What is the Metaverse, and Why is it Big News?

Facebook changes company name to Meta. The CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed it in Oct, which brings questions of what is Metaverse exactly, and why it is big news?

Meta,metaverse, Facebook
Meta, metaverse, Facebook

In 1992, Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his sci-fi novel ‘Snow Crash’. The term was used to describe futuristic reality where a shared "imaginary place made available to the public over the worldwide fiber-optics network" and projected onto virtual reality goggles had captured the minds of society.

In the Metaverse, a parallel reality similar to our own reality exists, but in a virtual and augmentable form. The developers of the Metaverse would be able to edit buildings, roads, landmarks, weather patterns, and many other constructs of our own reality, or even completely reimagine reality as we know it, defying the laws of physics and 3-dimensional reality itself. The possibilities were rather endless. 30 years ago this was simply a science fiction dream, but today Meta (Formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided to take the giant leap forward to bring the Metaverse towards becoming a (virtual) reality. Imagine how deepfake technology will impact the metaverse.

AI, metaverse, Artificial Intelligence

Before the announcement of the Metaverse in October 2021, several companies have tried to create rather rudimentary forms of a 2D Metaverse themselves. Online video games such as Habbo Hotel, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and even newer titles such as Fortnite have all attempted to bring together the essential ingredients of a ‘Metaverse’; essential ingredients being a shared social media space where you interact with other users via a virtual controllable avatar.

These attempts like previously mentioned have all been rather basic attempts at fulfilling what a Metaverse actually is. The Metaverse proposed by Zuckerberg however, is a much more ambitious project.

The Metaverse proposed by Zuckerberg(CEO of Facebook) is a 3D virtual reality accessible through the Occulus Rift VR headsets where one can virtually transport themselves anywhere in the world and interact with anyone, at any time, in any manner they please. The possibilities here were made abundantly clear during the Meta Keynote announcement of the Metaverse, including being able to host virtual interactive parties, going on virtual vacations, having virtual classroom lessons and so on in a sandbox world indistinguishable from our own. This leads to the question of the ethics of deepfake technology and what will lead to an untrust worthy world.

AI, VR, Metaverse
VR, AI, Metaverse

The Metaverse by Meta went on to mimic the Neal Stephenson novel so closely that the concept of completely transitioning your entire lifestyle to a virtual reality was made a plausible concept; to the point of being able to buy a virtual television, for your virtual home, to watch TV on a virtual screen.

According to “Medium”, The metaverse will be enabled, populated by and supported with artificial intelligence (AI). It will drive all seven technology layers of the metaverse: powering spatial computing, providing scaffolding to creators, and supplying new and sophisticated forms of storytelling. With the current state of AI, the future of the Metaverse is almost terrifyingly enticing.

AI, future
AI, future

Let’s take a look at the advanced CGI AI processing of Deepfakes, capable of making nearly indistinguishable video clones of real people. The complex machine storytelling abilities of GPT-3, capable of generating infinite unique and complex storylines. The nuanced creative vividness of  Promethean AI, lathering AI in creative arts skills nearly indistinguishable from humanity. All of these forms of AI seek to make virtual reality indistinguishable from physical reality.

The quest for AI to immerse humanity in an alternate reality gets even better with new predictive AI eye-tracking being developed in RUDN University with the capability of predicting both where your eyes are going to be and when to pre-render imaging during blinking. Beyond that, Neuralink technology has developed AI that has the ability to read and interpret brain waves from monkey test subjects spelling out a reality where VR headsets aren’t even required, a direct brain implant connected to a computer is all we’ll need to be whisked away into a new reality.

The potential for the Metaverse is beyond infinite, and the implications for humanity are far stretching. This is both a scary and captivating reality to imagine. It’s a reality where we are no longer physically bound to the natural world, but also a reality where we have been detached from the essence of humanity for potentially permanent idealistic escapism. Only the future knows what the Metaverse has in store!