The Metaverse is an augmented or virtual reality-based next-generation variant of the internet. The Metaverse is a three dimensional experience through the use of connected headsets, the user will be able to “walk” through it, whereas the current internet experience is two-dimensional, that is, the user surfs and scrolls across pages on a screen. It’s uncertain if there will be a single Metaverse, multiple Metaverses, or no Metaverse whatsoever, it’s an idea under development and has a long road ahead.

The topic has a very high chance of being asked in IAS Prelims as a Science and Technology Question or as a Current Affairs Question, as it has been in the news recently. 

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About Metaverse

  • The Metaverse is a collaborative virtual open space developed due to the merger of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. This is physically persistent and it gives an enhanced and immersive experience.
  • Activities that currently take place in isolated places (such as purchasing digital land and building virtual homes, engaging in a virtual social interactions, and so on) will eventually move to the Metaverse.
  • People will be able to imitate or improve their physical activities via Metaverse. This could be accomplished by transferring or extending physical activity to the virtual realm, or by transforming the physical realm.
    • Despite the fact that the purpose of a Metaverse is to merge many of these activities, numerous individual Metaverses currently already exist; however they have limited functionalities.
  • It’s a shared virtual space made possible by the merger of virtual reality and digital reality. In other words, it is platform independent, device independent, and not owned by a single company. It’s an autonomous virtual economy powered by nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and crypto currencies.
  • Because it operates on numerous technologies and innovations, the Metaverse is a multimodal innovation. Augmented reality (AR), flexible work methods, head-mounted displays (HMDs), the AR cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G network, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and spatial technologies are all contributing tech capabilities.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) is an immersive experience of the physical world environment in which computer generated perceptual data is used to augment the elements in the real world, sometimes spanning many sensory modalities, such as visual and audio. AR can be defined as a system which combines real and virtual worlds together, allows for real-time interaction, and enables accurate 3D registration of physical and virtual items. The superimposed sensory information might be constructive (i.e., additive to the physical surroundings) or destructive (i.e., masking of the physical surroundings). This experience is so well integrated with the natural world that it is viewed as a fully immersing part of the physical world. Augmented reality modifies one’s continuing perception of a natural world surrounding, whereas virtual reality totally substitutes the user’s natural world surrounding with a simulated one. Mixed reality and computer-mediated reality are two terminologies that are nearly synonymous with augmented reality.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) is a virtual experience that can be both identical to and distinct from the actual world.  Entertainment (especially video games), education (like medical or military training), and business(like virtual meetings) are all examples of virtual reality applications.

Currently, conventional virtual reality systems provide realistic visuals, sounds, and other sensations that imitate a user’s physical presence in a simulated environment using virtual reality headsets or via multi-projected environments. A person using VR gear can see around the virtual world, roam around in there, and engage with virtual features or objects. VR headsets with a tiny screen at the front of the eyes are usually used to get this effect, but it can also be achieved in specially constructed rooms with several huge screens. Virtual reality normally includes audio and video input, but haptic technology may also enable additional types of sensory and force feedback.

Note: Visit the linked article to read more about the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality.

5G Telecommunications

5G is the 5th generation tech standard for broadband cellular networks, which started being developed from the year 2019 and is currently in deployment in select cities around the world. It is the intended replacement to the 4G networks that connect the majority of today’s handsets. The 5G network, like its predecessor, is a cellular network with service areas segmented into small geographic units called cells. Radio waves connect all 5G wireless devices in a cell to the Telephone and internet network via a local antenna in the cell tower. The main benefit of the new networks will be increased bandwidth, allowing for faster download speeds having the potential to reach up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbit/s).

In addition to being speedier than current networks, 5G has the potential to connect more number of devices, even when users are in the crowded places, the servers will be more integrated, enhancing Internet service quality. Due to  the increased bandwidth, the network is speculated to be increasingly used as general internet service providers (ISPs) for desktops and laptops, competing out the existing ISPs like cable internet, and enabling new applications in the field of internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine. It will  require a 5G enabled wireless device, and will be inaccessible to phones with only 4G capacity.

List of Current Affairs Articles for UPSC

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Importance of Metaverse

  • Virtual communities, events, and activities will all be available without requiring logins in numerous apps and/or websites.
  • The simulated marketplace will be a seriously important business affair with the Metaverse. Fast Food chain McDonald’s has already begun entering the Metaverse. Brands will change the way they advertise, making it a pleasant experience instead of the annoying pop-ups and forced advertisements that are common today.
  • The Metaverse takes it to a new level with the Covid-19 pandemic, limiting people to their homes for employment. It allows for seamless cross-platform engagement with friends, family, and coworkers all across the world.
  • A significant component of the Metaverse which will work in its favour of a user-centric model is the seamless transition from one stage to the next without any discrepancies. One can virtually login into his/her virtual workplace as a virtual avatar of oneself, meet a client, take a break, or play a sport all in one environment.
  • A Metaverse is projected to provide enterprises with persistent, decentralised, collaborative, and interoperable options and business models that will allow them to expand their digital business.

Concerns over Metaverse

Following are some common concerns raised by experts at the development and application of Metaverse:

  • Physical Health: It is believed that the Metaverse will render many of the common physical activities that we perform today as uncommon. This could potentially affect the physical wellbeing of the people.
  • Psychological Health: The Metaverse could also affect the mental wellbeing of many people especially kids in a bad way.
  • Frauds and Scams: Due to the lack of adequate legal provisions in the real world about this virtual world and its growing adoption, it could become a hub of illegal activities that are out of the reach of the legal and justice system.
  • Investment Failure: It is also believed that the Metaverse might fail to fulfil the current “overaspirations” of the people in general and might even become dead. If things like these happen, it can impact the monetary investment of people and companies in the Metaverse in a negative way.
  • Government: It is unclear as of yet, as to who will rule the Metaverse, as it is not owned by any one single company nor do the governments of today play any role in its development. Will current political systems migrate to the virtual world? Or, would the metaverse have its own internal political system? Are still yet to be answered.

Activities in the Metaverse

While the Metaverse is still in its infancy and we are yet to witness its full potential, some common activities that could be performed in the Metaverse today are as follows:

  • Buying online avatars’ clothing and accessories.
  • Purchasing virtual land and building virtual buildings.
  • Taking part in virtual social gatherings.
  • Shopping in virtual shops through immersive commerce.
  • Virtual classrooms are being used to provide immersive learning opportunities.
  • Purchasing virtual arts, collectibles assets (NFTs) etc.
  • Engaging with virtual people for onboarding employees, sales, customer service and many other business activities.

Note: You may get all the Science and Technology Questions of the UPSC Mains exam by visiting the linked article.

Start your IAS Exam preparation by understanding the UPSC Syllabus in-depth and planning your approach accordingly.

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