Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Both Dystopian And Utopian Visions Of The Metaverse Are A LOOONG Way From Realization...,

technologyreview |  The first person to write about the “metaverse” was Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, but the concept of alternative electronic realms, including the “cyberspace” of William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, was already well established.

In contrast to what we typically think of as the internet, a metaverse is a 3D immersive environment shared by multiple users, in which you can interact with others via avatars. A metaverse can, with the support of the right technology, feel like real life, with all the usual elements of work, play, trade, friendship, love—a world of its own.

Immersive environments can also help people experience things that would otherwise be out of reach. Projects at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Penn State, as an example, have sought to change attitudes toward climate change by letting people viscerally experience the results of irreversible global warming.

Immersion might also help us understand each other. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta has an exhibit where participants experience being the target of racist taunts and threats. With audio alone, this is revelatory; if similar experiences were made available to more people, in a manner that included visuals and haptics, metaverse technologies could be used to advance the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusion by helping people empathize with marginalized groups and understand the effects of systemic prejudice.

The metaverse can and should become newsworthy for reasons other than being some privileged executive’s dream. A fully realized metaverse can stand not only as a feat of technological innovation and engineering but also, with the right applications, as a vehicle for good in the real world we all inhabit.