The world we live in remains plagued by problems such as inequality, poverty, and a lack of opportunity for millions of its inhabitants. It’s natural to think that many of these challenges will never be solved. Still, the emergence of the metaverse can help create a better future. By harnessing the immersive power of virtual reality and combining it with the connectivity of the internet, the metaverse offers several solutions that promise to transform the world and make it a much better place to live.
Made famous by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse describes a shared, immersive virtual environment that merges the digital and physical worlds. It’s a world based on a functional, decentralized economy, and it has the potential to forever change how people interact with each other and their environments.
The metaverse will help us tackle challenges around everything from education to healthcare to climate change while ushering in an era of new opportunities for consumers and businesses alike. It will create a new kind of reality that allows people to gather within a simulated world without boundaries or limits. It’s a virtual reality where anything can happen, capable of replicating almost any kind of physical world experience in a digital realm.
People will explore the metaverse with their customizable digital avatars, visiting different environments and interacting with people from around the globe. The potential applications are so numerous that the metaverse could revolutionize the lives of millions of people.
Here’s how that will happen:
1. Bridging the gap in education
While education is already held as a fundamental human right, the harsh reality is that millions of children lack access to good schooling. Numerous reasons, including poverty, geographic location, and extreme rules in some countries, prevent girls from attending school. The metaverse can provide alternative education to millions via virtual classrooms that can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. For example, charitable organizations could offer schooling to students who cannot attend a traditional school where they live. In such environments, students worldwide could connect with teachers and access high-quality educational materials.
One early mover in the metaverse education space is Immerse, which has created a virtual language experience platform to immerse learners of English in the target language. It uses VR to teach students English or other languages in an immersive environment where they can meet their teacher and other learners and develop their language skills through one-to-one interactions.
One advantage of the metaverse is that, while studying, learners could make new connections, helping to increase their employment opportunities in the future.
2. Fixing climate change
Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face in a changing world. It has become increasingly important for governments to take action today, to try and change what will occur tomorrow.
There are many ways the metaverse could help us to prevent climate change. For instance, it provides a platform for creating virtual simulations to model the effects of climate change and the impact of possible solutions such as sustainable energy sources and carbon capture technologies.
Tuvalu, one of the countries most threatened by climate change, recently announced it’s building a digital twin of itself, with full-scale replicas of its islands and landmarks hosted in the metaverse. The government said the aim is to preserve the island nation’s history and culture as rising sea levels threaten to submerge it completely. Of course, Tuvalu hopes the move will spur other nations to accelerate plans to mitigate climate change. According to Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe, Tuvalu took this step because other countries need to act more quickly to prevent it.
“Our land, ocean, and culture are the most precious assets of our people, and to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move them to the cloud,” he said.
A side benefit of the metaverse is that, as more people shift to virtual meetings and events and cut down on travel, it may reduce carbon emissions.
3. Increased global connectivity
The metaverse knows no borders, enabling anyone to immediately ‘teleport’ themselves to any location. As a result, people can travel freely and meet with others from any part of the world. At the same time, even the smallest of businesses can expand and reach a global audience. The increased global connectivity enabled by the metaverse will benefit smaller companies and startups previously challenged to reach international markets. A lack of finances and a logistics network are no longer barriers within the metaverse. Instead, businesses will be able to connect with potential customers worldwide and discover a more distant network of suppliers.
The metaverse also provides business opportunities of its own. Within Upland, a virtual world that’s mapped to the real world, it’s possible for users to ‘fly’ anywhere in the world, purchase virtual land then build and run a virtual store. Upland’s metaventures make it possible to participate in an emerging virtual economy. They can create their brand, manufacture digital products based on non-fungible tokens, or create metaverse services and earn cryptocurrency. The possibilities for entrepreneurially-minded users are only limited by their imagination.
4. Better access to healthcare
People in the developed world see healthcare access as a fundamental human right. Yet, billions of people cannot access medical assistance when needed due to financial constraints or a lack of facilities nearby.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the idea of telemedicine, and the metaverse promises to take this even further by enabling patients to connect with specialists from anywhere in the world. It would mean improved healthcare outcomes for people living in remote areas without such specialists. The metaverse can help augment telemedicine with virtual reality, adding an immersive layer that can support both diagnostic and therapeutic efforts. For example, research into VR therapy shows that it can be very effective at treating mental health conditions like PTSD and anxiety disorders. Moreover, the use of computer-generated avatars can also help to enhance client-therapist relationships, studies have shown.
5. New ways of working
Lastly, the metaverse promised to fundamentally change how people work and collaborate. Rather than meet in face-to-face meetings, business people could visit a virtual reality lounge where they can host meetings and conduct training sessions for new employees, no matter where those people are located. Designers worldwide could collaborate to collaborate on new projects and share information in real-time.
Such experiences are already accessible through Horizon Workrooms, a platform created by Facebook’s parent company Meta that allows up to 16 co-workers to meet within a virtual office equipped with virtual whiteboards and shared computer screens. When it first launched, Facebook’s AR and VR vice president said people were growing tired of video calls and wanted more flexibility.
Horizon Workrooms provides an experience much closer to physical meetings, enabling people to walk around the virtual office and hold casual interactions that lead to new ideas.
The cusp of a revolution
The promise of the metaverse is an exciting one that offers numerous potential benefits to people across the world. There are still challenges that must be overcome. For instance, concerns around privacy and security still need to be adequately addressed. In addition, access to some metaverse experiences is limited only to those who possess the required VR technology that provides the needed immersiveness.
Still, these challenges are manageable. They can be overcome as the internet grows more widespread and hardware costs decrease. As the metaverse grows more widespread, it’s only a matter of time before we can unlock its full potential and create a brighter future for future generations.
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