Science in the Spotlight: Into the Metaverse

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.

Your favorite artist takes the stage, and you cheer wildly along with the ten million other people standing next to you. No single physical stage could fit a crowd of that size, but there is a place that can.

Welcome to the metaverse.

The future that we saw in sci-fi movies has hit the public as an emerging reality following Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and the online gaming platform Roblox going public on the stock market.

The metaverse can be defined as many things: virtual reality, the evolution of the internet, a digital economy, a place where avatars of ourselves interact with others, and so on. So, to put it more clearly, Yonatan Raz-Fridman on the podcast “Into the Metaverse” reframes the question from what the metaverse is to what the metaverse isn’t. “The metaverse is not a device. It’s not something you’re going to access from your mobile phone, VR goggles, or AR glasses…The metaverse is the next iteration of the internet,” Raz-Fridman said. A podcast co-hosted by Raz-Fridman and Matthew Kanterman, “Into the Metaverse” explores subjects from development and investment to experience within this new space. 

Over the past two years, we have seen the effects of the pandemic on human lifestyle and our dependence on technology for connection and education. With isolation restrictions loosening in the U.S. and worldwide, most believe we will return to a state of pre-coronavirus normalcy. However, in actuality, especially in younger generations, constantly being online has been ingrained into daily rituals. For example, the average amount of time spent on Roblox has continued to increase even with more relaxed restrictions. “[The metaverse is] going to reimagine our lives in virtual spaces,” Raz-Fridman said. Starting from entertainment and gaming with companies like Roblox, Epic Games, and Unity, the metaverse will also extend into all industries, education, workplaces, and fundamentally, how we connect with others.

This novel technology is fascinating, even a bit scary, as there is so much to look out for. Who will govern the metaverse? Will the major companies developing the metaverse try to keep it as a closed ecosystem or a walled garden? Or, will control of the metaverse become more decentralized, something that could align with the growing popularity of blockchain technology, NFTs, and cryptocurrency?

There are so many other questions to consider. How do we increase internet access to more regions of the world that need it? Will the metaverse be a form of escapism from the real world? Or a place to exploit consumerism in the virtual world? How do we keep our human connections and identities? How will the metaverse affect climate change? How to define the metaverse and questions like these are constantly being discussed and reevaluated on the podcast —take a listen! The hopeful stances of Raz-Fridman and Kanterman may alleviate some fears directed toward the metaverse or, at the very least, can give you some wonderful food for thought.