Rashed Qayoom Shawl
Are we all ready for a new virtual digital cyber world called METAVERSE? Well, one cannot give a clear answer to this question at this point of time keeping in view the fact that not many individuals and organizations around the world are talking about it. The term metaverse may be new to us; however, it has been around as a concept for nearly three decades. Neal Stephenson, an American science fiction author introduced the metaverse in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash. In the early advent of Internet, we started from text, moved onto images and graphics. With faster connections, videos were being shared and hence the transition from text to photos to videos. In that series, Metaverse is going to be the next generation of the internet precisely 3D experience where there will be a feeling of presence, as if one is right there with another person or in another place.
What does Metaverse mean?
The term “metaverse” was first used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash. There are many industry experts predicting that the metaverse will be the next evolution of social media, giving students, consumers, and employees’ new ways to connect and spend time together.
In October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of noted social media platform “Facebook” referred to the metaverse as an embodied internet operated by multiple decentralised players where the user is actually part of the experience. Zuckerberg has said that the metaverse will be the successor of the mobile internet and will dramatically change the way people work and communicate.
The Metaverse can also be defined as a simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain, along with concepts from social media, to create spaces for rich user interaction mimicking the real world.
Who are the Major Players?
Microsoft, Facebook (rebranded Meta), Nvidia and Roblox are often pointed out as some of the players in the field of metaverse. These vendors are known for their research and development in mixed reality technologies and are currently exploring ways to monetize head-tracking and other types of user-generated data in the metaverse. The noted social media platform company “Facebook” has recently changed its name to “META” indicating that the global tech giant is going to pump in huge amounts of money into the development of this platform in times to come. It is interesting to note that Mark Zuckerberg, who is the owner of facebook has got the METAVERSE on his mind really which seems to many analysts and experts around the world as a costly consideration. Meta, the company that Zuckerberg founded as Facebook, operates 12 reality Labs research facilities around the world to drive Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality technology into the future. The Reality Labs division brings together a world-class team of researchers, developers, and engineers to create the future of AR and VR which together will become as universal and essential as smartphones and personal computers are today, changing how we work, play, and connect.
In the month of February 2022 only, Reality Labs reported growing losses of more than $10 billion in 2021 alone. Those products are key to Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse, a next generation of the internet where people would share virtual worlds and experiences across different software and hardware platforms. It is though quite astonishing to know that the investment of around $10 billion in MetaVerse is more than five times the amount of money Facebook paid to purchase the Oculus VR (virtual Reality) business in 2014 and 10 times more than what it paid to buy Instagram in 2012.
Dark side of MetaVerse
Apart from all the benefits and growth this technology is going to offer, there is a dark side too where there is greater risk of harassment and online abuse. As per a recent report published May 2022 in business insider, stating that a researchers digital avatar was sexually assaulted on a metaverse platform which is owned by META.
“Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content,” a new report published by the non-profit advocacy group SumOfUs, details the researcher’s violent encounter in Meta’s Horizon World. Even though it happened in virtual reality, the incident left the researcher “disoriented,” she said in the report. The researcher noted her controller vibrated when the male avatars touched her, resulting in a physical sensation that was a result of what she was experiencing online. SumOfUs researchers reported experiencing homophobic and racial slurs in Horizon World and said they witnessed gun violence on the platform. Meta has launched Horizon Worlds in December 2021 to users 18 and up in the US and Canada. By February, there were at least 300,000 users on the platform, according to The Verge. We can conclude from above incidents of harassment and abuse that just like in normal world and internet; the people misuse the virtual platforms and do all kinds of unpleasant things which are otherwise prohibited by law. The metaverse is going to be no different. There will always be various sections of individuals who want to misuse technology and will always find ways too.
Rashed Qayoom Shawl