Much has been said in the media and social networks about the metaverse. There is no integrated reality yet; currently, there is only the future promise of building a digital ecosystem. It is a term spread by the company Meta, Facebook’s new name.
The company has forecast that the metaverse will advance within five (5) to ten (10) years.
Now, what exactly is the metaverse?
Experts understand that the metaverse is an ecosystem of digital infrastructure with the capacity to deliver various applications: augmented reality, virtual reality, extended reality, and hybrid reality, among others. In other words, it is an integral and advanced multidimensional digital interactivity system. 3D applications will be the basis of the metaverse. For example, the multimedia system in cars can display the travel routes with digital graphical data. Some other topics are intertwined with the metaverse: digital identities, digital objects, digital currencies, artificial intelligence, and interoperability of systems, among others.
There are expectations regarding creating a parallel reality, the reality of the physical and organic world, to create “doubles,” that is, the creation of avatars, a digital persona, something common in the games industry. Also, the metaverse will enable the advancement of the so-called Internet of Bodies (IoB) and the sensory/tactile internet. As an illustration, the experience with surgeries with robotics applications is an example of tactile internet. Some see the potential of non-local distance communication to empower “the sixth sense” in the future. It would be an expanded dimension of cognition through the assistance of computer technology, something that quantum physics can explain. Computer vision and hearing, and 3D will be vital in this mission of integral cognition. There is the possibility of building virtual cities to simulate the urban management of a city. The metaverse will disrupt various business models; however, it will also allow for the design of new business models. The metaverse has potential for industries such as financial, advertising, healthcare (e.g., telemedicine), education (e.g., online learning), entertainment, automotive, gaming, smart cities, tourism, and others. There are examples of creating and marketing “digital filters” (a kind of augmented reality) as a new market. According to data from the company Meta, there are more than 700 (seven hundred) million digital filters. The company Nissan has 5G-based projects together with the telecommunications company Verizon in the United States to use applications of the metaverse in vehicle technology. This technology enables interaction between the driver, the car, and the internal, external, and virtual environment. There are projections of avatars representing, for example, pedestrians crossing city streets.
There is also a system connecting the car to the cloud computing system. From the data in the cloud, it is possible to have full “sensing” of the environment through which the vehicle circulates (omni-sensing cloud), a kind of situational awareness. This data visualization allows for the verification of traffic congestion, accidents, and accident risk prevention. It is a kind of cognitive assistance for the driver by visualizing scenarios. There is plenty of disruptive potential for the labor market, merging in-person work with virtual work. For example, videoconferencing will be better with the metaverse. Virtual reality glasses are one of the devices used for this digital immersion experience. Spatial audio applications, usually used in games, will be common in the metaverse. At the base of the metaverse are the blockchain system and NFT (non-fungible tokens).
These two technologies serve as the digital representation of assets, goods, or physical objects. This is why they contribute to the trading of digital goods. Now, the metaverse ecosystem will depend on fifth generation (5G) communications networks and sixth-generation networks. These 5G and 6G networks will be the backbone of the metaverse’s operation. Therefore, investments in advanced digital connectivity are needed to reap the metaverse’s full potential. It is clear that there are opportunities in the metaverse, but there are also risks and challenges.
The first challenge is the common definition of the metaverse and the interoperability standards between systems and protocols. In summary, the economic agents in the market will dispute the definition of the metaverse’s technical standards. T
he second challenge is the construction of a regulatory environment that promotes technological innovations but, at the same time, guarantees the fundamental rights to privacy, intimacy, data protection, and security, among others.
The third challenge is monetizing the metaverse applications. There are sensitive topics such as the protection of children and adolescents in this virtual environment and vulnerable audiences. Scientific studies have pointed to the increase in mental health problems due to the immoderate use of technologies. There are still challenges in “educating” the market (economic agents) as to the perception of the impact of the metaverse. Who knows if we will have a metaverse for the political realm in the future, for improving democratic institutions, quality of public services, a better quality of political agents, and political education and culture in Brazil! Digital connectivity in 5G is the foundation of communications network infrastructure for metaverse deployment.
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Ericson M. Scorsim. Lawyer and Consultant in Regulatory Communications Law. Doctor in Law from USP. Author of the book Geopolitical game between United States and China on 5G technology: impact in Brazil, Amazon.
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 Invisible-to-visible visualizes real and virtual world information through augmented reality to create the ultimate connected-car experience for drivers and passengers. Nissan Motor Corporation.
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