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Chapter 1 – The big beginning

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

“You should try to go out of the house. You should try to meet new people. You could go on a date or go for a jog in the park.” is what John had suggested. He is a young man with a cool bald look and purple-painted lips. At least, that is what his virtual avatar looked like. This was his advice, when I told him that I was feeling a bit low. And strangely I took it.

John is my friend from the virtual world. A world that has online live DJ setups, virtual bars, some AI characters you can talk to, and a few games where you can be superman in the day and a fun party going monster in the night, or you can just be you and go on a date with your crush.

Since its inception, almost a few decades ago, the internet has had some significant influence on our lives, especially in virtual/digital space. Our interactions were mostly limited to mundane text chats and a few pictures back then. The experience was still surreal!

Then came the video chat, where you could talk to your loved ones, where you could see them almost face to face with feelings of warmth and emotion. The need to be associated socially had never been so imperative as before.

Then came the explosion of social media and mobile phones, which in turn, brought about all these interactions under one roof and made accessibility a pure joy. It no longer felt like a multi-tiered task, but a seamless integration into our daily lives. It can now be confirmed that humans are completely social animals. With the only difference, being more virtual in nature.

Metaverse, a term coined by big IT conglomerates, digital media, the tabloids, is relatively an old idea trying to make its way into the mainstream for quite some time. It was tried out in the 70s, a bit of exploration in the 80s, and so on. But it was never embraced, due to the technological gaps and challenges it had back then. The last few years have pushed the boundaries of tech advancements in both hardware and software, paving the path to this brilliant idea of alternate reality.

It creates a better experience, but still, you cannot live moments like in real life. Now the world is rushing towards Metaverse with most of us already spending our time on some marooned island or a fantastical castle of Count Draco in this virtual world.

So, what's the big deal?

Metaverse will allow you to interact with virtual entities by using real-world hand gestures and talk vocally with other avatars the same way we interact in real world. A digital avatar can give real facial expressions and make natural eye contact with other avatars so, that we can have the visual sense of people’s emotions.

Imagine sharing your child's video with your parents, and they can watch it in real time rather than viewing it on a tiny mobile screen. It is even possible to celebrate your wedding at a beautiful location just by sitting at home. Metaverse can provide a more immersive gaming experience by allowing you to play with a friend in a virtual location rather than just playing on your computer.

So, is there a darker side to this promised future? Can this virtual world induce empathy and social connections”?

Even while metaverse sounds truly exciting, it might increase pressure and social comparisons. Having the flexibility and power of porting yourself through an avatar’s eyes may lead to a greater disconnect with your real-life self and the chances of cyberbullying might also escalate. What if there is a dark metaverse? What if there are fake avatars to fool others?

While creating this kind of technology designers and developers must keep certain principles of privacy. For instance, let's take Facebook, now Meta as an example. The individual has total control over who is entering into their friend's space. In the same way, metaverse should also have the ability to block or report the avatars which can be toxic to the virtual world or as it is another real-virtual world we can have a virtual cyber security team to whom the avatars can complain to. It’s quite a difficult task to build this technology but, if implemented carefully it is going to be the next generation of the internet. John always says “Metaverse will take us places and it will be awesome” his suggestion for us is to brace for the change. The best way to understand it is by experiencing it.

As we delve deeper into this mega topic with forthcoming chapters, let us know your experience and your stories of the metaverse.

There are always two ends of the spectrum. The more we discuss, the better it can get to be.

Coming up in continuation next. Chapter 2: John’s Life Chapter 3: The art of the tech Chapter 4: Our own Metaverse

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