The metaverse, with its delivery of an expansive virtual reality for everyday interactions, gives people new options for connecting to work, shopping and socializing. But the metaverse’s impact doesn’t end there: This digital realm also affects the real-world environment.
Efforts to understand metaverse projects and their effects on sustainability are difficult to assess. Part of that comes from the fact that the metaverse itself isn’t a specific thing or technology but rather a concept and a constellation of technologies. And part comes from the fact that assessing sustainability — whether narrowly in terms of carbon emissions or in a more inclusive manner — is itself a new area for many researchers and organizations. Still, it’s important to examine and understand metaverse sustainability to the extent possible.
Computer industry experts consider the metaverse to be the next generation of the internet. It’s built around a 3D virtual reality setting and frequently described as a persistent, immersive interactive digital world where people can engage with each other for work, education, entertainment and play as they move seamlessly between destinations.
As envisioned, users will be able to move from, for example, their offices to the shopping mall to tourist attractions from around the world, speaking and transacting as if together in reality, yet without ever leaving their physical locations. Users will immerse themselves in the metaverse environment via their computing devices and extended reality headsets, and seek sensation of touch via haptic technologies. Together, these technologies will deliver a user experience with the depth and sensations of the physical world. Transactions in the metaverse, such as purchases and transfers of digital items, will happen with cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based platforms. Artificial intelligence will help support the metaverse experiences, with algorithms directing users to other individuals, products for sale and experiences that match their preferences.
“I describe the metaverse as the internet on steroids,” said Todd Richmond, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as well as the director of the Tech + Narrative Lab and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
The metaverse is not yet a reality, although some companies, such as Decentraland, Google, Meta and Roblox, have created virtual reality platforms that experts said are precursors to a fully immersive, interconnected digital world.
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