and Shawn Aker
Faculty Member, School of STEM
Look around and examine your physical environment. Would you like to alter your environment and interact with different people at different levels without leaving your physical reality? In the near future, that may be possible with the “metaverse.”
But what does this term “metaverse” mean? According to journalists Mike Snider and Brett Molina of USA Today, “Author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term ‘metaverse’ in his 1992 science fiction novel ‘Snow Crash,’ in which he envisioned lifelike avatars who met in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality environments.”
Eric Ravenscraft with Wired magazine explains the metaverse in a different way. He observes that the “term doesn’t really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad shift in how we interact with technology.” Felicia Hou with Fortune Media adds, “It seems like everybody is trying to join the metaverse these days, from big tech companies to fashion retailers.”
Interestingly, companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Meta have been using related technologies for years. However, as metaverse technologies become advanced and attractive, some people argue that they will replace or immensely improve the Internet.
In fact, the future of this technology is so pertinent that Facebook renamed itself Meta in October 2021. According to John Koetsier of Forbes magazine, Facebook plans to invest billions in the advancement of metaverse technology, along with hiring over 10,000 technologists. Koetsier also noted that Facebook is interested in advancing the use of fully immersive digital life to shift users from text-based experiences to complete virtual reality entertainment and education.
Related link: Biometrics: A Useful Solution to IoT Security Problems
What Are the Key Metaverse Technologies?
Decentraland, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), 3D reconstruction, 5G, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the critical technologies helping to create the powerful, immersive capabilities of the metaverse. But as Snider and Molina noted, “Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the newly named Meta (formerly Facebook), estimates it could take five to 10 years before the key features of the metaverse become mainstream.”
ScreenRant journalist Tom Wilton also commented Google’s effort to join the metaverse. He says, “The company is hiring engineers to build AR headsets and an AR operating system, but will it succeed where its previous efforts have failed?”
Some of the more commonly used metaverse devices being used today include:
- VR headsets such as Oculus Quest 2
- gloves such as haptic gloves
- iOS or Android devices
- Gaming consoles
- AR glasses such as Google Glass headsets
- Wearable glasses such as Project Aria
- Wrist-based controllers for AR
Sam George, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Azure IoT, reinforced that metaverse components have entered our lives: “This is happening today. Customers like Anheuser-Busch (AB) InBev, Paris Saclay, ICA, Total, and Brookfield Properties are already implementing solutions that bring these scenarios to life.
“The key takeaway here is that by creating live, data-bound digital replicas of physical environments, we can apply modern software techniques—analytics, simulation, autonomous control, and interactions—in mixed reality to achieve previously impossible benefits. This shift represents a convergence of the physical and digital worlds.
“As these spaces come together, they create a new world of opportunity and transformative solutions that will change everything. We think of these solutions as metaverse apps.”
While metaverse technologies are exciting and will exponentially transform the user experience, privacy remains a critical concern. Scholars Nikhil Kumar and Leon DuPree contend, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
The Challenges of the Metaverse
Data confidentiality, data loss, data storage and multi-tenancy security are some of the security issues that have been raised concerning cloud computing. As metaverse technologies become more prevalent, these security issues will grow in importance.
Personal and proprietary data may experience greater threats and security breaches in the future. However, security can be improved if proper access control techniques, tenets, policies, and regulations are exercised during immersive metaverse technology design, development, deployment, and use.
Another vital concern is the infancy of metaverse technology. For instance, software incompatibilities may appear, and power verses energy use will need proper balancing. The technology may require more battery life to afford the some of the more powerful features.
In addition, opportunities for cybercriminals using malicious bots must have viable security solutions. These types of challenges stemming from the early launch of new metaverse technologies must be solved to prevent them from disrupting the user experience.
Yet another challenge is reality-warping issues. How a user sees and interprets reality may shift because of the frequent use of metaverse technologies. Louis Rosenberg, inventor of the world’s first functional AR system, considers the metaverse as a threat to users’ reality and may impact how they differentiate their physical lives with immersive VR.
While metaverse challenges are pushing companies into more innovative directions lately, brilliant minds are needed to set and maintain the stage for continuous ethical computing and behaving. Social isolation and impaired emotional and social intelligence from excessive technology use are real concerns confirmed by scientific research.
Furthermore, the excessive use of technology may cause serious damage to users’ brains and cognitive health. Research by StoneRidge Centers notes, “The more we use technology, the more neurological changes take place in the brain.”
Similarly, researchers have determined that an addiction to technology can be harmful. The issues of privacy, security, and technology addiction need to remain central to any design, development, and implementation of metaverse technologies. Companies must remember NOT to take the “human” out of the user experience.
About the Authors
Ms. Shawn Aker is currently an instructor in the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). She earned her bachelor of science in computer science from Prairie View A&M University and a master of science in information technology management from Trident University International.
Ms. Aker, a commissioned officer veteran of the U.S. Army, worked as a software engineer and desktop support for 14 years with companies contracted to the NASA Johnson Space Center. She enjoys her full-time position with the University and looks forward to steering the others to reach great heights. Ms. Aker research interest includes how technology influences our daily lives.
Dr. Novadean Watson-Williams is currently the Department Chair for the undergraduate programs in Information Technology Management and Computer Technology and the graduate program in Information Technology. She serves an aggressively growing department and has over 20 years of experience in the information technology field. Dr. Watson-Williams holds an A.A. in Computer Studies and a B.S. in information systems management from the University of Maryland University College, a B.S. in social science education from the University of South Florida, an M.A. in General Counseling from Louisiana Tech University, and a D.B.A. in information systems from Argosy University.
Previously, she published several blog articles on topics such as “Countering Cybersecurity Attacks through Accountability,” “Creating a Personal Brand through Using the Internet,” “Leadership Using Effective Nonverbal Communication,” and “Inspiring Self-Improvement through Technology Education, Collective Intelligence and Soft Skills.” She has also co-published several other articles, including “RFID with Real Implications,” “Artificial Intelligence in Information Security” and “Evolution of Information Security.”