METAVERSE

By Carlo Caloisi

A hamletic doubt that in a short time and in all probability will become a daily dilemma could be synthesized in this question: what do I do today, do I stay in everyday reality with the problems that characterize it or do I enter a digital world where I live, with my virtual alter ego, a fantasy existence? In short, in a sort of individual Matrix?

Since the 2020s, in fact, the phenomenon of the metaverse has exploded, to the point of being at the center of attention worldwide and that in all likelihood will characterize our daily lives in the near future

With metaverse, a compound word formed by meta, which derives from the Greek and means beyond, and universe (therefore, “beyond the universe”), created by the cyberpunk science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, we mean a collective virtual open space independent from the devices used (viewers, etc..) and its provider (Microsoft, Meta, etc..) that connects the physical world (the real one) with the digital one (virtual). In this space individuals (better, users), can relate to each other through a unique 3D avatar that characterizes them, where they create and purchase digital resources of all kinds in the form of Non Fungible Token (NFT).

In reality, virtual worlds have existed since 2003 with the video game Second Life which obtained an excellent initial consensus, reaching one million users and then stabilizing at about 800 thousand. But it has regained great vigor thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement in October 2021 to change the brand of his company “Facebook” with, not surprisingly, the name “Meta”, allocating several billion dollars to invest in the sector. Other companies such as Microsoft, Nvidia, Epic Games, Somnium Games, Neurolink, Nextmind, etc. have done the same.

Numerous are the fields in which the metaverse can be applied, among them:

There are numerous fields in which the metaverse can be applied, including:

  • video games;
  • concerts and events
  • travel;
  • remote work;
  • socializing contexts;
  • sports activities;
  • e-learning;
  • learning activities from scratch;
  • going to the cinema.

At a first glance, the sectors in which the metaverse can have great success are video games (a totalizing experience that is currently the most advanced sector), social environments (the interaction of our avatar with others creates a strong identification so as to replicate the behaviors of real life), sports activities (those who train alone can connect in a context rich in interactions avoiding boredom) and e-learning applied both in schools (real virtual visits in real time depending on the topics that are treated – for example, being in ancient Rome or among the Egyptian pyramids in 2000 B.C.), as well as in the working environment (it will be possible to train employees in the most delicate areas – for example, working on pylons, learning to handle dangerous chemicals or the proper use of industrial machinery with the advantage of avoiding potential production stoppages).

To make it really a revolution, it will still be necessary to improve some limits, including the size and weight of the visor (annoying if worn for a long time), the screen resolution (still low quality), the computing power of the same, the fatigue (the virtual simulation brings us, as in the case of games and not only, to move for a prolonged time) and the absence of sensory devices (in this regard, some companies, such as Nextmind and Neuralink of Elon Musk, are working on a neuronal approach, that is, recreating the five senses through nerve stimulation, not excluding the inclusion of body movements).

The business opportunities that could be developed are potentially enormous, not only in the field of advertising, but also in the sale of digital products.

In order to facilitate this, content creators have implemented a solution to protect their properties purchased in cryptocurrencies. These digital tools allow for the provision of cryptographic technology for properties that make them unique by applying a date of creation, the name of the buyer, etc..

These properties can then be registered in an NFT card managed by blockchain technology . Through this process, the purchased property is protected from being hacked and any unauthorized use is monitored.

There are already examples of digital assets being bought and sold of this kind; among the best known we mention the first tweet written by co-founder Jack Dorsey sold for about 2.9 million dollars, the purchase of an island on The Sandbox by Paris Saint Germain footballer Marco Verratti and those of many other celebrities who are becoming passionate about it, up to the most striking case concerning the sale of Beeple’s digital work of art at Christie’s for 69.3 million dollars

But you don’t necessarily have to spend that much to buy this kind of goods. Just as we do today with the various online platforms, it will also be possible to do so in the metaverse. For example, in virtual spaces such as Somnium Space and Decentraland, users purchase NFTs such as clothing items and digital real estate.

In light of yet another innovation that will bring us yet another social and cultural revolution after the advent of the computer and the internet, how will the metaverse change our habits and how we interact with the world around us? Among the many aspects that could be analyzed (example among all, privacy and security), the cognitive aspect with the related risks jumps to the eyes.

Virtual reality is conceived and will increasingly be conceived to be as much as possible an alter ego of real life with a totalizing objective. As in real life, violent behaviors could be replicated with heavy invasions of our intimacy. In the socializing virtual spaces, for example, one or more individuals could impose themselves on our avatar with real episodes of harassment. In short, the reproduction of bullying or rape, very serious situations that could have repercussions in real life altering also significantly the daily life of the individual.

The European Union is beginning to deal with all these aspects. The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Verstager, has recently stated that the metaverse poses new challenges to competition, so that assessments in this emerging sector must be carefully examined, considering that the creation of an environment in a globalizing virtual reality requires appropriate regulations.

Therefore, it will be necessary to speed up a regulation dedicated to this sector, probably partly included for some aspects in the Digital Services Act and in the Digital Markets Act (e.g. advertising, privacy, security) that will be voted soon, in order to avoid delays in a sector that is advancing at a fast pace or parallel legislations of single member states that could invalidate its harmonization.

Carlo Caloisi

SOURCES AND IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS

  1. Metaverse – definition: https://itrexgroup.com/blog/metaverse-for-business-complete-guide-examples-applications/#intro
  2. Neal Stephenson – Snow crash (1992): https://www.nothuman.net/images/files/discussion/4/04ca4ae88a63721aa7144430117ab4ca.pdf
  3. Blockchain – definition: https://www.ibm.com/topics/what-is-blockchain
  4. Non Fungible Token (NFT) – definition: https://www.investopedia.com/non-fungible-tokens-nft-5115211
  5. Second life (wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life
  6. Opportunities in the metaverse: https://www.jpmorgan.com/content/dam/jpm/treasury-services/documents/opportunities-in-the-metaverse.pdf
  7. Digital Identity White Paper: https://cryptorating.eu/whitepapers/Metaverse/Metaverse-digital-identity-white-paper-v1.0-EN.pdf
  8. Jack Dorsey sells his first tweet ever as an NFT for over $2.9 million: : https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/22/jack-dorsey-sells-his-first-tweet-ever-as-an-nft-for-over-2point9-million.html
  9. Marco Verratti conquered by the metaverse: the blue champion buys a private island: https://www.breakinglatest.news/sports/marco-verratti-conquered-by-the-metaverse-the-blue-champion-buys-a-private-island/
  10. Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million: https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/11/22325054/beeple-christies-nft-sale-cost-everydays-69-million
  11. How can we make the metaverse safe?: https://analyticsindiamag.com/how-can-we-make-the-metaverse-safe/
  12. Vestager: Metaverse poses new competition challenges: https://www.politico.eu/article/metaverse-new-competition-challenges-margrethe-vestager/
  13. EU is analysing the metaverse ahead of possible regulation, says anti-trust chief Margrethe Vestager: https://www.euronews.com/next/2022/02/08/eu-is-analysing-the-metaverse-ahead-of-possible-regulation-says-anti-trust-chief-margrethe
  14. Digital Markets Act: Commission welcomes political agreement on rules to ensure fair and open digital markets: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_22_1978
  15. The Digital Services Act package: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/digital-services-act-package
  16. All one needs to know about metaverse: a complete survey on technological singularity, virtual ecosystem and research agenda: https://tuhat.helsinki.fi/ws/portalfiles/portal/169348619/METAVERSE.pdf