Helping the EY meta-Falcon to fly!

Early January I got invited to speak at EY’s internal Falcon conference, as part of a virtual panel, to talk about o Spatial Computing! We got many interesting questions from our moderators, Maxime Rotsaert, Natalya Mestetskaya and the executive sponsor of the conference, Marcus Gottlieb.

On the panel, I was joined by Domhnaill Hernon (the same as in Spatial Computing Panel at OSFF23), head of Spatial Computing and Metaverse lab at EY, and by Quynh Mai, from the company Qulture focusing on future centric media innovations. The session was not recorded, but to give an idea what we discussed, here are the questions I got and more or less what I answered to them:

1. How might the Metaverse transform the way business is done in the near future? What steps are businesses taking to join the Metaverse?

The Metaverse, an immersive virtual world facilitated by advancements in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and blockchain, is poised to significantly transform business operations in the near future. Its potential to offer a fully interactive, three-dimensional digital environment opens up innovative avenues for commerce, marketing, and customer engagement. For instance, businesses could establish virtual storefronts, allowing customers to browse and purchase products in a more interactive and engaging manner than traditional online shopping. The Metaverse also enables unprecedented opportunities for remote work and collaboration, where virtual offices and meeting spaces can mimic real-life interactions more closely than current video conferencing tools. Furthermore, with the integration of blockchain technology, the Metaverse promises a secure and transparent environment for transactions, potentially revolutionizing areas like supply chain management and intellectual property rights in a digital context.

In anticipation of these transformative possibilities, many businesses are actively taking steps to join the Metaverse. This includes investing in the necessary technology infrastructure like VR and AR devices, and developing or acquiring digital real estate in existing virtual worlds Companies are also exploring partnerships with Metaverse platforms to establish their presence and tailor their services for these new environments. For example, some brands have started launching virtual products and experiences, targeting the Metaverse’s growing user base. Additionally, there’s an increasing focus on acquiring talent with expertise in VR/AR development, digital currency, and blockchain technology. By embracing these strategies businesses are not only preparing to enter the Metaverse but also shaping its evolution as a new frontier for commerce and collaboration.

2 Beyond mental health, are there any unintended consequences you are concerned about with a wider use of Metaverse or any you’re currently aware of? Are there areas of the Metaverse do you see as the “highest risk” for potential exploitation or negative downstream impacts, apart from mental health?

Beyond mental health, the widespread adoption of the Metaverse raises several unintended consequences that warrant concern. One such issue is privacy and data security. In a digital world where users interact through detailed avatars and engage in various activities, vast amounts of personal data can be generated and collected. This includes not just what users say or do, but also potentially sensitive data like biometric information derived from their interactions with VR and AR devices. There’s a risk that this data could be misused or inadequately protected, leading to privacy violations or data breaches. Additionally, the immersive nature of the Metaverse could blur the lines between reality and virtual experiences, potentially leading to issues like addiction or the exacerbation of certain psychological conditions. Another concern is the digital divide as the Metaverse becomes a more integral part of daily life and business those without access to the necessary technology or skills may find themselves increasingly marginalized.

Certain areas of the Metaverse pose higher risks for potential exploitation or negative impacts. The virtual economy, for example, is a prime area for financial crimes such as fraud, money laundering, and scams, especially as transactions in the Metaverse might involve cryptocurrencies or other digital assets that are currently less regulated than traditional financial systems. The anonymity and freedom provided by virtual environments could also foster unethical behaviors, including harassment, cyberbullying, and the spread of extremist ideologies. Furthermore, as the Metaverse evolves, there’s the risk of monopolistic practices by a few dominant platforms, which could limit competition and control over user data and experiences. These high-risk areas require careful regulation and oversight to ensure that the Metaverse develops into a safe, inclusive, and equitable space for all users.

3. We’ve seen many technologies in the past that looked very promising but somehow they never achieved mass adoption, why should this be different with the metaverse?

The Metaverse stands apart from many past technologies due to its convergence of several rapidly advancing fields including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, and artificial intelligence (Al). Unlike technologies that relied on a single breakthrough or innovation, the Metaverse is being built on a foundation of multiple, interrelated advancements, each reinforcing the other. This integrated approach addresses a broader range of applications and user needs, making it more adaptable and relevant across various sectors. The Metaverse’s potential extends beyond entertainment, encompassing areas like education, remote work, social interaction, and commerce, offering a more comprehensive and immersive experience. Moreover, the increasing digitalization of society, accelerated by global events like the COVID-19 pandemic, has primed both individuals and organizations to be more receptive to virtual interactions and online communities, creating a more favorable environment for the Metaverse to thrive.

However, it’s important to recognize that the success of the Metaverse is not guaranteed. Its adoption depends on overcoming significant challenges, including the development of affordable and accessible hardware, ensuring privacy and security, and creating engaging and sustainable virtual environments. The Metaverse also needs to offer clear value and improvements over existing platforms and technologies to encourage widespread adoption. Unlike past technologies that may have been too niche or ahead of their time, the Metaverse is emerging in an era where digital interconnectivity is already a fundamental aspect of daily life. Its development is being watched and guided by major tech companies and a growing community of innovators, which could help steer it towards more practical and widely applicable uses. This collaborative and iterative approach, along with the alignment of the Metaverse with current technological trends and societal needs, suggests a stronger potential for it to achieve mass adoption compared to many previous technologies.

I also provided summary on how would I describe the Metaverse – I mostly talked about blockchain based persistability there, the other aspects were covered by the other panelists; and also what do I see as the future for businesses; where I mostly talked about all the various possible problems we can see, from fraud to cyberbullying, and how the society has to step up similar how it did for other media to stop it from happening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *