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Breaking the Misconception of the Metaverse


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from GenZ internet, it’s this so-called ‘bandwagon hate’. So many people dislike a thing, and suddenly you find yourself disliking it too, without really knowing much about it. I can’t deny that I’ve definitely fallen victim to this trend of hating things despite the fact I realistically have no idea about the topic. And I think it’s something that you can’t really help, on the internet.


With so many people advertising the right to have your own opinion, it’s only natural that despite that, there is no doubt a so-called ‘correct’ opinion, VS the wrong one. And I’m not saying that everything you hate is the wrong opinion, it’s yours, and it’s valid regardless of what others think. That being said, it’s about time we stop passing opinions on things we’re not educated about, just so that we can fall into the crowd with the ‘correct’ opinion and not be ostracised in whatever internet circles we run in.


The Metaverse is the topic we’ll be discussing today, something that I have definitely ‘bandwagon-hated’. (Actually, to put it more bluntly, I think I bandwagon-laughed at it, because most of my friends and internet friends were laughing at the new technology so much as criticizing it. It was early days, and it just looked…odd.) So while I may not necessarily clear up whatever grudge you have with the Metaverse, I hope I’ve at least educated you on how it’s really not as the reputation the internet has given it.


The Metaverse Experience

The metaverse (a prefix of ‘meta’ meaning transcendence and ‘verse’ from 'universe') could quite easily be explained as the virtual universe. It’s a shared virtual space for us to socialize, work and play. In fact, Meta (previously known as Facebook, renamed as such in the art of dedicating themselves to the new universe) uses the Metaverse in the day-to-day life of their workers, making it easier for employees to converse with those from across the world, but more personal than sitting in front of a Webcam using Zoom. The term was originally coined by Neal Stephenson in 1992; featured in his Sci-Fi book Snow Crash.


The metaverse is the Online universe for when you get tired of this one, the universe when this one just isn’t quite good enough. It brings endless possibilities, and one of its most common uses is in the popular space ‘VRChat’. This virtual reality space allows users to enter the metaverse and spend time with their friends, regardless of location.


The way that the development of the Metaverse works is that a mirror world is first created, consisting of large-scale digital replicas of humans and their surrounding environments. Following this, innovations available only in this virtual world occur, and things such as user emotion are replicated. Finally, everything comes together in the third and final stage, where the metaverse becomes self-sustaining, assimilating actual reality into itself. If that was a little difficult to understand, imagine it like this: at first, they’re two different circles. The circles slowly overlap until finally, the circle (representing the physical world) has been completely enclosed within the virtual world circle, going from digital twins to surreality.


The metaverse is usually paired with virtual reality to provide a number of unique experiences, including but not limited to retail (noted to include several elements of customer service the same as 2D e-retail such as responsiveness and competence,) gaming including Roblox, Sandbox and Fortnite, education and the ability to consume or create art. In fact, concerts have even taken to the metaverse, with well-known Kpop Group Blackpink winning Best Metaverse Performance at the 2022 MTV VMA’s for their ‘BLACKPINK The Virtual’ performance on PUBG Mobile, amongst competitors such as the Rift Tour ft. Ariana Grande on the game Fortnite, BTS on Minecraft, and Charli XCX on Roblox.


While we’re on the topic of music, I may as well take the time to mention that Korean Entertainment Company SM Entertainment likes the idea of the Metaverse so much that they have specifically provided funding for research on such performances, and went so far as to create their own so-called universe ‘Kwangya’, which is mentioned in a variety of songs by their artists, featured in music videos, and has evolved so much to have its own heroes and villains (roles which have been taken up by the various artists in the Company and otherwise speculated by their fanbases). Back in July 2022, the company announced that it would be establishing a company called ‘Studio Kwangya’, which will be divided into six different areas: Virtual Human, VR Production, VFX Production, Music Video Studio, and finally Virtual Studio. They also announced plans to establish a metaverse country titled ‘Music Nation SMTown’.


And SM Entertainment isn't the only company to have such a profound interest in the universe. Internet trends show that the number of searches on the topic ‘Metaverse’ significantly increased on both YouTube and Google following Marc Zuckerberg’s press release in 2021. Popular American Restaurant chain Wendy's created a brand-new experience named ‘Sunrise City’. And while you may not be able to actually eat in the Metaverse, you can order food there that will then be delivered to you (in the physical world). Likewise, OneRare is working with chefs and various cooking shows to implement NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens, a topic I’ll be covering in my next article, should you choose to stick around) into their meals.


The Metaverse is one of those things that certainly isn’t going to be going away anytime soon; as the world develops in both good ways and bad, it’s only natural that every now and again we want a bit of escapism, and the Metaverse is certainly one of the most immersive methods of doing that. It’s not like it’s going to phase out our reality altogether, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be there.


So why the bad rep’? When I was searching the metaverse, one of the first search results to appear was this question: Why does the Metaverse look bad? And sure, I must admit that the entire reason I laughed at the metaverse at first was that it did look kind of…weird. Graphics have improved a lot since say…the 1990s, but looking at things from the metaverse it felt like I’d stepped back 15 years in time. The last experience I had with the metaverse was a clip I saw online of a performance on Roblox in collaboration with the shoe brand Crocs and far as to say it looked quite strange. But much like CGI graphics, it’s just a matter of time until it gets better.


Perhaps we’re not as patient because we know that good graphics exist, but everything comes with time. While there are a variety of summaries on visual analytics and even its future challenges, there are only a few discussions on the metaverse. It’s relatively new, and it’s going to take some time before it hits its stride. It seems that one of the main struggles with the graphics is the taking of something from the real world and then materializing it into the virtual world. However, 3D sensors such as laser scanners and RGB-D Cameras are becoming more readily available, and the data these provide give rich geometric shape and scale information.


Not only that, it’s so new. Sometimes we have to become accepting of something for it to really hit its stride, and that’s certainly not happened with the Metaverse. One survey showed that 52% of Americans aged 18 and over were ‘overwhelmed’ by the concept. As humans, we’re much more willing to accept things when we feel like we need them. If it’s really going to revolutionize something. But I get the feeling that this never happened with the metaverse, and instead of people seeing the benefits of a literal new reality, we were only left with one question: do we really need it? It may seem overcomplicated, but being overcomplicated doesn’t mean it’s bad.


The metaverse is like all innovation, we have to learn and adapt. But the winning question is, will you?

 
  • Wang, Y., Zhang, N., Xing, R., Liu, D., Luan, T. and Shen, X. (2022) A Survey on Metaverse: Fundamentals, Security and Privacy, University of Windsor. Available at: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2203.02662.pdf (Accessed: December 13, 2022)

  • Gadalla, E., Keeling, K. and Abosag, I. (2013) Metaverse-retail service quality: A future framework for retail service quality in the 3D internet, Journal of Marketing. Available at: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/21182/1/Main%20document%20with%20authors%20information%20-V-Service%20Quality-%20Special%20issue.3.pdf (Accessed: December 15, 2022)

  • Lee, J. (2022) SM Entertainment to establish metaverse company Studio Kwangya, Korea JoongAng Daily. Available at: https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/2022/07/12/entertainment/kpop/Korea-Kpop-SM/20220712151922763.html (Accessed: December 16, 2022)

  • Narin, N. (2021) A Content Analysis of the Metaverse Articles, Journal of Metaverse. Available at:https://dergipark.org.tr/en/download/article-file/2167699 (Accessed: December 16, 2022)

  • Wright, W. (2022) Wendy’s metaverse kingdom grows with ‘Sunrise City’, The Drum. Available at: https://www.thedrum.com/news/2022/06/15/wendy-s-metaverse-kingdom-grows-with-sunrise-city (Accessed: December 16, 2022)

  • Upson, M. (2022) What is the Metaverse and How Will it Affect Your Restaurant? Emerging. Available at: https://emerging.com/what-is-the-metaverse-and-how-will-it-affect-your-restaurant/ (Accessed: December 16, 2022)

  • Zhao, Y., Jiang, K., Chen, Y. et al. (2022) Metaverse: Perspectives from graphics, interactions and visualization. Visual Informatics. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468502X22000158 (Accessed: December 18, 2022)

  • Howe, N. (2022) Do People Even Want the Metaverse? Hedgeye. Available at: https://app.hedgeye.com/insights/113303-do-people-even-want-the-metaverse?type=stock-and-policy%2Cmarket-insights (Accessed: December 17, 2022)

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