The Metaverse:Creating a New Reality
By YU Haoyuan
Maybe in the future, everyone can immerse in the metaverse throughout the day. (PHOTO: VCG)
The metaverse is causing a sensation online and is the current buzzword for cyber trendsetters. Some people believe that it will start an entirely new reality, while others consider it a new technical and conceptual strategic move to be competetive in the future.
What is the metaverse?
As a metaphor for the real world, the term first appeared in Neal Stephenson's science fiction novel Snow Crash. In the novel, the metaverse is a place where humans can inhabit as avatars to interact with each other and software agents. It is a term that Stephenson used to describe a virtual reality -based successor to the Internet.
Up to now, it has to be said that the metaverse has not yet been clearly defined. However, USA Today defines it as a "combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and video where users 'live' within a digital universe."
The metaverse related industries are considering it as a new economic growth point. According to an article The Metaverse Takes Shape as Several Themes Converge, if it is successfully set up, trillions of dollars could flow into areas such as social media, video games, e-commerce and blockchain.
NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang said, "I'm fairly sure at this point that the metaverse is going to be a new economy that is larger than our current economy."
Who is competing in the metaverse?
After renaming Facebook as Meta, Mark Zuckerberg also announced plans to spend at least 10 billion USD this year on Facebook Reality Labs, its metaverse division tasked with creating AR and VR hardware, software and content, according to a U.S. tech blog The Verge.
Many information technology giants also announced their own interventions. Microsoft, for example in early November, unveiled its plan on operating a metaverse product - Mesh for Teams, which is due for release in 2022.
Sports giant Nike has also jumped on the metaverse band wagon, collaborating with Roblox to create Nikeland, a virtual playspace.
According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 400 Chinese companies have filed applications to register trademarks related to the metaverse. Baidu applied for the trademark "Xirang" app just one day after Meta's announcement. Tencent and NetEase also took actions to get involved in the metaverse.
Besides big enterprises getting involved, the Seoul Metropolitan government recently announced that Seoul would develop as a metaverse platform, which will provide multiple services, such as health care and central infrastructure to the public.
What challenges will the metaverse face in the future?
Although the metaverse may lead the future development of society, some critics warn that information security may be considered as a priority.
In an AP interview, Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, warned that, "The metaverse will be addictive and rob people of yet more personal information, while giving the embattled company [Facebook] another monopoly online."
According to the official website of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin gave his view of the metaverse at the AI Journey 2021 conference in early November. "Now, it concerns not only ensuring the cybersecurity of a person, but also that of the virtual double — the avatar that will live within the metaverses being established now." He thinks it will be a great challenge for tech companies, creative industries, virtual and mixed reality device makers, and regulators.
Putin also addressed another concern related to living outside of reality. As a suggestion, he said, "We must use the metaverse opportunities for people to be able to mix, co-work, co-study and pursue joint creative and business projects, regardless of the distances between them, no matter how big."
At what stage is the metaverse in China?
How China deals with the metaverse is becoming a hot topic with foreign media and think - tanks.
Tech Crunch writes that the Chinese government is planning to invest billions of USD and make great efforts to help China take the lead in AI, which is a big part of the metaverse, and AI can entirely change all aspects of social life. Moreover, China has "the capacity to build and ultimately become the preeminent force in the metaverse, [which] starts with China's long-standing and unrivaled dominance of consumer device manufacturing."
According to Barrons, a leading source of financial news, Marko Papic, chief strategist at the Clocktower Group, said Tencent has a big start over Meta through its huge online gamer base as the main portal for metaverse users. "Chinese interactive mobile platforms, and Tencent in particular, have innovated beyond the U.S. or anyone else," said Papic.