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Looking to the Future: How the Metaverse Could Be Making a Comeback

Ever since its inception as a mere concept in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel, Snow Crash, the Metaverse has long been the subject of intrigue. Its first evolution into an actual, 3-dimensional world in the 2003 video game Second Life has broadened the Metaverse’s public appeal, and its subsequent iterations into Virtual Reality video games have only increased that appeal. 


What is the Metaverse? There are many definitions, many of them ranging from very complex to very simple. A simple definition comes from the article, What is the metaverse? Here's what's behind Facebook's new name : NPR published on October 28, 2021. 


The article describes the Metaverse as “[...] the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D.” Basically, the Metaverse is the social aspect of the internet mixed with a 3-dimensional environment which, through an interactable virtual world known as Virtual Reality, people can immerse themselves in. This virtual reality is accessed through a headset players place on their heads that allows them to see the virtual world. Two controllers called touch controllers allow players to interact with this world. 


     In 2022, however, the Metaverse received some skepticism. This is due, in part, to Facebook's poorly-received iteration of it which has placed doubt concerning its future. The company “Meta”, created by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg in 2004, has received much skepticism over the years. But the efforts of companies such as Teslasuit and Virtuix may prove otherwise. 


     One example of this skepticism comes from the Youtube video Who Cares About the Metaverse? Published on October 28, 2022, expressed the opinion that “[...] one company controlling the entire foundation of this second-generation internet [...] is a terrible idea.” 


     Much of this doubt stems from the fact that Meta is a product of Facebook, a company known for its controversial privacy leaks. The video suggests that these issues could be expanded upon with further invasive measures of privacy, such as eye tracking.     


     Similar criticisms can be seen in the article Experts warn Facebook’s metaverse poses ‘terrifying dangers’ ( published on November 5, 2021, listing its potential threats. It expresses concerns about “[...] the vast amount of data that could be collected from the metaverse and who controls it.” 


     But, the metaverse could be making a comeback.


     There have been, and continue to be, attempts to bring the OASIS (a fictional Metaverse present in the 2011 novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and its 2018 film adaptation) to the real world. In the story, the OASIS is where the characters immerse themselves in to escape their harsh reality, and that immersion goes far beyond the virtual reality we have today. 


     The interactivity present in Ready Player One is not limited to touch controllers. Players can purchase full body suits that allow them to literally feel nearly every physical sensation, including but not limited to pain from being hit by an enemy.


      In addition to the suits, Nolan Sorrento, the story’s main villain and head of the fictional Innovative Online Industries (IOI), makes his employees use arcade-like motorcycle machines to take part in races in the OASIS. Similarly, the story employs the use of omnidirectional treadmills which allow players to walk–or run–in any direction while remaining in one place. These treadmills also prevent players from accidentally running into a wall in the real world.


     One attempt comes in the form of the March 23, 2018, release of a video game called Ready Player One: OASIS beta (“beta” being an incomplete version of a video game). It includes the character creation and shooting mechanics present in the source material. 


     There are also companies like Teslasuit developing suits similar to ones from Ready Player One. The article, 'Haptic feedback' virtual reality Teslasuit can simulate everything from a bullet to a hug - ABC News published on March 21, 2021, shows a demonstration of these “Haptic Feedback” suits where, “The man on stage, Jeremy Orr from the Queensland company VirtuReal, ducks and weaves to avoid the virtual missiles being thrown at him by the virtual opponent, even wincing as they strike his legs and arms.” The suit affected Orr by sending pulses of an electrical current to the areas of his body that the in-game missiles hit.


     As of later this year, omnidirectional treadmills such as Virtuix’s Omni One will be available for purchase. The treadmills have the ability to provide entertainment for hours and can be a great singular gift for the whole family. But, as the article Omnidirectional Treadmills Could Boost VR Immersion (But They’re Impractical) ( published on June 8, 2022, points out, omnidirectional treadmills can be expensive–prices can go as high as $50,000–and may take up a lot of space in people’s homes. 


     The Metaverse is a vast and unpredictable new technology, like the omnidirectional treadmills that have garnered the public’s skepticism and admiration. Although it seems to be making a comeback, the coming years will tell if these efforts prove fruitful or not. 


     Edited by: Mary May

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Tags: #metaverse #virtualreality


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