What is Metaverse? Can it be dangerous?

The earliest mention of the metaverse was in Neil Stevenson’s science fiction novel Avalanche, published in 1992. According to the plot of the book, corporatocracy rules supreme on Earth in the twenty-first century. Large corporations hold all of the power. There is a virtual world in addition to the real one. People interact with one another in the same way there. The real and virtual worlds are intertwined, and occurrences in one can influence happenings in the other. The term “avatar” was originated from the same book.

According to investor Matthew Ball and his essay “The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build It, and Fortnite”, the metaverse will merge both worlds – the digital and the real. Although he says the full potential of the metaverse “hard to define, seemingly fantastical, and decades away”, the essay presents seven designation of another world:

  • The Metaverse does not stop: it cannot be paused, erased or completed.
  • All events within the universe occur in real time, and actions do not depend on external factors.
  • There is no limit on the number of those who inhabit the metaverse.
  • It has its own economy: people receive “money” for the “work” done, own and dispose of property.
  • In the metaverse, you can use elements of the real world: for example, work on your laptop in a virtual space.
  • Data and digital assets from different platforms are combined.
  • The Metaverse is filled with “content and experiences” created by its users, both individuals and organizations.

The Metaverse is a post-reality universe that merges physical reality and digital virtual worlds in a multiplayer setting that is both continuous and sustained.

The Metaverse is made up of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies that allow for multimodal interaction with digital objects, virtual surroundings, and people. As a result, the Metaverse can be defined as a multi-user persistent platform network of interconnected immersive experiences and social networks.

Thanks to technology like blockchain, in metaverses like Decentraland, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are used to allow ownership of different virtual things and virtual real estate.

Microsoft and Meta are two businesses working on technologies for communicating with virtual worlds, although they are far from alone. Now Meta is doubling down on its metaverse development efforts, focusing on a handful of projects. The company is also interested in hardware devices that will play a central role in the industry as they enable virtual reality experiences. In April 2022, the company opened its first hardware store, where users can test Meta’s work. Meta also launched a currency to be used in the company’s Horizon Worlds VR app. The company’s actions indicate that Meta wants to dominate the Metaverse industry.

Many other major firms are constructing the infrastructure required to develop better virtual worlds that are more realistic.

Are we there yet?

The metaverse is already all around us. Early trials in MMORPGs such as Second Life and World of Warcraft introduced the concept of gamified social platforms, which involved players in the game to the point where digital objects, such as weapons and clothing, had great real-world value.
Existing social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have enabled users to create pseudo-anonymous Internet avatars and interactive virtual rooms where they may share news, discuss topics, and connect with friends.

Ability to reproduce the human experience will be a key aspect in the expansion of telepresence, which will lead to the development of the metaverse. VR headsets and motion-tracking systems can help with this by allowing the development of increasingly more realistic pictures that generate a sensation of total sensory immersion. SuperHot, a Matrix-style game in which time advances as quickly as the player, and VR Speak, a social network in which people construct 3D avatars to chat in shared virtual rooms, are two examples of early developments.

While virtual reality (VR) aspires to create an immersive virtual world separate from physical space, augmented reality (AR) integrates virtual displays into real-world environments.

Microsoft’s Hololens, an AR headset that tracks both what we look at and our body movements to overlay virtual images and icons, allowing for compelling use cases that can help us navigate, identify objects, and interact with the physical world in a virtual manner, is one such example currently available.

Problems with the current state of affairs in the metaverse

There are some issues of the metaverse’s existing experience that prohibit players from fully immersing themselves in the game. Players and consumers are continuously reminded that the current version of the metaverse belongs to those who provide this experience for them, not to them to develop and build. Players cannot, for example, sell their rare sword in World of Warcraft and then buy a mansion in Second Life.

While there are social networks that connect the two, there is no formal transfer of information or value between them because they were developed by independent companies. Instead, they reside in small, confined areas that resemble a meta-room rather than the entire metaverse. While metarooms provide a unique experience, blockchain and oracles provide interconnectedness.

In an ideal world, the metaverse’s continued development would bring together all disparate ecosystems with independent value into a single cohesive virtual environment defined by the seamless interaction of each individual aspect to create a sum greater than its parts: an open world where people can coexist in a shared virtual environment. Individual networks now are separated from one another by dissimilar hardware and software, geographic locations, and barriers imposed by rival groups, rather than in a disparate ecosystem.

A technology that works this manner creates a real parallel reality in virtual space. You can own items, show yourself as an identifiable avatar, and explore the virtual environment in the same way that you would in the real world. The concept of a linked system of metaverse applications, experiences, and digital goods is already in the works, with blockchain technology and decentralized oracles being used to build it.

Troubles for NFT Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC)
Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT

Genuine digital property

Verified digital ownership is enabled by blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, allowing people to buy and sell their digital products as they see appropriate. This is the metaverse’s and the user-owned metaeconomy’s main driving force. You can possess old shoes from a company that has closed, and digital commodities can exist outside of the projects that create them and continue if the project fails. Tokens or NFTs become the user’s property once they are transferred to his digital wallet. As NFTs establish conceptions of digital permanence and identity in virtual space, they mirror the invisible social foundation that underpins our physical reality, producing an analogous parallel between the physical and the digital, which is likely to contribute to the illusion of a digital world.

The Metaverse may well generate income. For example, through advertising. Advertisers can get a virtual world created especially for them. And the creative mode provides almost limitless possibilities for customizing costumes, game plots, and even individual in-game worlds. This is where blockchain technology comes in handy. NFT can protect the rights to digital property, virtual real estate and land.

Can Mataverse be dangerous?

The Scientific and Technical Center of the FSUE in Russia conducted a study of metaverses. The authors of the study compiled a list of potential risks in the development of metaverses.

  1. First, the dominance of digital currencies in the metaverse, according to the authors, will contribute to the violation of political boundaries (since tax codes cannot regulate sales chains). And this is the risk of creating virtual stores for the sale of illegal substances.
  2. Virtual avatars can become a problem, since their identification makes personal data vulnerable to copying, erasing and manipulation.
  3. The use of augmented reality to feel tactile impulses rethinks the experience of cybersex, and there is a threat in the possibilities of cybersex with minors and vulnerable people, sexual harassment, the formation of various deviations.
  4. Fourth, the metaverses also facilitate the emergence of “virtual political reality, virtual political parties, new forms of agitation and protest.”
Dangers of the metaverse according to internet users worldwide

There are also risks associated with Unauthorized data collection by companies, deepfake videos, changes in perception of the real world and many more. In addition to the above, sexual harassment of women in the Metaverse is also a big problem, as evidenced by the gang rape case where the victim explained that the men groped her avatar and raped her on Meta platform.

“A SumOfUs researcher was led into a private room at a party where she was raped by a user who kept telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind while users outside the window could see – all while another user in the room watched and passed around a vodka bottle” says the report. This sexual act was non-consensual, and the researcher described the experience as “disorienting” and confusing.”

In response to complaints of harassment and abuse, metaverse apps such as Horizon Worlds have added new safety features such as a personal safety bubble to existing tools that allow people to block, mute, or report other players, as well as low-level parental controls to try to prevent younger users from accessing specific apps. These design elements are vital, but they may be easily avoided — even by youngsters. Another user urged and instructed the SumOfUs researcher to delete her personal boundaries setting, which rapidly escalated into sexual harassment.

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