It’s a word which has been surfacing more and more often in the press, but how many people are actually aware of what the ‘metaverse’ really is? Interest was piqued most recently when the parent company of Facebook changed its name to Meta, using an Augmented Reality (AR) press conference to announce the change and signalling its desire to move beyond social media into an exciting and largely misunderstood new world.
AR, VR and the rise of the metaverse
Virtual Reality (VR) has been with us for some time now, and has been gradually evolving. VR is an immersive experience which allows you to feel you have entered a new, computer-generated 3D world, which you can explore as an extension of the real world. Augmented Reality (AR), by comparison, takes that real world and overlays digital material onto it, enhancing what a user experiences in their day-to-day life. One recent example of AR ‘going viral’ would be the incredible popularity of the Pokémon Go game, which saw people taking to their smartphones in order to capture wild Pokémon to be found around them in the real world.
Linking both of these, the metaverse will – and is – changing the way we see the world by allowing us to move our daily lives into a heightened, hopefully improved reality. This might mean donning a headset to access our favourite websites, go shopping, attend concerts, meet with friends and so much more, moving our working and social lives onto an online platform which is completely immersive and seeks to build on and improve the real world.
Leaps and bounds in technology
We’re all used to interacting with the digital world through screens, seeing it as confined to the little boxes we carry in our pockets or stare at when we’re at home or work. What the metaverse does is overlay the digital world onto the real world, changing the way we see and understand places and things. One example might come from the tourism industry, where apps are springing up which allow users to embark on digital guided tours which provide all the information they need at a glance, without the need for a real-world tour guide.
Despite all the obvious benefits of entering this new age of the metaverse, there are pitfalls which we are only now beginning to explore. The metaverse is a far more immersive and interactive experience, but it also exposes us to serious risks. Should someone hack your bank account, they would gain access to your money and some confidential financial information. Painful as that might be, it is nothing compared to hacking into your version of the metaverse, which allows them to see the world as you see it in a far more intrusive and dangerous way. While bodies are springing up to regulate the rise of the metaverse, we should all be concerned about such incredible power being concentrated in the hands of an elite few tech giants.
The metaverse opens up a world of new possibilities and could come to dominate the use of technology in our daily lives before the decade is out. For businesses, this represents an amazing opportunity to improve engagement with both employees and customers. Handled with due care, the metaverse will shape our working lives in the future in the most profound and exciting ways imaginable, as long as businesses stay ahead of the curve and have robust systems in place to protect themselves.