Recently, we have been experiencing the implementation of the virtual world in our daily lives; this can be from playing games, such as Valorant and Animal Crossing, to creating or buying Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). These new technologies are known as the metaverse.
Metaverse is a virtual-reality space where users can interact in a virtual environment with other users. Vice President of Avatar Dimension, Cathy Hackl, states that it is the “convergence of the physical and digital world.” This allows users to do things that can be done in the real world and give infinite possibilities. A few examples of this implemented in our lives are the possibility of building houses in Roblox and using virtual currencies to buy physical and virtual goods on Coinbase.
Especially during the worldwide pandemic, the metaverse platforms have become very useful to many individuals and organizations. Soonchunhyang University, a private university in South Korea, worked with SK Telecom, one of the few South Korean telecommunications operators, to set up a welcoming ceremony for the incoming freshman class. Students and families created their avatars and virtually explored the university, from classrooms to dorms. Unlike audio-based platforms – such as Epic Games and Riot Games – the platform used by the university (Jump VR App) was both audio and video-enabled, allowing participants to communicate with other classmates as they would in person.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have also been a trending and controversial topic for many metaverse users. Like individuals buying limited-edition goods at a store, NFTs are unique digital items, such as virtual clothes and sneakers, that can be purchased and cannot be possessed by non-owners. While many may be doubtful that people can make money from these sales, Chris Torres, the creator of the Nyan Cat, sold a virtual art for 300 Electroneum (ETN), which is about 590,000 USD.
For these metaverse technologies to become a reality, developers use Virtual Reality (VR) and blockchain technology. The virtual reality aspect allows people to have real-world experience on an electronic device, while blockchain technology ensures that all activities, including the movement of assets, are foolproof.
While these technologies may be extraordinary, the usage of metaverse raises many ethical and legal problems. How can we keep all users accountable for their actions? How can national governments be confident that their laws are still put in place on these virtual platforms? How do we know these systems are not taken advantage of to support illegal activity? Just as we know that some people on social media undertake unethical actions that they would not replicate in the real world, the same thing can be applied in these metaverse platforms.
While people continue to enjoy their virtual games and cryptic goods, we should be very aware of new advancing technologies that are being deeply rooted in everyone’s lives.
Shaun Baek, Grade 11
Portola High School