27 Jan 2022

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THE METAVERSE HAS ARRIVED

 

But Are We Ready for It?

 What Exactly is the Metaverse?

 “From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, being able to jump into the metaverse to do almost anything you can imagine.” Mark Zuckerberg.  

 Isn’t that how most of us are already using the internet these days? Then what is Zuckerberg planning to change about the web and its users through metaverse? Think about Fortnite, it isn’t much different from what humans have been experiencing in video games, holograms and 3D movies so far. It’s the same virtual world of people, buildings, cars and concerts, but you will now be able to throw yourself into it.

 It’s 3D, it’s virtual, it’s hyperreal; but it’s more natural, Zuckerberg says.

 The buzzy metaverse term was coined by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 novel, ‘Snow Crash’. Metaverse can be explained as an integrated virtual space where various tech giants will contribute to creating hyperreal experiences for users. It will bring together several technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality to create a mind-boggling digital universe.

You can envision yourself buying clothes and houses, hosting parties, attending concerts, conducting meetings and much more. Moreover, the interoperability of the metaverse will allow users to carry around virtual objects, further reinforcing the idea of a digital universe. It may not be false to say that the world is on the cusp of a new version of internet, and we might be the ones to witness this transition.

Is it possible?

No matter how fictional it may sound, the metaverse is not as impossible as it may seem in your head. It will not occur disruptively, rather gradually with several tech giants building it block by block. Companies like Microsoft, Epic Games, Roblox, etc. are already generating digital human versions to step closer to the metaverse dream. Moreover, it will be easily accessible since digital devices will facilitate your journey from physical to the virtual world. However, it is only possible to become mainstream when VR and AR headsets become affordable enough for everyone, with their smarter and more seamless designs already being anticipated.

Are we ready to evolve?

Are we entering a digital parallel universe, a hyperreal world within our world, or a kingdom of digital avatars? Simply put, metaverse is a 3D cyberspace that you could enter wearing a VR headset; then what makes it so contentious? The already dominant and arguably addictive social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. are under scrutiny for the possible detriment they cause in terms of users’ mental health and social interaction. Among all this, a technological advancement that seems more like a science-fiction movie, may not go unquestioned. Research shows that the virtual platform may emerge as a temporary escape for people with mental health problems or who experience a sense of discomfort associated with the real world. However, it may also end up splitting users from the actual world, eventually causing delusions or other psychotic symptoms. There are several speculations on the future of the metaverse, but the truth is yet to be seen. Nonetheless, this may be just how comic and imaginary the idea of internet felt back in the 1990s as Zuckerberg predicts that before long, his company will be known for the metaverse.

Despite all the resistance it may face in its early phase, once all the rage, metaverse may take over existing media platforms in the long run. The digital world has seen social media invading traditional media over time. It is too early to predict but once embedded, the metaverse is likely to make print and electronic media obsolete with its vivid experiences and more powerful nature.

Takeaway

Technology is always far from comprehension until manifested. Touchscreen, holograms and xenobots also seemed impossible when first heard of. We have witnessed glorious advancements of science and technology that have paved the way for the metaverse miracle to occur. If you want to have a closer look at the upcoming big tech, head over to watching the sci-fi movie, ‘Ready Player One.’ Who knows, we might be moving towards Ernest Cline’s Oasis.

“It’s not just about spending more time on screens, it’s about making the time that we already spend, BETTER.” Mark Zuckerberg

Yusra Hameed

Research Assistant

Department of Media Studies

BUIC