The metaverse is an isolated experience in which we are removed from the world. It fosters solitude and not society. Annmarie Hanlon He writes that we must also take into consideration the values of the platforms that provide this virtual reality experience. Facebook even rebranded as Meta, but the company has a history filled with ethical dilemmas. This, she wrote, is the devil that we all know. How can we evaluate new entrants or new platforms that emerge?
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In Ray Bradbury’s 1950 short story “The Veldt”He described “a” as ‘sentient hyper-realistic room’Two children used the invention to provide entertainment. Morton Heilig filed US Patent #3,050 8,870 a decade later for the Sensorama Simulator. This is a multi-sensory enclosed cinema theater booth. Although “The Veldt”It was science fiction. It warned against dependence on technology and replacing real life by virtual scenarios, as this could lead to tragic consequences. The Sensorama Simulator is the theatre of the future. An immersive booth moving beyond the sense of vision, it incorporated the senses of touch and smell to enrich the user’s experience. These are the forerunners to a future. metaverse, This virtual world is described as a highly immersive virtual environment where people come together to socialize and play.
However, today’s metaverse is an isolated experience. With the addition of goggles, the user is removed from the real world and placed in their virtual environment with other users. The imaginary space is “The Veldt”The Sensorama and the Sensorama tried to embrace the experience together, but the metaverse has taken an entirely different turn, keeping users ‘together apart,’You can also collaborate online while distancing.
In 2016, Facebook began planning its move towards a metaverse. The company’s 10-year roadmap placed Facebook in the heart of its ecosystem. Messenger and Instagram were classified as part of that core. ‘products’These products were supported by artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented reality technologies (VR), respectively. They rebranded by putting the different products under one brand. MetaIn 2021. This could be seen to be an attempt at putting the organisation in the forefront of technological developments.
VR is all about creating an environment where the user is present. This is why many tech companies have embraced the concept. VR has been around since the beginning. definedA headset can be used to create solitude and telepresence, which is a type of telepresence that takes place in a real-world or simulated environment. Players are able to play alone and become isolated, removing the need for a group to participate in a game.
The idea of a commercial metaverse does not seem new. An early version was Second LifeFounded in 2003, enables users to design their avatars and use nicknames to interact with others online. Second Life was originally intended to be an online community that allowed brands to create shops, sell merchandise, and host events. There were mixed reactions. There were no challenges or objectives to meet, so you could just wander aimlessly and buy brand merchandise or hang out in bars. Its popularity is likely due to its lack as an interactive game or just as a way to pass the time. VR development was slowed by a lack of accessible tech like goggles and slow internet speeds for several years.
So, it wasn’t until 2019 that VR headsets as we know them started to change. It had taken decades from the early prototypes to get to the commercially available Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s first HoloLens, as technology has become smaller, cheaper, and easier to use, access to VR for wider audiences – beyond serious gamers, has started to become mainstream.
Today, VR platform is very popular. Decentraland. Like its predecessor Second Life, it’s busy selling parcels of land in which many brands are willing to invest. Adidas has secured its plot. Customers can now visit its virtual store and shop (virtually!) in the Adidas brand. A collaboration between Fortnite and Ariana Grande, an online game, is one example how VR has been commercially successful to wide acclaim. They collaborated to host an online virtual concert, and fans flocked on the games platform to take part.
Ariana Grande was able to host a concert on a games platform, which strengthened her connection with her fans. It also generated millions of dollars in income. The event offered fans more opportunities to participate, including the opportunity to receive personal welcome messages from the superstar and the chance of playing in the same space with her. Researchers have identified an increase in online participation as a result. six dimensions of presence in virtual environments. These dimensions offer ‘social richness’So the consumer is closer to the brand. The idea of being transported is more similar to Bradbury and Heilig’s ideas.
Technology has improved since the initial attempts by Second Life (originally hindered by slow internet speeds) to make the environment seem real. Additionally, headsets are now cheaper. This has benefits for the travel sector–where a more immersive visit to another location is possible when planning a real-life experience. Healthcare will also benefit from this technology. This allows the user to respond to external devices and allow medical professionals to remotely access patients to perform certain procedures. A final example is Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, a mixed-reality, head-mounted display that integrates into the environment, which means that it can be worn with spectacles or a hard hat if you’re on a construction site.
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Adapting the collective aspects to the metaverse could lead to shared experiences that can be beneficial for individuals and organisations. Lockheed Martin, which has been a supporter of every mission to Mars in NASA’s history, wanted to ensure that schoolchildren have a greater awareness about their brand when they consider future job opportunities. They transformed a school bus to transport teenagers to the Washington Science Fair, where they could explore potential job opportunities. The windows of the bus became giant VR screens and every turning in the street, every bump in the road, and every angle of the mission to Mars was choreographed—transporting the students onto the red planet. This collective experience allowed bus riders to share the same experiences at the same moment and resulted STEM education for thousands. Imagine the collective delight of the bus riders as they gaze in awe at the wonders. Compare that to the yawning when similar information is presented in a classroom.
However, there are risks as well as benefits. Although VR shopping may seem like a harmless way to spend pocket money, there are potential dangers. For example: An eight-year-old who purchases a t-shirt at an event may be able buy alcohol. Molson Coors, for example, has created a Miller Lite bar. Other drinks brands are following their lead in Decentraland. Although Fortnite is only available to those 13 years old and over, Decentraland is only for those 18 and older. However, we have seen children find ways to bypass these age restrictions.
We must consider the platform’s values as well as users who are using the systems to gain access. Were we asking a brand with a history of ethical dilemmas, Facebook, Meta, to manage an environment that could lead to further problems? Will we see another repeat of “The Veldt”Unwittingly, children create a virtual environment that harms their parents. These platforms must be managed well and it is important to understand how they will handle unacceptable behaviour. The platforms did not respond quickly to legitimate cases or inciting violence. And that is the devil we know—how will we assess new entrants and new platforms that arise?
Bad actors will always try to deceive users. They can be protected by anonymous personas that mask their true intent. It’s how the platforms respond and how they will protect users and their data that will ensure the metaverse is a force for good, not the opening of a door to a malevolent underworld.
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Note: The post gives the views of its authors, Not the position USAPP– American Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics nor the IMF, its executive board, or its management
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Annmarie Hanlon – Cranfield School of Management
Annmarie Hanlon, a senior lecturer in social media and digital marketing at Cranfield School of Management, is responsible for strategic marketing and sales.