As the virtual world becomes more tangible, more and more complex social and technological issues arise. How are companies currently handling the situation and what shall we expect in the near future?
Although we have seen some efforts in introducing technological and social standards, the Metaverse is and will remain largely an unregulated market at its dawn. Governments do not bother to put regulations in place for technologies that do not quite exist nor have an impact, yet.
The June 2022 Metaverse Standards Forum, while promoted by both Facebook and Microsoft, suffers the deafening absence of both early players (Roblox, Niantic) and the Apple giant. This goes to show that the path to standardization is all but paved.
Shall we fear an unregulated market? Yes and no.
Innovation is usually killed by regulation and thrives when researchers are free to experiment with their subjects. Issue is: we are the subjects here. Research will probably involve collection of notable amounts of biometric data and recording of user behavior. Funding will be gathered through advertising and advertising will pushed directly into the open world.
Imagine a world where it’s not just the shop signs around the city, but advertisements can be hidden anywhere in your world. You’re drinking coffee while your AR glasses add a totally unexpected e-cigarette commercial on the cup.
This is not only something that we should expect, but something that we should prepare for. As users, we will have to learn again how to discern safe content from baits. As potential advertisers, there will be a new world for us to expand in.
We have seen it time and again: a new platform rises, influencers grow on that platform and then they become a closed circle, as tighter regulation forbids newcomers from growing as effectively. It happened with Facebook, with Instagram, with Tiktok and it will happen with the Metaverse (in each different flavor).
As with the 2.0 social networks, the Metaverse begs the question: will we give up our social responsibility and people skills in exchange for a fake world, for fake emotions?
Some will. The Hikikomori is already a known phenomenon: people choosing to never leave their house, rather spending their life online.
It will definitely get worse. It is going to get worse and forbidding such behavior is not going to make things better.
We should instead push the companies and the just-born Metaverse communities towards a more inclusive approach that will build real-world connections on top of the fake one. The virtual world can expand our sensory expectations, but it can never replace the feeling of being alive.
Now that the feasibility of the virtual world is no longer in question, there are three main remaining issues related to the Metaverse:
How would you tackle such issues?
There is no doubt that the Metaverse presents the biggest opportunities for the near future, with the highest risks as collateral. Keeping an eye on the evolution of this topic would be wise both as users (potential influencers) and investors (developers and entrepreneurs).
There is much more to be worried about than to be excited about, but we all know what is coming and we better be on the success side of this story, when it begins.