Fad Over Metaverse
The tech industry has a new favourite word and everyone is talking about it: the metaverse. The metaverse is a seamless convergence of our physical and digital lives, creating a unified, virtual community where we can work, play, relax, transact, and socialize. From a layman’s perspective, the metaverse can be defined as a virtual world where one might re-enact their physical life. The medium of the metaverse is more complex, yet at the same time - more immersive, where one is part of the experience and not just looking at it. We can get together with family and friends,interact and work more cohesively, and even go shopping. Even though the metaverse is in its beginning state, many companies are pouring in their investments and getting involved to reap its benefits. JP Morgan, HSBC, Gucci, and Coca Cola have dabbled with the metaverse so far. Then there is Meta, formerly known as Facebook which has completely rebranded itself and is working towards making the dream of metaverse turn from reel to real.
History of the Metaverse
The metaverse is not new. Nowadays, it is known as the immersive internet where there is access to augmented and virtual reality and the user can interact using avatars and digital technology. It all started back in 1838, when Sir Charles Wheatstone came up with the concept of ‘binocular vision’, where you combine two images — one for each eye — to make a single 3D image. This is the same concept used today in modern VR headsets. Fast forward to 1935, American science fiction writer Stanley Weinbaum published the book Pygmalion’s Spectacles, in which the main character explores a fictional world using a pair of goggles that provide sight, sound, taste, and touch.
The VR machine was first created by Morton Heilig. This machine replicated the experience of riding a motorcycle by combining 3D video with audio, scents, and a vibrating chair to make the experience more immersive to the reader. But the term ‘metaverse’ was first mentioned in the science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neil Stevenson. Following that, many inventions took place in both VR as well as the metaverse world. However, it was Meta that indicated that they will be now focusing on shaping the future of the metaverse. During the pandemic, people were stuck in their homes without any social connections. The metaverse might change that soon.
Industries the Metaverse Will Transform
There is no doubt that for the past two years, everyone has been going crazy about the metaverse. The stock prices of the companies involved are soaring exponentially. is also quite difficult to digest that an industry which is just in its beginning stage has a market opportunity of $8 billion. That is a huge chunk of investment for an industry that doesn’t even fully exist. It is a gateway of digital experiences where there is no geography boundation. Hence, all the big techs like Google and Amazon are counting on its potential.
Gaming: The gaming industry is expected to be revolutionized like no other. Several concepts of the metaverse are already included in immersive games. Roblox, a leading metaverse gaming company, has seen its users increase exponentially. The rival Epic Games has also announced a funding of $1 billion. The gaming industry outperformed many industries like entertainment and sports, and is continuing to bring in the revenue by monetizing their goods.
Media and Entertainment: The entertainment industry will, no doubt, benefit from the metaverse technology. It will overcome the physical boundaries and help people have immersive experiences and stories. During the pandemic, many music artistes had organised their concerts online, in turn generating revenue as well as connecting with their fans. Many artistes such as Imagine Dragons and Ariana Grande among others also held their first VR concerts. This helped people from across the world to connect and enjoy watching their favourite artists perform live. Disney, one of the biggest media and entertainment companies, is also working on creating metaverse-like experiences and events to engage their audiences.
E-Commerce: Big ecommerce and retail companies like Amazon and Shopify are already making moves in capturing the market. This will let users shop and better visualize the products that they wish to buy. This will help consumers make better and informed decisions and reduce instances of product returns.
Tourism: Everyone wants to take a trip to their favourite destination but have a budget and limited time. Well, the metaverse has come to the rescue. Many experts believe that augmented and virtual reality will make the virtual tourism industry boom. With the metaverse technology, one will not only see a pre-recorded tour but actually be present in the location they wish to go. Having friends and family join the trip will make the experience much more realistic and fun.
Apart from these industries, the metaverse is being tapped by various other industries such as real estate, education, architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and financial services. For instance, the investment banking giant JP Morgan and Chase recently opened its first bank in the metaverse known as Decentraland. It has become the first bank to establish a presence in the metaverse, as it predicts a market opportunity of US$1 trillion. In Decentraland there is Onyx Lounge, a virtual version of Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping district, where a tiger roams the first floor, and is overlooked by the bank’s boss Jamie Dimon. On the second floor, the users can see experts talk about the crypto market. They describe the virtual space as ‘limitless’ and offer new opportunities to their clients.
Teething Troubles with the Metaverse
Every technology brings some cons with it, and the metaverse is no exception. Over the past few months, we have heard many issues related to the metaverse technology, some more scarier than others. Since the metaverse is a version of the internet, digitalization for sure comes up with the challenges of privacy. In the present world, we already are facing privacy threats. The marketers already have all the information regarding our behaviour trends, and now with the metaverse it will become more invasive and intense. The companies will also be able to monitor our physical and emotional reactions.
There will also be severe health problems by wearing the VR headsets for long hours. With all the amazing experiences in the virtual world, people- when coming to the real world will feel sad and detached. It can be a dangerous escape from reality. Internet and gaming addictions are already a problem for the kids and the adults, the metaverse is going to make it even worse. Also, such advanced technologies along with expensive headsets will create a gaping inequality among the nations. Technologically advanced countries will be able to experience immersive experiences as they will have strong and reliable connectivity. The underdeveloped countries will not be able to benefit from this. Lastly, the metaverse world will bring in a lot of regulatory challenges and will introduce new grey areas in many laws. If someone assaults and touches without permission in the virtual world, then how will it be different as compared to the real world? These will be some of the regulatory and legal challenges faced.
The metaverse may change the world for the better but it may also overstep its purpose. Technology is fulfilling the void that was caused by the deadly coronavirus that denied the need for social interactions. The metaverse promises to fill up that void and give people a second life in the online world where they can do anything. But none of it will be real. The metaverse is built to make one forget reality and escape the unique human elements of life. However, holograms cannot replace human relationships. It will, at best, become an imprisoned reality.