The Metaverse: Possibilities and Perils
The word "metaverse" is at the forefront of many tech experts' and enthusiasts' minds. And while the concept presents exciting possibilities, budding concerns still need to be addressed.
The tech industry is never static.
In the past, our world has witnessed numerous historical changes and transformations in technology fields, which have helped develop and advance human lives towards betterment. In the same tradition, the word "metaverse" has now been enlisted as the latest technological evolution in the list.
Let's take a deeper look at its possibilities and security concerns:
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is a conceptual and highly immersive virtual world planned to appear in virtual reality (VR). Its name is the combination of two words:
- The prefix "meta," which is taken from a Greek word that means "beyond."
- The universe.
In the novel "Snow Crash," published in 1992, author Neal Stephenson coined the term, using it to mean "a computer-generated universe."
Today's metaverse would be the next "generation," if you will, of Stephenson's conceptualization: an advanced level internet where people can use their avatars or holograms to communicate, socialize, travel, purchase or work together in a virtual 3D environment. (Also read: 5 Common Myths About Virtual Reality, Busted!)
What Future Possibilities Does the Metaverse Bring?
In the metaverse, people will be able to connect, communicate or grow business in a completely new way using the latest virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies.
Remote working would become more advanced. People working online from any remote location could even meet their colleagues in the metaverse in their virtual form. That's because, using VR technology, people can virtually travel in the metaverse to different locations. (Also read: How Remote Work Impacts DevOps and Development Trends.)
Collaboration and spreading new ideas will be easier. New jobs will grow based on various new technologies.
Cryptocurrency would likely become the most important transactional method. Blockchain technology would become indispensable for metaverse development.
Business operations will be a lot different for virtual 3D stores. The game industry will emerge and rise to its highest level.
What Will the Metaverse Change?
Businesses will not function in the present manner. The future of commerce will change. The metaverse will enhance this trend of online shopping and using e-commerce sites. (Also read: 4 New Technologies Making Waves in the E-commerce Sector.)
People won't need to go to physical stores to try new products before purchasing. VR/AR technologies will enable them to explore different products of different brands from anywhere virtually in the metaverse.
The metaverse will enhance interactive virtual in-store experiences. If certain products are not in stock, VR/AR sets will allow users to try those items within the store.
Moreover, blockchain technology would be thriving in the metaverse. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology would control the financial transactions in the metaverse. (Also read: Cryptocurrency: Our World's Future Economy?)
How Will the Metaverse Impact Present Enterprises?
Big companies are increasingly accepting the metaverse.
Facebook, for example, held a leading role in this technological transformation and changed its company name to Meta. In October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg—Facebook/Meta's CEO—announced the company's rebranding and imminent name change. As per the latest update, Meta will be the social media evolution where people can connect, grow their businesses, play games, shop, entertain or, really, do anything they want—all using the latest VR/AR technologies. (Also read: Tech's On-Going Obsession With Virtual Reality.)
Microsoft is also moving ahead to develop their metaverse. For the past few years, it is also trying to implement metaverse in the latest innovations. Their latest software can take an online meeting or video conference to its next advanced level with a sci-fi test: "Mesh for Microsoft Teams."
Mesh for Microsoft Teams is Microsoft's communication medium. It has a mixed-reality feature permitting people to meet virtually by their holographic presence in real-time, anywhere. Mesh can be used on a smartphone. This software-converted remote online meetings are thought to be more personal, attractive and enjoyable.
How Can Current Industries Leverage the Metaverse?
As many major companies have started thinking to shift their businesses to the metaverse, specific industries may benefit from its application.
Implementing augmented reality in the healthcare sector can help train and skill-strengthen future medical professionals. That's because surgical tools and technology like the Microsoft Hololens can help doctors with speed surgical procedures. (Also read: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Healthcare.)
Military applications of VR/AR technologies have also created benchmarks. Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR), for example, functions much like night-vision goggles (NVG)—but with more features. It can show a soldier’s accurate location and the positions of ally and hostile forces.
TAR devices are attached to helmets in the same way NYGs are; and they can be used any time of day or night. This makes them a smart alternative to standard handheld GPS gadgets and eyewear. (Also read: AI in the Army: How Virtual Assistants Will Impact US Military Ranks.)
The metaverse has also been applied in the real estate, education and manufacturing sectors.
What Security Threats Does the Metaverse Pose?
Researchers have found some potential risks surrounding metaverse implementation. For one, addiction to VR/AR devices might excessively separate users from the real world.
The 3D virtual world might also, simply, create real-life unhappiness. People will spend more time in the metaverse and slack off on their real-world tasks.
For these reasons, addiction to the virtual world could be a real threat to future generations.
Cybersecurity problems are the largest challenges for the metaverse, however. We've already seen a couple of major cybercrime incidents on social media platforms and remote work environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts believe the metaverse will not be an exception and the amount of cybercrimes, online abuse and online fraud may increase there too. (Also read: The Cyberattacks Pandemic: A Look At Cybercrime in the COVID-19 Era.)
As the metaverse is a completely virtual community, we will not avoid the possibility of online security breaches.
Lastly, the hardware used for the metaverse can, frankly, annoy people. Wearing VR glasses may be uncomfortable to metaverse users. VR glasses can also cause health issues in long-term; and, thusly, should be made small and easy to wear.
In the metaverse virtual world, people would be able to perform almost anything they do in reality. Hence, we can hypothesize that the metaverse would influence our overall life by impacting everything from our future industries, to social activities, to everyday human interactions.
Big tech companies are trying to build this virtual reality platform in a more secure way. However, speculations are still rife because of recent cybercrime incidents.
The future reality the metaverse will usher in is forming—but it isn't here yet. Only time will tell what this new frontier will usher in.