credit: Ari Lioan

By Advika Gudi 

The Metaverse is not trying to trick you into spending more time on your screen. It is attempting to elevate the quality of time you spend on it. Metaverse is paving the way towards VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and the future of our social lives. Although the possibilities are endless, we must step into the unknown with caution, keeping in mind the risks that accompany those new technologies.  

Facebook has launched their new VR product, the “Oculus Quest Headset” which elevates the experience of work, exercise and gaming to a new level. You can now create your own avatar that mimics your gestures and reactions. You can even teleport across the worlds of metaverse interacting with new objects and people every time. This is the principle of interoperability, an unprecedented level of interaction. This means you are no longer confined to one app or one “world” within the metaverse. For example, you can buy an NFT (Non-fungible token) or a virtual product in one world and then use it or store it in another, just like you would with an object in physical reality. 

The most useful role of the VR headset is in remote work and education. Although Zoom calls made working from home possible, it was far from ideal. VR changes everything. The Oculus headset allows you to hold meetings with your co-workers’ avatars in a virtual workspace, enhancing productivity and eliminating inconveniences such as time differences. You can even bring physical objects such as your desk into VR, facilitating the transition from physical to virtual reality. On the more fantastical side, the headset can also teleport you into a different time in history where you could witness firsthand, life in the past. The list of features goes on to include performing surgery, swimming into the depths of the ocean, and many more experiences that would not be possible for most people.You can perform surgeries in VR, or swim the depths of the ocean and observe animals up close. Facebook has already pledged 150 million dollars to train creators in the use of this new technology and create the space, opportunity and funds to further the development of the Metaverse. 

Although the current advancements in VR are exciting, the future lies in AR. In the developing area of the Metaverse, holograms coexist in the same space with physical objects and can interact with the user for education, work or business purposes. From a workplace perspective, you could virtually jump in for a quick meeting with your co-worker’s hologram, all while working from home. In the classroom, teachers could zoom in on holograms of planets and animals, revolutionising education. The growth in e-commerce is even more compelling. Currently, what we buy within an app or a website stays restricted to that domain. In the metaverse, you can move and store your items across the Metaverse worlds and buy, re-sell and display NFTs in your AR homespace. This allows businesses to truly “sell an experience” instead of a product. Companies can sell physical or digital products to their users and reach new customers from all across the world and still give each customer the benefit of a lifelike, sensory shopping experience. 

As if those ambitious ventures weren’t enough, Facebook is now launching Project Cambria which aims to fit everything the headset can do, and more, into stylised glasses, alleviating the need to sit and stare at a screen. Avatars would become an exact representation of the user and can mimic subtle facial expressions in real time. Project Cambria aims to create a ‘mixed reality’, a world where we can interact with AR, holograms and even physical objects through voice, subtle movements or just by thinking about it. They use electrical signals produced by your muscles to translate neuromotor signals into digital commands to control devices. In the future, you could click and type on holograms on your computer. The glasses would also be able to identify real-world objects from 3D maps and better understand your surroundings to guide your movements and assist you vocally. 

VR, AR and their innumerable uses create greater access to jobs regardless of physical location and provide better opportunities to learn and create. Facebook preaches that their work focuses on how people connect rather than interact with technology. Staying true to this philosophy, their goal is to connect people and include everyone in the Metaverse. By creating free, cheap and transferable apps and more ad space, they have made it easier for emerging artists, creators and entrepreneurs to showcase their work to the world. The Metaverse is so much more than a rebrand and they claim to keep responsible innovation principles in mind while building the Metaverse in addition to providing safety controls, and prioritising inclusivity.

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