Will We Be Living in the Metaverse?
If you’ve been zoning out or raising your eyebrows when you hear references to the “metaverse,” it’s time to pay attention. It’s here. Well, at least pieces of it. As we speak, worlds are being created in cyberspace. They’re also being created or augmented literally before our eyes in the “real” world.
What’s the Metaverse?
How do we perceive the world? Through our senses, including our eyes. But that’s this world, this planet Earth, complete with people and objects made of atoms. We see the Earth-based world with our eyes. Now take a massive leap. What if there was another place, other than our atom-based world, say a byte-based world we could experience using augmented senses?
That’s a step into the metaverse. And there are many locations to choose from once you’re there.
At its most radical, one spot in the metaverse may look like a completely new cyberworld. Think The Matrix or the novel Ready Player One. The latest iteration of those may be the games Alien Worlds, Axie Infinity, or The Sandbox in which players navigate multi-planet worlds and experience all the drama and conflict across those planets that you can imagine.
A less extreme manifestation of the metaverse would be a scenario where the augmented reality is superimposed onto the real, atom-based world. Participants would share this augmented environment, meaning everyone with the correct virtual reality tools would see and experience the same augmented reality while they navigated the real world together. Pokemon GO is leading people’s thinking in this direction.
Experts point out that technology has a long way to go before we can truly achieve a metaverse state of things with no limits or barriers. For example, there are the challenging issues of the internet infrastructure, the feasibility of having large numbers of participants interacting with each other in real-time, language barriers, and latency issues.
Some experts feel that constraints like these and others will limit the metaverse to the gaming world, where it already has a foothold and an avid clientele. Others question whether the average person will sign on, given that they’re already mistrustful of high-tech business models that simply mine and sell user data.
More Than a Game
Time will tell if the metaverse creators will overcome these hurdles. Will the experiences become a normal part of our lives, rather than just a game-driven diversion? I don’t think we’ll see one, single parallel universe/metaverse that everybody is a part of, in spite of the science fiction scenarios that are so intriguing.
Rather, we’ll be applying metaverse principles and technology on a more achievable scale that will improve our lives in a number of areas. After all, the metaverse at its highest and most noble level is a space where people can interact in real-time in a created or enhanced environment.
Yes, I think there’s a market for that!
Is it a COVID Thing?
There’s no doubt that people’s interest in metaverse technology was accelerated by the pandemic. We didn’t hear of too many hardcore gamers complaining about isolation or a lack of human interaction. No, it was those of us who relied on real-world encounters for stimulation and sustenance who felt the isolation the worst.
Unfortunately, pandemics (COVID variants and others) will be on our mind and in the news for the foreseeable future. This is bound to drive even more interest in offering technology that enables us to live interactive lives in “safer” environments.
Coming Soon to the Metaverse Around You!
If there’s one thing we should have learned in the last 50 years, it’s to never underestimate and casually dismiss fads – especially technology-based fads. This is another one of those times.
One obvious metaverse application will be in entertainment. Instead of listening to a concert in person or even online, we’ll enjoy a shared experience as our avatars are elbow-to-elbow with our friends and all the other attendees that bought their ticket and showed up in this metaverse concert venue.
What about office work? Thanks to the metaverse, office work-from-home will be a thing of the past. No, we won’t necessarily be back in the physical office; we’ll be working and meeting in a metaverse-enabled shared space, elbow-to-elbow this time with our co-workers or potential clients.
What about Grandpa?
As with any breakthrough technologies and sea change concepts (e.g., internet and cryptocurrency), as metaverse applications like these become mainstream, some people may be left behind. That may be thanks to their own stubbornness, but in most other cases it will be due to an inability to learn to navigate or to even fathom such a drastic leap from the norm.
The challenge for metaverse developers and the industries that will offer services using the technology is to get past this hesitancy by making the applications as user-friendly as possible. Remember teaching your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents how to: get on the internet, download an app, or send an email? And more recently how to navigate a Zoom call? With a little instruction and logical interfaces, most everyone will quickly master them.
If designers do their job well, before we know it, the vast majority of us will be in the metaverse – not necessarily gaming 20 hours a day, but occasionally and regularly interacting in virtual spaces “face-to-face” in real time.
In fact, experiencing certain aspects of our lives within the metaverse will be far easier than gaming in the metaverse. It will be natural communication, friendly discussions, business meetings, topical interactions, and so much more.