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Opinion: The metaverse and the promise it holds

An idea of a centralized virtual world mirroring the physical world, the metaverse draws upon technologies including gaming, machine learning, blockchain, 3-D graphics and digital currencies.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/bmjuniorr/" target="_self">Lauren Lee</a>

Lauren Lee

September 24, 2022
The evolution of our current internet can be summed up in one word: metaverse. Seemingly science fiction comes to life, the metaverse promises a highly advanced future where people’s digital and physical lives are more closely united in wealth, productivity, socialization, shopping and entertainment.  

An idea of a centralized virtual world mirroring the physical world, the metaverse draws upon a diverse ensemble of technologies, including gaming, machine learning, blockchain, 3-D graphics, digital currencies, sensors, and VR-enabled headsets, garnering great interest from technology titans and gaming giants such as Meta, Microsoft, Epic Games, and Roblox.

However, one must consider the myriad of online issues one has to face if the metaverse is an extension of the internet hacking — from catfishing, harassment, and hate speech — when projecting metaverse into and its radicalization of the future.

“It’s important to recognize [the] five important problems we haven’t yet solved in the mobile internet: data rights, data security, radicalization, misinformation and platform power,” Matthew Ball, author of the forthcoming “The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything,” said to Time magazine. “Every one of those five problems [will be] exacerbated. The amount of data captured and the importance of that data goes up, or the risks of data loss are intensified.”

Indeed, this may provide backing to why fictional recreations of a metaverse, such as “Ready Player One” and “Snow Crash,” are situated in dystopias.

Others differ. They believe that the metaverse can expand access, opportunity, social networks and mental health — though even they have to admit the potential benefits of the metaverse are based on speculation.

In the workplace, metaverse solutions only require a computer, mouse, and keyboard keys. Ongoing improvements in computer-generated holography seeks to replace headsets by deploying holographic pods to project people into actual space at events. Companies are pioneering haptic (touch) gloves for interactions with 3-D virtual objects and experiencing movement, texture, and pressure.

The metaverse will reshape the world of work in at least four major ways: new immersive forms of team collaboration; the emergence of new digital, AI-enabled colleagues; the acceleration of learning and skills acquisition through virtualization and gamified technologies; and the eventual rise of a metaverse economy with completely new enterprises and work roles. 

The emergence of metaverse-native enterprises, companies entirely conceived within the virtual, 3-D world, are highly plausible. And similarly to the internet birthing unforeseen roles — such as digital marketing managers and social media advisors — so, too, will the metaverse introduce roles previously existing in works of science fiction: avatar conversation designers and “holoporting” travel agents to ease mobility across virtual worlds.

Outside of work, the metaverse has expanded into medicine and even into the realm of K-pop.

Ever since Meta Platforms acquired Oculus and its VR headset technology in 2014, numerous healthcare applications were invented. Its value was epitomized in a collaboration with Facebook Reality Labs and Nexus Studios and the WHO Academy. A mobile learning app was designed for health workers battling COVID-19 worldwide, including training courses that involve AR to simulate the proper techniques to operate PPE.

Additionally, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeons performed the institution’s first-ever AR surgeries on living patients. During a spinal fusion, two teams donned Augmedics headsets, equipped with a see-through eye display that projects images of a patient’s internal anatomy based on CT scans. 

At the forefront of the hottest internet trends is South Korean internet conglomerate Naver Group, the name behind messaging giant app Line and popular selfie app Snow. Its subsidiary, Zepeto, a 3D-avatar app with more than 300 million users worldwide, is the company’s venture into the metaverse. Zepeto, which provides an amalgam of entertainment, gaming, and social networking experiences, allows its users to render their selfies in 3D avatars and design digital spaces.

Since its launch in 2018, Zepeto sold more than 2.3 billion pieces of metaverse items and last year, its top-selling creator generated a gross revenue of $500,000.

Moreover, Zepeto’s growth has been driven by joining hands with global luxury fashion brands such as Christian Dior, Gucci, Nike, and Ralph Lauren, as well as celebrities Blackpink and Selena Gomez, whose Zepeto avatars performed in their “Ice Cream” dance music video. Zepeto, who also partnered with entertainment agencies including JYP and YG, stated their plans for further expansion of its partnership with global companies that own intellectual properties.

The metaverse sees no stop in its expansion. Only time will tell of the implications of an internet-forward race towards a burgeoning future.

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