Monde numérique : le métavers
You’ve probably heard about a new concept called the metaverse in the last few months. Many technology giants such as Meta present the metaverse as the next iteration of the internet, a technology that has the potential to change our relationship with the real world. Yet the term “metaverse” is far from familiar to most. Therefore, an introduction to the subject would be good for many.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse refers to the combination of a variety of virtual experiences, such as augmented reality, virtual reality and many others. The combination of these technologies allows metaverse users to live in a fully virtual world that offers a totally immersive experience. In this virtual world, users will be able to move freely in the form of an avatar and practice various activities. Whether it is traveling around the world, organizing parties with friends or participating in work meetings, the possibilities offered by the metaverse seem endless. The metaverse is then, in short, an alternative, a parallel world, in which users can evolve, socialize, work and have fun.
Although it is still far from its maturity phase, the metaverse is seen by several technological giants as being the next great technological revolution. The promises proposed by the latter seem promising. Eventually, screens, virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses and holograms will allow fluid “travel” between the virtual universe of the metaverse and the physical world.
Figure 1: Horizon Workrooms, a virtual conference space developed by Meta
The origins of the metaverse
The word metaverse is composed of the Greek word meta and the English word universe. In Greek, meta is commonly used as a prefix to mean after or beyond. The term “metaverse” seems to have been first introduced in 1992 by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel Snow Crash. In this novel, individuals use digital avatars to explore an online virtual world as a way of escaping reality.
Facebook and the race to the metaverse
In October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his technology firm Facebook would be renamed to Meta. This name change was a way for the company to get away from the bad reputation associated with its name, but it was also a strong sign of Meta’s commitment to develop a new virtual world. Indeed, Meta promised to create 10,000 jobs dedicated entirely to the metaverse project while spending 10 billion US dollars on its development over the course of the year 2021.
But Meta is not the only company trying to capture this new market. Several technology giants such as Microsoft with their “Mesh” project or Nvidia with their “Omniverse” project, are already starting to present products related to the metaverse. This is not surprising since this technology is a source of huge potential profits. According to Emergen Research, the size of the global metaverse market was US$47.69 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach US$828.95 billion by 2020. This represents a huge compound annual growth rate of 43.3% over the forecast period, 2021 to 2028.
Figure 2: Mesh, a collaboration and communication platform developed by Microsoft
The public’s vision of the metaverse
Although companies like Meta present the metaverse as the next iteration of the Internet, the general population is far from convinced. Indeed, a survey by Morning Consult indicates that public opinion is largely unfavorable to the concept of metaverse, which is seen by many as a cause of harm to modern society. Then, many have raised the problems that the arrival of metaverse could cause:
- The metaverse could be a way for tech giants to increase their control over their users’ lives.
- The metaverse could exacerbate the problems of technology dependency.
- Metaverse could cause and facilitate the development of mental illness in young people.
In addition, many ethical questions have been raised about the power that companies like Meta, Microsoft and others will have over the various virtual worlds they will create. Especially knowing that the ethical track record of many of these companies leaves much to be desired. In these new cyber companies, the most powerful actor is the one in charge of the virtual world, i.e. the company that creates and manages the metaverse in which the users will evolve. So how much influence will these companies have on the virtual lives of users? There are also many questions concerning the isolation of individuals in a digital world, the protection of personal data, and even the storage of servers. In short, before seeing the metaverse materialize, many issues will have to be studied and resolved.
Although the promises of the metaverse are attractive, this technology brings with it its share of problems. Many great challenges await the companies that will implement the virtual worlds of the future. There is still a long way to go before the metaverse becomes an integral part of our lives. However, it seems to be only a matter of time before it becomes part of our daily lives.
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