Metaverse – An Alternate Reality

With the growing buzz around NFTs and Facebook rebranding its name to ‘Meta’, the idea of Metaverse is receiving lots of attention. The Metaverse’s emergence is a relatively new technological achievement, yet it will have a significant impact on human interaction as we know it. But what exactly is ‘Metaverse’?

A metaverse is a collection of 3D virtual worlds designed to encourage social interaction. It aims at providing a virtual alternative to the physical world. It has its origin from the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash and was popularized with the game Second Life in 2003.

Second Life is a pc game with a virtual world mimicking the real world, by letting its players have their avatars, digital property, and it also has a currency of its own, which is exchangeable with money of their countries. Many different video games have followed this idea. But there is a recent shift of Metaverse from PC games to virtual and augmented reality technologies.

Facebook launched a VR social world Facebook Horizon (Currently known as Horizon Worlds), in 2019, and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has declared a company commitment for the development of the Metaverse. Microsoft purchased AltspaceVR, a virtual reality firm, in 2017 and has subsequently integrated metaverse capabilities into Microsoft Teams, such as virtual avatars and virtual reality meetings. Many companies do not want to limit the Metaverse to games but also transform the e-commerce, education, and real estate industries.

Virtual Reality technologies require very powerful hardware for even decent quality of resolution. Facebook uses Occulus Rift S and Occulus Quest for Horizon Worlds. The hardware needed for the VR experience is one of the major reasons for not being extensively used. The VR headsets are usually not very portable and are hard to set up.
The cost of the VR headsets is also one of the challenges to overcome. An average headset is a hefty Rs40000 load on pocket. It is also required to have a powerful computer to run the environment and hence is not affordable to the common public. This is one of the major setbacks for popularizing the idea of the VR Metaverse.

Digital Property in the Metaverse:
In the Metaverse, users can do anything that can be coded into a computer. The demand for virtual fashion will surge as the number of virtual avatars grows. Virtual avatars for their personalized experience, or a car of their choice, or plot of the estate in the virtual city, all of it can be owned in the Metaverse. Many have even considered owning these plots as a good investment and expect good returns from the same.

Many Metaverse games, like Horizon Worlds, have also received much criticism regarding information privacy and user addiction. Companies are criticized for collecting the biometric data of the users using the hardware and also using the personal data of the users based on their choices in the Metaverse for advertisements. Also, addiction can cause significant mental health issues like depression, anxiety, etc.

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