Mark Zuckerberg will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the key men in explaining the drift of humanity in the last twenty years. His merit? Creating the social network Facebook and, with it, a way of relating to each other. After almost two decades, the young visionary announced a few weeks ago that he is preparing an innovative project baptized with the promising name of Metaverse.

Zuckerberg’s new “creature”, as he himself explained during his presentation, is a space for the interaction of machines, idealized avatars and a new virtual world where art, architecture, beauty and fiction meet to socialize, shop or do business. And all this, by the grace of virtual reality and augmented reality.

Zuckerberg had been talking about the metaverse for months, and Facebook has been investing astronomical amounts in developing or buying virtual reality devices and functionalities for years, although this project will still take a decade to materialize.
On the one hand, screens should grow in resolution and refresh rate. On the other, headsets should become more comfortable or, at the very least, lighter, if we want to spend several hours a day with them. We also need to find devices that allow us to interact better with virtual reality worlds: the controllers we have now, as well as gesture recognition, are more than enough for many uses, but they fall short if we want the technology to be deployed among the general public.

Facebook is on its last legs

After 17 years of followers and likes, experts say that Facebook is “in the doldrums”. The latest studies reveal a stagnation, and even a downward trend in the number of its members. On the other hand, the most common user profile of this network is a woman between 35 and 74 years of age. This group represents 70.9% of the total, while men in the same age bracket account for 66.8%. These figures support the theory that as a social network, Facebook is already irrelevant for the younger generations.

But does this mean that members of these “new generations” will be the only ones to become users of the metaverse? Will older age groups be left out? Some people will have a harder time than others and will probably be left out. But, overall, it will be accessible to consumers of all ages. It is possible to make a comparison with the emergence of cell phones. In the beginning, it was something rare, for technology enthusiasts. Today, however, there are few people who do not have a cell phone.

A facelift at the right time

Nor should it be ruled out that the announcement of the metaverse was made with the aim of running a dense smokescreen. It is clear that the idea was to divert attention from the very serious accusations made by former employee Frances Haugen and the impact of the mega-blackout of all the group’s platforms shortly beforehand.

The bad reputation earned by the social network has already begun to splash the rest of the group’s platforms such as WhatsApp or Instagram, which were incorporated into the conglomerate at the drop of a hat and gambling everything on a card as uncertain as the metaverse may seem risky, but probably the alternative is none other than to languish until sinking completely in a sea of scandals before competitors that, like TikTok, are already showing their teeth and consolidating themselves as clear contenders to the podium of social networks.

Revolution or natural evolution?

It is believed that the new platform will not be operational for another decade. Is this period long enough for us to experience its implementation as a natural evolution of Facebook? That’s what it seems. Possibly it won’t come about as a disruption, but rather as an evolution. There will be a convergence between communication network technologies, mobile technologies and virtual and augmented or mixed reality. In other words, we will soon have a mobile device connected to our glasses and perhaps a bracelet or other such device that will allow access to this metaverse.

But what technology will make this miracle possible? Experts predict that the enabling technology for this virtual world will not be 5G, but rather the future 6G. This will allow us to put on augmented reality glasses and see information superimposed on our field of vision, or virtual reality glasses that will give us access to an infinite number of unsuspected experiences. The 6G will probably make its way into sectors such as video games, cinema, television, fashion, music, advertising and, why not, travel agencies, which will be able to offer vacations in the metaverse.
The bandwidths and latency of 6G technology could justify its use in mobile augmented reality, which will include.

Delving into the technological aspect of the project, the most difficult point in the field of virtual reality is interaction. Right now there is no definitive solution to this problem, and it does not seem that it will be possible to reach the general public without solving it.

In fact, it is possible that Zuckerberg’s metaverse will not materialize, since it would not be the first time that it has been announced that in five or ten years virtual and augmented reality will conquer our daily lives. This time it could be the good one, but there are still important questions to be answered.

The metaverse will be a more sustainable world

Assuming we witness its implementation, whoever does not jump on the bandwagon will be left behind. The developers of this new space will sell it to us as a spectacular qualitative leap for the Internet. Thus, the feeling they intend to create in society is that, if you are not part of the metaverse, you will be left behind and miss out on the new opportunities offered by the new Zuckerbergian world.

In a way, the metaverse can contribute to the sustainability of the planet by avoiding travel and certain expenses. In addition, it can provide very realistic experiences to people who otherwise would hardly have the opportunity to live them, which, to a certain extent, entails a democratizing effect.

An unreal universe with real dangers

On the other side of the scale we would find the cons, i.e. the risks that this future virtual world would contain. There are three:

The first, that we would end up devoting more time and energy to the simulacrum that is the metaverse. This hypothesis may seem inconceivable, but, in fact, today’s social networks already generate in many people the need to do things with the sole and exclusive purpose of exhibiting them later on these platforms.

The second danger is that with the actions we develop in the metaverse we will reveal much more information about ourselves -and in a much more unconscious way- than with the content we share in today’s networks, which is often already recklessly excessive.

And the third is that certain scourges such as bullying, hate speech and the like can be harmfully enhanced by the immersive and highly realistic nature of the environment.

In the same vein, even though this world is virtual, the experiences that people will live there will be real. I mean, a problem in the virtual world, such as frustration or exclusion, can generate real traumas, as in cases of online bullying, which can even be the cause of suicide in some young people.

Side effects of the metaverse

Although the metaverse is still nothing more than an entelechy, it is worth asking some questions about certain areas related to this virtual cosmos. These are questions that, at present, have no answers. These are some of them:

  • What will be the ethics of this world?
  • How will this “cyber life” be regulated?
  • Who will be in control?
  • Who will decide the rules?
  • What will be the role of governments?

We will see if time, little by little, will reveal the answers to these and other questions raised by the announcement of the metaverse. As of today, the only thing we know for sure is that those of us who are passionate about digital technologies have a few years ahead of us in which we are going to be very entertained as we witness the race to define and control this metaverse that is about to take place.

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