It is a freezing, wintry day and you can think of nothing worse than having to get bundled up to go to work just to sit in meetings all day. Or you aren't feeling your best, but you really do not want to miss out on that planned get-together with your friends. Readers can no doubt come up with a thousand more scenarios and it is obvious at this point, based on the title of course, where this is heading.
Every few years, a new, life-changing disruptive technology emerges and it seems we are now on the verge of yet another one. The Metaverse, as it has become known, promises to become the future of virtual experiences and it appears that it is well on the way to becoming life-changing for many or most of us.
The Metaverse is what we call spatiotemporal, or what Merriam-Webster considers to be "of or relating to space-time." The concept, going back to ancient China, was also reflected in ancient Western classical theories and touted by famed philosophers including Plato, Aristotle and Hegel, as well as neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.
According to research carried out by Cornell University last year, "In the real world, human behavior takes place in physical time and space... The Metaverse breaks the constraints of time and space in the real world...The hyper spatiotemporal nature of the Metaverse is reflected in the fact that the Metaverse is a spacetime distinct from the real world. It does not stop at the construction of a static digital space, but a virtual space that evolves in parallel with the real dynamic world."
Thus the combination of 5G, video, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will offer users the ability to exist and interact in a virtual setting similar to or vastly different from their actual reality. The platform, as it is presented and understood today, will be used as a space for entertainment, work, and socializing. Because it takes place virtually, the options for personalization are limitless.
However, while the Metaverse is largely touted and thought of as a place for meeting friends, socializing and doing nothing, experts believe the virtual space can actually be a game-changer when it comes to productivity and recent studies have been carried out to examine whether this could be true. Businesses can host virtual work meetings, saving employees valuable time wasted sitting in traffic. The medical and healthcare industries can greatly benefit as well with virtual medical checkups and even surgeries.
The Metaverse can transform the real estate industry, with sellers, agents and buyers able to meet and tour the property virtually. Any number of visuals can be created instantly to imagine schemes for redecorating for example.
In addition, the Metaverse has already demonstrated its potential ability to completely change the shopping and retailing e-commerce industry. Buyers can peruse racks of clothing from the comfort of their couch and even try on clothes in the virtual dressing room. Gone will be the days of aching feet and utter exhaustion after hours of shopping.
Museums can attract larger interest by offering virtual tours of exhibitions, although many people would likely prefer to see the real thing in person. Likewise, Metaverse is being touted as a space for travel but everyone knows a virtual trip to a Hawaiin beach at sunset simply isn't ever going to be able to replace the real thing.
The Metaverse can greatly affect education and the way information is disseminated to students. If Covid-19 has taught the world anything, it is that students can learn from home and teachers can give lessons virtually. While there are of course great benefits to in-class learning, a future Metaverse which is far more immersive and interactive may actually improve learning if the teacher can take students on a virtual tour of the human body for biology class or a tour of space for physics class. Of course, being the great equalizer, the Metaverse can be used as a platform for the best teachers to reach weaker school districts and offer the best education literally everywhere. You get the picture.
The gaming industry will undergo an explosion of interest, with new technologies emerging that create a more deeply immersive game. Of course, greater bandwidth capabilities will be necessary for the Metaverse to be relevant in this space, but that future is not far off.
But there are downsides to the Metaverse. Social interaction is key to our mental health and while introverts thrive on less interaction, many of us need face-to-face, human interaction on a daily basis. Technology can make socializing fun, but it may negatively our lifestyle by discouraging us from going out into the real world and meeting our real friends in person.
In addition, and no less concerning, there are those who have already exhibited signs of difficulty in differentiating between the virtual and real worlds. Users who have a certain persona virtually may attempt to extend that to the real world where it won't fit in well. Actions people take virtually may not translate well in the real universe.
So there are certainly some inherent dangers and shortcomings involving the Metaverse. Businesses need to invest in more research to reveal more potential problems so that they can be fixed before the world becomes fully engaged and immersed in virtual reality. These kinks need to be worked out before entire societies begin to disappear from public areas into their private, virtual spaces - never to be seen again.