Roshni Rajagopal

What does the future look like? Most movies with time travel or perhaps advanced alien civilizations give us a glimpse of how technology could be used and its impact on humans in the future. Flying cars, holograms, and teleportation. We’re getting smarter, and scientists and inventors worldwide are constantly trying to find solutions to problems. So, where are we headed? A contactless world, perhaps? 

Well, we needn’t look any further. The future is here. In 1992, Neal Stephenson, an American writer, in his book Snow Crash talks of a world that is inside the internet. More recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the same. They both had a similar view on a completely virtual and augmented world, along with some physical elements. This year, in a speech, Zuckerberg elaborated on what’s in store for the company: investing in the Metaverse. This includes a version of Facebook that covers everything from social presence to company meetings to entertainment. 

Well, right now, Facebook is looking at meetings with an app called Horizon Workrooms, a flagship collaboration experience that allows people to work together in the same virtual space regularly of physical distance. The beta version is available on Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2. This virtual meeting space allows members to join a meeting in VR with an online avatar or through a virtual room on their computer. Oculus also added features that allow you to sketch ideas together with keyboard and hand tracking, remote desktop streaming, video conferencing, spatial audio, and a mixed reality desk that makes it a pretty immersive experience. 

Intending to bring the Metaverse to life, Facebook plans to focus on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality. But many gaming platforms, like Roblox, and Fortnite have already started adding metaverse-like elements into their gaming experience. The Metaverse isn’t just connected to gaming. But, if you have ever traded bitcoins or in any cryptocurrency, congratulations. You’re already using metaverse elements! Be it an online avatar you took up for a show or a work meeting or even metaverse ‘cousins’ AR, VR, or mixed reality, you have already gotten a taste of what the internet has to offer. Imagine your everyday life, social gatherings, and work calls being entirely virtual. Well, that’s what Facebook is planning. 

Not sure if this could be a fair comparison, but I’m sure a good number of people have played Farmville. So, you have your farm, with your produce, cattle, and buildings. You can expand your property with the coins you collect, and your neighbours could be your Facebook friends. Imagine if that was a reality, a virtual world with its economy, own real estate kind of them and just basically a virtual version of the world we live in today. That’s the Metaverse for you. 

We all know that augmented reality and virtual reality can be completely immersive experiences. But, thanks to innovators, they have taken the word ‘immersive’ to the next level. The Metaverse is one such concept that marries the two, and internet giants like Facebook, Microsoft, and online gaming platform Roblox aren’t waiting around. The convergence of virtual and physical worlds opens doors to new possibilities on the internet and perhaps to the future as well. 

With COVID-19 and social distancing, the metaverse idea has struck some of the most influential people on the planet. By investing in the Metaverse, they believe that we can create a new society altogether with new social norms and value systems, free from discrimination and maybe even socioeconomic disparities. They also believe that a new virtual world can give futures, researchers, and the like a new space for social experimentation, connection, and entertainment. One of the most recent ones was one Travis Scott’s concert inside of Fortnite, a one of a kind, ‘completely virtual event.’  

So, what does it mean for us? Well, there is one thing we can look forward to: lesser contact. If the pandemic hasn’t taught us a lesson on hygiene and social distancing, the Metaverse will make your life a lot easier. You can attend meetings, social events like concerts or maybe even a wedding over the internet. For now, Facebook has only been exploring the world of business, but this could be applied to other fields as well. The education sector would immensely benefit from such a setup. With classes moving online, it isn’t as effective of how it used to be before the pandemic. And the entertainment industry. Like mentioned earlier, events could be more immersive with VR. The Metaverse could allow us to live a ‘normal’ social life without having a constant fear of contracting COVID-19 or any other disease for that matter.  

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