The next frontier of the world’s technological titans

In the face of pressure from Mark Zuckerberg from governments, courts, privacy advocates and users of his social networks that dominate the world, it is not uncommon for him to want to escape a parallel world: less messy, cleaner and better ordered. The world he has chosen to create becomes the next most advertising word in technology: metaverse. In the firm’s latest earnings call, Zuckerberg exploded: “It’s a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces. You can think of it as an embodied Internet that you’re in, instead of just looking at it. We believe that this will be the successor to the mobile Internet. “He then declared that Facebook was not a social network, but” a metaverse company. “

Zuckerberg is not alone. Microsoft chief Satya Nadella used the company’s profit call to talk about her own commercial version of this alternative reality: “As the physical and digital worlds converge, we are leading a new layer of the infrastructure stack, the meta-enterprise “. -The chip maker Nvidia has large investments in this space. Epic Games took time off from fighting Apple to announce a $ 1 billion investment in its own gaming-driven metaverse.

So what is this metaverse? It was Isaac Asimov who famously said that “today’s science fiction is a scientific fact of tomorrow.” Science fiction writers possibly predicted laser weapons, robots, even the Internet. So it’s no surprise that the term “metaverse” was born in Neal Stephenson’s dystopian Snow Nash novel, where people appear in digital avatars in a virtual world with companies, homes, and factories. The 2013 Japanese series Sword Art Online, based on a science fiction novel by King Kawahara, took her to another Set in 2022, in the game, the technology is so advanced that if players died in the world of reality virtual, they would also die in real life.

Is the metavers just a fantasy, a future made up of tech-rich titans, or will it also have some practical uses? Skeptics argue that it is just a new name for existing technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, massively multiplayer video games, and digital twins, which are becoming one. Even the concept, as defined, is nothing new: Linden Lab’s second life in 2003, which created a virtual world where you could buy land and live, captured people’s imagination for some time. . The current version, however, provides for multi-use cases, some of which have been made more real by the pandemic. People can find avatars online to simultaneously watch a movie, play a game, or enjoy user-generated content. The educational metaverse would involve learning science with chemistry or biology simulators sitting in immersive virtual classrooms on a real university campus. The company headquarters could be re-created and workers could meet there while working remotely, as work from anywhere becomes permanent. It could bring back “live” events in safer virtual environments, with thousands of people watching a concert together. Not only could you work or look together in the metaverse, but create together, whether it’s fashion, architecture, or anything else.

Even Zuckerberg admits that there is a lot of work to be done before all this becomes a reality. Virtual reality headsets need to be lighter and better; current experience usually involves a head of swimming and occasional repetitions. It is necessary to create a new technological infrastructure and write protocols. For metaverse, today’s Internet will have to be re-imagined as a file-sharing protocol. In fact, the metaverse could be Internet 2.0. While tech behemoths design their own versions of it (Microsoft with its enterprise metaverse and Facebook with its all-encompassing social version), a great danger can lie in the form it ultimately takes. As Richard Water writes in the Financial Times, “The end product could be a definitive“ walled garden, ”a place where a single company benefits from the total immersion of users. If Facebook and other large internet companies build their own, and especially if everyone sells their own proprietary hardware to access these areas, the result could be a collection of isolated worlds, forcing digital citizens to choose where they go. most of his time. . On the other hand, the metavers could comprise a set of more closely interconnected worlds, some of them completely controlled by its users. This would be a place where people could take their personal data, their digital products and their favorite services as they move from one place to another. “

This latest version doesn’t look bad, though the embodied alternate world that Zuckerberg is springing from is clearly the first.

Jaspreet Bindra is the author of “The Whisperer Tech” and founder of Digital Matters

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