The Quad: Discussing the Future of the Internet in Relation to Company Ownership, Metaverse

In a widely circulated video posted in October 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the company’s rebranding as Meta.

During an hour-long video demonstration, Zuckerberg moves back and forth between the real, physical world and what he calls the metaverse — a reference to the three-dimensional manifestation of the internet in the science fiction novel by 1992, “Snow Crash”. Fundamentally, the move signifies the company’s investment in virtual and augmented reality, which Zuckerberg saw as the future of the internet.

Shortly after Zuckerberg’s press release, the metaverse became the talk of the town. Memes have proliferated on Twitter, investments in Big Tech have surged and “metaverse” has been shortlisted by the Collins English Dictionary as its 2021 word of the year.

As the hype surrounding the metaverse has sparked a conversation about the future of VR, some are speculating that unrest can distract from important corporate ownership issues.

Jenna Caravello, a media arts professor in design, said the fuzzy definition of the metaverse has created a mythology around the word and sparked public interest, even though most people’s lives are already heavily ingrained in technology. .

“The funny thing that we never really consider is that we’re already in the process of a budding virtual life, and it’s not like the metaverse is going to fall from the sky, and then we’re all going to be hooked up,” Caravello said.

Caravello, who experiments with virtual reality in his work, said using the word “metaverse” creates a brand association with Meta, giving Zuckerberg the power to shape and control the immersive virtual ecosystem that already exists.

“The final ingredient in the potion is the metaverse which becomes…a final kind of link of all of our virtual resources into a single pipeline,” Caravello said. “It just means we can’t wait for a billionaire to own all of this. We’re just sitting here waiting for the next person to put their mark on it and merge it all into the Amazon equivalent of the VR (virtual reality) overworld.

While there is a lot of excitement surrounding the concept of a metaverse, many are skeptical about its ability to generalize, including second-year electrical engineering student Elona Khoshaba.

“I mean, how many people have access to virtual reality? It’s already something that few people own just for fun, or people who want to own it, they can get dizzy. And then it’s expensive. Only a privileged few wealthy…members of the upper middle class will truly participate in the metaverse,” Khoshaba said.

The company that creates this virtual pipeline will need to increase the accessibility and efficiency of the equipment needed to engage in a three-dimensional virtual world, Caravello said. The goal will be to make hardware cheaper and sleeker while merging server vendors to create a global virtual world.

“Right now, one of those limitations to making virtual reality work is that we have different headsets, we have different vendors, we have different types of computers, we have all these different tools that are not kind of under one umbrella,” Caravello said. .

David Bosnak, an engineer who works with artificial intelligence, said the extent to which Meta will be involved in the formation of the metaverse is unclear.

“I think Meta is going to be an integral part of moving forward (of the Metaverse). But I think the real buy-in will come from someone who is much more nimble, younger, and designing in a way that’s not necessarily meant to be monetized,” Bosnak said.

Besides accessibility, Bosnak added that the metaverse will need to organically acquire social capital to be more widely accepted.

“It’s going to take a really organic eruption of a specific community that creates something that people want to be a part of,” Bosnak said. “If a company tries to force you to say ‘No, that will be the next thing’, everyone is going to rebel against it.”

Communications professor Rick Dale said in an emailed statement that one of the driving factors that will drive the metaverse into mainstream is the monetization of virtual entities.

“It’s not just about the graphics, the visuals and the gaming experience. It’s about the economic tendrils that will tie ‘things’ in this digital world to people and things in the ‘real world’,” Dale said. “I think that’s going to be the biggest change – it’s going to be seeing things in the metaverse as ‘worth’ something, something that can be traded or sold in a new realm of artifacts that will have an exchange rate with that which we still call the real world.”

Regardless of corporate investment, the Bruins and the pros believe that virtual reality remains a force to be reckoned with. In a world increasingly saturated with technology, it’s easy to imagine a future where the virtual world and the real world become more intertwined.

“Fourteen-year-olds on VRChat will grow up with technology in ways they won’t want to let go,” Caravello said. “They are going to be 50 years old and they will always have a VRChat friend, or a friend from the VR platform that they may have never met. Maybe they’ll get a VR wife, you know, it’s not that far-fetched.

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The Quad: Discussing the Future of the Internet in Relation to Company Ownership, Metaverse

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