The metaverse arrives, but Big Tech’s latest obsession needs safeguards

Ariana Grande will be the last artist to organize a concert at the metavers through “Fortnite”. (Image: Epic Games)

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Our future digital reality will need rules to keep people safe online

On August 6, pop star Ariana Grande will begin her last concert. But the show will not be in front of a full stage. Instead, he will perform in front of thousands of fans through Epic Games’ “Fortnite.”

The Rift Tour, as the concert is called, will run from August 6-8 and will feature five shows that “Fortnite” players can join in and see virtually with their friends. Grande joins a growing number of artists, including Travis Scott and Killer Mike, who are entering the technology industry’s new obsession: the metaverse.

A persistent, virtual world accessible through augmented reality, virtual reality, or even smartphones, the metaverse is being spread by CEOs ranging from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (FB) and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella ( MSFT) to Jensen Huang of Nvidia (NVDA). of course, Tim Sweeney of Epic.

The pandemic – and its accompanying social distancing – has also made the idea of ​​a virtual world more attractive, especially as the Delta variant spreads. For example, I have used several virtual and augmented reality applications since the pandemic. Although still in their early days, these apps reveal a metaverse preview.

“The notion is that we can all join a shared virtual space where we are spatially similar to what you would have in the real world, but combining it with all the things that virtual worlds have to offer. The ability to create and build 3D content on the go and doing fantastic things, ”explained Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

But the metaverse carries risks. Experts warn that metaverse hosts like Facebook and Epic need to address practical issues before creating full-fledged digital worlds. Political misinformation, user harassment, and cryptographic scams are already pervading the digital world and will only become bigger problems as we enter the metaverse, unless companies face it head-on.

Responsibility in the metaverse

To help visualize the metaverse, it is best to think of it as a digital version of reality. The “Second Life” online life simulator is a form of metaverse in which you create your own avatar and explore a virtualized version of the real world, as are, to some extent, massive online multiplayer games like “World of Warcraft “. The bottom line is that you have an avatar that you customize and use to interact with other people’s avatars in a virtual environment.

“Second Life” is a kind of early metaverse where an avatar is created and life is lived as desired. (Image: Linden Lab)

But as the 3D digital world becomes more interactive, people will have to answer for their behavior in this universe, NYU Tandon School of Engineering professor Carla Gannis told Yahoo Finance .

“Do we really have to think, as we think about the metaverse, about accountability, about reflection, will we just perpetuate the problems we have at the base or, based on reality, this metaverse?” Gannis explained. “The ills of human culture and society can be persistent, unless we are really thinking ethically about these things.”

Look no further than Facebook as an example of the type of double-edged sword the metaverse could use. Facebook has allowed people to reunite with long-lost friends, find life partners, and connect with people with similar interests. But it has also amplified online harassment and the spread of misinformation on issues ranging from elections to COVID-19 vaccines.

And while social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are working to curb these abuses, they haven’t eliminated them. In a virtual recreation of our world, harassment can be much more powerful than what is found on social media. Instead of someone commenting on your profile page or sending you direct messages, you could approach them and call or follow you around different metaverse regions.

“Humans are humans and … I don’t know how to escape that simply because you do it slightly differently in a digital sense,” Lewis Ward of IDC told Yahoo Finance.

How to get cash

The metavers conceptualized by movies like “Ready Player One” is a unique place where users can interact in an uninterrupted world. For now, though, Gannis explained, the metaverse is divided into a series of feuds, whether it’s “Fortnite,” Mozilla Hubs, or some other form of virtual world.

Mozilla Hubs is an application that offers a first glimpse of what life could be like from the social aspects of metaverse.  (Image: Mozilla)

Mozilla Hubs is an application that offers a first glimpse of what life could be like from the social aspects of metaverse. (Image: Mozilla)

For the metaverse to really stick, metaverse operators will need to address the way users buy items in their world, create and sell merchandise, and turn their virtual cash into fiat currency.

“To operate a metaverse … we need digital money,” Gannis said.

Although non-expendable tokens, or NFTs, appeared at the right time to allow artists and creators to sell their works in the metaverse, a centralized source will have to serve as the backbone of how the currency changes hands in these new virtual worlds.

“You have to have certain fundamental social blocks in the real world [metaverse] instead, or everything is built on movable sands, ”Ward explained.

The metaverse will be the world you want

While the metaverse will need rules to safeguard users, a new virtual world could also bring users unique experiences, such as playing basketball with LeBron James, flying across the planet, or conducting a symphony in front of a house full of Lincoln Center .

“There’s … a beautiful lack of attachment to a fixed VR identity that can give people freedom when they feel limitless,” said Caitlin Krause, founder of the XR MindWise studio and technology educator. welfare at Stanford University.

At the moment, the metaverse is still in its infancy and most people may not be able to include a game with LeBron. But the main companies are betting on their future. Zuckerberg, from Facebook, has described it as the successor to the mobile internet and one of the most “exciting projects we will work on throughout our lives”.

But if the metaverse carries the kind of problems that social media has suffered, it might never be the paradise of experts and consumers dream it could be.

Daniel Howley is a technical editor at Yahoo Finance.

Do you have any advice? Email Daniel Howley at by encrypted email at and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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