7 Challenges of The Metaverse
Metaverse seems to be taking many tech news channels by the storm, one could notice the buzz amplifying in the past few months. Even though the term itself is not new at all and has been with us since 1992, not everyone is fully familiar with the exact meaning behind it. Oxford Languages defines Metaverse as “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users”. Now the question here is what caused the interest around Metaverse to surge at such a swift pace?
The reason for such a rapid expansion in interest is mainly connected to one of the tech giants, or to be more precise, to Mark Zuckerberg’s July announcement of Facebook intention to create our future Metaverse. The Verge reported that the vision revolves around the creation of one unified virtual universe, connecting community, products, commerce, workspace, entertainment, creators and much more. But how close has Virtual Reality (VR) technology come to realizing this ambition?
We could actually be much closer to submerging into the virtual universe than one can image. VR headsets sales continue to soar, projected to surpass 34 million units by 2024, driven by VR hardware pioneers like Oculus, VIVE, Varjo, Pico and many more. On the software side of the technology, we see tech pioneers recognizing the potential of VR becoming a commodity in the foreseeable future. With Unity CEO predicting Virtual Reality headsets becoming as commonly used as game consoles by 2030.
Even today, it is becoming clearer that many industries will only accelerate in their adaptation of Virtual Reality technology. With 2021 being the year to bring us more VR headsets aimed at both enterprise and consumer users - HTC VIVE VR, Pico Neo 3, HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition and Huawei VR Glass 6DOF Game Set. It is just a matter of time before the Metaverse ambition can be realized. For now, we still have a pretty vague idea of how the actual Metaverse will look like, but to make it a full-fledged virtual world, we can imagine it to have to overcome the following challenges:
The question of personal identification and representation is fairly straightforward when it comes to the real world. But when speaking of virtual environments, or the Metaverse, one might wonder, what will really be the elements that make up one’s identity. And most importantly how to even prove that you are who you are, instead of another person or even bot trying to mimic your existence. This is where reputation can play an important role in terms of both authentication, but as proof that the entity one interacts with is trustworthy and legit. The main challenge lies in the possibility to forge facial features, footage and voice, thus, we are bound to see new verification methods being developed in the nearest future.
Even though companies and organizations keep revolutionizing their IT security systems, data privacy and security has been a long running concern for users of any online environment. Submerging into the Metaverse will require to evolve security methods to a completely new level, being on par with the ever so expanding space of the Metaverse. This will require building new methods of personal data and privacy protection that will be able to ensure the safety of one’s identity and possessions in the virtual world. With that being said, personal verification might come to the point where users will have to provide more personal data than what is expected today, to identify oneself and ensure the security system works efficiently, keeping personal data safe.
Digital currency has been with us for a few decades now, with Bitcoin being amongst the most well-known ones. The same goes for online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay that connect millions of consumers around the globe. There is no doubt Metaverse will have its own version of a virtual marketplace, connecting different actual and digital currencies to enable fast and effortless exchange. Regardless of the currency and marketplace format, when it comes to transactions, it will be especially essential to develop unique new transaction verification system. The challenge will lie in convincing users that they can rely on and most important feel safe while engaging in any trade within the Metaverse.
Submerging into the Metaverse will bring forth the question of legislation and jurisdiction, requiring countries to look more into the virtual legal domains. With the growing virtual space accessible for users worldwide, it will be essential to identify means according to which the matter of jurisdiction will be applicable. Metaverse is bound to bring large numbers of users together, making it a place of great opportunity to connect and exchange, however at the same time making users vulnerable in case there are no laws that regulate the boundaries. It will be a true challenge to identify jurisdiction as well as a set legislations that can ensure the virtual space is safe and secure for its users.
When we speak of one unified virtual universe where you can interact with both the world and other individuals, like in the real world, we can imagine that there will be an opportunity to purchase and hold possession of various items and assets. NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) have picked up their pace of growing in popularity and have been making headlines in 2021 attracting more investors and users to the digital assets and tokens. In a similar way to how NFTs currently represent real-world objects, granting and proving the ownership rights for art, music, videos and much more, the challenge will be in creating a unified system that could be used to verify the possessors of virtual assets in the Metaverse.
Metaverse without doubt will bring a diverse community together, connecting people around the globe in a unified virtual world. As the past few years showed, staying connected is one of the essentials for the society, which could potentially lead to a strong network forming in the Metaverse for both work and personal purposes. For many, Metaverse could become the platform to interact and form meaningful relationships. We are already used to communicating online, however for the Metaverse to become a space where people can feel both emotionally and physically present, the haptic and motion capture technology will have to advance to a completely new level. A level that can provide smooth comprehension of presence and surroundings, accompanying visual fidelity with the ability to touch and feel.
The concept of time perception can be different if we compare the real world with a virtual environment, as users tend to be less aware of their bodies while inside the Virtual Reality. The full immersion could unconsciously lead users to spend more time inside the Metaverse. Due to the possibility of a distorted sense of time, it is essential to set up mechanisms that will keep users in check with the real world. The second concept that should be looked at in the Metaverse, is the concept of space. As the Metaverse assumes an infinite space, at first it might be challenging for users to immerse into such a vast universe, trying to comprehend the amount and variety of information at once. Both time and space perception in the Metaverse will require guidance during the first steps of submersion, in order to ensure users will be both aware and comfortable while inside the virtual environment.
Even though we are still only on the doorstep of a virtual universe, setting up the Metaverse could be both challenging and full of opportunity. It is without doubt essential to make sure the Metaverse becomes a complimentary space, without replacing the real world we live in. As much as one can look forward to the virtual realm, it is important to remain aware, safe and secure in this new vast universe.