Image by Riki32 from Pixabay 

  • Introduction:

We live in an increasingly interconnected world, where technologies hold a strong potential for future disruptions and inventions that can change the way we look at the things around us. And the subsequent recent craze and speculations around the metaverse brought new energy to the tech field that promises to change the way we live, work, and operate in the world.

When the internet was firstly invented in the 1970s, no one believed in its huge power to connect people across the different ends of the world and to transform the way people work and do business. It changed the way we remain informative, how we consume information, and at what rate. It changed the whole dynamics of the world by creating a new world, a digital world in itself. A 2D digital world, where we now spend more time connecting, working, shopping, etc. as compared to our real world.

A similar thing is now happening with Metaverse. Where people across the globe are still questioning its usability and need. Being the newest and unknown technology, for now, it will be the only response it's expected to get. But all the tech-savvy should not undermine its potential that can convert our digital world from 2 dimensional into 3 dimensional.

It is exciting and thrilling to see that brands such as JP Morgan, Walmart, and McDonald's have taken the first step towards building a virtual community in the metaverse. Among them, JP Morgan became the world's first bank to enter the metaverse and also created its lounge there, called 'Onyx lounge.

Apart from this, brands like Nike, Gucci, and Disney have also started investing their efforts towards building metaverse and it can be seen through the job opportunities they are offering to create metaverse and the promise of realistic and better customer experience they're making to their targets.

After all these talks, let us now move towards understanding what this metaverse is and what it seems like.

  • What is Metaverse?

The term Metaverse is made from two words i.e. meta + verse. Meta is a Greek word that means beyond, and verse means universe. So basically metaverse means beyond the universe. In simple words, it is an artificially created 3D world where we can interact with different spaces and people as our digital avatars. Digital avatars are human avatars that exist in virtual reality.

In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, "The metaverse is a space where you're gonna be able to do almost anything you can imagine. Get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create."

To enter and experience what lies inside the metaverse, you have to wear headsets specially designed for this purpose, and then you're ready to go.

The term “metaverse” was first and foremost used in Neil Stevenson's 1982 novel, Snow Crash. It was a dystopian novel where characters hid in the virtual space called metaverse to escape the dreary totalitarian reality.

If you have seen the movies like "The Matrix", "Ready player one", or "Inception," or at least have played games like "Axie infinity" or "Horizon world", you would be able to picture what the metaverse looks like.

  • How does the metaverse work?

To enter and experience what lies inside the metaverse, you have to wear headsets specially designed for this purpose. After you wear these headsets, you'll see a completely different world in front of your eyes, that will be metaverse.

  • Elements/ technologies of the metaverse

Behind this amazing and futuristic technology, many supporting elements make it work. So now, let us look at them one by one.

These elements are:

Augmented reality - This technology enables you to see the enhanced version of the world through the use of digital visual, audible, and sensory elements. An excellent example of it is the Pokemon Go smartphone game, in which you can see artificial Pokemon on the site in front of you when you look through your smartphone. Google Glass is also a good example of augmented reality. We can say that this technology is the backbone of the metaverse, without it, there would be no digital world that will appear in front of our eyes as we wear those headsets.

5g technology - We have come a long way in the case of the speed of the internet. From waiting for hours to make a digital payment to make it possible within a few seconds, we've excelled and enhanced the speed at which the internet works for us. After 2G, 3G, and 4G, the time has come for the 5G to keep pace with this ever-fast, ever-changing world. And it's obvious that if we want to create a huge digital 3D world, that looks exactly like the real one, and to make it immersive, we would need a huge amount of data for its operations. And this data and consequent speed will only be supported by 5G.

Blockchains/cryptocurrencies - as Zuckerberg said, we can buy, work, and get entertainment in the metaverse. For this very purpose, we'll need money that has to be digitized, and hence cryptocurrencies get into this play.

Subsequently, there is a threat of hackers as there will be a lot of data stored in the metaverse, hence comes the role of blockchains to keep this data end-to-end secure and safe from cyber malfeasance and insecurity.

The technologies we mentioned above exist independently and work well, but combining all these technologies to create a true and functional metaverse is a real challenge. Zuckerberg estimates that it will take 5-10 years for the metaverse to become part of the mainstream while others believe that it will take decades for this technology to come into a popular play and being the best version of it.

  • Advantages of the metaverse

  1. More immersive communication
    The Pandemic has raised the popularity of platforms such as zoom, Google meets, and Microsoft teams that provided face-to-face 2D interactions for business, educational, and communication purposes. But metaverse can take you to the next level in these fields with its graphically rich 3D virtual environment and immersive experience. Rather than interacting with other participants through a computer screen, microphone and speaker, you'll be able to access virtual 3D offices or classrooms with life-like immersive experiences.
  2. Branding
    At present, social media plays an important role in the branding of businesses. Metaverse can take this to next level by branding digital versions of products in its virtual world where users can gain real-time experience of checking and viewing the specifications of products. Where there will be digital changing rooms for you to try that product physically before deciding to buy it. It will help you create a highly immersive storefront and customer service.
  3. Creation of virtual economy
    Businesses will move from 2D websites to 3D life-like virtual stores. As trade and business are expected to be carried out in the metaverse, there's a huge potential for the creation of a virtual economy where the exchange will be carried out through digital assets like crypto and NFT.
  4. Doubling the power of blockchains
    As a decentralized database for storing transaction records, it can facilitate the development and distribution of NFT. By the use of blockchain, the user will be free of any intermediary or conversions for trading which will directly have an impact on the cost involved in these business dealings.
  5. Expansion of social media beyond web 2.0
    Current social media platforms restrict human interactions to two- a dimensional plane. Metaverse will combine virtual reality and augmented reality to enable more realistic digital communication and interaction. The content we see like photos, videos, and texts, will be more graphic intensive and life-like. Furthermore, the users will also form part of the content.

  • Criticism /Key challenges in front of the metaverse

  1. Needs faster and reliable internet connection
    As metaverse is a graphics-heavy shared virtual environment and to participate in this environment needs an internet connection with faster and more reliable speed. As metaverse is planning to inculcate 5g in its technology, but still there is a long way to reach there and he sure whether it'll be able to handle its functioning or not.
  2. Not inclusive
    It centers on the fact that this technology will discriminate between those who have access to these tools and those who don't have the purchasing power to spend on these gadgets. The upper strata of the society will benefit from it and the poor will remain aloof if such things even exist.
  3. Concerns over possible social and cultural impacts
    Do people want to get into these artificial worlds? If these metaverses become addictive tools like social media sites these days, won't we disconnect from the real world and stop worrying about real-world challenges that lie ahead of us? Won't we escape from the harsh reality that needs to be changed? It can also affect behaviors and relationships that are honed through interaction with the natural environment.
  4. Questions regarding its utility and relevance
    Does society need a shared virtual environment? What are its practical applications in consideration of its associated costs and benefits? Can it improve relationships? These are some of the questions that are worth taking into consideration.
  5. Data manipulation/ privacy and security issues.
    Metaverse is another tool to gather users' data. This will foster an environment where abuse of data is rampant and can create a world full of misinformation. Also, companies having control over data can potentially control and monopolize the market by being crony capitalists and it will be easier for them to invade users' privacy and security.

  • Conclusion

Every technology has its drawbacks, and so does the metaverse. If there are advantages of it for social media, businesses, educational institutions, etc., there are concerns about it like privacy and security, loss of human connections, and inclusiveness.

Every technology that is unique in its type seems weird or not of much use at first, as happened with the internet during the 1970s. How we make constructive use of it, and how inclusive and user-friendly is it, is the final deciding factor for the success of any technology product and it will apply to the Metaverse too.

As consumers of new techs and experiences, we can only be optimistic and hope for it to come into reality soon.

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