

Horizon Home is one of the VR spaces offered by Metaverse.
Think of it like a home for your avatar. While currently it is restricted to only the user it belongs to, soon users can invite other people into their virtual “Home”.

This social platform, if implemented correctly, will allow people to have virtual get-togethers.

With the beta version of Horizon Worlds, you can have the pleasure of having courtside seats at concerts and sports matches from the comfort of your own home.

If Meta wanted to get more innovative, they could even add an option for their users to order food or a product from the Virtual World and have it delivered to their physical address.

VR Gaming

Games have long been a way for people to connect with each other and escape the realms of their physical reality…

Gaming has become a large part of the tech industry as well as the lives of younger generations and even some not-so-young.

The introduction of VR games has been, well, a game-changer. Being able to fully immerse yourself in a game by actually rendering the environment around you rather than watching the game unfold on a monitor has been widely received in a positive light.

“Why shouldn’t people be able to teleport
Wherever they want?”
– Palmer Luckey

Metaverse has announced that ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ is under development for a VR version of Quest 2.

The normal version of this game had amazing reviews from both critics and gamers. Now imagine being able to actually walk the streets of Los Santos as ‘CJ’.

Metaverse has plans of releasing other VR versions of previous games and even bring forth some new titles for the community to enjoy.

VR Workplaces

VR workplaces are certainly a tough concept to get your head around but they are quite familiar in reality. Think of the old structure only with a virtual presence and more hardware.

Metaverse will soon begin testing Quest for Business which will allow companies to create virtual Workrooms and use software such as Gravity Sketch to quickly convey ideas and hold meetings.

A personal alternative to Horizon Workrooms and a part of Horizon Home is Studio.

Think of it like a home office. It is a personal workspace environment.
In all of these environments, you can make use of existing programs such as Slack, Dropbox, Facebook, and Instagram using a 2D panel which can be found in the virtual environment.

“Better teamwork and communication will certainly be key drivers of the virtual workplace, but why stop there? The metaverse opens up new possibilities to rethink the office and work environment, introducing elements of adventure, spontaneity, and surprise” (Purdy, 2022) [2].

Not only will this change the office work setting, but it can also be used as a training tool on jobs where mistakes are not so easily tolerated.

Training construction workers to operate heavy machinery in a simulation first and letting them get a feel of the work and help develop muscle memory as well as play out stressful scenarios in a safe environment.

VR Education

The presence of VR and a digitally rendered environment that can be changed at any time will have a hugely positive effect on the education of children.

It is a known fact that for a lot of students, classrooms and boredom go hand in hand.

Teachers can easily make learning fun again if, for example, they could take their class on a trip through the solar system when teaching students about the planets…

Or rendering actual physics simulations to help the students understand concepts like force, momentum, and acceleration.

Visual and auditory stimuli have been proven to help students absorb information more easily and when you can render anything in a virtual environment, the visual stimuli alone will leave a lasting impression on the students.

All of this can be done remotely, allowing students to learn from the comfort of their own homes.

The Metaverse Future:

Technology like this has the potential to completely change the societal structure of our world with a large impact on our economy as well.

Metaverse will create a whole new digital economy along with new jobs, roles, businesses, and much more.

“Facebook said it will spend about $10 billion over the next year developing technologies to build the metaverse” (Rodriguez, 2021) [3].

Mark Zuckerberg has stated his ambitious hope of including a billion people in the metaverse within the next decade. He also hopes to create a digital economy worth hundreds of billions of dollars on this metaverse.

“You can think of the metaverse as an embodied internet,
Where instead of just viewing the content, you are in it!”
– Mark Zuckerberg

Right now, the metaverse is confined to only products and services offered by the meta company. To further improve the metaverse, integration of third-party apps will go a long way.

If you can have everything you want in just one place, then it would really improve the immersion.

This could easily help reduce the carbon footprint of many people by eliminating the daily commute of all workers. It could usher in a new era of creativity and technology if used correctly.

Future Challenges:

A project of this scale and significance is sure to have its fair share of challenges and concerned people. The greatest concern raised is that will it completely erase human contact.

Not in its entirety. Humans need humans. However, we all know that relationships are predominantly built physically as well as verbally. So, I don’t think it will ever fully replace face-to-face interaction, but I think the metaverse will absolutely complement the physical space (Cook, 2022) [4].

Challenges are often opportunities in disguise. This mantra holds true for the Metaverse. It will indeed open doors of great opportunities for consumers and companies alike.

The market value of Metaverse is estimated to be $758.6 billion by 2026. [5]

Corporate giants around the world are competing to create operating platforms on Metaverse. The market for Metaverse devices, tools, and platforms is expanding quickly.

Despite all the popularity and opportunities for growth, Metaverse still has to address the three core challenges to succeed as a mainstream platform.

Core challenge #1: Platform Interactivity

The lack of coordination and uniformity between different Metaverse platforms is a big challenge.

The Internet today works as a unified framework, all thanks to HTML protocol. You can browse the internet from any device at any time without a hitch. A similar protocol is needed to facilitate the user experience for Metaverse.

Core challenge #2: Ease and Functionality

A greater part of a platform’s success depends upon its ease of use and functionality.

For consumers, usefulness means that it is worth spending their time and money on playing, buying and interacting with content and collaborating with others in the metaverse. Since the metaverse currently requires expensive and not so easy to set up AR/VR tools, this will limit the metaverse to a smaller consumer segment. [6]

Core challenge #3: Privacy and Data Security

Data breach has been the biggest concern for the majority of internet users today. Mark Zuckerberg has not exactly been a knight in shining armor when it comes to data security.

In a 2021 survey, 87% of respondents were worried about their privacy in the metaverse. Facebook is still hazy on the robust cybersecurity protocols it would adopt for Meta.

Additionally, the legal implications of using artificial intelligence (“AI”) will be another aspect to consider given its prevalence in biometric technologies. [7]

Final Thoughts…

The gaming and fitness industry is already reaping the benefits of early success via Metaverse. However, it does not mean that the doors of opportunity are closed for other industries.

Metaverse is an opportunity to create an interactive version of the product and services a company has to offer. It is essential to consider it a part of the omnichannel delivery approach for the future.

The creative process of regenerating content and engaging users will also evolve with Metaverse. The content will have to be relevant and unique to the platform itself.

Companies will have to consider interactive user design experiences for creating content. The design will have to be in sync with the surroundings and the external devices for enhancing the immersive experience.

Metaverse is here to stay. The businesses that adapt their management and products around this platform will have an edge over their competitors.

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References:

[1]: Meta, 28th October 2021, tech.fb.com, Connect 2021: Our Vision For The Metaverse

[2]: Mark Purdy, 5th April 2022, Harvard Business Review, How The Metaverse Could Change Work

[3]: Salvador Rodriguez, 9th December 2021, CNBC, Facebook Takes A Step Toward Building The Metaverse, Opens Virtual World App To Everyone In The US

[4]: James Cook, 28th January 2022, Interview with Rob Hilton, Business Leader,
The Metaverse Is A Network Of Highly Immersive Virtual Worlds Focused On Social Connection

[5]. Global Industry Analysts Inc., Cision PR News, 18th January 2022, Metaverse Emerges as the Next Big Revolution in the Internet Space. But Will It Sustain?

[6]. Saeed Elnaj, Forbes Magazine, 17th May 2022, The Challenges And Opportunities With The Metaverse

[7]. Imran Ahmed & Tiana Corovic, Data Protection Report, 25th January 2022, Privacy in a Parallel Digital Universe: The Metaverse

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