Tech Talk

Meta-What?

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I recently watched a short video about a man who lives in the metaverse. The video jumped back and forth between the real world and a computer-generated alternate reality. In the metaverse scenes, I watched this man wake up in a large high-rise apartment overlooking a bustling city. Then I watched him get ready for his day and go for a drive in his high-end sports car. At the close of the day, he climbed back into his king-sized virtual bed and played a movie on his wall-spanning flat screen TV.

In the real world, he never left his sparsely furnished bedroom. He started and ended his day in a twin bed with safety rails. He showered in the middle of his room using a bucket rudely scaffolded over a kids swimming pool, and his car was a small desk with a gamers steering wheel sitting on top.

For some people, the metaverse is a novel way to experience online games, for others it promises a new way of life. In the metaverse, you can be anyone you want, and you can live any lifestyle you can imagine. Your virtual self, or avatar, can be configured to look like a supermodel or an ogre, it’s your choice.

You can push outside your comfort zone with practically zero risk. If you wanted to, you could scale a mountain in the morning, swim with sharks in the afternoon and visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the evening, all without ever leaving the comfort of your home or spending prohibitive amounts of money (at least for now).

The metaverse promises applications that go beyond living fantasy lives. Some companies are edging toward a virtual work environment for office workers, and the metaverse already offers safe learning opportunities for real-world professionals, such as doctors and nurses.

There are other benefits too. Many metaverse activities require physical movement. Whether you’re rescuing a princess, solving a puzzle or learning karate, you’re moving your body, which translates into real-world fitness.

Some people argue the metaverse can level the playing field, making life more equitable and comfortable for those of us who aren’t super rich. But there are some serious challenges to that argument.

First and foremost, to participate in the metaverse you must have an internet connection. This automatically excludes nearly three billion people worldwide. You also need a virtual reality headset. In today’s market a decent one will cost you at least $300. And then there’s access to games and other environments. While there is some free content out there, many experiences require a paid account.
And then there are the costs related to your avatar. For example, you might want to upgrade your virtual house, car or wardrobe. Digital fashion is really taking off in the metaverse, and companies are taking notice. You can already buy virtual down jackets and beanies from Ralph Lauren and sneakers from Nike. Or, if you have enough real-world dollars, you can buy high-end fashion from the likes of Gucci, Balenciaga and Dior.

A virtual reality headset is essentially a blindfold. This means spending time in the metaverse can be dangerous for your physical body. Think about all the potential hazards inside your home, such as sharp objects and windows. Imagine spinning around in circles, flailing your arms and legs while trying to smash flying objects only you can see, all while wearing a blindfold.

The metaverse might also be dangerous for you mind. Moving between the metaverse and the real world can also be disorienting. Some people report feeling dizzy or disassociated from their physical body for hours after leaving the metaverse.
Even so, interest in the metaverse is growing quickly and supporting technologies are being developed almost as fast. Some of the world’s biggest corporations have already gone all-in on the metaverse. Future iterations promise hyper-realistic sights, sounds and even smells. At some point, you just might take a trip around the world where you can see all of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, smell the empanadas in Argentina and feel cobblestones under your feet in Belgium, all without ever leaving your living room.

April Godwin is an IT administrator who lives in Lakebay.


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